Monday 18 December 2017

North's capital attractions are streets ahead

Clare Cullen ticks off another location on her 'Irish Bucket List' with a weekend staycation

Big business: The Titanic visitor centre
Big business: The Titanic visitor centre
Big business: The Titanic visitor centre
Having fun at SkyTrek
Clare Cullen

Clare Cullen

Ispent last year in Australia, in a semi-failed emigration attempt. Since I came home, I have a new appreciation for the sights and sounds of the country I missed while away.

Before that, if you had asked me to go on a 'staycation', I would have inwardly rolled my eyes. However, since returning, I've created my Irish Bucket List, and this weekend I headed off to Belfast.

SkyTrek is a 16-metre-high obstacle course, made mostly out of ropes. It involves making it from one platform to the other across an assortment of ropes and planks, each designed to test you in a different way.

We spent at least an hour on the course and finished with a 90-metre zipline from one end of the property to the other.

SkyTrek is not for the faint-hearted but the feeling at the finish is amazing. The guides were fun and relaxed, happy to help us film and laughing politely at our (my) dramatics on some of the harder obstacles.

Next up was the Titanic Segway Tour, where visitors take a trip around the site of the building of the Titanic on a Segway – a scooter-esque machine.

In the middle of the tour, the guides switch the machines to 'fast mode' and allow you to zoom around and race each other.

The site where the Titanic was built is also where the new studio of the same name is located, set up by the Game of Thrones production company.

All around Titanic studios, lights are planted in the ground to symbolise the journey of the fateful ship, and at night they light the courtyard where the ship was built. It's a brilliant fusion of fun and history for the perfect tour.

Although we ended up with a silver taxi, the Belfast Black Taxi Tour was second to none. We were driven around the city for two hours and bombarded with facts, figures and stories of living in Belfast. The driver explained to us the city's history and how it has changed for the better since the start of the peace process.

We were taken to the city's murals on both sides to take pictures and video the political works of art.

This tour is charged by the hour and is therefore slightly expensive, but the taxi holds up to five people, so a group tour would be very reasonable.

On Saturday night, we headed to The Crown pub. Famous for its snugs and intricate decor, the story goes that a husband and wife, from different sides of the wall, set it up together.

The wife wanted to call the pub 'The Crown', and the husband agreed on the condition that they placed a crown in the tiling of the entrance floor, so he could 'wipe his feet on the crown' as he came in. True or not, the people inside were as welcoming and friendly as any I've ever met.

We finished the night at Kelly's Lockers, a small pub tucked away from the main street, where music and craic were had until the small hours.

Last but not least was the Game of Thrones tour. It's a full-day tour, running from 9am to 5pm – a long tour, due to the amount of travelling between sites, but the guide alone was worth it.

A self-confessed Game of Thrones geek, even cast as an extra in the upcoming season due to his love of the series, he really knows his facts.

He shared many theories on the Game of Thrones world, linking it to old Irish folklore and legend, which helped the tour take on a new slant.

Clips of the scenes are provided on an iPad so visitors can get a feel for the locations and visualise the changes the crew would have made to them.

The 'Irish Bucket List' is a series that engages with viewers through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

I spent the weekend posting Instagram photos of my trip and both SkyTrek and the Titanic Segway Tour accounts tweeted me to say they hoped I had enjoyed my time.

The attractions of Belfast are unique, and streets ahead – interacting with interested customers on social media, creating a three-dimensional experience and reaching thousands through a few.

Irish Independent

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