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After Action Report

We are home now after an almost three week trip to Czech Republic, France, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Regarding Northern Ireland, there were a few surprises. Our itinerary was to land at Dublin, rent a car and drive to Belfast for a night. The evening was a black cab tour, a night at the Premiere Inn, and in the morning a reduced fare trip through the Titanic Belfast. We were then to go to Portballintrae for a Bushmills tour, an evening at the Bayview Hotel, then on to Ardara for a night and back to Dublin for our departure.

CAR RENTAL. I rented a car using my Visa credit card which said they would cover insurance, so do not buy any. The rental counter person said I needed a letter showing the credit card covered insurance. Without it, either buy insurance or no rental. I had no letter and had a trip planned so you can guess what I did. The insurance cost almost equaled the rental cost. Not a good start! I drove to Belfast ( on the "wrong"side of the road, from the "wrong" side of the car, shifting with the "wrong" hand, and entered round abouts clockwise. Very exciting till I got the hang of it. Then, not so bad. The roads were very good.

BELFAST. My personal view of the hotel was it was a night's flop with a good breakfast. Uncomfortable bed and pillows. Very basic for a basic price, but again, good breakfast. The Black Cab tour was very good. Fine, friendly , knowledgeable and chatty driver. A good value. Went to a restaurant highly recommended on this forum for the seafood chowder. AAHHH, not a fan. Next day went to what my mind called the "Titanic Museum". A museum it is not, since it has nothing from the Titanic. Nonetheless, an interesting few hours. We bought early bird tickets. We saved $$ and more importantly we had the place pretty much to ourselves. As we were finishing, the crowds arrived. We then left Belfast and drove to Portballintrae. We were staying at the Bayview Hotel.

Words cannot describe our opinion of the Bayview Hotel. Beautiful view, clean, nice premises, spacious clean rooms with comfortable beds and pillows. Their staff were all top notch. We had dinner there and it was wonderful! I started with fish chowder that made the chowder from the Belfast location taste like sewer remains. We toured Bushmills, which is very close, and enjoyed that. At the end of the tour was the wee taste. I had my first ever hot toddy. Marvelous!! I bought a bottle of their "squeezins" and the toddy mix. This Christmas will be delicious!

We returned to the Bayview for the night. The next day I arranged for my adult daughter who is a very accomplished rider, to take a five hour horse ride along the ocean. I drove her to The stable where she was greeted and asked to come into the owner's home for tea and scones. Afterwards she was evaluated for her riding skills and found to be very well suited for the ride. This was with . Taste of the North Coast. My daughter owns several horses and has been jumping in competition for fifteen years. She said this was the best ride she had ever been on. Very high praise from her. While she did that, the rest of us went to the Giant's Causeway. Very nice. We did not pay for the Causeway experience and parked a half mile away for 8 pounds and got free entrance to the causeway. We walked down but paid the pound for the uphill ride back. It turned out that my daughter also went there but on horseback.

After the ride the family got together and decided that we did not want to leave the Bayview Hotel, so we stayed another night. On this trip we stayed in three star hotels in France which were very nice. We all agreed that we liked the Bayview more. The next morning it was a drive back to Dublin and a night at their Premiers Inn. We had the same opinion of that place as the one in Blefast.

Anyway, that is all I can say. I hope someone gets something out of our experience.

Posted by
11798 posts

Thanks, I just returned Memorial Day. We stayed primarily in B&B's that were perfectly adequate but nothing special. The most memorable room and dinner were in Roundstone (down near Galway).

I was fortunate to find free parking opposite the parking lot at Giant's Parkway, there was room for a half dozen cars between the road and a barbed wire fence. When we got back, the spaces were all full. We did what you did, walk down and take the bus back up.

I liked the Titanic experience better than I expected. I prefer history pre-1500 but my girlfriend wanted to go. The stories of individuals, both survivors and those lost, were interesting. It would have been easy to ignore their stories at the start of the museum (do I care that this guy designed staterooms for the ship?) until later you hear they were lost. One guy was given a short trip on the Titanic as a gift but got off before the transatlantic crossing. The first hand descriptions from people who were children at the time were poignant.

At Bushmill's I discovered I like single malt but not blends.

Posted by
5754 posts

So you didn't like the seafood chowder at Mournes? Weren't impressed by the intriguing design and nor the fact the Titanic Museum sat on the spot where it was built? Nor was anybody excited that the large green / yellow / grey building behind the museum was where the Game of Thrones filmed?

Did you ever find where to have breakfast in the Titanic Quarter?

Posted by
193 posts

The seafood chowder in Belfast was OK to me. Not good, just OK. I do not have a lot of experience eating seafood away from the US. It was for that reason that I chose not to name where I ate in Belfast. I feel my personal experience not sufficient enough where I would disparage a business by name. Since so many here liked it, I felt perhaps I missed something or I may have hit them on a bad day. Nonetheless, I gave my personal opinion.

Regarding the Titanic experience, It was I who was at fault, mentally seeing "Titanic Museum". The experience was quite enjoyable and very informative. I did thoroughly enjoy it, once I got over my own misconception. A lot of work and effort went into designing and building it. They hit their mark. I would however, suggest the early in the day reduced fare tickets and the much smaller crowd.

We ate breakfast at the hotel. We found it a good start to the day.

I have been to the Irish Republic four times and really enjoyed myself each time. This was my first trip top the North. I will return to the North as it was exceedingly enjoyable. I would avoid Belfast since I am not a fan of big cities. I was born, raised and have spent my entire life in Chicago. I am big citied out.

Posted by
3629 posts

The Bayview Hotel was also my favorite of our trip to Ireland/Northern Ireland! I'm glad you enjoyed it as well. The walk from the Bayview Hotel to the Giant's Causeway along the headlands is stunning and it is well located for Dunluce Castle as well. For others that might be reading, Port Ballintrae and this hotel are easily reached by public transport. If you are exploring Northern Ireland without a car, this hotel will still work for you. Take the train to Coleraine, walk through the station to the waiting bus, and it will drop you at the stop outside the hotel in Port Ballintrae. It couldn't be easier.

I don't have any trouble with Premier Inns, I like them. I expect a clean room, basic accommodations, and a good value price and then I am not disappointed. I've also stayed in the two Premier Inns you mentioned and found them to be perfectly acceptable. You just can't compare them to the Bayview Hotel or you will be disappointed.......

I didn't expect to enjoy the Titanic Experience in Belfast half as much as I did. I found it to be an excellent presentation about the history of the ship and its relationship with Belfast. It even had an interactive "ride" that took you through aspects of ship building.

Posted by
5754 posts

Appreciate the clarification.

Was in Belfast in the early 90’s and again a few years ago.

Let me tell you what Belfast is today is such a vast difference from what I experienced in the 90’s. Then it was barbed wire, armed British soldiers everywhere and a sense of uneasiness.

Today redevelopment such as the Titanic Quarter and the effects of Tourism thanks to RS, and film projects such as The Fall and the Game of Thrones have infused money into Belfast.

Completely different city!