Hidden Gems…Great for the Gram

I’ll get straight to the point here, let’s face it. There are so many places in Ireland that maybe you don’t care for or maybe you haven’t even heard of. Yes, I agree it’s fabulous to visit other countries, but why not try exploring our own for a change? Even if it’s just for a day trip. 

I promise, if you stick with me, until the end of this post, you WILL want to visit at least one of these places, and you will not be disappointed. 

The Belfast Beauty

Ok, going to start off with one close to home, and one which you have all definitely heard of. The Botanical Gardens. Now yea, it may sound ‘main stream,’ or not really a ‘hidden gem’ as such, but tell me how many of you have actually taken a walk through it and took the time to really take it in? 

My guess is not very many of you…

The Botanical Gardens is full of blossoming flowers and plants in every season, my favourite obviously being summer, when it is full of bright colours.

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So, next time you’re there, take your time, explore it, and I promise you, you will not be disappointed. 

On an extra note, girls…and boys, it makes for a perfect Instagram spot! 

 

Newtownstewart’s Nature (Co.Tyrone) 

Moving closer to my hometown of Newtownstewart *eyeroll* is what I’m sure you are all thinking. What could it possibly have to offer? To be fair, I would be thinking the same thing… ‘like, seriously?’

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I’m sure you have all seen the sunflower fields EVERYWHERE on social media at some point, yet many of you will never have been, or maybe just didn’t know where to go. Well, if good oul’ Newtown is good for something, it’s good for its’ Sunflower Fields in the summer months!

And who couldn’t love a sunflower, am I right? 

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Granny for one agrees!

 

So, take a trip down to the country and get those profile pics, and pick your own sunflowers to brighten up your home! 

Remember: Bring some pennies, because it’s always for a good charitable cause!!

 

Beautiful Butterfly Farm (Co.Down)

Anyone who knows me knows I have had an obsession with butterflies from a very young age, and have in-fact only recently re-decorated my girlie purple butterfly themed bedroom, to a more suitable décor, for a 20 year old…boring I know. 

So, when I took my first trip to the butterfly farm, I was so excited… and yes, I’ll admit it…. I cried.  

One of the cutest experiences I’ve had in Northern Ireland, I couldn’t believe that there were so many butterflies flying around and you could get so close to them. 

I did at one point consider taking one home, but don’t worry, I settled for a butterfly fridge magnet instead. 

I recommend wearing bright clothes, as it attracts the butterflies so you can get those pics, and it’s bloody warm in that green house, so if you don’t want to pass out, wear light clothes!

Admission: £4.50 Adult/ £3.50 students and stay for as long as you wish. (You’ll want to stay forever, trust me.)

Let’s move this on and take it down south…

Downings’ Dazzlers (Co.Donegal) 

So, I’ve been going to Downings with the fam since birth, quite literally, so this may be a slightly biased opinion, but I’m just going to say it, Downings has to have thee best beaches in the world. To name a few, Murder Hole (horrible name, lovely beach) Monks bay (Personal Fav) Rosapenna (longest beach in the world NEVER agree to a family walk, it’s never the short walk, it’s all lies.) and finally, Tranarossan (aka the pebble beach).

There is so much to do here, on the beaches, and in the water, so take a day, a week, however long you have, but go go go! It’s a must!

The beaches will speak for themselves, and your camera won’t know what’s hit it!

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Alright Pumpkin (Co.Meath)

Don’t ask what possessed me to take this 2-hour long road trip (we took a few wrong turns) with my bestie, but, I did. And am I glad I did? 

…Absolutely. 

Not only did we get (personal opinion) thee best Instagram pics, it was an all-round enjoyable experience, especially in the run up to the spooky season!

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The sun was out, and we parked up the mini, opposite a sea of orange! We got our pics, and picked our favourite pumpkins to take home and carve! This is only open on the weekends and I’d go sooner rather than later incase all the good pumpkins are gone!

If this isn’t enough to entice you, it’s free admission and you only have to pay if you’d like a pumpkin (note: remember Euros and bring your wellies!)

But seriously…make the trip, and your Instagram will thank me later!

 

Chloe Hood is a final year Bsc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Twitter: @chloekathryn4 and Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-kathryn-hood-224033153

 

A Stateside Summer

A Stateside Summer

Home for the next 14 weeks…

Wow! Where do I even begin to describe the BEST summer of my entire life? Well…

The 8th June, 2018 at Dublin Airport <DUB>. The day I left all my friends and family behind for 14 weeks to go and work at a summer camp, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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Saying goodbye to my family!(my dad and brother trying not to cry was so cute!)

After a 6 hour flight, I touched down at Logan International Airport, Boston <BOS>.  A couple of hours of waiting around later, the Camp Assistant Directors, Vicky and Kevin came to collect me and a few (equally as nervous) camp-goers. Little did I know, within weeks, these people would become some of my best friends in the world!

A 90 minute bus journey later, and I had arrived at a place I now called home, Camp Burgess and Hayward,  in a small town called Sandwich (lol yes, i know), Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I was greeted by about 10 or so people, who arrived at camp before me (one of them being my best friend Jessie – who i’ll talk about later!). Everyone was immediately so so friendly and welcoming, I couldn’t believe it! First thing was first though…SLEEP! I could feel the jet lag starting to kick in already. The Camp Director, Allie, brought me and another girl, Megan, from Liverpool to our room where we would be staying the ENTIRE summer as ROOMIES!

Where it all began…

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This is the van – my baby for 3 months! Fun fact: in this picture the van was stuck in sand for 6 hours, where we had to be rescued by the local police and then be threatened with a $1000 fine for it to be towed!!!! Luckily enough the tow-truck man loved my accent so let us off for free!

So basically, it’s a funny story how this whole trip came about. I initially never really had much interest or knowledge about the whole ‘Camp America’ thing, but my friend Jessie (who I mentioned before) had applied and was offered a job as a Horseback Director in January, at Camp Burgess and Hayward. She told me that she had got placed and I was over the moon for her, but also envious that I still had no plans for the summer.

Anyway, a few months passed, and in April, Jessie mentioned that the camp was still advertising for people to come and help out for the summer, and that they needed people to be van drivers. As soon as she told me I couldn’t have emailed the Camp Director, Allie any quicker. A whole 3 months at a summer camp, with my best friend, driving around in a van?! SO much fun, I couldn’t say no!

Allie (who was the BEST BOSS EVER) emailed me back and we arranged a phone interview. The interview consisted of questions about my driving abilities where I completely lied and said I had drove 1) an automatic before, 2) a van before and 3) on the other side of the road before. Thankfully Allie trusted me enough to give me the job!

So there it was – I was officially going Stateside for the summer, with 2 months to save up enough money to last me 14 weeks and to fill out enough paperwork to last me a LIFETIME.

A day in the life…

Every single day at camp was so different. There was a general schedule which we followed every day, but what happened within that day just depended. Each morning at 7.50am we would have ‘flagpole’. This was a fun way to start the day where a member of staff would stand up and do something to help wake everyone up, like teach everyone a dance or do some stretches. We then raised the flag and said the Pledge (so American, I know!)

We would then go to the dining hall for breakfast, which was usually something like pancakes or waffles (believe me, after eating the same food every day for 3 months you start to get sick of it). Although the food was always amazing and the kitchen staff worked so hard to cater for almost 400 people a day!

As one of my duties as Resource Specialist (the scientific name for van driver), I would do a run into the local town, Hyannis, which was about 20 minutes away, at 10am, where people would spend their days off. After that, I would usually have somGA3e wee jobs to do  in the morning time, like collect things for camp or do the daily Dunkin’ Donuts run!

Whenever I didn’t have any van related jobs, I would spend my time at the waterfront, playing on the water trampoline, over at horseback with the 12 gorgeous horses we had (Elsa was my favourite) or playing on the slip ‘n’ slide. Yes I know, my summer job was SO DIFFICULT AND BORING!!

Lunch and dinner time in the dining hall was by far one of my favourite parts of the day. Everybody gets up and sings at the top of their lungs, standing up on chairs and dancing around the place like crazy people! At the beginning it is so daunting, because everybody knows each other so well from previous years at camp, and being the new ‘international’, you feel so shy and awkward, but after a few times, you soon start to learn all the words and become just as crazy as the rest!

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This was the big bags of paint that we separated into small buckets. My hands were stained green for DAYS!

At camp, one of the big events was the colour run. This was one of my highlights of camp. The run was 5k around the camp property, and all the kids and staff took part. Hundreds of dollars worth of powered paint was ordered in, there was inflatables, waterguns, a popcorn stand and speakers blasting music all day. The atmosphere was literally unbelievable! It was a day i’ll never forget.

The grand finale of camp was our 2 day long colour war, M&P (Mariners and Pioneers). The Mariners are the blue team, and the Pioneers are the red team. The neutral team in the middle was purple (the team I was on).I can’t put into words how seriously this colour war is taken. Looking back it’s funny because it’s only a colour war at a summer camp, but people get so competitive. There literally was blood, sweat and tears over the course of the 2 days.

The Pionners won this year, and the moment it was announced, the whole camp ERUPTED! It was such an amazing way to end the best 3 months of my life.

After camp ended, me, Jessie and Megan did some travelling for 2 weeks. We went to Boston, New York and New Orleans. Safe to say it was a crazy whirlwind of events. I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, here I am, a month and a half now i’ve been home. In final year and working 35 hours a week. The joys!! Roll on next June when I can return to the second place I like to call home!

G x

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Grainne Arkins is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/grainne-arkins-a54401173/ and Twitter: @GrainneArkins

 

The Guinness Goddess

Guinness, a pint of plain, Irish champagne, the black stuff: its iconic. For a 22 year old girl I usually get a lot of stick and raised eyebrows when I order a pint of stout in a bar, however I would have to admit that I am quite the Guinness Connoisseur “an expert judge in matters of taste.”

Here’s everything you need to know about the emerald isle’s best brew about.

Guinness lingo:

The art of the G: How to pour a pint of Guinness

Bishops Collar: a head that’s just too big

Cream leak: whenever some cream dribbles down the glass of an untouched head; a major leak may suggest a watery pint but a small slow dribble suggests a healthy one.

G-man/ G-woman/ G-punter: Guinness lover

G-tache: The Guinness moustache created from a decent, creamy pint. All good pints will give you one. A watery one will not give you a G-tache

Priests’ collar: The creamy, post-settlement head on a lovely pint of Guinness.

The Birth of Guinness:

Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease in 1759 on a tiny abandoned warehouse in the very heart of Dublin and completely transformed St. James gate into a brewery, and Guinness was born. By the time Arthur died in 1803 he had built his empire and passed his business on to his son Arthur II, a successful brewery with promising export trade.

Guinness is good for you:
The famous slogan and one of the most iconic advertisements of all time first appeared in televised adverts in the late 1920’s claiming the beverage to be more nourishing for you than milk. The quote is not around anymore but still remains true as a pint only contains 125 calories – less than a pint of semi-skimmed milk!See the source image

The Guinness book of records:

The modern Guinness World Records has its origins at the Guinness brewery. In the 1950s, after an argument with friends over which was the fastest game bird in Europe (failing to find an answer in any reference book) Sir Hugh Beaver (an industrialist/engineer) decided to create the now iconic book that would settle all common pub disputes.

See the source image

The Art of Pulling the Pint
There’s good reason for that finger-tapping wait for your pint. Over 119.5 seconds, the Guinness glass is three-quarters filled, rested until the nitrogen bubbles have risen (this creates the dark colour and velvety head), before being filled to the top. In my own experience patience is key in these situations, (good things come to those who wait.)See the source image
Guinness Today

Fast-forward a couple of centuries, and Arthur’s beer is now famous worldwide. Now brewed in 49 countries around the world, and served in 150, he has certainly made his mark. Surprisingly though, the largest annual consumption of Guinness is not in Ireland, but in Nigeria (hard to believe I know!).

See the source image

The perfect pint

Establishing whether or not you have been poured a cracking pint or a mediocre one is a procedure that I have been using for a few years and it all starts with the wobble test. A little shake of a fresh pint being ever so careful not to spill any – that can let on if its a watery one! Obviously the creamier the head is, the less chance of a spill there is. This step is then followed by observing the head, if its been poured correctly you should have a lovely thick and creamy finish, however if your bar man was in a rush you may have been served a pint of black watery muck with suds on top.

Where to get the perfect pint in Belfast

In my experience I have come to know that any bars that seem crowded or particularly busy will not serve a perfect pint of Guinness, however that is a broad statement and some establishments make the cut! It is often the smaller pubs that tend to be filled with old men watching the horses that do the best pints, these are the guys with the knowledge and expertise, these are the real Guinness Connoisseurs!

However, I am only a cub at 22 years of age I don’t especially like to go to the local pub on a Saturday night and would much rather be surrounded by folk my own age that equally enjoy a pint of plain, therefore I have chosen my two favourite venues that can accommodate a girl my age whilst also serving me a cracking pint.

The Duke of York: The best pint you’ll ever taste. The bar men know their stuff in this place, they don’t rush the art of pouring. Better yet (better yet) they freeze their pint glasses which I think is a beautiful touch and the reason I keep going back!

Five Points: The atmosphere in this place is second to none, the pints never fail me and are always so refreshing and consistent – not one watery one served in here!

Celine Russell is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn –  https://www.linkedin.com/in/celine-russell-849ba4171/ ; Twitter –  https://twitter.com/celine_russ; Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/celine.russell.7

 

Public Relations and the GAA – The Relationship

Public Relations and the GAA – The Relationship

Although I may not be a fitness fanatic nor play any sports (I once did, trust me), I am a huge follower of the GAA, both in my local club and county. In most recent years it has come to my attention the tremendous effects and benefits Public Relations has had on GAA and it is of course something I feel is worth mentioning. For those who do not know, GAA is an Irish Sporting Association consisting of Gaelic Football, Hurling and Handball, all at amateur level. That’s right, it is not a professional paid sport. Why you ask? Because of the strong Irish heritage that dates back hundreds of years and simply doing it for the love of it.

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From social media to traditional advertising to brand marketing, it has undoubtedly opened up so many doors for both young talented players and organisations. With many sporting social media sites such as Joe.ie, Ulster GAA and Humans of the GAA, not only do they acknowledge young affluent GAA players, but it also creates brand awareness and revenue for that particular site as they put up analysis of games as well as stats and top scorers – it is of course the best of both worlds. Popular, renowned players are seen as god-like figures in this part of the world and someone most sporting nuts aspire to be, which is why many businesses seize the opportunity to liaise with such players to help promote their merchandises whether it may on Facebook, Instagram or good old fashioned advertising. This can be anything from Puma football boots to Murphy’s gloves. We all want the next best thing our sporting heroes have so it is certainly a great way of promoting the company as well as boosting sales. Moreover, seeing TV adverts such as Lidl sponsoring ladies football to Electric Ireland constructing their TV advert on the GAA Minor Championships, it highlights that the our beloved GAA is in the heart of every home in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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With GAA becoming not only huge in Ireland itself, it has broken into the US as well as many other prosperous countries including Australia and Dubai which is of course pumping not only extortionate money into the organisation but letting other cultures become aware of the sport! Not to mention, with many people getting sponsorships from across the water in places such as Canada, it goes without saying, that with GAA enthusiasm on the rise, it sure does open up a whole new window of opportunities for eager young people with Public Relations playing a huge part in this expansion.

Irish people take pride in their own people especially when it comes to playing the sport and it is fair to say we do all we can to ensure their talents and commitments do not go unnoticed! With many extravagant and formal awards nights including the Teamtalk Awards and the Irish News All Star Awards, Public Relations is at the centre of every function, big or small. It is enough to inflate anyone’s ego but is of course a fundamental way of highlighting the important place GAA holds in our community and that hard work really does play off. With special guests including sporting legend AP McCoy at this year’s Irish News All Star Awards, it is enough to get any typical PR agent jumping out of their boots!

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Public Relations and its close knit relationship with the GAA has had many positive successes in the past when it comes to raising money for campaigns or charities making it a go-to when looking for a strategy that is simple yet effective! One that stands out from the rest in my opinion is the most recent charity match hosted in Galway in September. The Galway team of 2017 (winners of the Hurling All-Ireland Championship) competed against the Galway team of 1988. The charity match was put together in an attempt to raise funds for the family of the recently deceased Tony Keady, who was named hurler of the year as Galway claimed the 1988 All Ireland Title. Not only is GAA a fun loving amateur sport, it is about helping a fellow comrade when you can and exploiting your skills to do so. This of course gained the attention from the media with many news reporters and journalists making their way to the scene as well as many press releases and social media sites giving it some attention!

What I love most about the GAA is that the amateur sport has been imbedded in us since toddlers and helps bring each and every community closer together. It is not played for money or fame, but for the love of it. It is your local plumber, primary school teacher, your uncle or dad, and that’s what makes it all the more special!

Shannon Grogan is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn on https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-grogan-09712510b/ 

No phone? Welcome back to real life!

Following on from Hannah’s post (read here) regarding involuntarily taking three weeks away from social media, I thought I’d post about a similar situation that happened to me over the last few weeks. My iPhone has well and truly gone to phone heaven at this stage but I’m not so sure if all of my 3,000 photos/videos have gone with it! Hence why I am still holding out hope that my iCloud will be restored in the coming weeks. I received that same lovely message as Hannah,

“To verify your iCloud account, a code has been sent to your device ending in *********41.”

The only problem is that both my Irish and French numbers end in 41. It turns out my phone is backed up to my French number which no longer exists. Therefore, I now patiently wait for the next couple of weeks to see can all be restored.

In the meantime, these are the following five things that I noticed whilst I was phoneless.

  1. Everyone is addicted to their phones

It’s not just me who has this habit. Sometimes I feel rather depressed when I think about all the time I’ve wasted just doing nothing and scrolling through Instagram, Twitter or whatever. But everyone around me appears to be addicted to looking at their phone screens too. Addicted to looking and scrolling through nothingness essentially.

  1. Our need to share everything online

This became even more apparent on special occasions like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. If someone needs to share every aspect of their happy relationship online, how happy or secure are they really in that relationship? Also, it now seems that we all feel obliged to post something online on Mother’s Day.

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We all continue to portray an image online of how we would like the outside world to view us and our own lives. When you’re off social media, you start to genuinely not care about these things. You’re spending all your time and energy with the people you care about or doing the things you care about to even be bothered about checking back in with the online world.

  1. Our need to have a phone when we’re out for food

This is a habit that’s always annoyed me even before I went phoneless for a couple of weeks. Sitting with someone who is on their phone and not listening to a word you’re saying is hardly the height of craic. What is the point in going for lunch if you’re not even going to bother fully immersing yourself in a conversation with the people you’re with? I find it hard to adapt back to our lunchtime habits after living in France where lunchtime lasts up to two hours. You chat and eat over the two hour period. That’s the whole point of it (This is also most likely why I now appear to be the slowest eater when I’m out with friends!). Anyway, the point I’m making is, if the French can talk over two hours of lunch and digest their food at a much slower pace, then why do many of us feel the need to have our phones out while we eat our food in basically 20 minutes or less?

  1. I felt less stressed away from it

You don’t quite realise the anxiety that comes with the constant feeling of needing to keep up all the time until you’re away from it all and phoneless. Perhaps not everyone feels that way but I’m sure I’m not the only one. Chances are that whilst you haven’t heard or seen a story on social media first like everyone else, you can be sure that people are going to tell you about it regardless. Whilst you feel like you might be missing out on something, you’re actually not. You’re just discovering or being told about some important viral videos a couple of hours or days after everyone else (sarcasm intended!).

  1. We can’t flake on people as easily

Finally, just like Hannah, I didn’t miss social media as much as I thought I would. In fact, when I went back to Toulouse for a couple of days to visit friends, I particularly noticed this. I have not one single photo from the few days away (very uncharacteristic of me!). Also, I winged it every day by messaging everyone in the morning from my friend’s house and telling them my plans for the day. Then I would just turn up at the bar or wherever and hope for the best that they would turn up at the time I’d said earlier on in the day. I was phoneless so if they didn’t turn up then I couldn’t tell if they were just late or weren’t coming at all! You feel more of an obligation to meet people at the time you’d previously specified because you have no way of simply messaging them a few minutes before meeting up to cancel on them. I think that’s a positive, don’t you?

 

Louise Harvey is studying for an MSc in Communications, Advertising and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @louiseharvey_ // LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/harveylouise/ 

The Top 5 things to do in TQ

The Top 5 things to do in TQ

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Belfast is fast becoming one of the most popular city breaks in Europe and with so much to do here, it’s no surprise. The history, culture, people and music are just some of the reasons as to why so many people are choosing our wee city to visit. I had the opportunity to work in Titanic Quarter during my placement year, once the busiest shipyard in the world and now a must see part of Belfast! There’s plenty to do in Titanic Quarter, however I thought I would narrow it down to my top 5 things to do in TQ!

 

  1. Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic

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Having been voted 2016’s World’s Leading Tourist Attraction at the European Travel Awards, Titanic Belfast is undoubtedly a must when visiting the Quarter. This visitor attraction is a great way of learning all about the history of the shipyard and of course the world famous Titanic, although it is best to give yourself plenty of time to fully take it all the museum has to offer. Don’t forget to visit Titanic’s little sister SS Nomadic during your visit, White Star Premium tickets can be purchased to explore both Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic. www.titanicbelfast.com

  1. SSE Arena – Home of the Belfast Giants

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One of my favourite things to do in TQ is watch the Belfast Giants play in the SSE Arena, I take my nephew every year as a Christmas present and we both love it! It is the perfect Friday night plans with friends of family. From the atmosphere, hearing fans cheer on their team to the variety of prizes available including a free subway and pizza, the craic just doesn’t stop. Check their website for fixtures and head down for some weekend fun! www.belfastgiants.com

  1. Lagan Boat Tours

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So you’ve been to Titanic Quarter before, looking for something a bit different to do compared to the usual tourist stuff…look no further than Lagan Boat! This is the only Titanic guided boat tour in the world, a great trip with friends, family, and they even do hen parties. Getting a tour of the Quarter in the sea is just the best experience, plus you get to see seals and meet the friendliest dog ever, what more could you really want? www.laganboatcompany.com

  1. The Wee Tram

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The best way to travel through the Quarter without a doubt is on The Wee Tram. Not only do you get to rest yer wee legs and take it the sights in Titanic Quarter, but the guides on the Tram give you a real insight into the history of the shipyard. It is available to hop and off all day, ideal for tourists wanting to explore all areas of the Quarter!

The Wee Tram is hibernating for the winter but definitely hop on when it returns. www.theweetram.com

  1. Cast & Crew

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After exploring Titanic Quarter all day you’re bound to be starving, no better place to fill your stomach up with then Cast and Crew! Check out their Titanic Burger or tasty chicken wings, not to mention their Americanos are amazing. If you want to go and explore Belfast a bit more afterwards, tickets can be bought for the Belfast tour bus that picks up just outside the restaurant! www.castandcrewbelfast.co.uk

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Kellina Loughran is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellina-loughran-a382a9123/  and Twitter: @kellina_x