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

Restoring Factory Settings

It’s been a while. It’s been a whole summer, actually. I could blame a number of factors for my recent silence but they all are inevitably excuses, and the last thing you want to read right now is a boring rant about how “busy” life is. I hate that word. So I’ll just say hello again, friends!

September has hit me like a large, wet fish to the face and I’ve been left reeling, wondering how on earth the past few months have passed by so quickly. On the brightside, I guess that’s the sign of a great summer; a summer of festivals, weddings, great food, great people and (unexpectedly) great weather! In truth, it is not the changing of the seasons which has shocked me most about the beginning of September, but the fact that I am fast approaching one year since moving back to NI, and just how much life can change in that course of time.

Drawing comparisons from this time last year is scary as it tells me that almost every part of my life has changed from then to now. I expected moving home would be a bit like hitting Refresh; in reality it was Restore Factory Settings. Leaving home on a big adventure is daunting, as expected, but no one really thinks how repatriation can be equally, if not more unsettling. What was once familiar is now foreign; things are not the same as when you left. YOU are not the same.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons about change over the past year that I want to share with you. Change is scary, it is uncertain and can leave you rather emotionally unstable while you catch your breath. Change is blinding, it can prevent you from seeing the outcomes of the actions you take. But the main thing I learned? Change is good for you.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

I’ve learned to embrace change. Change does not mean erasing what you’ve come to know; the memories you make are with you forever. For me, change is about having the courage to reevaluate your life, push forward and allow yourself to grow by stepping outside the boundaries of your comfort zone. Change is often a risk worth taking.

In light of all these new changes, I’ve decided to give my blog a little refresh 🙂 I’m also impatiently awaiting the arrival of a shiny new camera, so stay tuned for some new posts on my latest adventures in and around NI!

Kathy x

Walking with Giants: The Causeway Coast, Co. Antrim

Northern Ireland is home to a World Heritage Site. Legend has it that the great warrior giant Finn MacCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill) lived here. It is one of the country’s top tourist attractions. It is, of course, The Giant’s Causeway. 

I remember being fascinated by the story of Finn MacCool and clambering over the rocks wide-eyed and excitedly on a family trip here as a young child. But, one of the downsides of growing up (of which I am finding more every year) is that unfortunately, memory fades.Top of my list since returning home has been to revisit this historic site which draws in hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

I don’t know many people brave enough to bet on Irish weather, and February is an unpredictable month at best, so at the first glimpse of some morning sun, I grabbed my car keys and zoomed off to the North Coast to get my next culture fix. The Giant’s Causeway is situated on the North-East coast of Northern Ireland, just a few miles north of Bushmills, Co. Antrim, home of the world-famous whiskey distillery.

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This incredible rock formation was created from a volcanic eruption over 60 million years ago resulting in over 40,000 polygonal basalt columns on this small patch of the coast. As it pushed its way through the chalk bed it formed a lava plateau which, whilst cooling, fractured into these mostly hexagonal shapes. The various heights of the columns indicate the speed at which the lava cooled.

Okay, I’ll stop now before I sound like an over-enthusiastic geography teacher…

After exploring the columns at ground level I headed to the cliff-top trail for a bird’s eye view of the area, and luckily the sunshine followed me. This is one of my favourite scenic spots in the world.

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The sun may have been shining but the coastal wind was icy, and as I am notoriously bad at dressing accordingly, it was time to make a swift return further inland to take a peek at the newly opened Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre. The centre prides itself on being green by using sustainable management and design wherever possible, and in its first year has received several awards, including The Skål International ‘Sustainable Development in Tourism’ award in New York, beating off 26 stiff competitors from all over the world!

Visitors can make use of state of the art interactive exhibitions to learn about the geology, biodiversity, myths and legends of the The Giant’s Causeway, as well as refuel on some locally produced cuisine in its cosy little cafe. Alternatively, there are plenty of little eateries in nearby Bushmills, perfect for a spot of lunch whilst exploring the area.

With every trip I make, I feel a surge of pride for the UK and Ireland, and what it has to offer. I’ve been home just over 3 months now and am without doubt starting to feel more settled again at this side of the world, as the weeks go on. I guess it’s true what they say…

You can take the girl out of Ireland, but it seems you can never truly take Ireland out of the girl.

Until next time…

 K.