Belfast & Bangor 4th to 11th May 2018.
Vicky and I would like as many members and family to attend the event as possible if not for the whole 4th -11th for as many days/nights as possible.
The hotel for the visit was
Great Victoria Street
The chosen hotel is part of the Europa group of hotels in Nothern Ireland.
Europa Hotel is situated in Belfast central area, adjacent to the bus/coach/rail station (within yards/meters) in Great Victoria Street over looking the “Crown Bar” National Trust (but NO membership required here). Access to Belfast served by land sea & air. Land, rail and coach station next door to hotel, Sea ferry service to Belfast Stena Lines Belfast from Cairnryan (Stranraer Scotland) and Liverpool, short journey from ferry port to Hotel using one of the few Motorways in NI. By Air to Belfast International Airport (formally Aldergrove) about 20 miles NW. and Belfast City (George Best) on the south side of Belfast Lough, just 5 miles away, now no need for expensive taxi’s from the airport (Unless of course you wish?) as Ulsterbus company provide a service to/from airports to bus/coach station next door to hotel at a very, very reasonable cost and regular times. Ticket office in Airport arrivals hall. Cars if you are using, the Hotel has NO carpark BUT a public car park above the rail/bus/coach station at about £20 per day (i understand this can be discounted to £18 per day but not confirmed). As you will see from the projected itinerary we will be using a private coach company for visits in the Isle.
Proposed program & tours
Friday 4th May
Arrival day unpack and refresh after the journey.
Evening Private room welcome party
Saturday 5th May
Coach trip from Hotel lobby to Mount Stewart National Trust house, gardens and park land, on the shore line of Strangford Lough on the Ards peninsular.
We explored the house of the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry Alexander Stewarts and his wife Frances Anne Vane-Tempest, searched for “Hambletonian” by George Stubbs. Enjoyed the Dodo terrace and looked for the Shamrock garden
Evening relax and catch up, remembering what you missed last night and don’t forget today’s venue, and plan tomorrow.
Sunday 6th May
From Belfast St. Georges Market to the Hop-on-Hop-off
RED bus tour of Belfast. First bus stops outside the Hotel at about 10:30 and run every 30 mins until 16:30.
Plenty of time to see the Titanic quarter, Crumlin Road Gaol, the Mhtseeing-tour/urals, Belfast City Hall and lots lot more of Belfast
Evening free time to recharge those batteries.
Monday 7th May and Bank Holiday or May Day.
That RED bus tour of Belfast is still very much valid and all those stop-off’s you missed are again available. BUT in Holywood (just along the Bangor road out of Belfast past the City airport there's one of very few if not the only May Day celebration with Maypole dancers, A coach took us and returned to the Hotel. In the evening we visited the Prince of Wales Own Lodge meeting in in Belfast within walking distance.
Tuesday 8th May
We took the East coast road from Belfast through Carrikfergus then onwards north to the Giants Causeway (NT), And then onto Bushmills distillery for lunch and the distillery visit and then the North east coast of Antrim.
Evening relax and recharge.
Wednesday 9th May
“Lazy” (if you can have a lazy day here?) The Orange Museum the shores of Belfast Lough, Belfast Castle, Stormont including parliament building, Castle & grounds,
Orange Museum, City Hall, Titanic Experience or just relaxing in Belfast in the “Crown” over the road!
Evening. Lodge meeting in Bangor for 746 Bangor Union Lodge with the ladies sampling the works of Copeland gins in Bangor.
Thursday 10th May
Coach to Castle Ward on the lower shores of Strangford Lough .
Returning for our evening closing dinner.
Friday May 11th
We said good bye, farewell and we will see you ALL again in Tamworth, Staffordshire, October 12th -14th.
I was there !!
Contributed by Stephen Gregory
Decided to travel from Liverpool, only thing that spoilt the trip was a telephone call from John Dutchman Smith advising that he and Joyce could not travel due to a family illness.
Having parked at the airport we walked straight through security and into the departure lounge. Not saying it was a short flight, but no sooner had we pointed upwards on take off before we were pointing down ready for landing.
Decided to use the bus which dropped us literally at the back of the Europa Hotel. Checked in, changed room! Went for a spot of lunch, discovered Belfast Black Beer, Primitivo Wine and Red Bush Whiskey!
Went to the Friday night welcome dinner, had a delightful evening with good food and even better company.
Saturday - Woke at seven and went down to Breakfast Wow! Was tempted to have the porridge and gravy, was even more tempted to have just the gravy! Outside for the first ‘official’ event of the trip. On a coach to Mount Stewart with some impressive scenery on the way. Really enjoyed the tour of the house and gardens only sad that I did not see any Red squirrels from the specially constructed hide that was recently erected. Back to the hotel. Meet in the foyer then off to the Masonic Hall on the Crumlin Road for a social. Fantastic atmosphere and a great example of Freemasonry working in the community by arranging events that all were welcome at. Like all good things the evening ended and it was back to the hotel.
Sunday provided the first chance to explore so onto the hop on off Bus, boy are those tour guides humorous. Ellen wanted to visit the grave of her grandfather who is buried in a cemetery about a mile from Stormont. We suggested getting off at the bottom of the hill, about a mile away but were given an alternative route, through a ‘Do not enter’ sign which took us past lots of cameras, who said walking can’t be exciting! When we arrived at the gate at the bottom of the hill it was locked shut so we spent a further hour trying to find a way out without going back to the top of the hill. As we passed even more cameras I became convinced we would be offered a lift but uncertain as to the destination we would end up at. Finally having gone through two more “No public entry areas” we were out. Half an hour later we arrived at the cemetery. We had a reference of B4618. Found section B4 easily now is it 6 up and 18 across or is it 6 across and 18 up. Only one way to find out. Within 10 ten minutes we knew, it was neither! Fortunately, we found a member of staff who was able to show us a map and give us the location. It was in B4618 which was 27 up and 3 in! Back to the hotel and found a nice restaurant around the corner where we had a nice dinner.
Monday - went along to the May Day celebrations at Holywood enjoyed watching the Maypole dancing and the stalls along the streets. In the evening off to Arthur Square where we had a fantastic tour of the masonic hall complete with harmoniums. Quick lodge meeting then join the ladies for a joint social board. Yet again good food, great company and a fantastic atmosphere.
Tuesday the weather could have been a little kinder but the day started with a coach trip to Bushmills Distillery, including a tasting followed by a bite to eat in the café then off to the Giant ’s Causeway. What a well organised place that is, the audio guide gave so much interesting information over and above the story of what the Causeway was about. Then back to the hotel and out for dinner.
Wednesday visited the Titanic Experience, we even managed to get the lift to the private suite at he very top of the building, the only time in Ireland where we were not welcomed! Also tried to do the Crumlin Road Jail Tour but time defeated us. In the evening we dined with our ladies at the 1st Bangor scouts’ hut before visiting Bangor Union Lodge to witness an initiation, leaving the ladies to enjoy a Gin Tasting. The setting of the Lodge was In a wonderful building and the ceremony was delightful to witness, some parts were recognisable and many weren’t.
Thursday was a full day out to Castle Ward with some of the most picturesque scenery you will see. Part of Castle Ward is used for the filming of the Game of Thrones series which we followed up with a visit to the Dark Hedges, another location from GOT. Back to the hotel for the farewell dinner, yet another good do!
Early Friday morning, up for breakfast then the bus back to the airport with talk of next time we come we must…..
Well done to Vicky and Alan for a well organised, thoroughly enjoyable trip
WBro Stephen Gregory
Contributed by Vicky Breward
Belfast Trip 4th - 11th May 2018
Following a great deal of planning, loads of phone calls and e-mails we finally arrived in Belfast, at the Europa Hotel at the start of a packed week.
The Friday evening get together went very well, room was just the right size, four round tables of ten, all beautifully laid with a centre candelabra, and the buffet food was plentiful and delicious, giving us all plenty of time to get up and chat with friends we hadn’t seen for a while.
Saturday morning we boarded our coach for the first of our many excursions down to Mount Stewart, a National Trust property on the banks of the Strangford Lough. The gardens were lovely with a grand show of rhododendrons and the house has had a major refurb since Alan and I were last here. A leisurely walk around the lake, followed by a good lunch in the well stocked cafe.
Saturday night was a bit of an extra - we went to support a Masonic event at the Crumlin Road Masonic hall. Not sure what to expect, but it was fun. They were very welcoming, and the Guinness was cheaper than the hotel. The chap Alan organised the visit with gave us a guided tour of the lodge rooms and a potted history of the place. Food was a bit basic but the craic was good. Ann ended up singing happy birthday in several languages to two two blokes which went down really well and about midnight they played the National Anthem, which as Alan informed me is the signal to all to end the evening.
Sunday was a free day so Alan and I, Henry and Julie hopped on the open top bus. Georges market was our first hop off. The market is rather quirky, lots of food, loads of craft and interesting second hand stuff, we hopped on the bus again round to the Titanic centre - it was ‘heaving’, well it was Sunday on a bank holiday week end, so we found ourselves in the Titanic Hotel for lunch, and decided to come back on our next free day to do the exhibition. The bar/restaurant we were in was the original drawing office, fantastic room, light and airy and more good food.
Monday we boarded our coach for a short trip down to Holywood, where they hold an annual May Day event. Hollywood is reputed to have the only permanent May Pole in the whole of Europe. We were able to watch children from three local schools performing the intricate dances, followed by some traditional Irish Dancing. There were all sorts of side shows and food to be sampled.
Returning to the hotel, the fellas got spruced up and we walked a short distance to the Lodge rooms - fabulous building over several floors. Drinks in the bar and then while the men went off for their meeting we chatted with their ladies. Would your believe that none of the Belfast ladies had ever been in the lodge rooms, and it had been twenty years since they had held a ladies to dine. Anyway we had a good evening and the food was good.
Tuesday was the long day trip to the north coast - it was wellying down with rain, but not to worry our first call was Bushmills Whiskey Distillery - done one, you've done them all! Good guide though and the tasting at the end was enjoyable. On to Giants Causeway and the rain had drifted away. The Causeway was looking tired and over visited by tourists, but it is a spectacular sight. On the journey home our driver very kindly drove us past the dark hedges, significant if you are into game of thrones, but spectacular none the less.
Wednesday was a free day, so Alan and I, Henry and Julie hopped on the red bus and journeyed round to the Titanic Centre, much quieter than Sunday and we were almost first in the queue - a splendid tour topped off with another lunch in the gorgeous bar/restaurant.
Wednesday evening was another lodge meeting. We gathered at 1st Bangor Scout
Hall - some might have thought an unusual venue for a gathering, but as this Scout Group is one of Alan’s chosen charities for the year, and the Bangor Masonic Lodge would not allow ladies over their threshold, we thought we would give it a try. The Scouts did us proud - they have been doing a major refurbishment of the building and our impending visit spurred them on to get some work done. Yummy food was provided by Mark, a scout chum of Simon’s, and the gin tasting was provided by a former Cub of Simon’s, Gareth. The men left to walk the short distance to the Lodge rooms while the ladies got stuck into the gin tasting - we did have fun! who would guess there are so many ways of tasting gin! We sat around chatting until the men returned, more beer was consumed then back to the hotel.
Thursday was our final day, a trip to another spectacular National Trust property Castle Ward. Alan Titchmarsh has been doing a series of programmes on NT houses and Castle Ward featured some time ago. A very interesting house as the him and her owners could not agree on style, so the house is virtually split down the middle, one side Gothic, the other Palladian, well worth a visit, and as usual the grounds were magnificent. Our driver took us back a different way, and we travelled the sort distance across Strangford Lough on the ferry, up the eastern side of the Ards Peninsula, stopping of for a photo opportunity at the most easterly point of the island of Ireland, an ice cream stop in Donagadee - all big kids - then back to the hotel for the farewell meal. We were let down by our original choice of venue for this function only a few days earlier, so ended up using the Europa again. A different room this time, again beautifully set out with a buffet meal. Jessica and Simon along with Simon’s mother Myrtle joined us which was lovely, as Jessica and Simon had put a great deal of time into the arranging of the whole week. Thanks all round, and farewell to all.