Can I ask why you were thinking of the Stormont in the first place? It wouldn't be one which features a lot on here as it is a bit out of the city centre. I think it is mainly a business/function hotel.
The Stormont is in the upper section of the Newtownards Road whereas the trouble has been at the lower Newtownards Road near the Short Strand area. At the moment the only issue might be buses being diverted.
To be honest, it is hard to imagine this going on until April. There is very, very little support for the protestors. You really are talking about that 0.01% of the population.
Hi ponaire. Only because that's the one recommended by the powers that be paying for the trip! I'm actually visiting to resource a course for the upper grades in NSW schools. Right now 2% of schools select the Irish History option and a lot of that choice has to do with the lack of resources relating to the topic in Australia, as it has been neglected for German and Cold War History for many years. Because we'll have a car with us it needed to be somewhere with free parking and obviously being close to bars etc wasn't such an issue.
I'm hoping the issues are done with by April of course, but it's a relief to know it probably isn't an issue with the location. We did assume it was a tiny amount of the population, but as you can imagine the Australian media do love to make things out to be horrific.
Was there somewhere else you would have recommended with free parking on site?
Free carparking is difficult to find. Do you know where you will be visiting? If you have meetings in Stormont or even the likes of Rathgael House in Bangor, I guess it makes sense to be based in the East of the city - and yes free carparking is rare.
For regular tourists, I like Tara Lodge - but it isn't a hotel as such (no bar) and the street it's in looks a bit run-down which does put people off. It would be a good 15 minute walk from there to the city centre. But very good service, good breakfasts and good rates. Plus a good selection of restaurants and bars within easy walking distance.
And it's not just the Australian media - don 't worry! Most of us think if the media would drop the story, things would start to quieten down. A development yesterday is that the UDA (a loyalist paramilitary party) have called for the protests to stop - although the UVF seems to be the ones behind it. But it shows that it has even divided the most hardline paramilitaries.
We are generally a very friendly lot over here so you will be welcomed!!
Meant to add that the Stormont would not be within walking distance of the city centre so if you had any free time and wanted to explore the city, you will need to get a bus or pay for expensive carparking in the city centre.
I don't mind so much about paying for parking, as I don't end up picking up the tab on this one (Sydney is the same, a fortune to park anywhere in the city!) and I've done what I suspect is the usual, booked a cab tour and am looking at the bus that goes around the city (I believe it is hop-on, hop-off, which I thought would be okay during the day, although the Australian media is claiming protests are happening from 2PM onwards. Like I said though, the Australian media does tend to get these things somewhat out of proportion!)
Just to add that the Stormont Hotel is a very good hotel in a quiet residential area of East Belfast. You will not see any trouble there although you will pass such areas if you get the bus into the city centre. There are other routes you can take if driving but I really hope this sorted by April.
The hotel is directly across the road from the assembly buildings and grounds. I can recommend the tour of Parliament Buildings of you have an interest in architecture or politics. Its also nice just to walk round the grounds. The 4A bus passes the hotel frequently all day with the last one leaving the city centre at 11pm. Journey time is roughly 15 minutes. I wouldn't be put off by its location if you are primarily there to work and the huge car park is a bonus.
I live halfway between the Stormont Hotel and the city centre and indeed work in Stormont Estate just across the road, so I can safely assure you there are no problems in the immediate area.
The only possible problem would be getting into the city centre at nighttime (or on Saturday afternoons maybe) if the roads were blocked. But the main problem area in the east of the city is generally about 3 miles down the road from your hotel and a whole world away. But even when there is a bit of trouble, there are still plenty of different roads you can take to get out of the area (e.g. the Sydenham Bypass).
If (God forbid) this nonsense is still going on during your trip and you plan to drive around in the evenings, make sure you have a sat nav, a city street map, or access to Google Maps so that you can plan around any trouble spots if necessary. If you're on Twitter, perhaps also follow @PSNIBelfast and/or @PoliceServiceNI who give regular updates on which areas to avoid (not just for this current bout of trouble but also road traffic accidents, etc - very useful!). If you're planning on using public transport, also follow @TranslinkMetro who give updates on the bus services cancelled/diverted.
Just also to say that there really is nothing much around the Stormont Hotel. If you're looking for restaurants for dinner etc in the evening, there is an area called Ballyhackamore about a mile down the road which has some lovely restaurants and plenty of on-street parking, so if you get fed up with the hotel restaurant there isn't always a need to go all the way into the city centre anyway. The roads between the Stormont Hotel and Ballyhack are blissfully quiet.
If you are wanting a relatively quiet trip - bit of work, bit of exploration, the Stormont as Scott says will work well. And Stormont grounds are nice for walks.
If you want to be in the city centre, want to go out at night, you might prefer the city centre to avoid getting bus/taxi back to your hotel at night but if you just want a base to explore as Scott says, the Stormont is absolutely fine:0
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