A Travellerspoint blog

Ireland

The North

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AC Hotel

AC Hotel

My sports travel adventures resumed last weekend with the start of the ice hockey season.

It was a modest adventure, but very successful. Belfast.

The city is 40 minutes flying time from Edinburgh, and using Belfast City Airport it is a whopping 8 minute bus journey from airport to city centre. FlyBe uses that airport, and easyJet flies to Belfast International so the competition keeps prices down. I paid £98 return, booking quite late.

Purple FlyBe

Purple FlyBe

The reason for the trip was Belfast Giants v Augsburger Panther in the Champions Hockey League. I watched a bit of German ice hockey during the Ingolstadt phase of my life, and loved it. The quality is high, with an emphasis on speed and skills. The crowds are electric. Indeed I remember going to at least one Ingolstadt v Augsburg derby.

Fans Assembling Pre-match

Fans Assembling Pre-match

The game in Belfast was tremendous, ending as a 2-3 win for Augsburg in overtime. I reckon 1,000 out of the 5,000 crowd were Augsburg fans, and they generated a wonderful atmosphere. I started as a neutral and they won me over.

Panthers Fans

Panthers Fans

I stayed in the AC Hotel (a Marriott label) across the river from the SSE Arena, as I did last time I was in Belfast. It is not cheap, but Belfast is plagued by stag and hen parties so a cheaper hotel brand increases the risk of late night/early morning noise. The riverside location is convenient and pleasant, and quiet.

Belfast Dawn

Belfast Dawn

I have walked past McHugh’s many times over the years and never gone in. I rarely venture into pubs these days, but this time I took the plunge. I recommend it. They have a great range of beers - I had Guinness - and even on a busy Saturday afternoon the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. Like most pubs they have caved in to the TV addiction (I counted three - two normal size and one massive) but they also had a folk music trio playing in a corner.

Pub Life

Pub Life

The North has belatedly come to feature a lot recently in the media in Little Britain after London realised the Brexit plans (or lack thereof) have major implications for Ireland as a whole. I will not wade into that controversy.

EU Funding

EU Funding

I will just mention it is the only part of the UK where police officers all carry guns all the time, and travel in armoured cars. You will find a “Peace Wall” in West Belfast which keeps the two sides of the community apart.

large_fullsizeoutput_56b.jpeg

Belfast has changed enormously for the better since my first visit in the mid 1990s, well before the peace agreement was signed in 1999. Anyone in London who risks that progress and the relative peace since then has my total contempt.

Posted by IainT 11:53 Archived in Ireland Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises planes ireland transport flights ice_hockey airlines belfast brexit Comments (0)

Belfast - Travel Tips

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Custom House, Belfast

Custom House, Belfast

I arrived in the city by train from Dublin - see my Dublin tips for more detail on that. The Dublin train arrives at Belfast’s Lanyon Place Station (it used to be called Central Station).

SSE Arena, Belfast

SSE Arena, Belfast

My hotel was the AC Marriott on Donegall Quay opposite the SSE Arena. It was excellent. The cost was £99 for a superior room with a river view, and including a buffet breakfast. It was an easy walk from the station (15 minutes), and from the city centre (10 minutes). It was also an easy walk (10 minutes) from the hotel to the arena.

AC Marriott, Belfast

AC Marriott, Belfast

On my previous visit to the city my hotel had been a nightmare - noise from drunken guests - so my stay at the AC Marriott did a little to restore some faith in humanity.

Docklands, Belfast

Docklands, Belfast

I left the city on FlyBe, heading for Edinburgh. FlyBe uses Belfast City Airport which is just 10 minutes by bus from the city centre. Some airlines use Belfast International, but it is 30-40 minutes away by bus.

My one way flight cost me £58 including the cost of a checked in bag (£21) Belfast City Airport is compact and very user friendly.

Heritage

Heritage

Translink’s Airport Express 600 is the bus service I used to get to the airport. £2.50. The service only runs every 30 minutes, but if you miss one that leaves you just enough time for a coffee before the next one. The stop closest to my hotel was only 5 minutes walk away. Ideal.

Posted by IainT 09:56 Archived in Ireland Tagged trains sport ireland transport flights ice_hockey airlines belfast brexit Comments (0)

Dublin - Travel Tips

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Tallaght Luas Terminus

Tallaght Luas Terminus

On my brief visit to Dublin last month I travelled from Edinburgh with Aer Lingus. It cost a little more than Ryanair would have done, but the whole experience is more more relaxed and friendly. I paid about £65 one way, including £21 “extra” for a checked in bag.

One downside to Aer Lingus is their cabin bag allowance being very small - the smallest I have come across. It might just make Ryanair even better value for money.

Luggage reclaim was very slow at Dublin Airport - we waited almost 30 minutes, even after taking a bus from the plane to the other side of the airport and then queuing for 10 minutes at passport control. Bear it in mind when planning your onward travel.

Heuston Station

Heuston Station

I took an airport Dublin Bus/Bus Átha Cliath into the city centre and then at Heuston Station changed to the Luas (tram) to take me to my hotel in Tallaght. That bus route (the 747) goes right through the city centre, so it was slow.

Visitor Card

Visitor Card

The service is very frequent however, so you will not wait long. It is also right at the exit from Terminal 2. You can buy single tickets on the bus or from a kiosk at the bus stop.

At the airport I bought a 24 hour TFI (Transport for Ireland) Leap card for €10. It is valid on all city buses, the Luas and some commuter trains. The ticket is available from the Spar shop just as you leave departures in Terminal 2. It saved me money even although I only used the airport bus once and the Luas twice.

My hotel was the Glashaus in Tallaght. It is at the terminus of the Luas red line, and so well out of the city centre in suburbia. It took about 40 minutes from Heuston Station. I wanted to be well away from the city centre, hoping it would be quiet at night.

Glashaus

Glashaus

It was quiet, but turned out to be further than I expected from the city centre. The cost was €102 including a big breakfast. The room was excellent and so was breakfast. I had dinner there and it was good enough without being very interesting.

Glashaus Breakfast

Glashaus Breakfast

I left the city by train for Belfast. The cross border Enterprise service is a joint venture between Iarnród Éireann and NI Railways. It leaves from Connolly Station in Dublin - which is also on the Luas red line. My 1st class ticket cost €39.99. The journey time is just over 2 hours, so it is not fast.

Grand Canal, Dublin

Grand Canal, Dublin

It is comfortable however, and the restaurant car serves food at your seat (at least in 1st class). I enjoyed my chicken salad with wine, but of course the bill wiped the smile off my face.

Posted by IainT 00:47 Archived in Ireland Tagged planes trains food scotland edinburgh ireland transport flights airlines brexit Comments (0)

Le Temps Perdu

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Edinburgh to Dublin

Edinburgh to Dublin

My first visit to Dublin was on Friday 23rd March 1990. On 29th March 2019, there I was again 29 years later.

(I have visited several times in between.)

The date of that first visit is easy to pinpoint. I was in the city on a day trip for a meeting. After it, I felt the urge to try a pint of Guinness in a Dublin pub before heading back to the airport. The pub I chose was full of Welsh rugby fans, in the city for the Ireland v Wales game the next day.

Scotland’s rugby team had surprised championship favourites England the Saturday before, and won the Grand Slam in the process. As soon as I opened my mouth to order my pint in that pub, the Scottish accent produced cheers and singing (some of it slightly unkind towards our English cousins).

Black Stuff

Black Stuff

Needless to say, I didn’t pay for my pint… nor the second one.

The meeting had been about my law firm’s preparations for the creation of the EU Single Market in 1992. We had plans to set up a network of collaborating law firms throughout the EU. I met a Dublin firm to discuss it all.

Mathesons

Mathesons

The Dublin firm did not join in the project, but the meeting did lead to a productive bilateral relationship lasting many years. They were fantastic to work with.

Scotland & Ireland

Scotland & Ireland

Last month I was there because I did not want to be in Britain on Brexit day. The reasons are not easy to explain, but something deep inside me felt the need to express my revulsion in some symbolic way. Dublin is a quick and easy place to visit from Scotland.

Cruising

Cruising

Applying for political asylum did cross my mind, but May got a postponement of the Brexit date and the immediate crisis passed.

Posted by IainT 12:11 Archived in Ireland Tagged planes ireland transport flights airlines brexit Comments (0)

Sanity or Madness

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Very Apt

Very Apt

 

Brexit is a painful event for me. The reasons why are too many to bore you with.
 
The prospect of Scotland being forced out of the EU on 29th March in a disastrous, no-deal scenario was enough to get me really on edge. My fix was to book a flight to Dublin for that day.
 
Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus

My thinking was the whole event would have a slightly better perspective from Ireland , and I know the media reporting there has been intelligent and sophisticated. Then I decided the obvious next step was to cross “the border” the next day, into the North.
 
The possibility of a no deal Brexit meant the road crossing into the Irish part of the UK had the potential to be truly messed up with customs checks, so I booked a seat on the lunchtime train from Dublin to Belfast . Then I organised a flight home from Belfast on the Sunday afternoon.
 
I even managed to find a good ice hockey game to see in Belfast on the Saturday night.

Warm Up

Warm Up


 
So far, so good.
 
Of course almost as soon as I had paid my money, May decided to go for a postponement.
 
Well, in spite of that I had a good time. Dublin was wonderful compared to the misery of Brexit Britain . Brexit will be very damaging for Ireland of course, even if a deal can be done. Everyone I spoke to wanted to know if I am pro-Brexit, and loved it when my vehement anti-Brexit views came out.

Black Stuff

Black Stuff


 
Crossing the open border on the train was a moment to relish. How long will it remain open? Is it about to be an EU 3rd country border, and so subject to all the customs and immigration checks which follow from it?

Glass House

Glass House


 
For those who have never crossed the border, at the moment you do not even know you have crossed it - somewhere between the stations at Dundalk and Newry.
 
I had to wonder what the people in Belfast think about it all. The North voted to remain in the EU. It benefits massively from EU membership. The EU was instrumental in bringing about the Good Friday Agreement, which has produced 20 years of peace after 30 years of violence. London is happy to throw it all down the toilet in exchange for political support from the DUP – who opposed the GFA and want Brexit.

Docklands, Belfast

Docklands, Belfast


 
Well, I had a nice hotel and the ice hockey was good, as was my flight back to Edinburgh .

Posted by IainT 13:28 Archived in Ireland Tagged planes scotland edinburgh sport ireland transport flights ice_hockey airlines belfast brexit Comments (1)

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