On our recent visit to Belfast we decided to make the most of the mild summer weather and take a walk around looking at the sights of Belfast.
We were staying close to the Belfast City Hall and decided to book into the Tour of the City Hall and it was well worth it.
The building is amazing construction started in 1898, and took 8 years to complete. Opening in August 1906. The time effort and skill level of this building was amazing. They just don’t make buildings like this anymore. At the time it cost £360,000 (equivalant to £128,000,000.00)
The marble, the stone work and the pure volume of Stained glass windows is inspiring and we only saw such a small amount of it.
So come along with me with a collection of my favourite images from Belfast City Hall.
We recently got back from a trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland and it was only with my researching into Ireland that I found out that they are two very different countries.
I would like to think that I am a fairly well traveled person, and although in Australia we have heard of Ireland’s struggle for independence I didn’t realise that in the end they ended up two very distinct countries.
Ireland is a country of its own located in Europe that has managed to gain it’s independence from England with a very long battle for freedom and independence. With familiar towns like Dublin, Galway, Sligo, Cork.
Ireland is a Republic, with a President, A population of about 4.9 Million. Ireland ranks among the top ten wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, it is a member of the European Union.
Whereas Northern Ireland is a member of the UK and commonwealth. It has a population of about 1.8 MiIllion, and most notable towns are it’s capital Belfast and Derry.
Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, has the queen as their monarch.
Northern Ireland still has a real political divide, between unionists, who wish to see Northern Ireland continue as part of the United Kingdom, and nationalists, who wish to see Northern Ireland become part of the Republic of Ireland, independent from the United Kingdom. This is something that is evident even as a tourist in their beautiful city.
Northern Ireland capital is Belfast, and recently has been getting even more media coverage due to the huge HBO hit Game of thrones choosing many of the iconic landscapes and castles of Northern Ireland as film locations, as well as many of their main sets being filmed in Titanic studios in Belfast.
5 things I learned when visiting Ireland and Northern Ireland.
1 – They have different currency.
As Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, they utilise Pounds and English Currency.
Ireland is a part of the Europe and use Euros for their currency
Many people in our group actually got caught unaware on this one with many people rushing to the currency exchange at Dublin airport to swap their currency over.
2- The mailboxes are different colours
In Ireland the postboxes are green and I found that really fascinating, when I wandered over the ‘border’ to Northern Ireland the post boxes went back to the traditional red postboxes that we are used to, as a member of the commonwealth.
3- There is no real border crossing
Whilst Ireland and Northern Ireland are two distinct countries, you can easily travel between the countries without needing to show your passport and go through immigration.
However the towns on the border definitely have a different feel to them.
In the Town of Derry buildings were full of amazing and poignant street art showcasing the fight for independence as well as memorials to lives lost in the independence.
4- The political undercurrent is still there
What surprised me the most is how current the tension is still in the air in towns like Belfast. Whilst we were in Belfast there was a huge amount of people waving the English flag and others firmly against it.
As you walk around the streets daily we saw anti riot police trucks in the area.
5- The Architecture is very different
Dublin is a much older city, and so is the architecture, the buildings range from 14th century onwards. It had a real relaxed feel. Cobblestone paths, old bridges, and you can really imagine the city hundreds of years earlier.
Towns like Galway have done a fantastic job of keeping the history of the area with many new buildings having to keep the old structures as well.
Belfast is much younger and for those who have travelled to Melbourne and seen buildings like royal exhibition buildings, flinders street station it is very reminiscent of that. whilst the buildings are still a couple of hundred years old, there are also a lot more modern buildings, shops scattered around.
5. Pubs are everywhere.
The one thing that stood out in both Ireland and Northern Ireland was that they both love a good pub.
In Both Dublin, Galway and Belfast the main place to have a meal would have to be a pub.
Traditional restaurants were few and far between and instead every second or third store front was a pub.
As we walked through the streets of Belfast we happened across an amazing art installation called the Glass of Thrones.
Glass of thrones was created by Tourism Ireland to celebrate ten years of filming of the iconic show in Northern Ireland.
Starting with Jon snow and the Starks in the centre of Belfast, just near the Belfast town Hall, there are 6 stained glasses located through the city and ending with the Iron throne at the Titanic studios were many of the scenes were filmed.
The 6 stained glass of thrones windows showcase pivotal scenes of the series and each one focuses on a family, villain or legacy of the series.
Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, Targaryens, White Walkers and finally the Iron Throne.
Stained Glass of Thrones – House Stark
Location – Outside Belfast Town Hall
It was only fitting that the first window showcases the heroes of the show. The Stark family.
The stained glass window is overlooking Belfast City Hall, which also has an amazing collection of Stained Glasses Inside.
The focal point of the Stark window is Jon Snow, the King of the North at the iconic battle scene from the Battle of the bastards, however all the other Starks also get a mention.
Some of the great details are Arya about to stab Little finger, The heartbreaking red wedding, Sansai about to get her revenge on Ramsey, Hound and Brienne fighting over Ayra and of course what started it all, The Patriach of the family Ned about to lose his head.
For true fans of the show there are other subtle references to the Starks and their storyline’s with Direwolves, the Three Eyed Raven, and the weeping Weirwood tree also on there.
We were staying nearby so I was able to walk past this window multiple times and I spent ages looking at the glass window as the detail was amazing.
Stained Glass of Thrones – House Lannister
Location – Located beside ICC Belfast
Featuring so many iconic scenes that make up the storyline’s of some of the villains of the show, from the wildfire explosion, to Jamie’s charging on horse back towards Daenerys during the Battle of the Goldroad.
The real focal point though is Mountain carrying Cersei after her walk of shame.
I was also pleased to see some of Tyrion Lannister’s storyline on display. With his revengeful murder of his scheming father Tywin.
Stained Glass of Thrones – House Baratheon
Location – Beside Lagan Weir
I found this one the most interesting window whilst it is called House Baratheon its focal point really is Melisandre.
I guess it is quiet fitting as those who watch the show, understand wherever Stannis went, she was there pulling the strings.
The window also highlights Hound and Beric’s fight, Briennes revenge, Gendry and his Hammer, not to mention two kings dying. King Robert and King Joffrey.
But my favourite part of the window, probably because he was one of my favourite characters is Ser Davos and his boat.
Stained Glass of Thrones – House Targaryen
Location – Outside Odyssey
This window could really be called Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen,First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea,Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons, as the Window really is a huge tribute to her.
The focal point is Drogon as he breathes a twister of fire that runs all the way down the length of the window, with Danny riding atop him.
Other notible scenes include the birth of the dragons, Drogon rescuing Daenerys from the fighting pits of Meereen. Ser Barristan Selmy and Greyworms fighting the Sons of Harpy. Not to mention when her brother was crowned with Gold.
Stained Glass of Thrones – White Walkers
Location – Alongside SS nomadic
Hodor holding the door is the real focal point of this window, taking up centre position. Another large part of the window is the Ice King destroying a large section of the Wall on top of his Ice dragon.
There are lots of other parts to the window as well, Jon, Jorah, the Hound, Beric and Tormund stranded in the middle of the ice lake.
The making of the Ice King.
Stained Glass of Thrones – Iron Throne
Location – Overlooking the Titanic studios in the grounds of Belfast titanic experience, at the Titanic Slipway
This window is definitely trying to portray A song of Ice and Fire, with fiery Orange up top and icy blue below.
At first look it looks like it is just a beautiful window of the iron throne with a chair on it to sit so you to can Sit on the iron Throne, but at closer look you see that it also contains house sigils, cogs and gears like the opening scene.
The other great thing about this is the interactive nature of this window with people able to sit on the Iron throne for a picture.
The other awesome thing we worked out afterwards is that each of them have a very funny warning on the side. We only took a photo of a couple of them.
I have dreamed of visiting Giants Causeway for a very long time, and on our way to Belfast from Dublin, we dropped in with only a small amount of time to wander down and take some photos.
With my camera in hand ready to take some iconic images of the 40,000 interlocking basalt rocks we arrived at The Nook and disembarked our bus, ready to wander down the path to the famous area, made from ancient volcanic fissure eruption, that I have seen so many times on Instagram.
As we wandered down the path the scenery was spectacular, rolling green hills, old rock walls.
But as we got closer something else became apparent there would be no Instagram photos with empty rock foundations, because as we got closer the crowds begun to appear.
Every year over 1 million people visit giants causeway. With the success of Game of Thrones and the huge increase in tourism due to the great marketing of Northern Ireland’s tourism department highlighting all the film locations around the areas, these numbers are just increasing every year. The fact we also arrived in mid-afternoon and only had thirty minutes to look around also added to the rush.
People scurrying everywhere trying to get a shot, It really was a case of what you expect to see and what you actually do.
I had to adapt and change my expectation, and take the time to find an empty patch but it was well worth it.
If you keep wandering past the Basalt rocks you come to large columns that are amazing, they give you an opportunity to see what the structure would look like underground.
Just past the towering rocks is where the path meets up with the Giant Causeway Walking trails, and if we had more time (when we go back :-)) we will definitely wander these paths. The view from the ground of the Amphitheater was inspiring. These trails follow the cliff-top and will give a totally different perspective on the giant causeway.
With our time nearly up we turned back to walk up the path to our awaiting bus at the visitor centre. There is a shuttle bus that runs up and down the hill during business hours, however, the walk back up is only about 15-20 minutes and is not strenuous, so we wandered back up with a memory card full of inspiring pictures, ready to head into Belfast.
But before we hopped on the bus I had to take one more picture, a picture to me that was what I was expecting Northern Ireland to be like.
Have you been to Northern Ireland before?
Or arrived somewhere and realised your expectations were very different from reality?
Experience Westeros with a visit to Winterfell, located only 40 minutes out of Belfast, Northern Ireland in County Down.
Immerse yourself in the world of Game of Thrones with a visit to Old Castle Ward, the film set of the iconic Winterfell. Castle Ward is the location of Winterfell, the whispering woods and many more iconic scenes. Now that the series is wrapped up, you can live the Game of throne experience, dressing up in Character and walking where the cast walked.
Earlier this year we took a trip to Ireland, and then headed north to Northern Ireland. To visit some of the iconic Game of Thrones locations, and visiting Winterfell was a priority.
Winterfell or Old Castle Ward has gone from a small tourist castle to one of Northern Ireland premier Visitor attractions.
8 things I learned about the Winterfell tour
Winterfell really is an immersive experience, and before I went I didn’t realise how much.
1. Get Involved
There is nothing like dressing up in costume with your own cloak to really immerse yourself in the experience. Wandering down the site of many iconic scenes dressed up as a stark, in your black cloak really puts helps you really feel a part of it.
2. Book into the Banquet
If you get a chance to book into the Medieval Banquet night, you won’t be disappointed.
On arrival, guests are greeted by the Grand Maester and escorted to the courtyard to receive their costumes and then the immersive experience begins. Live Band entertainment, amazing food, and Winterfell Ale. The Banquet table is set up with candle lights flickering, bench seats draped with fur skins and Winterfell ale to drink.
3. Try some new sports
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at Axe Throwing, Archery or Sword fighting? Then Winterfell is the place for you.
Stand in the spot that Bran, Robb Stark, and the King of the North Jon Snow stood. The Archery range film set is in the same spot it was used for filming. Practice your aim and fire straight.
4 – Old Castle Ward is more than just Winterfell.
A visit to Old Castle Ward is not just about Winterfell, there are so many more amazing places. Stand at the base of the tower that started it all, where Bran fell. Hire a bike and cycle down to the spot that Jamie Lannister was held captive in Robb’s camp. See the tree that Robb secretly marries Talissa at and so many more.
5 – It might come with unexpected guests
Whether it is an actor from the acclaimed show, many of the staff at Old Castle Ward, were extras in the film, as well as some involved in training the actors in fight scenes. Or a White walker staring you down as you walk around the paths.
6 – Iron throne
When we went we had the privilege of sitting on the Iron Throne, located in a dark room, with only a small window and candlelight to illuminate us, dressed up in our cloak, you can imagine what it would feel like to be fighting over the throne.
7- Expect to use your imagination
The one thing that surprised me the most was the pure volume of creativity from the film team, so much of what we see as Winterfell is actually CGI. Our guides were amazing who showed us pictures that showed the before and after and it was amazing.
8 – More than just castles, it’s a photographer’s dream.
We only had one day at Old castle Ward, but I will definitely come back and next time I will take advantage of the overnight accommodation, so I can take some photos at night. Old Castle Ward is a photographers delight with so many amazing places to photograph.