Ireland Social Profile
The best value for money meals in Ulster are to
be had at lunchtime, when many restaurants and pubs offer special
menus. Most families have high tea at about 18:00 hours and hotels
and restaurants offer the same. High tea usually
consists of a cooked meal (an Ulster fry – eggs, sausages,
ham or fish with chips) and varieties of bread,
scones and cakes. Dinner is served from about 19:00 hours.
Typical Northern Ireland foods include home-made vegetable
soups, shellfish, potato dishes, dried seaweed, locally grown fruit
and home-baked cakes and pastries. A handy booklet is 'Where
to Eat in Northern Ireland', available from newsagents
and the Tourist Information Centres, which lists all the places
where food is served, a price indication and description of the
sort of food. It is wise to book ahead for the more popular restaurants,
especially towards the weekend.
The pubs are open all day Monday-Saturday 11:30-23:00 and Sunday
12:30-22:00 with half an hour ‘drinking-up’ time. Popular
drinks are Guinness – a dark heavy stout
with a creamy head – and whiskey (Northern
Ireland is home to the world’s oldest whiskey distillery at
Bushmills). Irish whiskey is often consumed along
with a bottle of stout. Real ale fans can try Hilden
produced at Lisburn and can be found locally.
Northern Ireland has a long tradition for musical entertainment,
from the toe-tapping live folk bands playing in pubs to the soulful
lyrics of Van Morrison and the world-famous flautist
James Galway. Visitors will be able to find something
to suit, from the latest dancing music in nightclubs to opera or
classical concerts. Traditional Irish music in ‘singing pubs’
provides for a good evening’s entertainment, particularly
Belfast and Londonderry. Special musical venues include the summer
Jazz and Blues Festival in Londonderry and Limavady
and the October International Guitar Festival held
in Newtownards. Details of bands and concert venues are listed in
That’s Entertainment magazine, found in record
stores, pubs stores and bookshops.
There is also many theatres and art galleries located in and around
Belfast, including the Lyric Theatre, where Liam
Neeson started his career. There are summer theatres in
Newcastle,Portrush, plus the Riverside
Theatre at Coleraine. The Belfast Festival at Queen’s
(3 weeks in November each year) is Europe’s largest arts festival
Other venues in Belfast for drama performances and concerts are
the Grand Opera House, Ulster Hall, King’s Hall
and the Crescents Art Centre, the Armagh
Theatre and Arts Centre and the new Millennium
Forum theatre in Derry and regional theatres. More information
can be obtained from the Northern Ireland’s Arts Council’s
monthly magazine art.ie or at the Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Ulster is famous for its pure Irish linen; cut-glass
goblets, bowls and decanters; creamy
Belleek pottery; handwoven tweed; pure
wool jumpers and cardigans hand-knitted
in traditional patterns; hand-embroidered wall hangings;
Carrickmacross lace and silver jewellery.
Shops are usually open 09:00-17:30 six days a week
(late-night shopping Thursday in Belfast city centre).
Other cities and towns close for a half-day one day a week (it differs
from town to town). Shopping centres on the outskirts of towns have
late night shopping Thursday-Friday unitl 21:00.
For a complete list of festivals and other events celebrated in
Northern Ireland, contact the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
The following is a selection of special events occurring in Northern
Ireland in 2005:
Queens; New Year Viennese Concert Ulster Orchestra,
Belfast; Northern Ireland Festival of Racing,
||Heart of the Glens Festival,
||Coleraine International Choral Festival.
|Mar 25 -Apr
||Belfast Film Festival.
||Belfast City Marathon
|| Balmoral Show
||Jazz and Blues Festival,
Enniskillen; Northern Ireland Game and Country Fair;
Walled City Festival, Londonderry (Derry).
||12th of July Parades, countrywide;
26th Annual Kingdom of Mourne Festival, Kilkeel
||12th Hillsborough International
Oyster Festival; Aspects Irish Literature
Festival; European Heritage Open Days 2004,
| Note: Accommodation
during festival times should be booked well in advance.
Clothing: A tie, trousers and shoes (as opposed to jeans
and trainers) are required for entry to some nightclubs and restaurants,
otherwise casual wear is acceptable.
In hotels, a service charge of 10 to 12 per cent is practised, which
may be added to the bill. 10 to 15 per cent is usual for restaurants
and it is often added to the bill, in which case a further tip is
not required. 10 to 15 per cent is also usual for taxi drivers and
hairdressers but this is not included in the bill. There is no legal
requirement to pay service charges that have been added to bills
and if the service has been unsatisfactory. Visitors should remember,
however, that in the UK wage levels for catering staff are set deliberately
low in the expectation that tips will make up the difference.
Due to the political situation in Northern Ireland, travellers should
take care when visiting certain parts of the main cities and the
border area. No problems should arise providing the visitor follows
local advice and avoids opinions on political or religious topics.