Date of Stay: June 2012
Tour or Pre-Planned: Tour – NI BLACK TAXI TOURS
Belfast, nestled in the heart of Northern Ireland but part of the United Kingdom and well known for its ship-making capabilities (Titanic), numerous pubs, and diverse political views. If you were to ask any of the locals when NOT to visit Northern Ireland, it would be the dates around the 11th/12th July when the Protestants and Catholics clash heads. This is the time of year that the Protestants parade to celebrate the coming of Northern Ireland into the British Colony. Every year these dates seem to heat up with the two sides going at it, and still to this day there are riots and people injured (plus occasionally some deaths) when the two sides cross paths on this historical subject dating way back to the early days.
Now, I did not have a clue about this subject when i booked my trip to Northern Ireland, but seemed to find myself in the mix somehow, at a safe distance albeit. To learn a little more about the culture here, we decided to get a 2 hour Belfast Taxi Tour, which we booked through NI Black Taxi Tours. Our tour guide was the lovely and informative Mark, who is the co-owner of the company.
Our tour started off in the city, and drove around many different political based murals which represented the dark history of the region. We went past the peace wall, which is the border of where the Protestants and Catholics live - to which Mark said, if this wall was taken down today, there would be much violence which would break out across the city. We drove through the gates of the wall, which close at various times in the evening. The gates allow access for public from one side of the wall to the other during the day, but as the sun goes down, crime is high, and these gates close to keep both parties separate.
The tour itself was great, myself and my travel buddy had the cab all to ourselves where we could get an informative description of the local history. We made numerous stops at key locations where we got out and our tour guide would show us points of interest while filling us in on all the many interesting stories. Our tour guide was also a local man who grew up in the area, so we got a firsthand explanation of the troubles that he faced day in day out.
The cost for these tours is £30 (pounds) for two people, then an extra 10 pounds for each additional person. The other option for seeing the city is the hop on/hop off bus which costs about 12.50 pounds, thing about this is that it's a generic tour and you don't actually stop and talk at each different point of interest. I would fully recommend spending the extra 1-2 pounds to get a private tour as above where you get a one-on-one private tour.
There are other tours that you can do via this company, this tour was the political tour, but you can also go around the Titanic port, and other Northern Ireland activities.
Thanks to Mark and his team for showing us a great time and giving us alot more local knowledge to keep us out of trouble!
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Overall rating destination: 5 out of 5