East Belfast – Right on Track


Why east Belfast? A more apt question might be: why NOT east Belfast?

We’re talking about a city within a city here; a place which is home to some 80,000 people, an area steeped in history, rich in culture yet still brimming with 21st century potential.
They say east Belfast possesses its own culture, its own heartbeat, its own unique personality. And ‘they’ could well be right. As a settled resident myself, I’m one of them!

This place is full of, dare I say it, eastern promise. You may already know it as the home of those iconic Harland and Wolff shipyard cranes, Samson and Goliath; the birthplace of legends such as Van Morrison, CS Lewis, George Best and a certain, ill-fated luxury liner from a century ago.

Once the industrial engine room of the country, it provides the seat of Northern Ireland government in the form of the majestic Stormont Parliament Buildings, and the province’s newest and most dramatic tourist attraction, the stunning Titanic Belfast.

Yes, of course you knew that. What you might not realise, however, is the rich tapestry of services east Belfast provides within its safe environs.

The people here have long availed of top-class schools, thriving, quality shopping areas, leisure amenities and myriad of entertainment options perhaps best exemplified my the magnificent Odyssey complex adjacent to Titanic Quarter, Europe’s largest multi-purpose waterfront area.

You like your open spaces? The Victoria Knocknagoney Linear and Belmont Parks, among others, will fill those lungs and stretch those legs, while the magnificent Redburn Country Park is only a few minutes’ drive away.

Indeed, and to use the east Belfast vernacular, we’re ‘handy’ to so many other places either on foot, by short car ride or via a railway line encapsulating Titanic Quarter, Sydenham and Holywood and bookmarked by Central Station and Bangor.

So let’s start with the Co Down seaside town; it boasts the popular, picturesque Ballyholme Beach, the famous Castle Park Walled Garden and one of Ireland’s largest marinas as among its attractions.

It’s also a welcome watering hole for those who partake in one of the best walks north or south, the 12-mile North Down Coastal Path from Donaghadee to Holywood which is of course only a good golf swing from east Belfast.

Yes, Holywood, whose golf course spawned our own Rory McIlroy, one of the finest players of all time. Pity about the ‘Masters’ Rory, anyway there’s always next year.

Those who come here hoping to get a feel of where this amazing Ulster sportsman spent his formative years will also be rewarded with delights such as the nearby Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, which, like Redburn, has wonderful, sprawling parkland. The village’s quaint, inviting speciality shops are an added bonus.

Do you want to go further afield? On holiday perhaps? Well, once again east Belfast is ‘handy’ for that. Just across the dual carriageway from the Sydenham area, for instance, is George Best Airport, your aerial gateway to the rest of the UK and Europe.

You’re also a short distance from the docks, and those fast ferries to Scotland and England. All that and we’ve yet to cross the River Lagan, where a great metropolis awaits. You won’t need anything other than feet to reach the likes of the legendary St George’s Market, the Waterfront Hall entertainment centre, the Victoria Square shopping mecca or the new world-famous Merchant Hotel.

Me? I only have to look out of my window to see one of my favourite sights in east Belfast; that breathtaking natural phenomenon known as the Albert Bridge Starlings. Some nights there are up to 30,000 of them indulging in spectacular wingtip to wingtip aerial acrobatics.

Where else could you get such jawdropping nightly entertainment – and for free?

Where else but east Belfast.