Monday, December 31, 2012

Smooth Getaway Postcard From Belfast Ireland

It was a rainy grey day in Belfast and I arrived hours later than I anticipated. Too much of a smooth black elixir in a comfortable Irish pub with a handful of wonderful strangers delayed my arrival. The plan was to head out of Belfast immediately to tour the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede and the town of Bushmills. However, set to leave for Scotland in the morning, I was left with no choice but to skip everything.

With some lingering regrets about the night before, I set off from the train station and flagged down a taxicab. I offered the man additional fare to take me on a tour through some of Belfast’s delicate history. He was the perfect guide, detailed and passionate with personal experience of the local mayhem that took place from 1969 to 1994. We toured rebuilt bomb sites, original war murals, the art-covered peace wall and other historic spots along the way.

Afterwards, he dropped me off at the International Youth hostel where I checked in, stashed my bags and set off to explore the city. I walked around aimlessly for three quarters of an hour then discovered a pub that I had once read about in an obscure best pubs write-up. I distinctly recognized the bar because of the name and decorative wood work.

Approaching the doors, I noted the ornate mosaic-tile floor of the Crown Liquor Saloon. My first impression on entering through the wood and painted glass doors was a genuine sense of awe at the regal elegance. Each barman was clothed in a black satin vest with long white shirt sleeves and matching black slacks. Behind the bar were antique casks, still setup from use before the adoption of modern tap systems. Rows of taps, pint glasses and liquor bottles filled the shelves to complete the flawless Crown Bar.

The bar lined the left side of the structure, while a string of ten carved Victorian booths lined the right. They were packed with groups of locals, but the rest of the space was decisively empty, except for two dim-eyed men slouched against the bar and reeking of scotch.

I took a seat on the closest stool, ordered a Smithwick's red ale, and chatted up the barman. We spoke in hushed tones about the two men. The bartender was worried he would have to try and muscle them out, should they become any more belligerent to passersby. His name was Collin and he was originally from southern Wales. I inquired about Belfast’s ongoing religious tensions. Collin believed an eruption of violence could happen at any moment but that overall things had calmed down in the past decade.

I visited pub after pub during the remaining two weeks of my backpacking trip from Dublin to Amsterdam, but the Crown was by far the most beautiful of them all. Still, if you’re looking for raucous high-energy nightlife, you’d do better in London, Leeds or Glasglow.

Brandon Elijah Scott is a travel writer and photographer with over eight years of experience. He is also an adventurer, storyteller, book lover and filmmaker who currently lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Check out his work at

1 comment:

  1. Certainly a city I have to see for myself someday. Thanks, Brandon!