About The Belfast Black Cab Tour:
Looking to take part in a more personal exploration of Northern Ireland's recent history and culture? Look no further than the Belfast Black Cab Tour. You and up to four others will join a local tour guide on a drive through the capital's divided neighbourhoods.
Your guide, who also drives the taxi cab, will be a person who was personally involved in The Troubles, but who is now dedicated to delivering an unbiased account of this dark period to visitors.
Locations on the tour include Falls Road and Shankill Road, two communities still separated by the looming 'peace walls'. You'll see many telling political murals and share in stories from those who lived through the conflict.
You will be picked up from the Jurys Inn on your chosen date and time. The maximum number in a party is 5, though groups can be as small as 1-3. Notable people who have undertaken this same Black Cab Tour in the past include Anthony Bourdain, Vince Vaughn and George Negus.
- All Year Round, Daily.
- English speaking guide.
- Morning: 10:00.
- Afternoon: 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00.
- Jurys Inn (Great Victoria Street, Belfast BT1 6DY).
- Approximately 1 Hour 30 Minutes.
Begin your journey into Belfast's troubled political past at the taxi bays outside the Jurys Inn on Great Victoria Street. After a friendly introduction by your diver-guide you'll take your seat in the cab and depart for the residential outskirts of the city centre.
A strange equilibrium has existed in Belfast since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. While the city is free of open hostility, sectarian tensions remain, stoked in recent years by events such as Brexit.
Perhaps the most conspicuous testament to the ongoing divide is the presence of the infamous Peace Walls (or Lines). These barriers vary in height and composition from 25ft high metal/concrete monoliths to smaller yet no less imposing iron fences. The most prominent of these structures lies along Cupar Way, separating the mainly nationalist neighbourhoods south of the line from the mainly unionist neighbourhoods north of it.
'Nationalist' refers to the traditionally Catholic segment of the population who favour Northern Ireland's integration into the Republic of Ireland. 'Unionists' are traditionally Protestant and wish to maintain the country as part of the United Kingdom. The extent to which religion plays a role in current animosities varies, but in recent years political identity has undoubtedly been the main driving factor. They are such that any gates along the peace walls are still locked every night.
The origins of the conflict long predate The Troubles of '68 to '98. Your diver-guide will offer some insight into its history, while attempting to spend an equal amount of time in both the Falls and Shankill Road areas.
The Falls and Shankill Roads:
The Falls Road is a mostly nationalist community. Travelling by black taxi you'll see various political murals depicting The Troubles and other historical events from a republican perspective. Notable works include: the Easter Rising story by artist Danny Devenny, featuring Irish socialist leader James Connolly; and the Bobby Sands mural at the corner of the Falls Road and Sevastopol Street. There's also the Clonard Memorial Garden on Bombay Street, where the faces of Republican prisoners and civilian casualties are emblazoned across the Peace Wall.
The murals of the Shankill Road area are no less vibrant and symbolic than those of The Falls. They depict the aforementioned issues from a loyalist perspective, and include a commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne featuring William III, a memorial to murdered UDA member Jackie Coulter, and the Red Hand of Ulster mural. You'll see many more loyalist murals when the black cab travels into East Belfast.
Regardless of who painted them, Belfast's political murals each tell their own fascinating story. Where relevant, your black cab guide provide background insight into the subjects depicted.
While older murals tend to be political or sectarian in nature, those produced since the Good Friday Agreement show a gradual tendency towards secular themes and plain artistic expression. You'll encounter depictions of Belfast's shipbuilding heritage, modern musicians, sporting legends like George Best, and more than a few tributes to Game of Thrones.
Other Sites On The Taxi Tour:
It's not just murals you'll encounter on the Black Cab Taxi Tour, certain buildings have a strong connection to the events of the 20th century. One that the driver-guide is certain to show you is Crumlin Road Gaol. During The Troubles this infamous Victorian era prison incarcerated dozens of loyalist and republican prisoners.
The city centre is also rich in sites linked to The Troubles, for example, the Europa Hotel on Great Victoria Street holds the ignominious title of "most bombed hotel in the world" - 36 attacks in all. Bombs were such a persistent threat before the Good Friday Agreement that establishments such as the Sunflower Pub still feature a cage over the main entrance. The cage was to stop passing assailants from throwing grenades or other explosive devices straight through the front door.