The pro snowboarder on her favourite places to eat, drink and have fun in Belfast and on the Northern Irish coast
I moved to Belfast when I was 16. I’m only here about four months a year, but it definitely feels like home. I love flying in, seeing the sea and all the houses. It’s small enough that you can see where all your friends live.
Belfast’s big thing is the Titanic Experience (titanicbelfast.com). The ship was built here and the visitor centre is one of Ireland’s most popular attractions. I usually avoid touristy places – my Dad’s been trying to get me to go to the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum for years without success – but everyone loves the Titanic.
People here are really friendly and connected to nature. We’re surrounded by sea, farms and fields, and folk like to buy local produce. St George’s Market (belfastcity.gov.uk/tourism-venues/stgeorgesmarket) on Saturdays is the place to go for Northern Irish fish, meat and cheese.
I like to run up Cave Hill in the morning. It’s made of basalt and has an awesome view – you can see the whole of the Belfast Lough and, on a clear day, the Isle of Man and Scotland, too. Then I go to the Avoca Cafe on Arthur Street for breakfast. It does the best porridge, and great coffee, smoothies and scones.
Another good breakfast spot is Maggie Mays on Botanic Avenue, especially for the Ulster Fry. It’s like a regular fry-up but it includes soda and potato bread. Carb overload!
The Cathedral Quarter is a cool place to go in the evening. My favourite bar is The Spaniard. The seafood tapas is popular but I’m all about the pulled pork. And they do good vodka cocktails.
Belfast nightlife isn’t super-messy but there are places to avoid. Thompsons, where I was last night, say … it’s a very young crowd.
The best music venue is the Ulster Hall as it’s good-looking but tiny, so you really feel part of the show. Big bands play there – I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers a couple of years ago.
Don’t just hang out in Belfast. Go to nearby Holywood, on Belfast Lough, for a blast of nature. In winter, it’s nice to walk along the beach and then warm up in one of the coffee shops. Homebird is my boyfriend’s Mum’s cafe, so I have an interest, but it does amazing waffles. The Dirty Duck is a cool locals’ pub.
The cycling around Belfast is amazing. There’s a 100-mile loop we do down the Ards peninsula, past empty beaches, across on the ferry at Portaferry, back up the other side of the lough, through the city, up Black Mountain and back. Coast, city and mountain all in one ride. You can also go on more mellow guided bike tours around Belfast.
It does snow occasionally, and when it does we go to Stormont (niassembly.gov.uk). Yep, the government building! It has really good hills alternating with flats so you can build up quite a bit of speed. We don’t build kickers; we just ride on the picnic tables! There’s a dry slope in Craigavon but I’ve only been there once. They wouldn’t let me get the rails out so I’ve never been back.
The Northern Irish surf scene is super-small but friendly. We go to Portrush, an hour north of Belfast, to surf at West or East Strand, depending on the conditions – you’ll need a 5mm wetsuit in winter. Be sure to swing by the Giant’s Causeway, seven miles to the east, while you’re on the north coast.
The exact location of my favourite beach is a secret. But it’s in between Crawfordsburn and Bangor. Helen’s Bay gets super-rammed in summer but this spot is always quiet. There’s a concrete dock you can jump and fish off, and the views are immense.
If you want somewhere central to stay the Ten Square Hotel is a good bet.