In the second part of my adventures to Ireland’s principal cities, I’ll be sharing a few of the best running spots as well as a few top travel tips from one of my favourite cities in the UK
Places to run in Belfast:
Ormeau park (and parkrun):
Ormeau Park sits alongside the River Lagan that snakes its way through the city. Despite it being a chilly February morning, the park still had plenty of life with small green banks and clusters of trees found all around the park. From one vantage point you can see the river itself whilst at one end of the park the towering Harland & Woolf, a reminder of Belfast’s shipping past and present is easily spotted.
I was lucky enough to visit on a Saturday morning so took the opportunity to run Ormeau parkrun, a two lap course with a few twists, dips and turns thrown in to keep you on your toes! It even starts at 9:30am so there’s an extra half an hour for those who find it hard to get out of bed at the weekend! The entire course is marked up with wooden posts along the edge of the path which means you can run the loop anytime you wish.
This area, once the heart of Belfast’s ship building heritage still has plenty of places to run around. You can follow the riverside path from the city centre all the way along to the Titanic museum, a striking modern building telling the tale of the ill fated ship liner. There are a number of other sights to pass; you could follow the outlines of old slipways, lit up from below with lines of lights. Try passing the restored SS Nomadic, once the tender to the Titanic, with its own fascinating past. If you get a chance to run in this area, try early morning before the sun rises to get some great contrasts between the natural and artificial lights.
A bit further on from the Titanic Quarter, just before you reach the City Airport, is this compact park which also hosts its own parkrun. The outer part of the park has a circular path surrounding a lake with an island in the middle. From one side you can reach this island and circumnavigate it by the waterside via a wooded trail. The crisp morning I ran around this park, with the trees and lakes surrounded in mist, gave this park a peaceful feel to it, a world away from the busy road, dock and airport that surround it.
Top Belfast Tips:
Plenty to see and do all around the city. View the grand architecture of City Hall and the Albert Memorial Clock or wander down the narrow alleyways of the Belfast entries. Close to the Cathedral is the MAC, a great city art gallery and exhibition space. If you are looking to get a good view check out the glass viewing area at the top of Victoria Square Shopping Centre. Wander down towards the mouth of The Lagan and you spot a number of striking sculptures from a lady offering a Beacon of Hope to a rather strange fish.
St George’s Market:
A favourite location of mine on my visit. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a variety of food and local craft markets its a great way to see the city in action. A prime vantage point to view the hustle and bustle is Georges of the Market, a restaurant offering a terrace looking over the market as well as offering a delicious Irish breakfast!
Stormont & Eastern Belfast:
Stormont, the home of the Northern Irish Assembly has extensive grounds to walk around and you can even take in a guided tour of the impressive building that sits on top of the hill. On your way back towards the city there are a number of murals and statues telling the story of Belfast’s turbulent. One recent addition to the area is CS Lewis Square, dedicated to the author who spent his early childhood here. Nestled amongst the paths and bushes in the square’s park are numerous sculptures marking the work of this famous writer. See if you can spot the silvery Aslan!
Further out of the city, next to Belfast castle is Cave Hill, a popular walking spot. Via a number of different paths you can reach the top and take in a sweeping vista of the whole city (weather and mist permitting of course!).
Food & Drink:
As well as the numerous options within George’s Market there are a few other places that are definitely worth a try:
- Kaffe O– Nordic style coffee shop serving great coffee and some awesome breakfast and lunch options. Stay for the simply designed interior and the music on vinyl.
- General Merchants– Brilliant restaurant with an ever changing menu and a range of cuisines to sample.
- Established Coffee– You’ll find the finest coffee selection here. Drop in during ‘Pie & Drip’ on a Sunday afternoon for a special slice of their weekly pie of choice.
- Brewbot-A wide ranging and ever changing beer selection. Can’t decide? Not to worry as you can sample a few on their tasting boards. Try the 4 glass option or 10 for the really indecisive!
- Cuban Sandwich Factory– Incredibly busy during the lunch rush and its understandable with their huge ‘Cubanos’; pressed, toasted sandwiches packed full of delicious ingredients.