Belfast is the largest city in Northern Ireland, and, reflecting its pre-eminence in matters economic and political, it is also the capital of the country. Down the centuries it has been renowned as a centre for industries such as linen production, rope-making and ship-building, and the role it has played as a major UK metropolis is apparent in the imposing architecture on display along virtually every street.
Although the city boasts a rich and fascinating past, it is present day Belfast that draws over seven million visitors from around the world every year. A large student population and robust tourist infrastructure combine to create a buzz of culture, art and the traditional Irish great night out. There are hotels throughout the city centre, offering the widest possible range of accommodation. Depending on your budget, the size of your party and what you’re visiting for, you can choose between simple backpacker hostels, luxury 5 star hotels and traditional family-run guesthouses.
Sport in Belfast
One aspect of Belfast life that attracts a fair number of the seven million visitors is the sporting activity on offer. There are 14 golf courses within the city boundaries as well as the chance to experience a range of watersports in nearby Strangford Lough and Lough Neagh, or take to the surrounding hills and mountains on foot, mountain bike or horseback.
The Belfast Oval
If you’re feeling less energetic and wish to enjoy sport in Belfast as a spectator, then book a hotel room in the centre of the city and make your way to the Belfast Oval. This is a traditional football ground in east Belfast, close to both the city centre and George Best Belfast City Airport. It is home to Glentoran FC and has a capacity of 10,000 people.
How to Find the Belfast Oval
Finding the Belfast Oval is simple as, in common with so many other traditional football grounds, it is located in the heart of an inner city residential area, on Mersey Street. The cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard are visible from the seats at the top of West Stand. The ground is viewed by football fans as being a hugely traditional venue, consisting of two main stands along either side of the pitch and curved standing terraced areas at either end, of the type which have all but disappeared elsewhere.
When to Visit the Belfast Oval
The UK football season runs between August and May, and admission prices to watch a home match are cheap compared with those for premiership matches. Even if you visit Belfast during the close season, it’s worth visiting the Belfast Oval for a glimpse of the type of football ground that used to be found all over the UK, as well as the chance to purchase a gift or souvenir in the club shop.
Reaching the Belfast Oval
The easiest way to travel from your hotel to Belfast Oval is to drive, taking the M3 across the River Lagan and away from the city centre, before exiting onto the A2 and taking Sydenham Road directly to Mersey Street. An alternative is to take a train from Belfast Central to the Titanic Quarter stop, a three-minute journey that leaves you just a 10 minute walk from the ground.