Stay Play in Northern Ireland
WHEN people talk about the luck of the Irish perhaps what they really should be referring to is just how fortunate people are to be able to call Ireland their home. And if you have ever been to Northern Ireland you will know that, wherever you choose to visit, the locals will make you feel incredibly welcome.
It is a beautiful part of the British Isles, a rare combination of hustle-bustle, great nightlife, fantastic food and drink, hospitality and stunning countryside - and a perfect place for a golf break.
City of Belfast
The capital is Belfast, which is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. It is located on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast and boasts a population of around 350,000.
Belfast suffered during The Troubles in the 1970s and 1980s. But those days are long gone and it is now regarded as one of the safest and most welcoming cities in Europe.
It has seen a sustained period of calm, and has benefited from substantial economic and commercial growth. Belfast remains a centre for industry, as well as the arts, higher education, business and law, and is Northern Ireland's economic engine. It is still a major port, with commercial and industrial docks, including the Harland and Wolff shipyard. The city centre has undergone extensive expansion and regeneration, most notably in the area surrounding Victoria Square.
Belfast is split into several quarters. The Cathedral Quarter is the city’s cultural centre and hosts an annual visual and performing arts festival. Custom House Square is one of the city's main outdoor venues for free concerts and street entertainment. The Queen’s Quarter has a large student population and hosts the annual Belfast International Arts Festival. It is also home to the Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum. The Golden Mile is the area where most tourists head to as it contains some of the best bars and restaurants in the city. Lisburn Road is the city's most exclusive shopping strip. And then there is thew Titanic Quarter, located on reclaimed land adjacent to Belfast Harbour. Named after RMS Titanic, which was built in Belfast in 1912, it is being transformed to include luxury apartments, a riverside entertainment district and a Titanic-themed museum.
There is lots to see and do in Belfast. Here are just a few venues where you might want to unwind.
The Dirty Onion is located in one of Belfast's oldest buildings, with real Irish music and craic seven nights a week. Dating back to 1780, it was used as a bonded spirit warehouse from 1921. The distinctive external wooden structure is another original feature - it frames the venue's beer garden at the front. Kelly's Cellars is one of Belfast's oldest traditional Irish pubs, situated in the heart of the city. Described as 'a hidden gem that oozes old traditional values', it's famous for a pint of Guinness, served with homemade Irish beef stew. The Perch Rooftop Bar is a space like no other in Belfast, with a beautiful large centre bar, surrounded by original window features, brick clad walls and adorned with birdcages and artwork. Nip up in the original sliding door lift and find yourself looking over the sights of Belfast whilst sipping a cocktail in the outdoor area, or take a perch at the bar and sample some delicious beer and gins. Berts Jazz Bar encapsulates the sleek elegance of the art-deco era, complemented by the very best in live jazz, fabulous cocktails and mouth-watering food. Find yourself instantly transported back to the chic, intimate jazz bars of 1930s New York as you soak up the sophisticated atmosphere and let the cool jazz melodies wash over you over a handpicked list of cocktails. Revolucion de Cuba offers Cuban food, cocktails and fiesta experiences. Expect dazzling handcrafted cocktails, dishes loaded with flavour and a tropical party vibe.
There are a number of tours in and around Belfast where you can taste and learn more about your favourite tipple. Take a Gin Jaunt around Belfast, visiting five of the best gin bars and trying seven different gins, learning all about styles, garnishes, cocktails and more. Or take a Whiskey Walk around the Cathedral Quarter with an Irish Whiskey Ambassador or take a Brewery Tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at some of Northern Ireland's most interesting breweries, with plenty of beer included along the way.
Unsurprisingly there is a terrific variety of world-class hotels in and around Belfast - the thing they all have in common is the welcome they offer tourists and businessmen alike.
The Hilton Belfast offers two restaurants, the Sonoma and Cables Bar. The Sonoma restaurant is located on the ground floor, overlooks the River Lagan and features fantastic panoramic views. Breakfast is served daily from the generous buffet, while evening pre-theatre and a la carte dining offers local, Irish and European cuisine. Cables Bar serves cocktails, draft beers and great food, offering lunch and dinner menus, with food served until 11pm. Choose from a range of stylish king, twin and deluxe room types or upgrade to a deluxe room for extra amenities including bathrobes and slippers, or choose a family room when traveling with children. Each room features a 37-inch LED TV, air-conditioning, tea/coffee-making facilities, mini-bar, iron and ironing board, trouser press, safe and WiFi, while deluxe rooms also feature city, river or mountain views.
The Hilton Templepatrick has its own golf course and features a range of deluxe rooms that include bathrobes and slippers, 32-inch TV, work desk, tea/coffee-making facilities, iron and ironing board, safe, WiFi, views of the golf course and complimentary mineral water. The Hilton Belfast Templepatrick Golf and Country Club hotel is located on the Castle Upton Estate and provides an array of fine dining options, such as the seasonal menu at Treffner’s a La Carte restaurant or drinks, cocktails and mouthwatering food in the lounge bar. Kinahan’s Bar is also located on the first floor of the hotel, offering beautiful views of the golf course. The hotel’s spa features a steam room and swimming pool along with three treatment rooms, including a double room for couples or mother and daughter treatments.
The Hastings Europa is located in the heart of Belfast and offers a choice of 272 hotel rooms, including 92 Executive Bedrooms and Suites. The elegant decor, bistro, bar and piano bar lounge make this four-star accommodation the hotel of choice for business and leisure guests alike. It is just a short distance from many of Belfast’s top visitor attractions, including the Ulster Museum, Grand Opera House, City Hall, Titanic Belfast, Waterfront Hall and SSE Arena. The Europa has an international reputation for hosting prestigious events and looking after many of the celebrities and VIPs who visit Belfast.
Northern Ireland is home to some of the best links courses in Europe, including Royal Portrush, Royal County Down, Portstewart and Castlerock.
Royal Portrush is where the 2019 Open Championship is being staged and it is a gem. More accurately, it is two gems. The championship course is the Dunluce, which was designed by Harry Colt and measures 7,317 yards. It is not cheap - a round there will set you back somewhere in the region of £200. If that is too steep for you, you might want to try the delightful Valley Course, also designed by Colt and measuring 6,336 yards, where 18 holes will cost £42.50 - a real bargain.
Royal County Down is one of Tom Watson’s favourite golf courses anywhere in the world. He famously used to make sure that he stopped off here before playing in The Open and was only too happy to make it known how much he loved the course, its surroundings and the challenge it represented. It opened in 1889 and is one of the oldest golf clubs in Ireland. It has two 18-hole links courses, the Championship Course and the Annesley Links. The Championship Course at Royal County Down measures over 7,200 yards from the back tees, and the fourth and ninth holes are featured in the book The 500 World's Greatest Golf Holes. In 2005 the Championship Course was ranked as the fourth best course in the world outside the United States by Golf Digest, and in 2007 Golf Digest ranked it the best course in the world.
Castlerock features two links courses, the Mussenden and Bann. The Mussenden measures 6,805 yards, is a par 73 and calls for accurate driving.The Bann is a nine-hole course measuring 2,466 yards and is a par 34.
There are some superb courses close to Belfast, most notably Belvoir Park, Malone Golf Club and Royal Belfast.
Royal Belfast, which opened as a six-hole course in 1881, is the oldest course in Ireland. It is now a magnificent 18-hole parkland course featuring some fabulous scenery and several breathtaking holes - fail to find the fairways here and you will be ripping up your scorecard pretty quickly. It only measures 6,306 yards and is a par 70 and the key to scoring well may well be to leave the big stick in your bag.
Malone Golf Club features three loops of nine holes. Drumbridge measures 3,397 yards and is a par 35, Ballydrain measures 3,292 yards and is also a par 35, while Edenderry measures 3,213 yards and is a par 36.
Belvoir Park claims to be the best parkland course in Northern Ireland. Founded in 1927, it meanders through 163 acres of mature woodland and was designed by Harry Colt. It measures 6,474 yards and is a par 71.
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