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TITANIC 2018: Of all the things to do in Belfast you MUST see the Titanic museum | Short & City breaks | Travel | Express.co.uk

Titanic Belfast

Unsinkable: The Titanic Belfast will remain the toast of Belfast for many years to come (Image: Titanic Belfast)

Two working ports, perhaps not quite in full flood, but still all gantries and cranes and imposing vessels filled with grapefruits and iPhones and cheap underpants and lord knows what else and all on that overblown scale which makes everything feel slightly surreal. Especially in the light of a 7am dawn sunrise.

And then there’s the big, no, colossal, elephant in the room inextricably linking these two proud, honest towns for all of the rest of history – RMS Titanic.

Registered in the Port of Liverpool, built by maritime engineers Harland and Wolff in the Port of Belfast, and now one of the world’s deepest graveyards two and a half miles below the north Atlantic waves about 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

The Titanic, the world’s biggest, most prestigious ship, so safe she really didn’t see the need to bother with lifeboats, went down on April 15, 1912, after colliding with an iceberg. She took with her 1,500 souls, long since reclaimed by the sea.

It is the disaster which refuses to go away.

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There have been infinitely greater disasters. The 1931 floods in China left four million dead, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami claimed 240,000, and in 1987 the Philippine ferry Dona Paz went down with 4,386 on board. But these seem barely a footnote in humanity’s history compared with Titanic.

The Titanic legend persists and persists, as a monument to both human hubris and human frailty (and perhaps the inverse relationship of the two). It is Macbeth’s vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself in 53,000 tons of plate steel and rivets.

It’s not just a big ship, it’s a memento mori.

Which is perhaps why Belfast’s Titanic exhibition (Titanic Belfast) is so utterly mesmerising and enthralling.

Liverpool by dawn

Liverpool by dawn: Port city is intrinsically linked to Belfast and Titanic (Image: Paul Baldwin)

I took the kids as I thought it might be a vaguely improving hour for them.

We spent actually three and half gripping, fascinating, and even emotional hours – and would have stayed longer if the night watchman hadn’t pointed out that the place had closed 30 minutes earlier and what were we doing there anyway?

Titanic Belfast

Titanic scale: The rudder and screw of RMS Titanic replicated in Belfast (Image: Titanic Belfast)

It’s hard to convey just how good this exhibition is. On a physical level it’s brilliantly laid out so you keep moving and the exhibits change around you without ever getting the feeling you’re being pushed along. The staff, many in character, are beautifully informed and seem genuinely proud of their shipbuilding heritage (Harland and Wolff of course is still very much the maritime giant just the other side of dock).

Titanic cabin

A night to remember: Titanic interiors are painstakingly rebuilt (Image: Titanic Belfast)

It is that strange sense of intermingled deep pride and profound tragedy which powers this exhibition. And it is best summed up in the faltering final communications from the Titanic’s wireless telegraph, at first casually defiant, then increasingly desperate and finally quietly accepting.

Belfast is a city break with loads to offer but to be honest it’s worth a weekend here for this exhibition alone.

The Titanic Experience, 1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast.

Tickets from 18.50, 8.00 child 45.00 family.

Kate Winslet topless?

Topless Titanic: Surely that’s not Kate Winslet topless?! (Image: Titanic Belfast)

How to get there from mainland Britain: There’s something quite glorious about sailing majestically into the port of Belfast – not quite Titanic, but a brilliant way to arrive.

Stena Line run two sailings to Belfast a day – morning and overnight – and prices start at £79. We’d advise booking yourself a ‘comfort’ suite taking the 10.30pm sailing, bedding down for the night and waking up in Northern Ireland.

(Of course if you live in Northern Ireland you can just jump in the car!)

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