It can be easy to forget that we live on the same island that once produced the largest moving object ever made by man, that generations of Harland & Wolff workers forged Belfast's reputation as the engineering capital of the world, and that its most famous ship – the Titanic – would go on to inspire the first film to break the billion-dollar mark at the box office.
So it's fitting that the Titanic Hotel and visitor attraction in Belfast was a world-leading tourist destination before they opened their doors, in 2017 and 2012 respectively.
I was invited to sample the full Titanic experience, spending a night in the stunning hotel and paying a visit to the museum just 200m away from the front door. Bringing along a Titanic fanatic friend for the ride (and earning major brownie points in the process), we set off for a truly immersive staycation.
Housed in the former Harland & Wolff headquarters, a looming red brick building that appears deceptively compact, the Titanic Hotel is a masterclass in bringing history into the present.
An elegant and modern redesign makes the most of the majestic bones of the building, while gentle nods to the area's shipbuilding heritage come through in the bolted doors, antique advertisements for White Star Line ships, oceanic colour scheme and industrial-inspired fixtures. Every room was a lesson in taking a theme and not making it gaudy.
Our room was the same blend of nautical and cosy, with twin double beds and a view over the Titanic Quarter. After a few sneaky mirror selfies, we were off to the museum, with a warning from my friend that she may cry in the first 10 minutes.
It's a monumental task, explaining the origin, construction and demise of an icon ship and in ways that set it apart from the many films and shows that have been made, but Titanic Belfast succeeds massively.
The museum is sectioned into multiple rooms that deep dive into everything from how the ship was drawn up and the kinds of technology that was used, to how Titanic was launched and how it was found once again, with immersive video displays, reconstructed rooms and more making each section feel dynamic.
If you're looking for relics from the ship, however, you will be disappointed – Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who discovered the shipwreck, has said he will not be a part of any museum that displays items taken from what he considers a grave site.
Even my Titanic-fanatic friend agreed this was a fair point, and besides the museum has more than enough to excite guests.
What the Titanic museum really excels at, however, is continuing the story, delving into the stories of those lost, the horror of being a family member searching for a loved one, the testimonies of survivors and the media frenzy and disinformation that gripped the world as it tried to grieve.
The Sinking room is particularly moving, as morse code messages begging for help from Titanic are displayed across the walls and recordings of survivors are played throughout the room.
We left humbled and shaken anew, but not before getting in our Jack-and-Rose moment on the outline of where Titanic was built, right in the grounds of the museum.
A quick costume change later and we arrived for dinner at the Wolff Grill, the elegant dining room of the Titanic Hotel. Our table was set up in the Chief Draughtsman's Office, a small wooden office that were installed in every department of the Harland & Wolff offices and that was moved specially into the restaurant.
There's something about a small enclosed space that incites mischief, so we dove into dinner with maybe a little too much gusto. The restaurant prides itself on its elegant and contemporary dishes made using local ingredients, and they certainly should. Each item on the menu was composed with enough care and consideration to impress the restaurant's namesakes.
We went for the mozzarella with crispy artichoke and pear, and scallops with cod brandade and girolles for starters. The mozzarella was pillow-soft with just the right amount of pull, while the juicy pear complemented it perfectly.
We followed that with venison with braised red cabbage and whiskey blackberries, and halibut with noodles and crab salad. The venison was tender and served medium rare on a bed of rich cabbage and boozy blackberries – winter indulgence on a plate.
Speaking of indulgence, when faced with the dessert menu we couldn't be tasked with choosing just one each, so we took our inspiration from the ambitions of the Titanic and ordered four: seasonal pumpkin cheesecake, a vanilla crème brûlée, mascarpone and rum parfait and chocolate ganache with pistachio shortcrust.
Don't ask me to pick a favourite, but the vanilla crème brûlée was a thing of beauty, with a decent burnt sugar crust and flakey shortcrust biscuits on the side to scoop up the luscious custard.
It was a wonder we'd want to eat again after that, but we dutifully pulled ourselves together for breakfast the next morning, if only for the renowned Belfast potato bread on offer. Crisp and chewy at the same time, it trumps a hash brown in my opinion.
Though I love a theme, some may feel that themed hotels can feel too gaudy to be enjoyed, but the Titanic Hotel is a remarkable testament to the heritage of Belfast's shipping industry, and a tastefully immersive dip into history. Pairing it with a trip to the museum only hammers home the importance of having a space like this, and is a welcome refresher on a story we think we know well.
We stayed in the Titanic Hotel Belfast, for one night, as invited guests for purpose of review. We stayed on the Dinner, Bed and Breakfast package which starts from £209/€250 per room. Our breakfast and evening meal were also included, as well as entrance to the Titanic visitor centre.
They also offer the Complete Titanic Experience package which is bed and breakfast with 2 tickets to Titanic Belfast, starting at £169/€200 per room.