Today marks the first official post on my blog about our travels! Anyone who knows me knows how strong my wanderlust is! Give me an opportunity to road trip I’ll take it…. over 9000km… with a toddler…. why am I NOT deterred yet?!!? Yeah it’s true, I’ll take any chance to travel, by plane, train, or automobile! So after sharing with you recently about winning airfare anywhere in the world, you can see why this was SUCH a big deal! Today I am going to take you on the first leg of our trip last spring! Belfast, Northern Ireland, specifically today, I will be talking about Belfast Castle! I hope that by sharing our experiences and the story of our trip it may help you with planning your own travel itinerary, or at the least give you some new travel goals! While writing I’ve been asking Taylor to also reflect and share his favourite parts of the trip. As you will soon discover, we are both known for being a bit long winded… so I will do my best to break these posts up into more bite sized pieces!
We departed Winnipeg on Mothers day, for what was by far the longest time spent apart from Arthurbear. There were many tears, all of which were shed by me. He could not have cared less. Something tells me he knew he was in for the better part of a month of “Yes, Arthur, whatever you’d like, Arthur!” from Grandma and Grandpa! It did ease my mind a little to know he was being so well taken care of, but it was hard either way!
I just want to take a quick second off topic to acknowledge that everything you see in the above photo, is all I packed for 18 nights of travel! But I’m confident there will be a post dedicated to this all to itself! Now, back to your regularly scheduled travel blog:
We landed in Dublin, Ireland early Monday morning, and immediately took an Uber from the airport to the train station! I had purchased our train tickets ahead of time and they were mailed to my house weeks in advance. Clearly not understanding how Europe works, this was entirely unnecessary. We ended up transferring our ticket to an earlier train anyway, from Dublin to Belfast in Northern Ireland. The train ride itself was an incredible introduction to the Emerald Isle. It was also especially lulling after a sleepless over night flight from Canada. Train travel might be one of my favourite ways to get around abroad.
Arriving in Belfast, to be honest, I was least excited about the Northern Ireland leg of our trip. This was, in my head, for Taylor’s benefit as he was interested in the history of “The Troubles” and had several castles in mind to see. Looking back, I’m SO glad we didn’t skip over this place as a destination to spend a few days of our trip! It was the most affordable of all our destinations in terms of accommodations and offered some of the most beautiful sights, both inside the city and all the way up the Antrim coast!
Our first full day in Belfast we started off with the destination of Belfast Castle in mind. It was a really comfortable 17°C and in an effort to save money on transportation, we decided to walk a few blocks from our AirBnb to hopefully lower the cost of an Uber. Well, a few blocks quickly turned into walking the whole route! Guys, if you learn nothing else from my blog, take this away: wear comfy shoes, this will save you everywhere you go! It ended up being about a 10 km walk! Which doesn’t sound too bad, but once you account for strolling around the castle grounds, and if you’re a real crazy person (like my husband) a hike to the top of McArt’s Fort, I think we totalled closer to 20km on foot that day! All I can say is WORTH IT! (I’m being informed I walked 18+km, and Taylor walked 24+km!) Walking gave us a really lovely opportunity to really see some of the city, that would have been missed if we had gotten a ride.
The castle itself was beautiful! We toured the main floor and upper rooms and learned about the gardens. This is far from the oldest structure we would see on our trip, but it was lovely none the less. There are 9 representations of cats throughout the garden, and it was a fun challenge to look for them all. I’m pretty sure we missed one or two!
I decided trekking across Belfast was enough exercise for one day, and although I explored some of the gorgeous forest around the castle, I left Taylor on his own to climb to the summit of Cave Hill, where he enjoyed McArt’s Fort. I did peek my head in to the “adventure playground” which made me, for the first time on the trip, desperately wish we had found a way to bring Arthur with us, and then enjoyed a delicious coffee in the Cellar Cafe while I waited for Taylor to complete his hike.
While I don’t feel like it is necessary to put in quite so many kilometres I absolutely recommend taking a couple hours to stroll about the castle and it’s grounds! Some time spent in the Cave Hill Park is not wasted either! I do think this is a very family friendly spot, there isn’t too much to read or do indoors, and the space and setting are great for little legs to stretch and move around! Kids would also love searching the garden for all of the cats! I could absolutely see Arthurbear not wanting to leave this place!
Spending our first day in Belfast at the Castle was certainly a lovely introduction to Northern Ireland and set us up perfectly for our “grand tour” the next day! I will be sharing about that in the next instalment of our travel series!
I hope you enjoyed today’s feature on Belfast Castle! Let me know in the comments what information you think is most helpful when planning a trip to a city or country you’ve never been before! I’m always happy to dive a little deeper into a specific part of our travels, whether it’s the sights, attractions, accommodations, cost, etc. You choose the adventure!