Taking the air

Despite being just 70 miles apart, a rail journey from Belfast to Derry (Londonderry, but more of that later) takes around two hours. Having frequently experienced similar journey times between Nottingham and Birmingham, it’s clear that the term “expresss train” is at least debatable. However, the link between Northern Ireland’s largest cities is frequent and…

There Might Be Giants

It isn’t possible to fit in sixty million years of history into a single day, but you can have a pretty good shot at it on the North Antrim coast. Several locations in this area are now enjoying renewed interest from visitors, having been used as the setting for Game of Thrones. Hire cars and…

Christmas… and a cage

Belfast City Hall knows how to put on a show. Throughout the year it’s beautifully lit up, and at this time of the year even moreseo with a colourful Christmas Market. Many big cities have these nowadays, but the secret of whether it works is in the setting, and the backdrop. When it comes to…

Linen and Chips

It’s sufficiently gloomy outside, but at least it’s not raining. However, Belfast also offers several free indoor sights, and none quite so quirky and beautiful as the Linen Hall Library. The original building – now Belfast city hall – was founded in 1788 by a group of local people, described in the guide as “worthy…

Heading north…

It’s late November, and refusing to be put off by my meteorological experience of Ireland in September, I’ve decided to return, partly tempted by a cheap flight and a good hotel deal, and partly on the assumption that the weather couldn’t possibly be any worse. I’m also partly driven by my desire to see more…

Wogan’s World

The mighty Shannon River flows through the heart of Limerick, my final destination on this trip. But today it appears to have a new tributary in the form of the M18 and N18 running south from Galway. The rain is the heaviest I’ve experienced yet, so I’m thankful for the relatively short drive today. In…

A hooker, a castle and a queue

Throughout my trip, there’s been a distinctive smell in the air. It’s unmistakably rural, and yet it permeates urban areas too. No, it’s not a Guinness fart (the original definition of silent but deadly), but the peat fire, a symbol of Irish energy for centuries. The peat itself was often transported along the coast by…

It’s Tom Cruise on accordion!

It’s home to one of the most famous beauty contests in the world, and is the basis for one of the best known traditional Irish songs. It was almost certainly the inspiration for the plot in Father Ted about the Lovely Girls Contest. Sadly, despite its romantic overtones, the town of Tralee looks decidedly down…

“I traded 12 packs of crisps for drugs”

It’s a heck of a drive, but Dingle is well worth it. Despite it’s remoteness, coaches line the car park by the harbour, and languages of all nations can be heard from the visitors. A crowd of teenagers pose for photographs next to the statue of the town’s most famous resident, Funghi the Dolphin. Yes,…