Back in 2013, we flew out Christmas Day to spend two weeks in Northern Ireland and one week in Scotland.  It was amazing.  Everywhere we went felt like we were in a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings movie.  Although we stayed busy, it wasn't enough time to see everything.  So, obviously, we have to go back again, right?  Yea, I thought you would agree.  In case you are headed that way anytime soon, or I can convince you to go, here are my 15 tips for crossing Northern Ireland off your Bucket List:

Can't be real, right?!

1.  PACK LIGHT AND IN LAYERS.  First things first.  You need comfortable clothes for all the traveling and walking you're going to be doing.  Also, you need warm layers for the fickle weather and freezing wind.  Fit it all in a carry-on, if possible.  That way, you don't have to worry about losing your luggage.  Plus, the cars are like the tiniest things you've ever seen, so anything more than two carry-ons is not going to fit in their itty bitty trunks!

Headed out Christmas Day!

2.  SPEND A DAY IN DUBLIN.  Unfortunately, we flew in and out of Dublin, but didn't get to actually spend any time here.  Sad.  Next time, though, right?  And even though I didn't get to play tourist here, I know it should be on the list.  So, you should totally go.

The view outside of our bedroom window...like a fairy tale!

3.  STAY IN BELFAST.  We chose Belfast because we were visiting friends there, but I'm glad that's where we stayed.  I loved the city and would love to go back one day.  There was just the right amount of countryside and city.  Plus, there's so much history there!

Right outside Victoria Square

4.  TAKE A ROAD TRIP.  When we take a road trip in the USA, I imagine days, if not weeks, on the road.  However, our friends in Belfast consider two hours in the car to be torture.  Haha.  So, our entire road trip was one and a half hours and they felt like we had gone to the very edges of the country.  We ended up seeing places that even they had never been, even though they've lived there their entire lives!  The car was small and very cramped, but the countryside was beautiful and we stopped in several adorable little towns.

You can imagine how cramped we were in there!

5.  LEARN THE TRANSLATIONS.  Although the locals speak English, we felt like we almost needed a dictionary.  We quickly became familiar with the words and found that some are pretty important to know the difference.  For example, if I say "pants", I mean the long material covering my legs.  When they hear "pants", they assume I'm talking about my panties.  Haha.  That can make for some awkward misunderstandings for sure!

Another dinner at a pub!

6.  SHOP IN VICTORIA SQUARE.  I loved this mall because it was enormous and beautiful and decorated in Christmas lights.  What was crazy is that it was an open air mall, even though Belfast is not the warmest place.  It was probably the first time I ever walked around a mall to shop in my winter coat and scarf.

Don't you love the lights?!

7.  CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THE DOME.  You get a 360 degree view of Belfast.  It's amazing and you won't want to miss it.

The view was amazing!

8.  SEE GIANTS CAUSEWAY.  I've always seen this place and been in awe.  It's even more magical in person.  Although I know Giant's Causeway is not man-made, it's still hard to believe it.  But seeing is believing, right?  The way that the rocks are shaped just perfectly and all fit together like a puzzle is just mind boggling.  You have to go there.

Giant's Causeway

9.  WALK THROUGH THE TITANIC MUSEUM.  I love history, especially learning about how people used to live, dress, what they ate, how they spent their days.  It's all so mysterious.  The Titanic Museum is built right next to where the actually boat was!  And it's built to the same height, to give visitors an idea of how the titanic towered over the people below.  Inside are many personal stories, clothing items, personal belongings, old photos and even rooms set up to show you what the cabins would have looked like.  Since being on a cruise in the past, it's crazy to see how much bigger are rooms are now compared to what people used to cruise in.

Titanic Museum is built to look similar to a ship!

10.  HOP ON A TOUR BUS.  You can easily walk all over Belfast, but your legs will definitely tire out and you'll end up missing some of the good stuff.  It's great to just hop on a bus your first day in the city.  Get a tour of the general area and then decide what places you want to come back to see in more detail.  Just make sure you remember the street you boarded the bus in case they randomly decide not to return you to the same spot!

I was shocked by the old bombed buildings that had never been restored!

11.  SPEND THE NIGHT IN A CASTLE.  One reason why we visited our friends in Northern Ireland when we did was because of a wedding!  Our friends Jonny and Michaela were getting married and I was asked to be a bridesmaid in the wedding.  The wedding was held at an old castle!  It was beautiful and we even got to spend the night there.  What a fun memory!

We spent the night in the room on the top floor!

12.  EAT AND EAT.  Fish and chips.  And don't forget the beer.  Need I say more?

I lost count of how many times I ate fish and chips.

13.  HANG WITH THE LOCALS.  We love to travel, but most of our travels are actually to visit friends who live in those countries.  This means that we have been able to go several times to Bolivia (where I grew up), the Faroe Islands and Denmark, Northern Ireland and Ireland, Scotland and probably some other places that don't come to mind right now!  Turn your vacations into time to catch up with friends you love.  You won't regret it.  Plus, you'll get a much better version of the lifestyle in that area that if you were on your own, staying in hotels.

My friend Michaela...I miss her!

14.  SEE THE CLIFFS.  While on one of our road trips, we drove an hour and a half to get to Sliabh Liag.  The cliffs were so steep and we were out of breath by the time we got to the top, but the view was so worth it.  It usually is!

Hiking up to the top of the cliffs.

15.  FLY OVER TO SCOTLAND, while you're at it.  Since we were already in Northern Ireland, Scotland was just a short and cheap flight away.  We flew over and stayed with some friends there for about a week.  I loved touring the castles and walking the streets of Edinburgh.  What a cool place to live, full of history.

Playing tourist in Scotland!

If you've been here before, let me know what I missed!  But, if you haven't been yet, as always I'm going to try to convince you to add it to your Bucket List and go!

No comments:

Post a Comment