Discover Belfast, the Capital of Northern Ireland, home of the Game of Thrones studios and birthplace of the Titanic
Belfast, until recently, was the only city in Ireland to feel the full force of the industrial revolution. Giant cruise ships were constructed here, such as the famous Titanic (1912), linen and rope-making were other businesses.
The troubles and the decline in shipbuilding turned Belfast into an unattractive place to live. The peace process breathed life back into the city, and for many years, Belfast has seen investment and prosperity.
The Game of Thrones TV drama was filmed largely in Belfast and across Northern Ireland, showcasing the beautiful landscapes and professionalism of the workforce at The Titanic studios in Belfast. Discover the history of the capital of Northern Ireland.
A brief history of Belfast
In the beginning
A small iron age settlement existed from around BC 500; it was the size of a small village. Although, on the outskirt of modern Belfast is Giant's Ring, a huge henge type monument 5000 years old. In the middle ages, the Norman's built two castles; Belfast and Carrickfergus. Both forts were at the centre of various battles and events in history.
Most Gaelic inhabitants had fled the region following the Nine Years War (against British Rule). The result was the arrival of the Scots and Northern English people arriving to obtain land. During the 1600s, King James I further encouraged Scots to settle in Ulster, offering land and titles to loyal subjects. The plantation of people became fully organised.
William of Orange
Conflict in Europe between Catholic and Protestant powers spread to Ireland. The Parliaments of Scotland and England refused to adopt Catholic King James II of Great Britain and Ireland James's policies. King James's son in law William of Orange, a protestant, was invited by parliament to take the throne. The forced exile of King James created fear amongst Catholics. William of Orange and his wife Mary became King William and Queen Mary of Great Britain and Ireland.
King James rebels and sails to Ireland. James is defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690. Hence today, you have protestant "Orange men" marching celebrating the victories over the Catholic King James.
The Potato Famine
The potato famine in 1846 brought people to Dublin and Belfast in search of work and food. The newspapers reported that the United Kingdom was unable to meet the basic needs of its people. The UK Government tried to feed three million potato famine victims a day, but many succumbed to famine related disease. Many fled Ireland for a better life in America or mainland Britain.
The Partition of Ireland
Despite the political differences between Catholics, Protestants and those pro-union (UK) and those against, many marched side-by-side to defeat the common enemy in the Great War, later known as World War One.
After the Great War, the Home Rule movement reached a climax and conflict. Sinn Fein won a majority in the 1918 elections. They declared Ireland an independent state; the result was a War of Independence between the Irish Republican Army and UK armed forces. In 1920 the British government introduced a bill to create two devolved governments, the six counties in the north, to become Northern Ireland, a largely protestant and pro-British community and the Irish Free State, in the south, but still part of the British Empire.
Then Irish Free State fell into two camps, those that agreed with the treaty, which allowed independence, with the British Royalty remaining head of state, and the six counties in the north the option to remain part of the United Kingdom, which it did. The other side wanted total independence and for the six counties to be part of an Irish Republic.
The pro-treaty forces were victorious, having been supplied weapons by the British. Most of the deaths in Belfast in the Civil war were civilian.
Sectarian violence, known as the "troubles", disrupted daily life in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland for many years. Both sides of the political divide have committed atrocities. The Good Friday Agreement (10 April 1998) has mostly kept the peace in the province. Learn more about the modern troubles with a local historian and guide.
Re-generation has continued across the city, and Northern Ireland's capital has become a great city to visit.
Highlights of Belfast
Tour the political murals
Since the modern "troubles" began in 1968, art has surprisingly played centre stage. The working-class communities of Protestant Shankill Road and Catholic Falls Road paint their gables walls with political murals. The images are powerful reminders of loyalties and affiliations to paramilitary groups. A visit to West Belfast will be an enlightening experience.
The Ulster Museum
Four floors detailing all aspects of life in Ulster from natural history, geology and local history. The highlight of the collection is treasure recovered from the Girona, an invading Spanish Armada ship that sank off the coast of Giants Causeway.
Botanical Gardens and Queen's University
Northern Ireland most prestigious university, Queen's, looks much like the Tudor style college of Magdalene College, Oxford. Next door is the calm and quiet of the beautiful botanical gardens. The palm house is an impressive structure built in 1839, a mini cathedral of glass and iron. Enjoy the tropical ravine and sunken glens of exotic plants.
Discover the story of the world's most famous cruise ship; Enjoy a private Titanic Belfast Museum tour.
The Titanic Belfast museum is a must for people with a fascination with The Titanic story. The experience gives a fresh new look at the events, construction, and people involved with the world's greatest cruise ship. A visit here can be part of a private guided tour of Belfast.
Touring and accommodation
Belfast is a good base to enjoy the landscapes of Northern Island and head out to Giants Causeway and take a Game of Thrones touring day. Discover the coastal Westeros, Winterfell forest and The Riverlands. See the Kings Road (the Dark Hedges) and the Iron Islands.
If Irish whiskey is your thing, why not visit Bushmills distillery. Sample the many varieties on offer. The tour of Old Bushmills Distillery will give you an insight into the history and craft of producing fine Irish whiskey.
Stay at The Fitzwilliam Hotel, a luxury five-star boutique hotel situated in the centre of Belfast. Few locations can compare; the hotel is yards away from the Opera House and City Hall.
City of Heritage
The Great Ship Building City Reborn
- Visit the Titanic Museum
- See the Political Murals
- Discover the City with a Local
- Explore the Game of Thrones Film Locations
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