If you’ve never lived in East Belfast, there’s a fair chance you’ve fallen foul of a few common misconceptions about the far east.
The emergence of Ballyhackamore and Belmont Road as two of Northern Ireland’s top foodie destinations has helped attract positive focus on East Belfast, and there’s plenty more reasons to be cheerful.
We’re not saying you should go househunting in East Belfast this very second, maybe later tonight, but in the meantime here’s an insider’s guide to the area…
1. There’s a 43000 sq ft community centre on the Castlereagh Road. It’s called Tesco.
2. You can never get bored of the view of Belfast from the Castlereagh Hills.
3. East Belfast has got its own waterfalls. That’s right, waterfalls! You can find them in Cregagh Glen. Fortunately this hidden gem should become a more universally enjoyed and accessible place of natural beauty once the Connswater Greenway is completed.
4. Everyone in East Belfast has driven the Rocky Road once. Most never do it again.
5. The variety of eateries in East Belfast is astounding. It wouldn’t be uncommon to sample the cafe culture of the Belmont Road for a spot of brekkie or brunch, followed by a quick bite of lunch in the food court at Connswater Shopping Centre, then out for a fancy dinner and some drinks at an artisan location in Ballyhackamore. Or if you don’t fancy leaving the house you definitely won’t be stuck for a takeaway.
6. People in East Belfast support Chinese takeaways in the same way they support football teams. If you’ve pledged your allegiance to the Good Fortune, then the Ruby Star is out of bounds. In the same way that a Glentoran fan would not frequent the Linfield end at Windsor Park.
7. Spence’s chippy on the Beersbridge Road is amazing. Unfortunately it isn’t open very often, which makes their grub taste even better when you do find the shutters up.
8. While eating and drinking plays a big part of life in East Belfast, there’s also plenty of ways to burn off the calories. There’s a great selection of parks and green spaces like Victoria Park, Orangefield Park, Cherryville Park, Stormont Estate and the Connswater Greenway to name but a few.
9. Given the amount of bargain stores and charity shops on the Cregagh Road, it has the feel of a well-drilled car boot sale. Mixed in with some great local grocers, butchers, bakers and cafes, there is a real sense of community over on the Cregagh, by which we mean you can get your essentials (and some curios you didn’t even know you needed) without getting ripped off.
10. All roads lead to Forestside at weekends, which is why the locals go on weeknights when it’s open late and a lot more chilled.
11. Rather than go to war over which council body is responsible for the Robinson Centre, the locals would be much happier if the same effort was put into getting it open again. Surely it can’t take this long to get rid of a bit of asbestos?!
12. Culture comes in many different forms in East Belfast. There’s a very strong arts movement which is showcased once a year by Eastside Arts Festival who link up with such organisations as Creative Exchange Artists Studios who work throughout the year to promote the area through installations which draw on East Belfast’s rich past and bright future.
13. Everyone in East Belfast has a Van Morrison story, usually involving him being a grumpy sod.
14. CS Lewis was born at 47 Dundela Avenue. He didn’t have much of a back garden but there was plenty of room in his wardrobe.
15. It’s testament to East Belfast that two cinemas of such differing natures can co-exist in the same area – the Strand Arts Centre with its rich 80 year history and, just up the road, the Dundonald Omniplex which is complimented by a raft of family-friendly restaurants.
16. There’s a big emphasis on family in East Belfast and this is reflected with lots of adventurous activities for families to do including trampolining, indoor skiing, bowling, ice skating, as well as a number of kids’ clubs and soft play areas.
17. East Belfast has a proud sporting tradition. The greatest player ever to wear a Northern Ireland shirt was born in the Cregagh estate while just around the corner is the home of Ulster Rugby. People in East Belfast are so sporty that even those who don’t do any form of exercise wear tracksuits every day.
18. Every promising footballer in East Belfast has been compared to George Best. In fact, every average footballer in east Belfast has been compared to George Best as well, after trying to chat up the barmaid in the social club after the game.
19. Don’t be fooled by a few murals at the bottom of the Newtownards Road. East Belfast is really not that scary. Though the price of a cocktail in Ballyhackamore can be quite frightening.
20. If you ever lose your bearings in East Belfast the cranes will guide you home.