The turreted Scottish Baronial-style Belfast Castle stands high atop a promontory overlooking the city. It was built using the fast-diminishing funds of the third Marquess of Donegall, and the castle now serves as a restaurant, wedding reception site, and events venue. A visitor center in the basement chronicles the history of the castle and the surrounding Cave Hill Country Park with which it shares the hillside, while the ornamental gardens promise stellar views over Belfast City Centre and Belfast Lough.
Though most of the castle is now used as a restaurant and event venue, several key attractions on the estate keep visitors coming to this striking structure. Find the Cave Hill Visitor Centre in the basement, which tracks the human history of the hill, as well as the castle’s development. The spectacular grounds are an excellent place for a stroll, with the 1,200-foot (366-meter) tall McArt's Fort lookout providing sweeping views over Northern Ireland’s capital. A stop at the castle is included on most Belfast city sightseeing tours and hop-on hop-off bus tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear comfortable walking shoes so you can stroll around the park’s sloping paths.
- Enjoy a snack or light lunch during the day in the cellar restaurant or return for a multi-course dinner come evening.
- Bring the kids along to play in the award-winning Cave Hill Adventurous Playground, located within the castle estate.
- The site is wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The castle sits on the slopes of Cave Hill, northwest of the city center. Ample parking can be found on site. If you want to use public transport, take any Metro 1 bus route along the Antrim Road and allow for a 15-minute uphill walk to the entrance. Alternatively, hop-on hop-off Belfast tour buses drop off travelers closer to the castle.
When to Get There
Belfast Castle is open daily. The castle grounds are busiest on sunny summer weekends, with the playground being particularly busy during July and August. The Cave Hill Visitor Centre is open daily, Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 10pm and Sunday and Monday from 9am to 5:30pm.
The Cats of Belfast Castle
Visitors will find nine depiction of cats hidden among the castle’s ornamental gardens; some are mosaics, others are sculptures, while others are carefully crafted topiaries. These feline figures pay homage to the legend that castle residents will have good fortune as long as a cat—and ideally a white one—lives on the estate.