On our third and final day in Northern Ireland, we caught the train from Coleraine into Belfast to explore the city. Our first port of call on another gloriously sunny day was Titanic Belfast- opened in 2012 as a permanent museum and monument to the RMS Titanic and the maritime heritage which the city was built upon. I was especially excited to visit as one of my relatives used to work for Harland and Wolff, so the opportunity to find out more about the history of Belfast and how shipbuilding shaped the city is one which felt fantastically personal too. As well as being blessed with stunning weather, we also happened to arrived in the Titanic Quarter on the day of the tall ships festival, which lent an extra special sense of occasion to the trip as well:
As you might expect, the exhibition is expansive- and takes in every aspect of the Titanic experience, from the process of building in Belfast to the recovery and exploration of the wreckage. The whole experience is perfectly put together, as visitors are first introduced to the social, economic and political backdrop of Belfast at the start of the 20th century, before discovering more about the nuts and bolts of shipbuilding and learning how pivotal the industry was to the tens of thousands of casual labourers employed by Harland and and Wolff. From inception to launch, the exhibition (and the amazing primary artifacts on display) captures the sense of excitement and anticipation which came with the building of Titanic in Belfast, something made all the more profound looking back at events in retrospect.
The sinking is handled with wonderful sensitivity, bringing visitors closer to the experience through firsthand accounts of the disaster- as well as the heartbreaking SOS calls relayed for help. Immersed in reports of the sinking and the subsequent enquiries into accountability, you are then propelled into the search for the wreckage in a wonderfully interactive series of exhibits, contrasting scientific exploration with the mythology and legend of Titanic- and, perhaps most importantly, unpicking how our understanding of the tragedy has been informed by popular culture and replacing it with the facts about the true scale and profound tragedy of the disaster. A must visit for anyone heading to Belfast- so much so that I'm already planning a return visit.
*Our visit to Titanic Belfast was complimentary, but all opinions are, as always, 100% honest.
(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)