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Belfast 25/6/17

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What to see and do in Belfast

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Belfast 25/6/17

  1. 1. 6 June 25, 2017 The Sunday Times Travel penny of its £50. See tasteandtour.co.uk for more information. With my photographer friend Mary — conveniently of Irish descent — we hopped over to Belfast on Flybe from Edinburgh, where we were met by the ebullient Billy Scott for our black cab taxi tour of the city. He whisked us round all the key quarters and, to keep up with the likes of the Dalai Lama and Bill Clinton, we inscribed our messages on the famous Peace Wall. Murals remain on both the Shankill and Falls roads, but there are far fewer Union Jacks and Irish tricolours in evidence than in years past and, thankfully, the tension is palpably reduced. On that topic, the Troubles section of the history zone of the Ulster Museum is an excellent way for those who did not live through those awful decades to learn the facts. The sight of Belfast today is Titanic, now Europe’s top tourist attraction. Located next to the last remaining White Star vessel, the SS Nomadic, its entry charge of £30 may seem high but the quality of the experience makes it good value. Its nine interactive galleries are as informative as they are moving. Go early, as the crowds descend by 11am, and allow SCOTTISH NEWS l Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has announced the 2018 schedule for trips aboard Brabant, the company’s 360ft-long riverboat which caters for 156 passengers. The programme features 30 departures and takes in some of Europe’s most beautiful rivers, with voyages lasting from five to 25 nights. The itineraries include Dusseldorf, pictured, to Amsterdam, Nuremberg to Budapest, Dusseldorf to Nuremberg, Budapest to Hirsova in Romania, Dusseldorf to Basel, and Hirsova to Dusseldorf. fredolsencruises.com/river-cruises l Maison de la Belle Vie, a little B&B run by Perthshire expats, is ideal for sightseeing in the Dordogne. Enjoy the town of Mareuil en Périgord as well as Angoulême, Brantôme and Cognac. The house has double rooms, good wi-fi and an attached restaurant. An English or French breakfast is included. Fly from Edinburgh or Glasgow to Bordeaux or from Edinburgh to Bergerac. Sunday Times readers can take advantage of a special offer: a seven-night stay for two people costs €395, saving €70. maisondelabellevie.com l Touch of Class Travel has a great offer at the five-star Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, flying from Edinburgh. Three nights cost from £499pp between November 11 and December. Atol protected. 0843 216 0451, touchofclasstravel.co.uk lThe easyJet sale of winter flights is on. Scots can jet from Edinburgh to Geneva from £32.49 or to Tenerife from £34.49. Fly from Glasgow to Alicante from £30.49, to Faro from £30.49, or from Aberdeen to London Gatwick from £26.49. easyjet.com for a minimum of 2.5 hours — and best pre-book tickets. The only five-star hotel in Belfast is the Merchant in the vibrant Cathedral quarter. Back in the 1860s the building housed the Ulster Bank, and today it’s glam and gilded, and boasts a dining room of stucco, cherubs and stained glass. I was delighted with my art deco bedroom — one can choose from that or opulent Victorian decor. The public areas have some nice touches such as a perennial log fire in the opulent cocktail bar; Bert’s jazz bar, with music seven nights a week; and, in addition to the spa, a rooftop hot tub. A dinner in its two-AA Rosette Great Room was another highlight. On eating out, I can recommend the Ox restaurant, which offers fabulous, modern Michelin-starred cuisine in a bare-brick whitewashed environment. It’s £50 for the tasting menu. For seafood, try the popular Mourne Seafood Bar with its great range of ales. Last, Hadskis in cool Commercial Court — home to the city’s buzziest bars — has a terrific daily menu and lunch for £6.50. Coffees and brunch are great at Root & Branch and General A TITANIC TIME IN BELFAST A hop across the Irish Sea is great value, writes Scottish travel editor Katie Wood C ities continually flit in and out of fashion, and this year the noise is about Belfast — which is good news for Scots, as we can get there cheaply. I’d visit regenerated Belfast any time, if for nothing else than to listen to that gloriously rich accent, but these days, with world-class sights and a vibrant food scene, there are plenty of other reasons to hop over the Irish Sea. It had been 15 years since my last visit, and if you’d told me then that on my next trip I’d enjoy a city with a vibrant cafe culture, excellent cuisine, cool bars and amazing delis, I’d have questioned how many Bushmills you’d quaffed. Back in the day, Belfast’s idea of tapas would be champ, black pudding and Guinness; now it’s delicious artisan charcuterie, handmade Irish cheeses and some of the best seafood in the world — washed down with Armagh dry cider or one of the many local craft ales. You can sample all of this, and more, on an excellent food tour which starts at the wonderful St George’s market. Taste & Tour is four hours of visiting the best food and drink spots around the city centre. With more than 25 samples along the way, it’s worth every The Dark Horse pub, St George’s market and Belfast City Hall, above; Titanic Belfast, below Merchants, especially on Sundays. Belfast is punching well above its weight for a city of fewer than 300,000 in terms of eating out. The emphasis is very much on local, seasonal and organic produce and friendly service. For our last night we checked into a very different hotel: the Bullitt, a quirky 43-room establishment with a lovely courtyard. Belfast has some wonderful old pubs, none better than the Garrick. In my opinion, the top venue is no longer the Crown Liquor Saloon which, despite its National Trust status and attractive ornate tiles and wooden booths, is so full of tourists that it’s lost its atmosphere. Fabulous food, great craic, and Belfast is very much a place that’s flourishing for the 21st-century tourist. For more on Ireland and Northern Ireland, visit discoverireland. com and discovernorthe rnireland. com. For accommodation, rooms from £160 are available at the Merchant hotel (themerchant hotel.com) and from £100 at the Bullitt (bullitt hotel.com)
  2. 2. The Sunday Times June 25, 2017 7 T he Algarve — it even sounds alluring. Blessed with miles of rugged coastline, sandy beaches and an enviable climate, this rustic region on Portugal’s southern tip is bursting with character, not to mention record-breaking numbers of visitors. Last year, about 18m tourists flocked to the Algarve — and more than 1.3m rounds of golf were played there. Those numbers are expected to be eclipsed this year, with sun-seekers from Britain to the fore. If you happen to live in Scotland, the jewel in Portugal’s crown is closer than you might think. With regular flights from Glasgow Prestwick, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, you can land in Faro within four hours and be on a sun-kissed beach or golf course within five. The region is enjoying unprecedented growth and there’s no shortage of well- established resorts where peace, calm and gold-standard service are the order of the day. Take, for example, the five-star Quinta do Lago resort. Much like Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams, the 1989 flick in which a farmer creates a full- size baseball pitch in a cornfield, one suspects that the Brazilian entrepreneur André Jordan had a similar epiphany when he clapped eyes on this pristine, pine-clad corner of the Algarve: build it and they will come. Fast-forward almost 50 years and the word on the orange grove is that Quinta, a golf resort Jordan created from scratch, might just be the best of the bunch. Sprawled across 1,600 acres in the Algarve’s fabled Golden Triangle, Quinta is a mere 20-minute drive from Faro airport and occupies an enviable position on the edge of the stunning Ria Formosa Quinta do Lago resort is top of the beautiful golf courses Portugal has to offer, writes Mark Macaskill BEST SHOT ON THE ALGARVE lagoon, a natural wonder of coastal barrier islands where flora and fauna thrive under 300 days of sunshine a year. Perhaps it’s all that sun, but Quinta is so highly polished that everything, even the road, seems to gleam and sparkle. It almost feels too perfect, which might be a problem for those who want a more rugged taste of the Algarve, but once inside the gates Quinta has a charm that is hard to resist. Rory McIlroy, the Northern Irish golfer, recently spent a fortnight at Quinta recovering from a rib injury, and gushed about its “first-class” facilities and service. The rental villas and townhouses are spacious, immaculate and well-appointed. The food at Quinta’s restaurants and bars is uncomplicated, fresh and delicious, and the overall service is indeed top notch. The little things — like being handed mosquito spray A golf academy endorsed by the Irish golfer Paul McGinley can iron out the flaws in your game with technology. It’s also home to Europe’s only TaylorMade performance centre. (I’m pining for a set of M2 clubs after using them at Quinta — I’m sure I played better.) A 50-minute session with the head pro costs £90. Away from the undulating fairways and manicured greens, there’s much to keep the entire family entertained. Aside from watersports, the finishing touches are being put on the Campus, a sports arena consisting of a professional full-size hybrid sports pitch, 10 tennis courts (six hard court and four clay) and four padel tennis courts — padel is a cross between squash and tennis. New gymnasiums, a pool and cycling amenities are also in the pipeline. And if all that sounds like too much hard work, you can lounge around your private pool — most rental properties have one — browse the resort’s boutique shops or go property hunting; a new collection of plush residential homes have just gone on the market from about £2.2m. THELOWDOWN Where to stay: Quinta do Lago has plenty of villas and townhouses to rent but, as you might expect, prices vary greatly and it’s wise to shop around on the internet. At the time of going to print, two-bedroom villas for one week were available from £1,300. quintadolago.com Where to eat: Koko Lane is a popular lunch venue where anyone can hit a few golf balls from a practice area. Try the Bovino Steakhouse for a mouth-watering selection of meats. Fresh seafood is served up daily at Casa do Lago (try the turbot for two), then relax outside with a cocktail and get in some chipping practice to a floating platform on the lake. How to get there: Ryanair flies direct to Faro five times weekly from Edinburgh and Glasgow Prestwick, and twice weekly from Aberdeen. Lead fare is £21.99 (one way in July). ryanair.com by a waiter who sees that you’re eating with one hand and fighting off the little blighters with the other — go a long way. And, of course, there’s the golf. The North and South courses are championship venues — the latter has hosted the Portuguese Open eight times — and boast some exquisite holes. The South’s 15th, a par 3 protected by a lake and bunkers, is said to be the most photographed of the Algarve but, in truth, all three of the resort’s courses are blessed with holes that often deserve a few extra seconds on the tee to absorb the views. Laranjal, named after the orange groves that populate the course, is the most recent addition to the QDL stable. It’s also the most forgiving, with fewer trees plus fairways that make finding an errant shot more likely. The courses are regarded as among the finest in the region, so playing them isn’t cheap, but you’re unlikely to feel short-changed. Green fees range from about £80 to £135, depending on the season (quintadolagogolf.com/en/golf/ rates/item/138-green-fees). Golf at Quinta do Lago, above, on the edge of the Ria Formosa lagoon, left Quintaisso polished eventhe roadseems tosparkle

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