Segway NI: Belfast’s best guided tour!

I’m a sucker for city tours. In each city I visit, one of the first things I like to do is jump on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour to give myself a feel for the place, the people and the history of the area. My own city is steeped in culture and interesting facts, and so when I played host at the beginning of the month to two friends from England, I did some researching online. I soon found something a little alternative to give them a proper taste of Belfast city – Segway NI.

Image Courtesy of Segway NI

Image Courtesy of Segway NI

For those of you unfamiliar with a Segway it’s defined as a two wheeled electric vehicle. What’s different about it is it’s powered by new technology which detects and uses centre of mass to control its movement. Drivers shift their weight forward to go forward and backwards to reverse – clever, eh?!

The idea was perfect for the girls’ first trip to Belfast. Vanessa, Katie and I arrived, grabbed some fetching high-vis jackets and helmets, and set off (a bit shakily at first!) for an afternoon’s outdoor exploring. Of course, we were given some time to familiarise ourselves with operating the Segways first – and you’d be surprised how easy it is!

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The 2 hour tour costs £30 per person and takes visitors around the entire Titanic Quarter in Belfast which includes Titanic Belfast, the SS Nomadic ship, the slipways, the Titanic Docks and Pumphouse, the Harland and Wolff Cranes and Titanic Film Studios, where HBO are currently filming Season 5 Game of Thrones. Our tour leader fantastic; very knowledgeable about the area and very patient with those of us who took a little longer to find our feet  sorry, wheels…

Not me of course, I was a natural… eventually!

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A big thing that impressed me was their high level of customer service. Unfortunately, one of the girls missed her flight in the morning and would have been unable to make the scheduled tour time. Segway NI were extremely accommodating and quickly changed our booking to a later time free of charge and without any difficulties (thanks again, guys!).

Here’s a quick little video taken by us during the tour. Segway NI really helped to make the trip very memorable for Katie and Vanessa- and as for me, I’m already talking my work colleagues into booking the off road tour!

Be sure to check out Segway NI on Facebook, Twitter, Tripadvisor and their website for details on their upcoming tours!

Kathy x

A Sunday Trip to Ballintoy Harbour

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Sundays are my favourite days to go exploring outdoors. The world just seems to move a little bit slower, a little more gently than the rest of the week and so it’s great to take that opportunity to dress down, grab my warm jacket and woolly hat, and venture out for some fresh air.

I’ve been completely immersed in Game of Thrones lately and finally finished Season 4 at the weekend (what an ending!), so where better to spend my Sunday than by Ballintoy Harbour, Co. Antrim, where HBO film a lot of scenes for the hit show.

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Ballintoy harbour, located just east of Bushmills (home of the famous whiskey) and down one of the most winding roads known to mankind, has been around for centuries, used by mining and quarrying industries in its early days, and since then for fishermen in the local area.

However, it is more globally recognised as a port in the Iron Islands, home to Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones (Season 2). The TV production, based on George R.R. Martin’s ground-breaking book series, spends a lot of time filming in Northern Ireland, and it’s easy to spot many familiar locations throughout the province, as well as taking a peek at their main filming studios in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

Game of Thrones has undoubtedly brought a lot of tourism to the area, with themed bus tours and fans regularly descending on some beautiful, yet once very deserted ground. It’s lovely to see local people benefiting from the increase in visitors – many cafes and tea rooms have sprung up since my last visit as a young child.

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Rourk’s Kitchen sits right on the water’s edge and provides a quaint little refuge for some hot coffee and cakes, the perfect pit-stop during a day of exploring!

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, or simply just in the area, I highly recommend a stop off at Ballintoy Harbour, for the beautiful views, the nearby caves and the friendly people.

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A free activity with a lot of character, what more could you ask for on a Sunday afternoon?

Kathy x

The Giro D’Italia comes to Northern Ireland!

Like a large fuschia pink paint pot falling from the sky the Giro D’Italia has spilled its excitement over Northern Ireland recently covering our iconic buildings, landmarks and local businesses. Even our people and livestock have been infected!

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Second only to the Tour de France, the Giro D’Italia is one of the world’s most famous cycling races and this year has chosen to begin its journey in Northern Ireland, bringing with it a huge opportunity to showcase our famous sights and stunning coastline to audiences from over 175 countries worldwide. The prestigious three week long race commenced this weekend and will remain here until Sunday May 11 where it will end its Irish tour in Dublin, before returning to Italian soil for the remainder of the stages and the big finish in the city of Trieste on June 1st. 

It’s great to see something of this magnitude choosing Belfast as its welcoming host city and the enthusiasm of the people and local businesses has been unparalleled (heck, even the mayor has dyed his hair pink!). The city, of course has had more than its fair share of turbulence over the years but has been working hard and come confidently out the other side ready to take its place in the spotlight as one of Europe’s most vibrant and cultural hotspots.

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Thursday night marked the opening of the Giro D’Italia with a presentation ceremony at City Hall, Belfast where the riders were officially welcomed by Northern Ireland and this year’s coveted Maglia Rosa (pink jersey) was unveiled. The carnival-esque atmosphere refused to be dampened by a rainy Thursday evening and was greatly appreciated by the riders who commented on the wonderful hospitality and support they had received from Northern Ireland, spurring them on for the tough race ahead.

Tickets for the event were in high demand with only 6,000 given out, but luckily I managed to score one at the last minute to enjoy the grand celebrations (and share them with you, of course!)

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Stage 1 of the race took place on Friday afternoon around Belfast City, with Svein Tuft winning the primary stage. Stage 2 began from the Titanic Quarter, Belfast on Saturday morning and covered 219km of Northern Ireland’s Northern coastline, cycling through towns and villages all laden thick with pink supporters. I travelled home this weekend to visit my parents, and even our small village were out early to show support for the teams as they whizzed through!

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‘Giro Fever’ really is everywhere this weekend so grab that pink umbrella and get involved in showing the world our great little country, and the great people who make it! Stage 3 of the race will take place tomorrow starting in Armagh city and heading south before its Irish finale in Dublin later in the evening. This really is a once in a lifetime event, so catch it while you can!

For more information on the Giro including routes, maps and live coverage of the event itself see Discover Northern Ireland or follow live on Twitter at @DiscoverNI.

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Best of luck to all the cyclists (especially Team Grand Shimano who I am confidently backing this year!),

Until next time, ciao!
K.