Summer Sundays: East Belfast
A Sunday ramble in the east of the city
Start your day with a delicious breakfast at the funky Totally Mojo (52 Upper Newtownards Rd, tel: 028 9047 3280, open 9am to 3pm), a popular café serving an imaginative selection of dishes, along with great coffee and fresh juices.
East Belfast is the home of Harland & Wolff, the shipyard that built Titanic, and the location for Stormont, where the Northern Ireland Assembly is based. Three of the city’s most famous sons were born here too - author of the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, CS Lewis, soccer superstar George Best and rock giant Van Morrison. You could combine all of them in a specially tailored tour, such as with local expert Ken Harper of Harper Taxi Tours (Tel: 028 9074 2711, mobile 07711 757178, www.harpertaxitours.co.nr). Ken will also give you the lowdown on enjoying Belfast Sundays.
If you’re interested in Titanic, there are numerous tours from which to choose, boat, bus or walking. Why not meet at the Odyssey Pavilion at 12.30pm for the two-hour walking tour of the shipyard, seeing the offices where Titanic was designed and the slipways from which she was launched. Stop for lunch at the Titanic Visitor Centre (open 10.30am - 4pm) in the old Thompson Pump House. If you prefer you could join for the second part of the tour, of the adjoining Thompson Dry Dock (where Titanic’s superstructure was added), at 2pm. Call 028 9073 7813 or visit www.titanicdock.com to arrange or book at the Belfast Welcome Centre.
If you want to trace the East Belfast roots of CS Lewis you’re best doing it in the company of an expert guide on the CS Lewis Bus Tour, leaving the Linenhall Library at 2pm (book at the Belfast Welcome Centre, tel: 028 9024 6609). You’ll see the famous statue of Lewis at Holywood Arches, his childhood home ‘Little Lea’ and the church where he was baptised by his grandfather, St Mark’s Dundela, among other key locations.
One of Northern Ireland’s finest restaurants, Aldens at 229 Upper Newtownards Road, (tel: 028 9065 0079) serves wonderful, good value Sunday lunches from Noon to 4.30pm. Now you’re around the corner from Stormont you could enjoy a pleasant afternoon strolling its delightful grounds (open 7am to 9pm), with its spectacular views across Belfast. Have a close up look of the Parliament Buildings (sadly not open to the public), which are made from Portland stone and granite from the Mourne Mountains, or let the kids loose in the children’s play area, before enjoying a great afternoon tea at the Stormont Hotel across the road.
You can also take yourself around East Belfast with the ‘Famous Faces’ and ‘Famous Places’ heritage trails (get the brochure from the Welcome Centre or download from www.eastbelfast.com), including hidden gems like the Victorian Templemore Baths, which still has its old public baths, and the listed two-up two-down terrace houses of McMaster Street, where workers on Titanic might have lived.
Nearby are some of Belfast’s famous political murals, at the junction of Templemore Avenue and Newtownards Road. Just around the corner in Dee Street is a Titanic mural commemorating those who lost their lives on the world’s most famous ship.
Try and find time to enjoy a film at the delightful Art Deco Strand Cinema at 165 Holywood Road. Opened in 1935, it is designed like a ship with curved walls and foyer lights in the form of portholes, in tribute to the nearby Harland & Wolff shipyard.
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