A favourite family weekend in Belfast
Belfast may not be the first destination on your list of potential family breaks but it’s well worth consideration. Despite a cold wet January weekend, our family had a fantastic time and one of our favourite ever family weekends away.
Fabulous ferry from Cairnryan – Belfast
The Cairnryan- Belfast ferry is run by Stena Line and served by one of their newest additions the Stena Superfast VII which turned out to be one of the UK’s most luxurious ferries . Our family, especially the kids, travel on ferries every year and this may well be our favourite. The Superfast VII has a Spa, cinema, games room, a Curious George play room for the little kids plus a good shop, restaurant and plenty of seating areas and bars. The crossing is a couple of hours, enough time for a meal and a few games or perhaps a kids movie. It’s very family friendly with built-in Xbox 360s and iPads for example in the main family lounge and the staff were great.
We stayed in Belfast’s Stormont Hotel, booked through Stena Line as part of their family weekend offers, which is just 10 minutes from the ferry terminal so perfect if you arrive late on Friday night and don’t want to have to travel too far. Whilst it appears to be quite a corporate hotel it was family friendly too and the interconnected two rooms went down well with our kids. It has an excellent bistro as well and we enjoyed a really good meal after a long day of sightseeing. The staff were very friendly with the children, finding colouring-in pencils and paper and the children’s menu suited our two who declared it ‘yummy’ (they are usually very picky so this is high praise indeed) but there weren’t many other children in the restaurant when we were there.
Family Things to Do in Belfast
The best part of our weekend was undoubtedly the Titanic Experience. Imaginative, powerful, very emotional and utterly fascinating, this has to be one of the UK’s greatest exhibits. A must visit, worth heading to Belfast for this alone.
The highlight, for the kids especially, is the ride that gives you a sense of what it was like for the construction workers on the gantry and the treacherous working conditions they faced. Nearly 300 feet up with no safety harnesses. (Our 8 year old was more shocked however that they had to be at work, up on the gantry by 6.00 AM and couldn’t leave till 6PM!) You ride a cable car as it descends up and down the life sized replica of the Titanic’s rudder, tracking along past full sized re-enactments of rivet crews hammering away. It’s incredible.
By the time you reach the full scale replica of a first class cabin and the accounts of who was travelling on Titanic, in all classes and why, there’s a real sense of the social investment the city had in the ship. Then, there’s simply a quiet room with the sound of Morse code of the messages sent and received by the doomed Captain Smith. People were dabbing their eyes, which I’ve never seen before in a museum setting. Afterwards, a cinema and a clever undersea floor exhibit brings Titanic’s story up to date including examining the various movie misunderstandings.
Everyone in the family enjoyed it but it’s probably more suitable however for older children rather than under 5’s as our 4 year old was unmoved, so bring your own distractions for little ones perhaps. But our 8 year old was entranced and has read up on all things Titanic since.
We also visited Giant’s Causeway which is worth a trip and about an hour’s drive north up to the Antrim coast. There’s a superb award-winning visitor centre (and lovely pub just next door) which is excellent for kids of all ages too, but both our kids loved the Causeway itself despite the awful weather. Although just a natural rock formation, it brings out a strange child-like sense of wonder in everyone who visits. Make sure you wear decent footwear as it’s wet and slippy obviously but there’s also a long spectacular walk around the coast if you choose. Nina and the Neurons at Giant’s Causeway was on TV the day we got back, which our 4 year old found very exciting.
We had a fantastic weekend in Belfast and it’s well worth a short break or half term visit. Belfast itself offers plenty of activities to keep your family busy and that’s without exploring the amazing coast. We loved it and will no doubt be back again.