Belfast Christmas Market Weekend
Last November a group of retired members of the Garda Siochana from all over Ireland travelled to Belfast to enjoy a couple of days of sightseeing and Christmas Shopping.
On a Friday in Late November guests were picked up from Hueston Station at 1pm. This allowed for colleagues from all over Ireland make their way to Dublin in plenty of time. They boarded a private luxury coach provided by Cronins Coaches, a sister company of Select Hotels. A second pick up was arranged enroute for anyone who wanted to drive. Select had organised for guests to leave cars at the CityNorth Hotel a Select Hotel located in Gormanstown, Co. Meath.
After a quick pitstop in one of the many service stations on the M1 guests settled back and availed of the complimentary onboard wi-fi. Tommy, the Cronins driver had the group in Belfast in plenty time to check into the Select Malone Lodge Hotel and enjoy a welcome reception of tea, coffee and biscuits hosted by Tamarin, the Hotels Reception Manager.
The Malone Lodge Hotel is a chic Victorian town-house hotel, only minutes from Belfast city centre. Set in the quiet, tree lined avenues of the Queens University Quarter of South Belfast, Malone Lodge Hotel in Belfast is located just off the exclusive Malone Road & fashionable Lisburn Road. Tommy had arranged to drop some of the more hardened shoppers into Belfast City Centre for some late night shopping, getting back in time to enjoy a scrumptious 4 course dinner served in the aptly named Fork & Knife Restaurant. Afterwards guests made their way to the bar to enjoy a catch up with former colleagues and listen to music provide by some local musicians.
On Saturday morning, after a fabulous breakfast in the Malone Lodge Hotel, the group headed to the Historic Crumlin Road Gaol. We had arranged for the group to take a guided tour to experience all aspects of the Gaol. Their local guide Bob brought them from the tunnel linking the courthouse on the other side of the Crumlin Road to the hanging cell, Governor's office, hospital and Graveyard. Crumlin Road Gaol first opened its gates to prisoners in 1846 and for 150 years was a fully operational prison. Road Gaol walked out of the fortified prison and the heavy air-lock gates slammed shut for During those 150 years the Gaol has housed murderers, suffragettes and loyalist and republican prisoners. It has witnessed births, deaths and marriages and has been the home to executions, escapes, hunger-strikes and riots. After the informative tour they enjoyed tea, coffee and scones in Cuffs café with Bob on hand to answer any questions they group had.
Afterwards the group had a free afternoon to explore Belfast. Tommy dropped the group at Belfast City Hall to enjoy the Christmas Markets. The grounds of Belfast City Hall come alive during the last 6 weeks of the year thanks to the arrival of the Belfast Christmas markets. The festive markets boast a combination of top-notch international cuisine and a curated mix of handcrafted goods, bespoke artisan products, and yuletide tipples. The markets are made all the more aesthetically pleasing by their backdrop – the iconic City Hall.
Some guests decided to visit the awarding winning Titanic Visitors Centre. It extends over nine interactive galleries, with multiple dimensions to the exhibition, drawing together special effects, dark rides, full-scale reconstructions and innovative interactive features.
After a busy day of shopping and sightseeing, Tommy transported the group back to the Malone Lodge Hotel to relax before enjoying dinner in the Fork & Knife Restaurant.
On Sunday morning, it was time to head home but not before the group were joined onboard the coach by David Graham, a Belfast City Guide. David brought the group on a guided tour of the Shankill and Falls Road learning of how things where during the course of the Troubles. Seeing the wall murals that are known all over the world, the group got a chance to walk around to take plenty of photos. They visited the famous peacewall that separates both Protestant and Catholic communities. After saying goodbye to David the group continued on their homeward journey.
To finish off a fabulous weekend a late lunch was enjoyed at the CityNorth Hotel. After saying goodbye to those driving and had left their cars at the hotel, Tommy continued on to Dublin dropping guests to Heuston Station in plenty time to catch a train back to all corners of Ireland.
Marie Roche from the GSRMA contacted Select Hotels to assist her in putting together an appealing inclusive package with a tailor-made itinerary. Marie particularly wanted to arrange a weekend break so that members spouses who may still be working were able to travel. We facilitated for individual payments to be made directly to Select making the organisation as easy and stress free for the organisers as possible.
Images: Courtesy of Market Place Europe