Bringing together the varied countryside and rugged coastlines with the contrast of the bustling city, this captivating insight into Northern Ireland is not to be missed. Begin to understand the divided history of Belfast with a tour of its most significant landmarks and murals. Not forgetting the maritime significance of this incredible city, with a visit to the Titanic Experience, and the stunningly manicured gardens of the Stewarts – noted to be some of the best in the world. We also see the more rural parts of Northern Ireland, with scenic drives along the Antrim Coast, Lough Strangford and Giants Causeway, finishing off with a sample of the areas favourite drink – true Irish whiskey.
Make your way to your hotel in Belfast this morning, looking out for the stunning sights of Northern Ireland’s capital as they come into view. Whether you prefer to make your own way there by car or would like to go by train or private car, our helpful travel desk team would be more than happy to help you organise trains, flights or a private car to suit your arrangements. Our hand-picked hotels are always thoughtfully chosen for their location, amongst luxurious touches, facilities or perhaps a special story behind them. The Europa Hotel is no different: with its central location and list of famous guests over the years.
Later on this morning, we embark on a guided tour of Belfast to learn more about what makes this capital so special and worthy of being voted the best place to visit in 2018. A city once divided, our guide will delve deeper into the history and politics, understanding the different sides and how they live together in the peace process, which make Belfast what it is today.
Iconic sights on the East side include the Cathedral Quarter and the Grade A Listed Parliament Building, with its striking architecture and grand steps. Not forgetting the City Hall, Grand Opera House and CS Lewis Square, where you’ll spy carefully crafted sculptures of characters from The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. You’ll also find lavishly decorated pubs dotted around Belfast, such as the famous Victorian Crown Liquor Saloon, with its ornate tiled frontage, original features dating back to the 1800s and carved mahogany booths.
To begin to understand the city’s past in more depth, we also get under the skin of the culture by visiting Catholic populated Falls Road and Protestant dominated Shank Hill Road, which run parallel to one another. Our guide will also share stories from the Peace Line Wall, which was built to keep the Nationalists and Loyalists apart but in turn separated the communities. And of course we will also have a chance to see the famous murals and learn the meanings behind them.
This evening you are free to make reservations to enjoy your first of many dinners in the city. While in Belfast, be sure to sample the incredible locally caught seafood, such as mussels and herring, as well as potato-based dishes, including champ, apple bread and Irish stew.
After an Irish breakfast, we start the day by heading to the Titanic Experience. Belfast really came into its own in the Industrial Revolution, wealthier from ship building, lining making and tobacco exports. Today, memories of this affluent time are found in the likes of the iconic Samson and Goliath twin gantry cranes, an imposing sight along the portside. You can see this influence throughout the city hall, banks and other historical buildings, as your mind wander to what life would have looked like some 200 years ago.
With the maritime heritage running through the veins of Belfast, no visit would be complete without a visit to the award winning Titanic Experience. We explore the history and legacy of the Titanic, what it meant to the people of Belfast and the story of those who were on the fateful ship itself. As well as a series of 9 interactive galleries, you can even walk the deck of the last remaining vessel of the White Star line. The afternoon is free to explore – so what’s it to be? Perhaps head to the Ulster Museum, where exhibits range from the prehistoric to modern masterpieces, wander St. George's Market for a bargain, head to the Botanic Gardens with its Palm House and the Tropical Ravine, or simply amble along the Lagan river for a spot of people watching.
This morning, prepare yourself for one of the most famous coastal trips in the world, as we embark on the Antrim coast road. We head out by the side of the Belfast Lough, the key to the prosperous ship building industry, passing though Carrickfergus with its arresting Medieval castle. Varied scenery turns from verdant green farmland, rugged coastlines and curved bays as we follow the coastline north. Be on the look out for the glens of Antrim, of which there are 9 in total, as the scenery changes before your eyes from neat, fertile valleys and charming villages to wildly beautiful, rugged vistas.
It’s amazing what we can see today now the A2 road has been established, as the isolated glens would have previously been harder to access. A happy consequence, this helped to preserve the beautiful Gaelic language, as one of the last places in Northern Ireland is spoken. Across the countryside, evidence of tough lives of farmers and rural inhabitants are found in many abandoned cottages – seemingly in the middle of nowhere – it’s truly a wonder how people managed to eke out a living on the rugged landscape.
We continue our fascinating Irish voyage through breathtaking Ballycastle, a port and also at the mouth of 2 of the Glens of Antrim. Look out for Rathlin island, Northern Ireland’s last inhabited island.
The next highlight to come into view is the magical Giants Causeway. As you take in the surrounding area of outstanding national beauty, it’ll come as no surprise this geographical wonder is acknowledged as a UNESCO heritage site. Its basalt hexagonal columns have spawned many legends, notably Finn McCool, fabled hunter-warrior in Irish mythology. We go on to discover more about this fascinating spot, as we pay a visit the state-of-the-art visitors centre, illuminating the science behind the site as well as the fairytales that have been weaved along the way.
Of course a visit to this part of Ireland wouldn’t be complete with a tasting of the famous tipple. We continue onward to Bushmills distillery, one of the oldest licensed distilleries in the world. Founded in 1608, we discover the illustrious craft of making triple distilled whiskey on a guided tour with the chance to try a dram at the end. We then return to Belfast for a free evening to get to know this wonderful city further.
After another breakfast at the hotel, we head south this morning to the shores of delightful Lough Strangford. Wildlife lovers might want to bring their binoculars or favourite camera, as this is truly a haven for wildlife. The largest inlet in the British Isles, there are seventy islands dotted along its many picturesque islets, bays and coves.
Our destination has been voted one of the top gen gardens in the world: Mount Stewart. Deserving of its UNESCO listed status, these stunning gardens have been home to the famous Stewart family for over 250 years.
The house itself is a real treasure trove of history, and you can get a true sense of the family’s place in history as you wander its many handsome rooms. The gardens in fact are arranged in rooms too: from the exquisite Italian garden, The Shamrock, the “Sunk” garden, the Dodo terrace and the Spanish Garden to name just a few. You’ll have plenty of time to lose yourself in this spectacle of fine horticulture before returning to Belfast in the mid afternoon.
After breakfast, return home with wonderful memories of Northern Ireland.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
Just like our classic tours, with 25 or fewer people in your group.
On a range of tours we are delighted to offer the option to travel in a small group of up to 25 people.
You’ll enjoy the same sociable atmosphere of a typical Riviera Travel holiday - but with a smaller number of travellers and a touch more exclusivity.
Available across our range of UK, European and select Worldwide tours; just look out for the icon on holiday pages.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.