Travel guide brands Belfast 'party town'

Published Thursday, 12 January 2012
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Northern Ireland's capital has shed its troubled past and been transformed into a "hip and hedonistic party town", according to one of the world's best-selling travel guides.

Lonely Planet Ireland's co-ordinating author, Irish-born and Dublin-based Fionn Davenport, says people are now coming to expect more from the city and that Belfast is stepping up to the plate.

"Up until maybe three or four years ago, there was - and I say this respectfully - a low level of expectation," Mr Davenport told UTV.

"That transformation that's occurred over the last number of years has really come into fruition now."

Lots of outsiders would have associated Northern Ireland with just one single thing - trouble with a capital T.

Fionn Davenport, Lonely Planet Ireland

Lonely Planet has again been pointing tourists in the direction of must-see locations north and south of the border, with Belfast and Londonderry joining cities like Dublin and Limerick as thriving destinations.

But cities and towns like the "dreary" Armagh and "lacking in charm" Larne are among those falling foul of the travel guide's experts.

"I suppose the best way to put it, without being unkind or unfair to anywhere, is that the vast majority of visitors to Ireland have on average three to ten days to visit the country ..." Mr Davenport explained, in a bid for diplomacy.

"So what we're trying to say is: 'Look, everywhere isn't of equal beauty or of equal merit as a tourist destination'. Some places are better than others - it doesn't mean that those places that don't feature high on the list of must-sees are necessarily bad places to live or bad places to do business.

"But if you're a tourist and you're coming to Ireland, I don't think Larne - with all respect to the inhabitants of Larne - would feature that highly on the list of must-sees."

And what of the "soulless" Letterkenny?

"It also says it's a bustling student town, it's got good pubs, it's got good eateries, it's got some decent accommodation and it is the transport hub for that part of Donegal," Mr Davenport pointed out.

"So I suppose the guide is saying: 'Look, you can't avoid it ... but you don't have to linger there either'."

For tourists visiting the emerald isle, apparently the greatest experience is to be had enjoying the craic in a traditional pub - but are we right to protest that our apparent drinking culture is just a stereotype?

"The truth of the matter is that we like to move away from the pub as the alpha and omega of all our social networking, but the fact remains that it still kinda is," Mr Davenport said.

According to Lonely Planet, Ireland's "fatalistic and pessimistic to the core" people have managed to maintain something of an 'ah well' attitude to the economic gloom - the equivalent of shrugging their shoulders and getting on with it.

While Ireland's economic woes may be depressingly familiar to the older generation and forced many of the country's younger people to try their luck elsewhere, this is not the Ireland of yesteryear.

Lonely Planet

Being backward about coming forward also looks like becoming a thing of the past.

"For the first time, the Irish - particularly the under-30s - have no problem relaying their achievements and successes, in contrast to the older generation who were brought up in the belief that telling anyone they were doing well was unseemly and boastful," the guide claims.

Among the must-sees listed are the city that knows how to have fun, the powerhouse of cultural revival, the Ireland of visitors' imaginations and the white sands of the country's answer to the Caribbean.

That would be Dublin, Derry, Kilkenny and Kilkee for the uninitiated.

Lonely Planet says its authors personally visit thousands of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries and museums and do not take freebies.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
realistic in belfast wrote (1,113 days ago):
Lorraine are you talking about the republic because lonely planet isnt the last time i checked a map , the island i live on is called Ireland split between the Republic of and northern what yes IRELAND , whether you like it or not that the reality , god we will get no where with people as thick as her
Lolly in The pub wrote (1,114 days ago):
Lorraine has no brain........
Catherine in Belfast wrote (1,114 days ago):
Lorraine, this is the island of ireland, lonely planet are encouraging travel to the ISLAND and giving the north the boost it needs. Londonderry/Derry Ireland, Northern Ireland..whatever
Billybob in London wrote (1,114 days ago):
Lorraine, lonely planet travel guides are probably beyond you. Don't think we are included in the Britain guide. You should complain to them and perhaps suggest that you can act as a meet and great at the beautiful port of larne for the flocks of tourists, to offer politics lessons. Have them swimming for the mull of kintyre you will.
Lorraine in Belfast wrote (1,114 days ago):
if ur visiting ireland then how can u include londonderry and belfast? it's in a seperate country..check your world atlas.
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