Belfast is a vibrant, modern city with a fascinating story to tell. The dramatic Northern Ireland coast is a natural marvel packed with thrilling experiences and colourful villages. It is no wonder Belfast and the Causeway Coast has been voted by Lonely Planet as Number One Region to Visit in their Best in Travel 2018 awards. All this is only around two hours from Cairnryan … meaning your journey of a lifetime can begin from the comfort of your own car. And with the Stena Line spring sale now on, there has never been a better time to go.

Here are six great reasons to book your next break:

1. Drive straight into the heart of Belfast – the Rising Star city
Start your adventure in the up and coming city of Belfast, filled with energy and an ever-changing landscape of cultural experiences, food and heritage.

Belfast is the birthplace of the RMS Titanic, so where better to hear the tales and legends of the most famous ship in history? The shimmering exterior of Titanic Belfast is the first indication of the care taken by those entrusted with telling its stories. Built to the height of the ship itself, the building is located a 10-minute drive from the Stena Line terminal in the heart of the city.

Also close by, in Donegall Square, is the striking and classical Belfast City Hall. Find out more about the city that has been voted by National Geographic as their “Rising Star” inside a new self-guided exhibition that takes the visitor through time, from Belfast as quiet hamlet through its evolution, with each room exploring aspects of the city’s past, its indomitable spirit and its transformation into the world-class city of today. The Cathedral Quarter is an area with a cultural heart sitting alongside some of the city’s most desirable bars and restaurants. Visit the Metropolitan Arts Centre, known as the MAC, to see what new music, theatre or dance performance is showing.

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On the east side of the city is a suitably magical tribute to one of Belfast’s most famous sons. CS Lewis Square is located in the area where the famous author was born and features seven bronze sculptures from his most famous work; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Here the EastSide Visitor Centre offers the chance to find out more about the author and other famous faces from this part of the city.

To satisfy your hunger head to St George’s Market open Friday to Sunday. There has been a market on this site since 1604 and among the 150 traders who set up every weekend are producers offering local meats, seafood cheeses, breads and sweets. There are also shopping opportunities for antiques and local crafts before sitting back with some excellent coffee, enjoying free live music and planning your next move. Chatting with traders and locals might provide some valuable insider tips.

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2. Experience the coast of legend
Heading north-west from Belfast, take the Causeway Coastal Route to understand why global travel bible Lonely Planet voted the region the Best in Travel 2018. It won’t take long, as this coastal road from Belfast to Derry-Londonderry is dotted with stopping places that provide amazing experiences, and opportunities to simply drink in the views.
With sturdy walking shoes in the back of the car, the first stop, around 40 minutes north of Belfast, is The Gobbins Cliff Path, one of the most spectacular cliff walks in Europe. This Edwardian-era marvel reopened in 2014, with the help of modern engineering, to allow visitors to once again experience not only the views, but a fully guided walk which brings the craggy coast alive with tales of smugglers in the caves and those who have trodden the path before.

Of course visitors have been marvelling at the natural wonders of this coastline for centuries but nowhere has more impact than the Giant’s Causeway, the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Legend has it an Irish giant, Finn McCool, was having some trouble with a Scottish giant, Benandonner, so he used chunks of the Antrim coastline as stepping stones to reach the Scottish coast and teach the Scot a lesson, who in turn, ripped up the path leaving behind the craggy remnants.

Exploring the landscape at ground level is fascinating, but there is also an opportunity to survey the landscape from the height of Finn himself with the surrounding cliff walks.

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Another great stop is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge connecting the Antrim Coast with Carrick island - at 30m above the waves. The bridge in some form has been here for 250 years, built originally by fishermen. The 20m walk is sturdy enough to feel safe but has enough of a slight sway to get the blood flowing.

Not far from Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge you’ll find the town of Bushmills, home to the world’s oldest licensed distillery.  Settled on the banks of the river, this small town is a great place to unwind and spend a few hours.


3. Find peace and culture within these walls
At the end of the Causeway Coastal Route lies the vibrant city of Derry-Londonderry. The first thing visitors often notice in Derry-Londonderry is the impressive 20 ft high city walls.  To really experience the walls and the city, take a guided walk and hear the stories of the gates, ramparts and watchtowers, but also of those who have lived within the walls.
The original keys to the city walls are now kept in St Columb’s Cathedral, one of the city’s most impressive landmarks with a spire that can be seen piercing the sky at more than 220ft high.

Back on street level, there is a somewhat familiar face on Guildhall Square. The clock which graces the Neo-Gothic Guildhall is based on the design of the Elizabeth Tower at Westminster in London, which encases that famous bell, Big Ben. The Guildhall City Exhibition is an excellent starting point to understand more about the city’s past.

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A wander through the Derry-Londonderry craft village is perfect for any afternoon. This reconstruction of an 18th-century street is lined with craft stalls, restaurants and coffee shops. This is the spot for authentic souvenir shopping or a chance to enjoy free events and performances.
Perhaps the most striking symbol of the new Derry-Londonderry is The Peace Bridge, the new symbol of the city, built in 2011 – avail of a walking tour for some helpful and enlightening insights. In the evening, enjoy Derry-Londonderry’s thriving traditional music scene. This is a city that celebrates its Irish heritage in a bona fide way, from ancient and modern music to the Irish language itself - just one reason why it was a UK City of Culture as recently as 2016.
 

4. Enjoy the height of good tastes
Wherever you go in Northern Ireland you’ll find fabulous food and drink. In Belfast, Michelin-starred Ox has become one of the most exciting locations, with a great atmosphere and amazing food. On the Causeway Coast the choice is astonishing, with many travellers stopping off at Portstewart, to experience Harry’s Shack, a beach shack on Portstewart Strand which has become a favourite of food critics for its sea-to-plate approach.

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5. Discover Game of Thrones® territory
In recent years many of the landscapes, buildings, and ruins have entered the public imagination as the backdrop to Game of Thrones®, arguably the most successful television production of the century so far. The country has more Seven Kingdoms locations than any other, making it a hot destination for the series’ fervent followers. There are many locations along the Causeway Coast to stop off at including Downhill Beach (Dragonstone), the Dark Hedges (Kingsroad), and Portstewart Strand (Coast of Dorne).  Of course, even those who have not experienced the Game of Thrones® worlds will be inspired by the almost fantastical locations of Northern Ireland.

6. And finally … take advantage of the Stena Line spring sale

With the spring sale now on you can enjoy an unforgettable Northern Ireland adventure with Stena Line. Choose from six daily sailings on Stena Superfast and onboard, relax in the best ferry travel experience with comfortable surroundings and attentive service from a crew that cares.

Grab a bite to eat, take in a free movie, enjoy free Wi-Fi,  go on a shopping spree or treat yourself to the Pure Nordic Spa, or why not upgrade to the Stena Plus Lounge, or the new comfy and cosy Hygge Recline Lounge.

Book today at stenaline.co.uk/saleon

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