John Goodall paid a visit to Belfast's recently-opened Titanic Hotel, a place full of clever themed touches to celebrate the ill-fated ocean liner.
It would be hard to imagine a more unexpected setting for a new hotel than an industrial estate. Yet such is the case with the Titanic Hotel, opened last year in Belfast’s dockyard and quayside area, now known as the Titanic Quarter.
The hotel occupies the former headquarters of the Harland and Wolff, the celebrated firm that constructed the Titanic. This handsome brick building preserves some original fittings and its two lofty drawing offices of the 1880s have respectively been converted into a bar and entertainment space.
The internal decoration is full of references to the Titanic, with decorative details copied from the ill-fated ship, completed in 1912, and even some furniture from the workshops that fitted it out.
The setting of the hotel does not provide conventionally beautiful views (my room overlooked an office car park), though on a clear morning the setting, overshadowed by the great cranes Sampson and Goliath and the surrounding mountains, has a certain splendour.
Instead, the hotel is perfectly positioned to visit the Titanic Experience. This in turn stands at the head of the dry-dock, (now in-filled) where the hull of the Titanic was laid down.
Things to do
Immediately opposite the hotel entrance is Titanic Belfast, a landmark building on a star-shaped plan by Eric Kuhne and Associates that opened in 2012.
It incorporates a visitor experience that presents the story of the Titanic, it’s construction, fitting out, sinking and rediscovery. Also moored nearby is the surviving tender of the Titanic, SS Nomadic.
Moored in close proximity to the hotel is HMS Caroline, the sole surviving veteran of the Battle of Jutland.
HMS Caroline was restored in 2016, and Country Life reported on it at the time, calling it “a floating history lesson” on the First World War, Ulster, Britain and the decline of the Empire.
“By the time of her decommissioning, it was becoming clear quite what a rarity Caroline was,” wrote Harry Mount.
“Over the previous century, the other 224 ships that survived Jutland had been sunk or scrapped. Only Caroline was left.
What a fitting monument she is to the most important naval battle of the First World War—a monument, too, to the sailors who fought and died in that and other conflicts.”
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