On a day trip from Dublin, we embarked upon a Belfast Black Cab Tour to try and find out what affect ‘The Troubles’ have had on modern day Belfast.
On the tour, we were stunned by the sight of huge separation barriers and shocked by the graphic portrayal of weapons on the sides of buildings. While Belfast is trying to shed the shackles of its violent past, it seems some neighbourhoods are still haunted by conflict.
A Very, Very Brief History of ‘The Troubles’
We’re certainly not going to attempt to explain the entirety of ‘The Troubles’ in this post. You can go to Wikipedia if you want a complete blow-by-blow-account. Instead, we’ll set the briefly set the scene.
The ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland known as ‘The Troubles’ saw over 3,500 people killed and over 50,000 people injured over three decades of shootings, bombings and other acts of aggression. In 1998, the signing of the “Good Friday Agreement” saw an end to the worst of the violence and laid the foundations of the peace process.
Today, Belfast is mostly at peace, but an air of mistrust and scepticism remains, as does, to some extent, the political and ethnic divide.
Our Belfast Black Cab Tour Experience
Our Belfast Black Cab Tour came as part of a larger day tour of Northern Ireland from Dublin. We chose to travel with Wild Rover Tours as they were the only tour operator we could find who offered a choice between visiting Titanic Belfast or a Belfast black cab tour.
Paul, our guide and driver, had experienced the violence first hand so was a fountain of harrowing knowledge. His frank and informed anecdotes were compelling and often jaw-dropping. Having lived in the area his whole life, he knew exactly where to take us to demonstrate how areas of Belfast still retains elements of its violent past.
We were shown the “peace line”, an enormous razor-wire-topped concrete and steel barrier that still separates mainly protestant ‘Loyalists’ residential areas from mainly catholic ‘Republican’ areas. We saw huge political murals on the sides of houses, some depicting masked gunmen and others showing portraits of people who were killed in the violence.
We stopped at an electronic security gate, flanked on either side by an array of CCTV cameras. Paul told us the gates were still potentially in use and would be closed in the event of any disquiet.
We were completely spellbound by the tour from beginning to end. It was shocking and truly fascinating to see Belfast, a constituent part of the UK, still caught in the throes of its violent past. At times, the tour felt edgy and uncomfortable. There was no escaping how odd it was to be viewing a living, breathing city through the lens of conflict.
Plan & Book your Belfast Black Cab Tour
Our Belfast black cab tour was a constituent part of a full day tour of Northern Ireland starting and finishing in Dublin, Ireland. The tour included visits to the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and a choice between visiting Titanic Belfast and a black cab tour.
Book your black cab tour separately
You can, of course, book a black cab tour separately and there are a handful of companies offering slight variations. While some tours will focus on the murals and others on politics, you will largely end up with a similar experience.
The best range of tours can be found on Viator*.