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Trip Review - Weekend Visit

Dublin
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Trip Review - Weekend Visit

Had a flying visit to Belfast from Sat 12pm - Mon 3pm, up from Dublin. Drove with wife, one 6 year old, and one 2 year old.

Went straight to W5 in Odyssey, arriving @ 12pm. Great place for the kids and adults. Very entertaining. Not too packed, just right. Lots of hands on entertainment, interactive. Went to Pizza Hut between 5-6.30pm in Odyssey. Far better then any of the Pizza Hut's in the Republic. The Odyssey was a really great spot with plenty of places to eat etc.

We were staying in Dunadry Country Inn, about 20 mins from Belfast (see seperate review). Called into Toys R Us en-route (don't have these down south). Picked up a couple of decent things, including some Xmas presents on behalf of others. Bikes are also very good value.

Next morning Sunday, clocks went back, but no one told our children! Hence, well up by 8am, and out by 9am. Went into Antrim, which was completely closed, and did not look up to much. We were going to go for a walk, but due to rain, we said we'd head into Belfast city centre. Stayed around there till about 11.30pm, but everything was closed. Due to rain, very limited options, hence headed back to hotel for a swim.

Went to Junction One Outlet Mall in Antrim (10 mins from hotel). It's like a smaller version of the one in Chester, UK. Some good shops like M&S Outlet, Speedo shop etc. Good outdoor (but covered) kidies play area - very new. The Reebok, Nike and Adidas were good if you were a very sporty family, short on gear. Polo Ralph Lauren shop was very expensive for an outlet mall. While I was not expecting value like you get in the US, shoppers did not seem to be buying much in this shop. Any bargains were in odd sizes. Had dinner in Rain City=very good for kids. Nicest chips I've eaten in years (and with very fat!).

Monday - went into Belfast city centre. Wanted to be close to city hall, parking = GBP2.50 per hour. Went into WH Smith (a bit of a dissapointment), over to Disney store and Gap (again both small). Left soon after.

However, called into B+Q and Sainsburys in Lisburn. Both not packed, and with a huge selection. Would recommend these over Newry.

Hope this helps!!!

Northern Ireland
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1. Re: Trip Review - Weekend Visit

Visitors to Belfast can, with a little effort, find shopping and other "attractions" although personal transport is essential for many. This gives the tourist the ideal opportunity to do what the term implies - tour.

Tour around just looking at the sights of the city, the countryside around the city and the views over and across the city from the hills all around.

Tour out of the city up the Antrim road taking the right hand fork in what used to be Glengormley village toward Ballyclare, thence Larne. Final destination(or start of?)- Antrim Coast Road where the scenery is spectacular, all the way up the East coast from Larne with cliff and rock to the left and rocky boulder beaches to the right, past white limestone cliffs, dramatic headlands and sweeping bays with villages and a small town or three along the way to Magilligan Sands on the East bank of the River Foyle to reach the City of Derry.

Sticking to the coast will offer the most spectacular scenery, often breathtaking, always changing, and along the way the tourist will encounter diversions such as the opportunity to cross a Rope Bridge over a cateract to a small island (Carrick-a-reede, there has been a bridge of this type here being used by people for hundreds of years to reach a tiny harbour, though today it is used mainly by tourists); visit a world renowned geological curiosity, the Giants Causeway; see the Vanishing Lakes; or travel the spectacular but challenging (drive with caution) Torr Head "scenic"route.

There is the town of Bushmills where the famous "Old Bushmills" Irish Whiskey is brewed and distilled and tours are available, close to Portrush, a seaside town on a peninsula which if the coast road is followed, takes us to Port Stewart along part of a motorcycle road racing circuit which is home to the North West 200 road race, which has been run for many years.

Crossing the Upper Bann (river) at Coleraine you will by-pass Castlerock (one road in/out) to Downhill and round the headland to Magilligan sands, on the U.K. side of Lough Foyle and home to millitary installations and a Prison. Much of this area is open to the public, popular among sea anglers and wildlife enthusiasts.

If you decide at any point that a return to base may be desirable, all you have to do is turn left. Belfast will eventually be signposted and the views will be no less scenic, though different.

Don't worry if you take the wrong road out of Belfast. Almost any road will lead to interesting and scenic drives

Going up the Sringfield Road and onto the Hannahstown Road takes the tourist up the side of a mountain (well, we call it a mountain.) and onto a stretch of road which after a time, you might think "the road has improved somewhat". Or maybe not. I wouldn't. But something like that. That's the indication that you have stumbled onto Dundrod Racing Circuit - one of many, but arguably the most famous of Ulster's motorcycle road racing cicuits. If, however, you look for and find a narrow angle fork in the road shortly followed by a road crossing from left and right, you will have found The Hairpin. The tighter turn was still used, I believe, until some time in the 50's, when it was replaced in the races by the "cut off" corner. Follow the circuit round, from The Hairpin down through Quarry Bends past the Pits and the start-finish line along the Flying Kilometer (the fastest part, 190+ for the fast bikes toward a section of bends where the road joins another at a T junction making a tight right hand bend (only with the roads closed) and flows downhill then up in a 1km (maybe more straight where the fastest machines are reaching 180 + miles per hour. Over a crest and the road falls away at Deer's Leap where even the "slow" riders are airborne, through Cochranestown (not a town, more a section of corners) and all the twists and turns and the long uphill straight through Budore Crossroads, to Wheelers Corner, taken at some apparently crazy speed using all of the road by these most precise techmicians of their art. The road leads along another straight, across bogland with views to both left and right to Tornagrough, another twisty section, down the hill to a right turn. Turning right, to a view over West Belfast, then right again sees you back where you started, when I advised you to look for a fork in the road. It is now just maybe a couple or so miles back to the Pitts and start/finish line. If the tourist was so inclined, he/she could travel around this same road, perhaps three times, at NO time trying to go "quick" and exercising caution. At the end of these laps of the circuit, consider and see if you don't marvel at the fact that for the faster machines, average speeds for the 7.37 mile circuit are up to 115mph for 600's with the larger 1000's[not Moto GP bikes]- 124 or thereabouts with the lap record at over 127mph).

If at any time the tourist has had enough of the racing thing, a sideroad can be taken leading to other sights and curiosities worth exploring, one such being Lough Neagh, which is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles.

All of Ulster is within easy reach of Belfast, which makes it an ideal base for a day-trip type holiday.

The Mourne Mountains in South Down (Co. Down), world famous not only because of a famous song are a beautiful drive from Newcastle (or from Newry, near the Border), driving up into the mountains toward Middletown from the coast and across country through Dromara to Hillsborough or Ballynahinch and so to Belfast.

It matters little where you go; you'll find ever changing, sometimes surprising and often spectacular scenery.

So if you're stuck in Belfast on a Sunday with nothing to do and you've got wheels, go on a wee tour.

I hope this is useful to someone.

A.