Ulternative Alster Fan Club
Away Supporter's Guide to Belfast
Home of the Ulster provincial rugby since 1923 Ravenhill belongs to the IRFU and, as well as housing the current professional Ulster Rugby team, it is also plays host to numerous provincial Club and schools rugby competitions including the final of the second oldest rugby tournament in the world - the Ulster Schools cup.
Up until the 1950’s Ravenhill was in regular use for Irish internationals, sharing the honour with Lansdowne Road. Since then the ever more stringent legislation has restricted capacity from a peak of more than 30,000 to the current 12,300 and the IRFU has concentrated it’s resources on developing Lansdowne Road in Dublin as the main international ground. In recent years Ravenhill has only been used for ‘A’ games and age grade international rugby.
These days Ravers is looking a little tired and is due for a much needed redevelopment programme ( which is promised to begin in the next year or so - though how many times we have been promised that are beyond most fan’s ability to count!). However, on match nights there is an unmistakable buzz around the place and the old girl really comes alive. Facilities are limited in range at the moment but perfectly adequate for most rugby fan’s requirements. At one end of the ground is the all important Beer tent providing Harp, Guinness and occasionally Heineken on draft as well as soft drinks wine and hot Whiskey/Port. Service in the Beer tent is reasonably swift but it can take time to fight through the throng to actually get at the bar. On either side of the beer tent are the hot food facilities providing burgers, hot dogs and chips.
How to get here?
Most visitors fly to one of our two world class airports.
The conveniently located
Easyjet – Easyjet fly from Belfast International Airport to Bristol , Edinburgh Glasgow, London , Paris and more.
Flybe – Flybe fly from Belfast City to Birmingham , Bristol , Edinburgh , Glasgow , London , Toulouse , Perpignan and more.
Bmi Baby – bmibaby fly from Belfast International to Birmingham , Cardiff and more.
Ferry connections link Cairnryan and Stranraer in Scotland to Larne and Belfast and provide a short and frequent service getting you to Northern Ireland in under 2 hours
Stena Ferries – Stena cross from Belfast to Stranraer, Dublin to Holyhead and Rosslaire to Fishguard.
P&O Ferries - Cairnryan to Larne and Dublin to Liverpool
Northern Ireland’s limited rail network connects to CIE’s much more extensive one and enables the more adventurous traveller (such as our very own HolywoodMike) to roam the Rugby venues of Ireland at their leisure.
OK I’ve made it to Belfast - now what?
Ravenhill is in East Belfast tucked away in leafy suburbia and about 1.5 miles form the City Centre. If you’re travelling by car on match nights you are probably best to use the park‘n’ride service because there are severe parking restrictions in the vicinity of the Ravenhill Ground. Ulster Rugby operates two free of charge Park 'n' Ride facilities on match days:
1) The Ozone Centre (Ormeau Embankment)
(You can contact Ulster Rugby with any queries on the Park and ride facility at 028 9049 3222)
Alternatively you could take the Metro Bus service - 6A takes you from the City Hall up the Cregagh Road, you need to get off at Bellsbridge and then walk up Onslow Parade. Better still a Taxi will take you direct from the city centre to the ground for around a fiver.
Where to stay?
There are a host of Hotels and B&Bs available in Belfast and the surrounding area. For maximum enjoyment you should probably plan to stay in and around the South Belfast/City Centre area to be right in the heart of the City’s night life. Try here for a more comprehensive guide.
Hotels - Top of the range:-
You could try the Europa Hotel on Great Victoria St. - once best known for being the most bombed hotel in Europe, the Europa is ideally placed for the City centre Bars and Restaurants.
Hilton. Right beside the Waterfront Concert Hall , part of the Laganside re-development breathing new life into the city along the river Lagan. Everything you expect from one of the worlds biggest hotel chains
Hotels - for the more modest :-
Madisons: Right in the thick of the action on Botanic Avenue. Just across the road from the Empire Music Hall. Madisons has hosted a number of Ulster Rugby Supporters club events and is definitely a rugby friendly hotel.
Malone Lodge: Not far from the Bot and the Eg (see pubs section) Comfortable and good value.
Days Hotel: Hope St. Really convenient for Great Victoria St and the “Golden Mile”
Bed & Breakfast:-
(Can’t speak for any of these as I’ve never been inside them)
Kates B&B - University St 028 9028 2091
Helga Lodge - Cromwell Road 028 9032 4820
Tara Lodge - Cromwell Road 028 9059 0900
Jury’s Inn: 028 9053 3500
Hilton: 028 9027 7000
Malone Lodge : 028 9038 8000
Madison’s : 028 9050 9800
The Europa: 028 9027 1066
Days Hotel: 028 9024 2494
What else to do when you get here?
Pubs and Clubs :
There’s not much to offer within walking distance of Ravenhill, but two venues stand out as worthy of consideration:-
Just a short stagger from Ravenhill across the Cregagh Road at Gibson Park Avenue Malone Rugby Club is famous for extending a warm welcome to visiting fans and is always worth a visit Before and after the match. Cheap drink and a good rugby crowd.
The Rosetta Bar on Rosetta road is within walking distance of the Mount Merrion gate and is a frequent venue for Ulster fans on Celtic League nights when Ulster are playing a way. The Rosie has two bars and offers punters a choice of sports on a variety of TV screens.
The Crown: Possibly Belfast’s most famous bar. Opposite the Europa Hotel and worth a visit just to see this Victorian Bar as it used to be complete with Gas lamps and Snugs.
The Bot & The Eg: These two bars stand opposite each other on the Malone road and have been the haunt of countless generations of students. Both have a lively crowd at weekends. The Bot is a good venue for sport sitting back on a Saturday afternoon and watching sport while sinking a few beers.
The Apartment - Donegall Square, One of a host of newer bars in the city centre, a great place to pose on winters evenings while watching the crowds of shoppers milling around the City Hall.
Bar Bacca - Franklin St and Irene and Nans - Brunswick St. Two more of Belfasts recent trendy additions - worth a visit though.
The Northern Whig - Bridge Street. One of my favourites. Bizarrely the Whig features a number of Traditional Communist statues liberated from the Russion states following the fall of the iron curtain.
Café Vaudeville: The new latest place to be seen in the City Centre. This used to be a banking hall and has been resurrected as an opulent Café/Bar retaining many of the features of the bank but very more likely to relieve you of your cash than lend you some.
The PottHouse - Hill St: A purpose built Bar and Nightclub complex in the Cathedral Quarter. Bar and Restaurant on the ground floor are separated from the “Sugar Room” night club by a Glass ceiling/floor - choose your clothing carefully!
The John Hewitt - Donegall St. A more traditional pub which hosts frequent folk music sessions. Certainly one for those with an interest in connecting with a bit of local culture.
The Empire:- For the last 20 years or so the Empire, on Botanic Avenue, has been bringing Belfast some of the finest music and comedy 7 nights a week.
Spring and Airbrake - Ormeau Avenue: Good venue for Live Music if you’ve any energy left after the game.
The area from Queens University down through Bradbury Place, Shaftsbury Square and down Great Victoria Street and the Dublin Road is know as the Golden Mile and contains numerous Restaurants, Café’s and Pubs serving food. You’re bound to find something here to suit every palate and wallet. Here are a few suggestions.
Good food at a reasonable price:-
Ba soba - Hill Street: noodle based cuisine from S.E. asia. Recently refurbished from a plain Japanese style noodle bar to broaden appeal and extend the range of food include a range of south Eastern influences.
Speranza - Shaftbury Square. One of the first restaurants on the Golden Mile Speranza has been feeding Students Pasta and Pizza for more than 20 years.
Ginger - Hope St. One of the newest additions to the Golden Mile. Contemporary Bistro style restaurant specialises in fresh fish.
Top of the range:-
Deane’s Howard Street. Choice of the Brasserie on the ground floor or the A la Carte Restaurant above; some of the best food you’re likely to find in Belfast . See here for more info.
Roscoff - Paul Rankin’s newly resurrected restaurant. Now in Linenhall St. Definitely not the set for Ready Steady cook. Expect to be well fed and leave pounds lighter. See here for more info.
Black Taxi Tours & Sightseeing bus: Loads of taxi companies offer a Black Taxi tour of the City’s landmarks including the Peace line, the Shankhill and Falls roads etc. stopping at may key sites of the troubles and giving you a first hand look at the many murals with a bit of local history thrown in. Just ask at your hotel for their recommendation Or you could try the Open-topped Sightseeing Bus
Pub tour - I was going to recommend the Bailey’s Pub tours but they only run from May to October, although groups may be accommodate all year round by appointment - call 028 9268 3665.
The Odyssey, on the Banks of the Lagan - is the home to numerous clubs, bars and restaurants as well as the Bambu Beach night-club and the Belfast Giant’s Ice-Hockey Arena.
What to avoid….
I thoroughly recommend you steer clear of the annual Grand Opera House Panto - not that it is any worse than any other pantomime, I just can’t be doing with all that “behind you!” stuff. Apart from that Belfast is like many other Cities, South Belfast and the city centre are where most of the action is, and you are generally safer there than most UK Cities but it is better to keep away from the wilder parts unless you are accompanied by some friendly locals.
Some of our local entertainers such as May McFetteridge are an acquired taste and many locals still haven’t acquired it! However, if you like your men dressed as women of advancing years give it a go!