It is great to hear that Belfast is doing so well. Hotel occupancy in the city is outpacing Dublin with rates of 29.8% in May, according to STR, a global hospitality data and analytics company.” Judging by last weekend the occupancy it is rising fast, with some hotels reporting no vacancies at weekends. Another sign that it is busy, is the appearance of numerous hen parties from the Republic.
Despite big events not going ahead yet, there are still lots of great things to do. The city’s Cathedral Quarter is the hottest for nightlife in the country. Though pubs still have to close at 11pm. However, if you are staying in a hotel, that’s not an issue.
As a destination for crime-related tourism – Belfast has it all. Not crime of the Troubles but the crime that occurs in the various films, television series and books. The city has become a magnet and inspiration for many writers of crime dramas. Recently actors staying in Belfast were Hugh Grant, Rege-Jean Page and Charlize Theron. It looks like Line of Duty will be getting a further series, set in the city.
Explore The Dark Side of Belfast
Explore the dark side of the city with a Belfast Noir tour. Tour guide Simon Maltman is himself a writer of crime dramas and bring a wealth of interesting stories to his tour, with lots of humour. The walking tour will take you around many locations on a 90-minute tour of the city. That’s the beauty of Belfast, it is a compact and interesting place.
As the location of the hugely popular BBC series Line of Duty you cannot help but spot
places that have appeared on television. Invest Northern Ireland’s building on Bedford Street, is the home of AC12. The car park scenes have often been filmed at the BBC’s Belfast offices. There is also a great mural with quotes from Adrian Dunbar who plays Superintendent Ted Hastings, in the Castle Court Centre.
Many places around the city feature in The Fall, the BBC crime drama series featuring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan, including the Botanic Gardens. The lovely gardens are where people come to relax and enjoy the sun. Belfast’s own St Stephen’s Green.
It is surprising the names that crop up of writers who have been inspired by the city. Well known writers like John Connolly, Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Stuart Neville. Not to forget the home-grown talent of Colin Bateman, Eoin McNamee, Adrian McKinty, Steve Kavanagh, and James Murphy.
The stable of writers has been joined by female voices such as Kelly Creighton, Sharon Dempsey and Claire Allen. My own favourite Belfast writer is Colin Bateman, he has a delicious humorous and scathing take on Belfast. His Mystery Man series features a neurotic bookseller who doubles as a private detective.
The bookseller’s shop is called No Alibis and it is a real shop selling crime fiction and is an appropriate end to the tour. You can browse and maybe find a crime treasure here. Tours can be booked at the Visit Belfast Tourist Office on Donegall Square or Belfast Hidden Tours.
Line of Duty Tours
During July and August the Grand Central Hotel and McCombs coaches will be running a Line of Duty tour around Belfast. You can see the details here.
Art and Soul in Belfast
The biggest free exhibition of art; paintings and sculptures by Irish and International artists is being held at the Culloden Hotel, Belfast until July 18. It includes works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy, Orla de Bri, Patrick O’Reilly and has art worth more than £7 million. Read about it here.
Afternoon Tea With A View – The Observatory
Without doubt the best views of Belfast are from the rooftop of the recently (2018) opened 23-storey Grand Central Hotel on Bedford Street. Another premier four-star property in the Hastings Hotels Group stable.
The top floor has a restaurant and a luxury lounge where you can relax and take afternoon tea. That is, after behaving like a frenzied tourist taking photos of the city, from all the various angles. It is hard not to. The views are amazing.
Here you will find the world’s largest bottle of gin – it is 73cm tall and contains 32 litres of Jawbox Giant’s Edition. That is equivalent to 46 standard bottles, or almost 1,000 measures, and weighs over 50kg. It is the star of the G&Tea afternoon tea offering here.
The G & Tea experience is supported by Tourism Northern Ireland and the ‘Embrace a Giant Spirit’ campaign. It takes its name and inspiration from Jonathan Swift’s well-known tale, Gulliver’s Travels, in which the writer was said to have been inspired by the sight of the Belfast Hills, which he felt resembled a sleeping giant safeguarding the city.
Afternoon tea includes a lovely selection of sandwiches on oven-fresh Irwin’s bread; smoked salmon and cucumber, chicken with lemon and thyme, ham with Ballymaloe relish, egg, watercress and shallot.
The pastries though are the star of the show. Inspired by the botanicals and flavours of the Jawbox Gin, they include:
Chocolate and honeycomb delice
Pink grapefruit and honey mousse
Orange and cardamon financier
Lemon and lime white chocolate tart and
The Jonathan’s Twist cocktail contains elderflower liqueur, freshly squeezed lemon, Observatory star anise sherbet, egg white, soda, coriander and rosemary. It costs £15 (approx. €17.50)
Afternoon tea is served from 1 – 5pm each day and costs £40 (approx. €47) and £50 (approx. €58) with Jonathan’s Twist Cocktail. You can book on Tel. 048 9023 1066 or go here.
What is a Belfast Fifteen
I was introduced to the Belfast Fifteen on my tour of the city and it is something I had never come across before on many visits to Belfast. A Belfast Fifteen is a sort of biscuit/cake and very tasty. It is easy to make, no oven involved. Here is the recipe;
15 Digestive Biscuits
15 glacé cherries cut in half
15 marshmallows cut in half
15g desiccated coconut
150ml tin of condensed milk
Bash the biscuits into crumbs in a plastic bag, put in a mixing bowl, add the cherries, marshmallows, bit by bit. Then add the condensed milk. You can either line a tin with clingfilm or just use a piece on its own. Sprinkle half the coconut on the bottom, spread the mixture, press down, then sprinkle the remaining coconut. Cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours. When ready to eat cut into 15 pieces. Enjoy.