I took this day trip of Belfast through Love Ireland. This was an early-ish morning adventure. The tour begins at 8:00 AM with the group meeting at 7:50 AM. This tour group was not as big, so we had a smaller van-like vehicle that took us on our trip. It was nice not having as big of a group because you were able to get to know everyone that was taking the tour and people were more likely to arrive on time to continue on with the tour. Everyone on my tour was there when the van arrived so we had a bit of a head start on the tour.

Our driver drove to a half way mark which was just outside of Northern Ireland. We had a little break to use the bathroom and pick up a coffee or breakfast or snack. 

Pro tip: If you're planning on visiting Belfast or any other part of Northern Ireland {which is a part of the United Kingdom} make sure you have the correct currency if you do not wish to use your credit card. Our tour guide said that they will except euros {what the republic of Ireland uses} but the exchange rate is terrible and not worth using.

Pro tip II: Always use the bathrooms when the driver makes a pit stop or at one of your destinations - there are often long periods of time where you are not able to stop and use a bathroom!

From our pit stop, we continued on into Belfast. We began the tour in West Belfast where we learned about 'The Troubles.' 'The Troubles' was a conflict in Northern Ireland between the Loyalists {United Kingdom} and Republicans {Ireland}. The Loyalists wanted Northern Ireland to be a part of the United Kingdom, while the Republicans wanted Northern Ireland to be a part of the republic of Ireland. There was a lot of unrest during this time period and it still lasts a bit today. In West Belfast, the Loyalist and Republican communities are split by a wall called the Peace Wall. This wall has gates that {still} shuts and locks after a certain time of the day. Our tour guide said that sometimes the gates remain locked and you can't pass through to the other community.

belfast; mural; bri rinehart
mural; belfast; ireland; bri rinehart
mural; belfast; ireland; bri rinehart
mural; belfast; ireland; bri rinehart

One of the first stopping points of the tour was the Belfast murals. This is a wall of murals dedicated to events or people from all over the world. The artwork was beautiful and amazing to take in. This day happened to be a day where it was raining like cats and dogs throughout the day. It happened to be pouring as we stopped at the murals, so we did not spend much time at this location. Our next stop was at the Republican museum which has artifacts from 'The Troubles.'

peace wall; belfast; ireland; bri rinehart
belfast; peace wall; ireland; bri rinehart

Once our time at the museum was done, we drove through the Peace Wall gates and saw the Loyalist community. The main changes you see are that the murals on the Loyalist side are graffitied, whereas there is no graffiti on the Republic side. Once we were on the Loyalist side of the wall, we were able to get out of the shuttle to see the wall.

bri rinehart; titanic quarter; titanic; belfast
titanic museum; belfast; bri rinehart

After we were back in the shuttle, we ventured to the Titanic Quarter. This is where the Titanic was built, along with sister ships Olympic and Britannic. There is an outline where the ship sat as it was being built. Our tour guide pointed out that the ship's deck was at about the same point as the museum building that was built next to the docks. We were able to go inside the building, but had to stay on ground level. A lot of us visited the gift shop to purchase a little souvenir. I would have liked to walk around the outline of where the Titanic once was, but we had little time at the site. 

H&M; crane; belfast; bri rinehar

In the distance of the Titanic Quarter, there are two huge yellow crane type structures. These are called Samson and Goliath by the locals. They were built in the shipyard of the German company, Harland & Wolff, and were intended to build ships. However, shipbuilding ceased in Belfast and the cranes were not used.

belfast city centre; ireland; bri rinehart; belfast
seafood chowder; belfast; bri rinehart; ireland
belfast; city centre; ireland; bri rinehart

After the Titanic Quarters, we went to Belfast's city centre to have open time to explore the city centre. Since I went in November, they had their Christmas market set up. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, so I had to check out their market. It was a decent sized market to walk around. After checking it out, I went to find a restaurant or pub to pop into for lunch. I ended up finding a spot called The Favorite. I ordered a Hollywood Sunset to drink and it was delicious! I decided to order a starter and a meal when I really should have ordered one or the other. I had asked my waitress if the starter soup was in a small bowl - which would have helped me decide if I should get the larger portion of the seafood chowder or get the small bowl and sandwich. The waitress said the soup would come in a small bowl so I decided to get the starter portion and a sandwich. The starter portion was in a much larger bowl than I anticipated. So, by the time my sandwich came, I was not as hungry and could not finish it all. I also couldn't take the leftovers with me since I would be on a bus for hours without refrigerating my food. I felt really bad and explained my situation to the waitress when she asked me if the food was terrible because I hardly ate much of my sandwich.

st. patrick's grave; ireland; downpatrick; bri rinehart
bri rinehart; ireland; downpatrick
ireland; st. patrick's cathedral; downpatrick; bri rinehart
ireland; bri rinehart
st. patrick's; downpatrick; ireland; bri rinehart

Once our time in the city centre was up, we visited Downpatrick to see St. Patrick's grave. We learned a bit about the grave site from our tour guide. We were allowed to go into the church next to the grave site to see the inside. Afterwards, we went to the St. Patrick's Visitor Centre to watch an informational video on St. Patrick. If you get motion sickness - I would not recommend watching the video as many of the scenes are helicopter footage shown across large screens.

dundrum castle; ireland; bri rinehart
dundrum castle; ireland; bri rinehart
dundrum castle; bri rinehart; ireland
bri rinehart; dundrum castle; ireland
bri rinehart; ireland; dundrum castle
bri rinehart; dundrum castle; ireland

One of the final stops on our tour was Dundram's Castle. This may have been one of my favorite parts of the day. Although the castle is now in ruins, it was pretty cool to see and walk around. I walked up the tower to the top to get the views. I explored the grounds a bit before we had to be on the shuttle. 

Our last stop before heading to Dublin was the Mourne Mountains. Since the weather was terrible, we would not have had great views. Our driver said it would not be worth the difficult drive to where we needed to go since it was foggy and misty. We could not see the mountain range during our drive - so it made sense to skip it and begin the journey back to Dublin.