Belfast Shore Excursions 2018
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Northern Ireland is a country with plenty to offer short stay visitors. For cruise ship passengers such time constraints are fairly standard, but that's where Belfast's professionally organised shore excursions come in. The following itineraries have been organised by the city's official tourism office and are designed to fit in with the cruise ship schedules on any given day.
Fans of Game of Thrones can embark on a full day tour of the series' Northern Irish filming locations. Giant's Causeway and the Antrim Coast is another popular option featuring incredible natural scenery. And as of March 2018 an express coach trip to Hillsborough Castle has been added to the list of experiences.
Have a browse and pick the excursion that suits your taste. Note that each one finishes with a city tour of Belfast before returning to the cruise terminal.
All of the following tours are conducted from the comfort of a luxury coach. The driver will allow boarding up to 30 minutes after your ship has docked, but in the case of dockings before 08:00 the tours will still depart at 08:30.
If for any reason you feel your are going to arrive late please contact the operator on their emergency number: (+44 (0)28 9031 0101). This number will be included on your booking confirmation voucher.
1) Giant's Causeway & Antrim Coast:
On what is arguably the tour office's flagship excursion you'll embark on a journey towards the Giant's Causeway via Dunluce Castle. This route is more direct than the ones taken by other operators, meaning you'll arrive at the star attraction ahead of the crowds typically present on cruise days.
The stay lasts around 1 hour 45 minutes, during which time you can explore and photograph the basalt columns, peruse the visitor centre (separate cost), or take a stroll along the rugged clifftop footpaths. On the ride back to Belfast you'll pass through a picturesque series of valley's known as the nine Glens of Antrim. Relax and listen as your guide recounts stories of the region's past and points out interesting landmarks from the coach windows.
Two such landmarks where you'll be making brief photo stops are the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Carrickfergus Castle. There will also be a 1-hour stop for lunch in the 19th century village of Cushendall. Upon arriving in Belfast you'll transfer onto a city tour bus for a jaunt around the capital's key attractions. Finally, you'll return to Belfast Port approximately 1 hour before your ship is due to depart.
2) Game of Thrones:
Gaze into the background of any outdoor scene in Westros and there's a good chance are you're looking at a real-life location in Northern Ireland. While a comprehensive tour of each and every site could take a week or more, this full day excursion covers a hand-picked selection spanning seasons 1-7.
Accompanied by a knowledgeable tour guide, you'll visit Carnlough Village (Braavos Waterways), Larrybane (Renly Baratheon's camp), The Dark Hedges (King's Road) and much more. In addition to key filming sites there will also be a 1-hour stop at Giant's Causeway plus a photo stop at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and (as above) a city tour of Belfast.
NOTE: Due to nature of the television show the Game of Thrones shore excursion is not suitable for passengers aged 15 years and under.
3) Giant's Causeway Express:
Really constrained for time? This abridged version of the full excursion will take you straight to Giant's Causeway where you'll be free to roam for 2 hours. As with the first two excursions there will be a photo stop at the rope bridge followed by a city tour of Belfast covering the Peace Wall, Falls Road, Shankill Road and the famous political murals.
4) Hillsborough Castle:
Where Scotland has the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Northern Ireland has Hillsborough Castle. This beautiful 18th century mansion currently serves as the residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and is also the official residence of the British Royal Family when they visit the country.
As well as the 'Castle' itself the site is surrounded by a lush 96 acre garden. This excursion includes a guided tour of the former, plus free time in the nearby town of Hillsborough for food, drink* and exploration. After finishing in Hillsborough the coach will take you back to Belfast for a city tour, then drop you off at the award-winning Titanic Belfast Experience (entry ticket included).
If you chose not to grab something to eat in Hillsborough then the Titanic Belfast café is a good option for lunch. At the end of the excursion the coach will return you to Belfast cruise terminal.
*Cost of food and drink is not included in this tour.