Belfast & Causeway Coast named as the top region in the world to visit in 2018
World travel guide, Lonely Planet, has selected our wee country as the best region to visit and to be honest, I’m shook
Yep, you read that right. Somehow, magically, Belfast has been voted the best region in the world to visit in 2018. My first guess is they've glanced into a crystal ball and caught a glimpse of a Northern Ireland we haven't came in contact with yet, but that's just being cynical.
Truthfully, this news should fill us with extreme pride. When you compare the grey skies of Northern Ireland with the deep blues of the Aeolian Islands of Italy, another region on the list, we don't immediately stand out as a summer destination. However, this proves that unlike a lot of other popular places, the beauty of our country isn't reliant on the sun.
Every day thousands of people brave the cold and rain to visit the Giant's Causeway, walk along the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and watch a bit of Game of Thrones re-enactment in Ballintoy, aka the Iron Islands port. Don't ask me why they do this – let's just be glad they do.
It's not only the natural beauty of our landscapes that draws tourists here, but our violent history too. Everyone loves a horror story, and here we have plenty. Lonely Planet lists Titanic Belfast as one of the top places to visit while you're here, and the Troubles tours also get a mention.
It would seem that Kit Harington was right about Northern Ireland tourism, when he joked in 2015 that we "celebrate three things, which is having the most bombed hotel in Europe, which is great… and they built the Titanic, which is a ship that sunk on it's maiden voyage and now they have Game of Thrones, the most depressing TV show in history. So it's a wonderful, depressing tourist board."
Harington may have a point, although I would argue it's not his place to make comments on a country that is trying to rebuild and rebrand itself on the world's stage after thirty plus years of conflict.
Evidently, capitalising on the depressing side of our history is working, and who are we to deny the people what they want? People from all over the world continue to flock to Belfast, so we must be pretty likeable. Be it our cheery faces or always-up-for-it craic, the world can't resist a few days with us. That is, until they realise how small the place is and catch a flight the hell out of here.