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First Northern Ireland visit

Lancashire
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First Northern Ireland visit

Hi, we have just booked to come to Belfast for 3 nights at the end of October. Have hired a car for duration and are staying in Carrickfergus.

On one day we want to do the Giants Causeway via coastal road (looks good) and anything else we see on the way up. I have read you can get to the Causeway free of charge is that still the case? or is it just through the visitor centre.

Want to go to Belfast, see the city and murals (sorry I know its not what some Belfast people want people to do , but feel its a massive part of the cities recent history).

Would you recommend driving into Belfast and getting on a tour bus or driving ourselves around? Is it safe in some mural areas (Crumlin rd etc) walking or in the hire car? If the tour bus option is best option is there decent parking near where the tours start (castle place)?

Also is the Allens Belfast bus tour any good? (can get a tour for 2 for £9 on groupon at mo)

Any other info to help us on our first trip to Ireland gratefully received, really can't wait to come!

North Coast, N...
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1. Re: First Northern Ireland visit

Hi

The Causeway Coastal route is a stunning drive on a clear day. If you are fortunate with the weather make sure you include the Tor Head scenic route detour - amazing views on a good day. To make the best of this, try and be on the go early as days will be shortening by then. Tour buses start arriving around 10.30 so you might want to drive via the M2/A26 (inland route) and take the scenic coastal route back. I think the period from around 11 - 3 is busiest but you are going off peak season so it might not be too busy!

There are quite a few hints amongst recent reviews (see under things to do) for avoiding the fees for the Causeway. You are right - strictly speaking it is free to walk down to the stones but carparking can be the issue as you are automatically directed towards the official national trust carparks. My normal way of avoiding the fee is to park at the Nook (coffee shop/café), get a coffee/lunch etc and walk down. It is for patrons only but you'll probably be ready for a cuppa before or after your walk down to the stones! I think it's £5 or £6 to park at the train station which is a bit further away (look for the road sign on your left as you turn off the main causeway road). It closes for winter but I'm not sure of the exact dates. Otherwise you either try to find a safe parking place or pay £8.50 for one person's admission and carparking, share the audio-guide....

Don't miss Dunluce Castel and Carrick-a-rede (if it's a clear day). If weather is not so good, the famous Old Bushmills Distillery is on hand which does a good tour. If weather is not so good, pop into the Bushmills Inn for a warming drink - turf fire should be blazing and there are lovely little alcoves/snugs also into the bar on the right.

Also don't miss taking little detours e.g. Portbradden, Ballintoy Harbour etc - these literally take a few minutes but there are some pretty little villages, old ruins etc.

These are useful links for the Causeway area:

http://www.causewaycoastandglens.com/

And for the Glens (you're on the edge of the start of them in Carrick) and some information on the villages/road you go through as you drive the Causeay Coastal Route through the glens area:

moyle-council.org/uploads/…202011-sml.pdf

Personally I wouldn't take the car into Belfast. Not just Belfast - I really don't think it's advisable in any strange city for the following reasons:

1) It can be easy to take a wrong turn and get caught in a one-way system. time lost, driver/passenger get stressed...

2) Parking can be expensive and difficult to find on week days

3) You're going to miss the sights as the driver needs to focus on the road and the passenger will probably be helping navigate...

4) Even with a good guide book, you're not going to get the same depth of knowledge a local guide will give you.

Personally, I'd probably just get the bus in as it's almost certainly going to be as cheap as parking all day. At a weekend, I would park at Northside Park and Ride (you need change as machines now installed don't give any) which is very easy to access from Carrickfergus. Then you get the free metro bus into the city centre. Get off on Royal Avenue (bus drivers are usually very helpful).

I actually did the HOHO tour with friends at the weekend - we did the Belfast City Sightseeing one and it was very good - although some guides do deliver the "spiel" better than others. Not impressed with the blatant request for gratuities either.... (we didn't as we never stayed on a bus the whole way round) I haven't done Allen's but friends did it a couple of years ago and thought it was good. On our HOHO bus, some people did get off at the murals - the driver let them off and advised them of what way to walk and where to pick up the bus so quite a few people will do that.

Check to see if there are any events on during your time here. With half-term and Hallowe'en, there should be some special things going on.

Lisburn, United...
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2. Re: First Northern Ireland visit

If coming from Carrickfergus, I would probably take the train to be honest, rather than driving in and parking. It's much of a muchness though.

Belfast
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3. Re: First Northern Ireland visit

You can park at King street multi story for £4 per day or Castlecourt for £4.50. They are very easy to get to from Carrickfergus.

M5, M2, A12 .Take the 2nd off slip, turn left and its the second left,

For the Causeway take Ponaire's advice. inland on the way out and park at the Nook.

For food up the Coast, Harrys in Cushendall, or the Central bar Ballycastle are both very good.

Enjoy.

Northern Ireland...
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4. Re: First Northern Ireland visit

did Allens tour via groupon a few months ago. We really enjoyed it. If you do go, try to get a seat on the top deck at the front as you can see everything a bit better.

Hope you enjoy it

Lancashire
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5. Re: First Northern Ireland visit

Massive thank you to all replies.

Will be driving inland on the way to Giants Causeway and coast on return, hopefully park at Nook. The Bushills Inn sounds good to.

We have bought the voucher with Allens tours and planning on getting the train from Carrickfergus, only a short walk at either end. It'll take the stress out of driving and now able sample some of the black stuff in Belfast to ;-)

Thanks again for all the advice,

Whitehorse, Canada
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6. Re: First Northern Ireland visit

Better eat at the Nook. Its good.

Coleraine, United...
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7. Re: First Northern Ireland visit

you can Train it into Belfast from Carrickfergus Great Victoria Street station is the "Central" station (there is a station called "Central station" but its not very "Central" its a good 10-15 min walk from the city centre so get off at Great victoria street (which is part of a combo Bus /train station (the bus station is called europa because its right beside the Europe hotel) and its across the road from the famous Crown bar and its like a Ten minute walk around the corner from the city hall and city centre Belfast is quite compact for walking around if you can be bothered walking "Metro" is the bus service in Belfast and the pink coloured buses go to all the different parts of belfast there is a Little info booth that is open during the day that gives info and timetable advice out and you can buy for a few pounds a day ticket and jump on and off buses all over belfast Much better doing it this way than the tacky tourist buses (you can see the murals this way as well Just get on a Bus going to the shankill or falls and do it that way ) anyways Translink are the company in Northern Ireland running all the Public transport if you need info go to www.translink.co.uk hope this helps -

Paul...

Lisburn, United...
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8. Re: First Northern Ireland visit

Paul, is your full stop key broken?

Whitehorse, Canada
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9. Re: First Northern Ireland visit

C'mon Paul. Punctuate so we can figure out what you're saying.

Belfast, United...
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10. Re: First Northern Ireland visit

Punctuation aside, I have to disagree about the "tacky tourist buses" - for a first time visitor to the city it can be a bit stressful trying to figure out which Metro bus to catch to/from various places, not to mention time-consuming. Also there is no context - you're just literally going to a place, looking at it, then moving on. With a tour bus the route covers many different sites, the live guide explains what you're seeing and why it's important, and there is no stress about what bus to catch. That's not to run public transport down completely (as a non-driver I'm actually quite an advocate of public transport generally). If you do literally only want to see a specific thing and you're already pretty clued up on what you're actually going to see, a Metro bus can be fine. But if you want more of an overview of the city or a bit of background information, I would always suggest the HOHO buses. Just my opinion.