Belfast Titanic Quarter



TO celebrate Titanic Belfast’s recent accolade as Europe’s Best Visitor attraction, Tourism Northern Ireland is encouraging everyone to find out more about Northern Ireland’s rich maritime history.

Rachel Quigg, Communications & Destination PR Officer explains why a day out exploring this element of NI’s history really offers something for everyone:

“There are lots of exciting tourism spots and destinations around Belfast which allow visitors to delve into Northern Ireland’s rich maritime and shipping industry past. Whether you are a history buff and would like to expand your knowledge or are looking for a fun day out with family and friends, there will be something to suit your needs.

“If you haven’t yet visited Titanic Belfast there is no better time as its latest accolade has named it one of the most interesting tourist destinations in the whole of Europe and if that’s not enough to whet your appetite, there are lots of other spots such as HMS Caroline, SS Nomadic and many more to explore,” added Rachel.

Tourism Northern Ireland has put together a range of nautical destinations to visit:



Titanic Belfast is a must see on any trip to Belfast and has become the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland. The Titanic experience tells the famous story of RMS Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her maiden voyage and tragic end. The story is told in a fresh and insightful way, with many innovative and interactive features and galleries. Other experiences on offer in Titanic Belfast include the Discovery Tour, which takes visitors inside and outside the building, following in the footsteps of those who built the ship, Afternoon Tea at Titanic Belfast in the opulent surroundings of the Titanic suite complete with the stunning replica staircase and jazz music throughout the afternoon. For more information go to



HMS Caroline was used in combat by the Royal Navy in the First World War and is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland still afloat. It is also one of only three surviving Royal Navy warships of the First World War, and is moored in Titanic Quarter, Belfast. The National Museum of the Royal Navy has restored HMS Caroline and converted her into a museum ship, open for all to explore. Visitors can explore a range of spaces on board such as Captain Crookes Cabin, the engine room, sick bay and galley kitchen, and discover through a mixture of historic restoration, state-of-the-art special effects and hands-on interactive exhibits, the importance of the Battle of Jutland and what life was like at sea for over three hundred crew who served on board. For more information go to



With active service as a mine sweeper and troop carrier in both World Wars, over fifty years of experience carrying passengers to the world’s largest Trans-Atlantic liners and nearly thirty years as a restaurant moored beside the Eiffel Tower in Paris, SS Nomadic has a million stories to tell, and now newly refurbished, visitors can step on board and celebrate over 100 years of authentic social and maritime history. The fully interactive experience transports visitors back in time, through the first and second class lounges led by a qualified guide who will provide a unique insight into life on the Nomadic. For more information go to



Thompson Dry Dock and its Pump-House were once the beating heart of Harland & Wolff’s operation during the construction of the great White Star Line ships, including the Titanic. The Thompson Dock itself is the footprint of Titanic and provides an amazing representation of the scale of the ship. Today the Pump-House is the only publicly accessible intact piece of Titanic’s great legacy open in the city of her birthplace, Belfast. It comprises a Visitor Centre & Café with daily guided tours in operation, which are available all year round and include an interactive audio-visual display. For more information go to



The best and most novel way to take in all of the attractions in Titanic Quarter is by the carriages inspired by the tram cars that ran through Titanic’s shipyard. The Wee Tram is a hop-on-hop-off transport service around the Titanic Quarter. Passengers can really get into the spirit of things by wearing their very own Edwardian ‘duncher’ (the yardman’s flat cap)!

The tram route is a ‘figure-of-eight’ continuous loop with its centre at the iconic Titanic Belfast, bringing passengers up close and personal with historic Titanic landmarks – the Drawing Offices where she was designed, the Slipways where she was built and launched, and the Thompson Dock, as well as modern attractions in the area such as the movie studios located in an old shipyard shed, T13 Urban Sports Park, and the SSE Arena. For more information go to



Easily the most prominent visual reminders of Belfast’s maritime heritage are Harland and Wolff’s duo of gantry cranes, built in 1969 and 1974 and affectionately known as Samson and Goliath. These yellow cranes standing at 106m and 96m dominate the Belfast skyline and are a distinctive feature of the city. Even though shipbuilding has long ceased on Queen’s Island, the cranes are kept in working order and are used for heavy lifting in Harland & Wolff’s other activities such as structural engineering, ship repair and offshore construction projects. The two cranes are recognised by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency as buildings of architectural or historic interest.

For more information on things to see and do in Northern Ireland go to, or


Ballyhackamore market returns


Ballyhackamore Market back after Summer Break 
Ballyhackamore’s Artisan Market is back on September 17 with mouth-watering autumnal treats, children’s face-painting and lots of new stallholders.
The monthly market organised by Ballyhackamore Business Association returns to St Comcille’s Church carpark with stalls packed full of locally sourced food and beautiful handcrafted goods .
William McSorley, the Chair of Ballyhackamore Business Association, said that visitors can expect a huge range of gourmet food and handmade crafts, including jewellery, textiles, candles on offer from skilled artisan producers – all from Northern Ireland.
He added: “Ballyhackamore is one of Belfast’s best food and shopping destinations and the artisan market reflects the variety and quality on offer in the village. We believe it is very important to focus on local suppliers and family run businesses from across Northern Ireland.
“The village has a fantastic range of restaurants, cafés and unique shops and we want people to enjoy the whole experience, popping into one of our many eateries for breakfast or brunch before going to the market to buy some of the treats on offer.”
Ballhackamore Market has been running for a year with around 25 stallholders selling their wares on the third Saturday of the month. The hours are from 10am to 2pm.
Stalls include Ballynahinch-based ‘Tasty Wee Numbers’ which specialises in gluten-free traybakes, breads, scones and desserts. There is also Buchanan’s Farm Shop from Kilrea which provides an amazing range of top-class meats and Tom and Ollies in Belfast for delicious Mediterranean olives, tapenades and hummus.
Next month’s market (October 15) will boast produce from Ballyriff Buffalo, Northern Ireland’s only Buffalo farm based in Magherafelt. As well as being delicious, Buffalo meat is a low calorie, healthy alternative to beef.
Plans are already in place for the popular Ballyhackamore Christmas Market, which will take place on December 3 with an extended number of stalls, longer opening hours and a special festive family fun day.
For more information about the market go to and for details of the best shopping in Ballyhackamore , go to

ABV Fest 16 at Carlisle Memorial Church


What an amazing venue to have the ABV festival 2016. This part restored Methodist Church is a listed building and has been having extensive restoration work for the past few years. It’s nearly done and today and yesterday proudly houses the ABV beer festival.

I had the fortune of coming and checking it out. The building is amazing, but you also have the chance to check out the beers, cocktails, snacks, cheese and food stalls at the rear….why didn’t I hear of it sooner!!!!!

Silverburn Shopping Centre


Silverburn is a large out of town shopping centre to the south west of Glasgow along the A77. It has 4500 free car parking spaces, 4 key anchors being TESCO, Debenhams, Next and Marks and Spencer’s. There are over 100 stores in this single storey and long complex. 

There are a great number of quality food outlets from restaurants to take outs and stands in the mall- something for everyone. When we went we dined at Bella Italia which was lovely. I was very impressed with the number of food outlets-there was definitely something for everyone!!

Silverburn replaced the Pollok Centre (which was opened in 1979 and was 214,000 ft squared). It is a colossal 1,500,000 square footer and was opened in October 2007. 

Apart from shopping and eating there are activities to keep the young happy and there is a cinema to keep all ages happy. We spent a couple of hours when we visited but one can spend a whole day- how long will you spend there?

Trump Turnberry


On our drive from Cairnryan to Glasgow, we (being my sister and brother in law, two daughters and I) decided to stop st the breathtaking Trump Turnberry Golf Resort. Now love him or loathe him Donald Trump knows how to build a resort and it opened on the 1st June this year.

It is situated on the Ayrshire coast, at Turnberry one of the worlds most historical golfing destinations. Martin Ebery designed the Ailsa course and has done wonders with it.

We parked at the golf club house and crossed the road before embarking on a climb of over 100 steps to the rear entrance of the resort. This sports some amazing views over the course and Irish Sea. Once inside the foyer one could really feel the opulence and decadence. The staff were on hand to help at every opportunity.

The views from The Grand Tea Lounge and Bar were so stunning we decided to have a drink. After being seated and handed amazing tea menus (with a marble disc inserted on the front cover!!!) we ordered a glass of Melbec (£12), two pints of Guinness (2x £7) and hot chocolate (£4). Our hostess brought an empty glass before bringing the Melbec bottle to our table and pouring at the table-wow!!! The rest of our drinks duly arrived and we did not want to leave but we had miles more to travel so off we went!!

Would really have loved to have dined at the Italian Il Tramonto at 1906 and drank at the 19th hole The Duel In The Sun- next time perhaps. The 500 room Donald Trump Ball Room would have been great to see as would the spa and fitness centre. There is a superb concierge service at the front of the building and there are some spectacular deals to avail on the website.
A big thank you to Jessica who spared us some of her valuable time.

Opening of Sanjha restaurant


This brand new Indian Restaurant is definitely worth the trip to Ballymena. I had the pleasure of attending the official launch of Sanjha last night.

 This truly authentic Indian restaurant is the brainchild of Head Chef Sanjay and Front of House Manager Pawan. The team have put a lot of effort into this place. It is ideally located and has plenty of car parking and seats 85 people.
The ribbon was cut by the landlord and then Sanjha opened for business. 

There was a Prosecco aperitif on arrival, followed by popadoms and chutneys. Starter for me was a mixed platter of chicken, salmon, shami kebab, aloo tikki and onion bhaji served with spaghetti salad and chutneys (mint and mango). The starters were amazing and set the bar high for the mains.

The main course duly arrived and consisted of butter chicken, Rogan josh, saffron rice and nan. The taste was so real it was as if I was sitting in India and eating it!!!!
There is an extensive wine and cocktail list- which looked very appealing!! The staff and owners have really got a winner here…..I would thoroughly recommend paying a visit, I know I shall!!

Coq & Bull

My wife and I were invited to the Coq & Bull restaurant at The Clandeboye Lodge Hotel last night. We gladly accepted and celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary!! 

The Clandeboye is set in lovely surrounds. I can remember attending here in the past for a wedding and it was good then…..but it’s even better now!! The reception area of the hotel and restaurant were modern in decour and really welcoming. As we entered the restaurant the first thing we were drawn to was the massive window at the far end and the high ceiling. There were bottles of wine in a line on one wall and opposite there were booths of varying sizes (in which we sat). The table setting was elegant and simple. The lighting was soft and all in all created a wonderful cosy ambience. Pim and his wife Mandy refurbished the restaurant in January 2014 and Pim (from Holland) has had the hotel complex for a quarter of a century!! This really is a true labour of love. 
Once seated we were offered water in a lovely bottle with a longitudinal sliver of cucumber which was very refreshing. I ordered sparkling water (designated driver) whilst my wife went for the Zinfandel. We were presented the menus which I must admit looked very busy, but is how I like a menu ie all the dishes written on a single menu card. Ian (head chef-who I met after our meal) and Kim spent a great deal of time putting it together and they change it four times a year, to reflect local seasonal produce. Emma the restaurant manager paired wines with every single dish which I thought was tremendous. 
For starters I chose the smoked salmon with wheaten. My wife chose the squid. Suffice to say we shared and really enjoyed both. The squid was piping hot and tasted so fresh and the aioli and cabbage accompanied it perfectly. My salmon was perfectly smoked and accompanied by black wheaten (not too stodgy), butter, horseradish, Creme fraiche and capers. The dishes were well thought out and perfectly matched. Portion sizes were just right.

For main course I chose the pork belly, my wife chose the salmon and we had champ, thick cut chips and onion rings. My pork belly was crispy on top and the fat was rendered so well that it was almost not detectable, the meat broke down with ease and was so soft. It came on a bed of sage mash and with some apple compote. This is how Pork belly – European style should be (of course the Chinese are masters at cooking pork belly and the Americans aren’t too bad either!!). The salmon fillet was served in a cream sauce with sorrel and was succulent, flaky and really good also. The thick chips tasted so good as did the mash and onion rings (not greasy!!).

The desserts were also exceptional. We opted for the sticky toffee pudding and Creme brûlée. The pudding was so light and fluffy with a lovely banana toffee and lush vanilla ice cream. The Creme brûlée was sweet and crisp at top and light and UN sweetened cream below which worked well with the tart rhubarb compote and biscuit. I had coffee to finish.
The service was how service should be- not too obtrusive, watchful and always visible and of course professional and knowledgable…so full marks and then some!! A true asset to the establishment. 
After dinner we took a stroll in the gardens of the 43 roomed hotel and wedding venue complex and marvelled at the carefully tended flower beds and the herb garden. We also saw the Coq & Bull sculpture (the Bull came from a BBQ belonging to Heston Blumenthal!!). My one point of note would be the different coloured plates and slates that the food was served on detracted a touch from the exceptional food, my suggestion would be to use plain white crockery- just a suggestion!
The story of Coq & Bull is quite simple…. it’s all about telling a story and we really thought our story was well told last night…. what will your story be?

Eels are good 


It’s Eel week here in NI and its really exciting to big up a local delicacy. The festival runs from 25th June culminating in the Lough Neagh Eel Festival on Saturday 2nd July in Shane’s Castle, Antrim.

 Our eels hail from Mexico, are carried to Irish Waters by the Gulf Stream, then they make there way up the river Bann and into Lough Neagh!!!! What a journey. Also did you know eels can be male or female depending on what’s required!!! Eels have been a staple for many folk around Lough Neagh but alas the vast majority of our eels are exported to Denmark and Holland. 
As a celebration to the humble eel 17 eelivores descended on Deanes Love Fish last night to sample some eel. Now I have had eel Japanese style (sushi and tempura) which was fabulous but have not managed to try the infamous jellied eels of Cockney East End London!!!! 

On the eel menu there were three dishes. There was eel cakes, eel on toast and eel salad. I had the cakes which were lovely and tried the toast which was also very fine, but the eel salad was the tastiest in the sense that one could really discern the taste of the eel, which was subtly fishy and fleshy.

For my main I chose the battered haddock, fat chips, tartare and the best mushy peas I’ve tasted!! Alas it was just enough for me-couldn’t manage a dessert but others did.

The evening was facilitated by Shane from @tweetmeateat and #nistartupshour and it was a great forum to meet like minded folk. The venue was superb as was the food and service. 

So get down to Shane’s Castle, support eel week in local restaurants and check out #nistartupshour on Tuesday from 9-10 pm on Twitter.

Middle Eastern Cuisine in Belfast


Belfast has become very international in its cuisine, from Indian to Chinese, French to Italian, American to South African to name but a few. The latest region to be represented is the Middle East. I can count at least three and one which 20 or so of us tried this evening was Falafel in the University Quarter in Belfast.
To start with I opted for a refreshing strawberry and banana smoothie. This was not too thick or sweet and was delicious. For main course I chose the lamb shwarma plate and Baba ganoush. The lamb was grilled pieces served with flat bread, salad and houmous. Baba ganoush is a smoked puréed aubergine accompaniment. The lamb was grilled and spiced perfectly and went very well with the salad bread and garlic mayo. The Baba ganoush was a great accompaniment. 

Dessert was a piece of freshly made baklava and washed down with a caramel macchiato. This is a great restaurant and coffee shop. One can come and have a cuppa or have a Middle Eastern Feast. The menu was so inviting that I shall definitely come back and try more dishes.

Merchant Roof Top Garden


The Roof Top Garden at the Merchant Hotel was the venue for the post Janus Awards Institue of Hospitality get together.
The weather stayed kind and the sun actually came out and warmed us up!! The soirée was a celebration and photo opportunity , post awards, of some of the winners, sponsors and media who attended the awards. 

On arrival there was a drinks reception and all were warmly welcomed by the Chairman Michael Cafolla. There was a super singer/musician setting the ambience whilst we mingled.

There was also a finger buffet serving up fish and chips, chicken and chips, beef sliders and steak puff pastries. The chicken and fish tasted great. After the nibbles Michael gave a speech and thanked us all for coming. Superb evening with wonderful people in a unique location.