Summer Sundays: West Belfast
A perfect day in the west of the city
Meet up at the Divis Flats on the Lower Falls Road, just a few minutes walk from the city centre, for one of Belfast’s most unique tours, run by Coiste Irish Political Tours (10 Beechmount Avenue, tel: 028 9020 0770, www.coiste.ie).
These informal tours around key west Belfast locations give you a real insight into republican west Belfast. When you call to book ask if they can arrange to hand you over to Epic guides for a tour of the nearby loyalist Shankill Road to give you a complete overview (due to the extra cost this opportunity is for groups only). The Coiste tour ends with a pint of complimentary Guinness.
For a great value lunch, a chance to meet the locals and to find out all there is to see in west Belfast head to the welcoming Cultúrlann MacAdam Ó Fiaich (216 Falls Road, tel: 028 9096 4180, www.culturlann.com). Their café/bistro is open from 10am to 6pm and their book and gift shop from 1pm to 6pm. Ask about the self-guided Gaeltacht tour of West Belfast which leaves from here.
If you’ve chosen the Shankill Tour with Epic, takes some time to walk around this iconic road, there’s some interesting stops en route. The Shankill Graveyard (tel: 028 9027 0296, open from 10am to 6pm) is one of the most historic sites in Belfast and some believe St Patrick himself built a church here. Records certainly show there was a church on this site in medieval times.
It was for centuries the main cemetery in Belfast and has mass graves for the many 19th century victims of plague. Nearby is the famous ‘shamrock church’ of St Matthew’s, Woodvale Road (tel: 028 9071 4325). Built in 1872 it’s shaped like a trefoil, or shamrock, and the unique design is probably based on Greek Orthodox churches.
At the front door is an ancient font, the ‘Bullaun Stone’, said to have once been used for curing warts! If you want to see inside visit a few minutes before or after the 11.30am service, which ends at 12.30pm. One of the area’s many famous murals can be found outside the famous Rex Bar (215 Shankill Road, tel: 028 9024 1698).
Back off the Falls Road, it’s worth diverting to the beautiful French Gothic-style Clonard Church (tel: 028 9044 5950, www.clonard.com) famous for its Rose Window, mosaics and magnificent organ. It can be visited until 7pm on Sundays (please avoid Masses at 7am, 9.30am, 11am and 12.30pm). Or you could check out Casement Park (Andersonstown Road, tel: 028 9060 5868, www.antrim.gaa.ie) if there is a game of Gaelic football, hurling or camogie on, such as the Ulster Senior and Minor Hurling Finals (June 28th) and the Antrim Senior Football and Hurling Finals (Sept 27th).
You can also get a fantastic insight into the area and further afield with a unique black cab tour. For a full list contact the Belfast Welcome Centre but you can book special TaxiTrax (Castle Junction, tel: 028 9031 5777, www.wbta.net) tours of Belfast for any time on Sunday.
From 7pm, you can experience some of Belfast’s finest Irish traditional music at Madden’s Bar at 74 Berry Street (tel: 028 9024 4114), near the city centre or, on May 17th, June 14th, July 19th, August 16th and September 13th, you’ll be very welcome at a special ceilidh (dance) at 8pm back at Culturlann.