Although Belfast has been known in the press for its political troubles, these troubles are well and truly in the past, and the city is now a phenomenal tourist destination. It’s beginning to rival Dublin itself, as it has a budding arts scene. Art, music, and theatre are central in this busy, buzzing city. Although politics are still central to the city’s history (the Northern Ireland Assembly is located here), the tension has now turned into history and culture. To see this gorgeous city, drive onto the ferry at Stranraer and take time to explore Belfast and its surrounding areas.

Once you’ve settled in, take a trip down to the docks. The waterfront has been central to Belfast’s industry over the years, and was once the biggest shipyard in the world, bringing in plenty of business to the city, and Ireland as a whole. This area has recently been redeveloped with money from the European Union. There are a number of new apartment buildings alongside the wharf, and the old Victoria Square has been rejuvenated.

Unfortunately, many of Belfast’s buildings were lost due to bombing in the Second World War, and from the political troubles that ensued in the 1960s. However, the rebuilding process has seen modern restaurants, chic bars and luxurious hotels pop up, meaning Belfast is now a centre of tourism. Despite this rejuvenation, Belfast still has plenty of historical monuments to explore. The city’s castle and cathedral are definitely worth a visit, as well as the popular City Hall. And if you go on holiday for an injection of culture, Belfast has some incredible museums to while away the hours in.

If you want to base yourself in Belfast and explore the surrounding areas by car, or if you’re on a driving holiday of Ireland, there are plenty of places you can go that are only a short drive away. In fact we can’t recommend highly enough that you take the ferry to Northern Ireland or Ireland, so that you can enjoy the place by car. One of the best drives to take is along the County Antrim Causeway Coastal Route, which heads north. County Antrim is famous for mystical, mythical scenery, dotted with magnificent mountains and stunning houses and castles, all of which are complimented by the rugged coastline. The route runs to the Nine Glens of Antrim, which is where you’ll find the popular Glenariff Forest Park. Another popular tourist destination is the Giant’s Causeway, an incredible formation of rocks at the north edge of the coastline, which is Ireland’s only World Heritage Site. All of this is about an hours’ drive from Belfast.

For more spectacular scenery, you can travel onwards to County Down, which is famous across the world for being the burial ground of Saint Patrick. If fantastic mountain landscapes are your thing, then look no further. Slieve Donard is the highest peak in the Mountains of Mourne, which is measured at almost 850 metres. The area is steeped in history that dates back around seven-thousand years, so it is home to a number of incredible archaeological spots, as well as having some fascinating old architecture.