Your overnight in Belfast (Beal feirste), is one which will set your, rightfully lofty, expectations for the elite standards of hospitality and luxury that await you over the course of this personal and intimate touring experience. This is a night that promises style, comfort and, most importantly, bubbling excitement about your forthcoming adventure.
Awaken, rejuvenated, after your revitalising night in the Europa and enjoy a hearty breakfast; full Irish breakfasts will be available alongside continental fare, although personally we feel we have to recommend the full Irish! After you have sated yourself, Arthur Ward, historian, photographer and your personal guide for the trip, will introduce himself.
Arthur Ward is a renowned historian whose extensive knowledge of the Causeway Coast is rivalled by none. His intense passion for his homeland is vividly evident and he is a fountain of knowledge who can impart all of the folklore, history, culture and stories of this land. Over the course of your exploits, as you meander along rugged cliff faces, pass authentic, traditional Irish villages and encounter the world famous Irish people., Art, as he is affectionately known, will weave for you a fascinating and absorbing tapestry of the vibrant lands you pass through, bringing Ireland to life.
Preparing to commence your voyage you will now meet your driver for the tour. The medium via which you will be travelling is a luxury private coach, courtesy of Martin Shields’ Midi Coaches. Running an authentic family run Irish business themselves, Martin Shields and his staff are all brilliant raconteurs, fountains of knowledge about Ireland, and most importantly exquisite drivers who will serve you brilliantly over the course of your tour.
On the first day of our tour we will not stray far from your lavish accommodation, remaining in Northern Ireland’s bustling first city for an immersion in Irish city life. You will have the opportunity to indulge in the myriad of cultural, history and everything else this renaissance city has to offer!
Your adventures in Belfast will begin by delving into the intricate and often fragile political past of Belfast City, serving to highlight the disparity between the chaotic city of bygone years and the hub of tourism and culture that exists today. Once a greatly troubled city, suffering much from the vicious and relentless violence during The Troubles, Belfast has rejuvenated, rising like a phoenix from the ashes since the welcome peace now enjoyed by the country has resumed, claiming its position as a revered commercial and cultural focal point in Ireland. The memories of this divisive period are still evident; their lingering influence has acted as a muse to many, helping form the profoundly artistic and cultural city known in contemporary times.
To immerse ourselves in the fascinating political past of the city, Art Ward can whisk you away on one of Belfast’s renowned Mural Tours.
The famed Belfast murals are the world’s largest outdoor art gallery and they deftly tell the captivating story of political turmoil suffered in Northern Ireland during the world-renowned ‘Troubles.’ Once a bitter sign of division and resentment, Art Ward will highlight the ways in which they have transformed, for the most part, to signify solidarity and unity in the city.
This is a raw and humbling experience which contains a strong moral thread of the power of unity and harmony to vanquish the resentment so often present in bleak and desolate times. Being considered as one of the most enlightening and provoking experiences available on this Island is a great boon for any attraction and one that is well deserved in this instance.
The Titanic Experience, named the world’s leading tourist attraction in 2016 is a part of our voyage whose worth cannot be overstated. Providing a vivid insight into the story of the world’s most famous ship, this interactive tour will be the perfect opportunity for Art Ward to showcase his photography talents, providing you with memories to last a lifetime.
Next enjoy a sumptuous afternoon tea in the glamorous Titanic Suite. With the backdrop of the spectacular replica of the iconic staircase from the ship, this exquisite tea is incomparable to any you will have experienced before now and is the ideal way to spend a lazy portion of your afternoon.
After sating ourselves it is time to depart from the Titanic quarter, something that would be a great disappointment if not for the quality of our next destination. Our next port of call is a cultural tour of the city. We will visit the historically significant Crumlin Road Gaol, the amiable atmosphere of the bustling St George’s Market and explore the myriad of beautiful structures and landmarks in the city, all whilst gaining a brilliant insight into the Scots-Irish influences on the area.
With evening comes a brilliant opportunity to experience Belfast’s vibrant nightlife; we will visit the renowned Titanic Quarter, home to some of Europe’s most influential culture festivals and Belfast’s most recognisable and popular bars. Abuzz with life, your guided exploration of the sprawling Cathedral Quarter will be an opportunity to sample traditional Irish music, pubs and the famous Irish craic! Alternatively relax and enjoy a world class spa experience or spend some time shopping in Belfast’s chic premier shopping and leisure destination, Victoria Square.
You may explore Belfast to your heart’s content or return to the hotel as early as you wish to relax; again we will spend the night in the dazzling First City.
Day 2 – The Causeway Coast and Glens of Antrim
After savouring another hearty breakfast you will reunite with Art Ward and your transportation, ready to be whisked off out of the city onto the next leg of our adventure. Swapping the hustle and bustling of the urbane city for the tranquillity and peaceful beauty of the Causeway Coast and the Green Glens of Antrim.
Even in a country famed for its breath-taking scenery, welcoming people and iconic locations, the Causeway Coast and the Green Glens of Antrim stand out as a unique and magnificent destination. Heralded as one of the Top 5 Road Journeys of the world, let Northern Ireland Premier Tours transport you on an intrepid voyage through the greatest journey that the fabled Emerald Isle has to offer, the Causeway Coastal Route.
After an hour of driving you will be granted your first glimpse of the Coast as you arrive in Portrush and are granted with spectacular vista views of the Atlantic, the Skerries Islands and, the most Northerly point in Ireland, Mallon Point. This first encounter with the Causeway Coast will serve to tantalise and is a pleasant foreshadowing of the epic sights yet to come.
Now hugging the coast, our first port of call is the ominously looming Dunluce Castle, a fascinating ruin mired in a wealth of fascinating history and intrigue. Here we will begin to weave the web of the McDonnell story which permeates these bricks as much as it does this tour. Enjoy your experience of what is possibly Ireland’s most iconic castle, with renowned, spectacular views, this will be a fantastic place for some photos of the group and a chance to explore the castle grounds while hearing some of the tales it has to offer. This will be the perfect opportunity to exploit the photography skills of your guide; Art Ward’s prodigious talents with the lens will ensure that you will leave this experience with spectacular photographs to last a lifetime.
No visit to Northern Ireland would be complete without a visit to our only UNESCO world heritage site, The Giant’s Causeway. Spend your time exploring these remarkable, unique rock formations and the stories that surround them. Art Ward will regale you with the diverse and fascinating folklores and history of this area.
The 40,000 unique and iconic black basalt columns protruding from the sea have ensured that the Giants Causeway is included on the UNESCO world heritage list, however it is the walk across the stones, the spray of the ocean and views of Scotland on the horizon that will truly bring this remarkable landmark alive as you immerse yourself in the legends and folklore of the area from a local man’s perspective.
We will then continue but a few minutes along the coast to arrive at the Carrick-a-Rede Ropebridge; a top tourist attraction here in Ireland; this old swaying bridge connecting the mainland to the small fishing island of Carrick is invigorating to cross despite the fact that it is completely safe. Let Art Ward capture this moment for you perfectly as he entrances you with the history of the idyllic bridge and island that now capture your gaze.
Now we continue to hug the cliff face as we follow the winding coastline towards the beautiful coastal town of Ballycastle; named the best place to live in the North of Ireland in 2017, the picturesque town offers stunning views of Scotland and of Rathlin Island, small but influential to our McDonnell story. Here Art Ward will enthral you with the gripping and devastating tales of what happened here in the McDonnell saga and how Francis Drake was involved, before we continue our intrepid journey onwards to the Scenic Inn, and lunch.
Our next port of call is to visit Sheans Horse Farm and Riding Center, home to the dynamic Causeway Coast Discovery Center.
The Causeway Coast Discovery Centre is a 2014, 2015 and 2016 Irish Tourism Award-winning history and heritage centre. Your visit to this centre will enhance your onward journey around the beautiful Causeway Coast and bring this fascinating area to life through exciting stories and hands-on, cultural experiences unique to this beautiful area.
The visit will help you understand some of the history and the people you will encounter on the Route, while discovering the locations of our myriad of castles, glens and rugged coastlines. The McDonnell story shall be invoked to its fullest here, with vista views over 5 counties of Ireland and, notably, that of Sorely Boy McDonnell’s final battle. The vibrant, interactive experience here will touch on the meaning of the term Scots-Irish, highlighting this areas close connection with Scotland and our brethren over the water.
En route to the famed Green Glens of Antrim, you will pass through the beautiful seaside town of Ballycastle before arriving at Cushendun via the Torr Coastal Road. This detour is an extension of the Causeway Coastal Route, rated as one of the ‘Top 5 Road Journeys in the World’ and hugs rugged cliff faces of the Irish coastline while offering an unparalleled vantage point from which to view Scotland and the turbulent Irish Sea.
We will pass the quaint village of Cushendun where home to Mary Mc Bride’s Irish Pub. This charming, traditional pub serves hearty food, is well known for its Guinness and has one of 10 intricately carved Game of Thrones themed doors present in Ireland as its décor.
As we continue we will pass Glenariff, often referred to as the Queen of the Glens due to its outstanding and unparalleled beauty, with the absolutely stunning Glenariff Waterfalls at its heart. These waterfalls are a hidden gem in our countryside and the enrapturing view of the cascading water against the glamorous backdrop of the Glens has often proved to be the highlight of many a trip to Ireland for those travellers fortunate enough to experience it first-hand.
Arrive at Glenarm Village for tour of village and Castle grounds. Once a mighty and important port in Ireland, Glenarm now enjoys a much slower and more tranquil pace of life. The village is still home to the McDonnell family, once known as the mighty and savage McDonnell clan who ruled these lands, who inhabit the castle and surrounding estate to this day.
It is time for the lazy and relaxing return leg of your journey, we begin to venture back towards Belfast now, reminiscing over the delights that Ireland has offered so far as we savour the final leg of our travels.
Amidst the beauty of this stunning coastal drive, we shall encounter the majestic Carrickfergus Castle and discover its profound impact on the area’s history. Built in the 12th century, the castle has been a base of power for Scots, Irish, English, and French at different stages throughout history, withstanding a great many sieges and assaults during its day. Art Ward will provide stories of its former glory that will be matched only by its current spectacular appearance.
The castle is critical to our own McDonnell tale as this seemingly impregnable fortress was once stormed by the clan in retribution for the bloody massacre of 700 of their children and women on Rathlin Island. Conquering the castle was a mighty stroke that solidifies the legacy of the McDonnells as gifted soldiers. Despite this tapestry of violence, the castle has remained a bastion of strength and is undoubtedly one of the best preserved and most impressive medieval structures in Ireland.
From Carrickfergus there is not long left to Belfast so finally you may say your fond farewells to Art Ward, to your driver and to the best tour of your life; prepare to depart Ireland or continue your onwards journey on the Emerald Isle.