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Northern Ireland

Northern-Ireland

Great Destination:

4.5

Value for Money:

2

Total Stars:

6.5

Personality Types that Like it Best

Strongest ratings from Mid and Centric-Venturers, but ratings gains are evident from Centric-Authentics

Did you know … ?

  • St. Patrick died in Northern Ireland on March 17, in the year 461.
  • Amelia Earhart ended her historic solo Atlantic flight, in 1932, near Londonderry.
  • Bushmills in County Antrim is the world’s oldest licensed distillery (from 1608).
  • Londonderry is the only completely walled city in the British Isles.
  • “Gulliver’s Travels” author Jonathan Swift first made a living as a minister in Kilroot.

With a path for giants

Northern Ireland, a part of the U.K., is better known to many North Americans for past violence and not for what it has long been. It is one-sixth of the Emerald Isle with the same dramatic landscapes, turbulent history and friendly people that tourists encounter in the south. Also, a portion of North Americans with Irish ancestors look to Ulster to find their roots and their reason for traveling to Ireland.

Recovery from the time of “the troubles” has been bumpy since 1998 peace accords. Nevertheless, self-government has arrived and the number of tourists has grown.
Northern Ireland — known as Ulster, although the historic area of Ulster was larger — can deliver on lovely green scenery and a picturesque coastline, plus the iconic Irish lifestyle of cozy pubs with live entertainment, Irish foods, sports and theater.

The official language is mid-Ulster English; visitors also may hear Ullans, a form of Scots-Irish, a Celtic tongue unique to Ulster.  Northern Ireland’s Ulster-Scots culture reveals itself in music and dance. The forms include Highland dancing, Scottish country dancing and Ulster-Scots square and country dancing. The fiddle, fife, flute and Lambeg Drum are among the instruments providing the accompaniment.

Belfast and Londonderry are the best-known cities, Belfast because it is the capital and Londonderry for its mile long 17th century walls.

The capital city is noted for its excellent nightlife — the pubs, bars and nightclubs — as well as its restaurants, boutique hotels and shopping. Also, for ancestor-hunters, Belfast’s Public Records Office of Northern Ireland is key to researching those who were born or lived in Ulster.

Londonderry, attractive because of its walls and views across the River Foyle, also offers the award-winning Tower Museum, good restaurants, lively pubs and shopping.

Northern Ireland’s top attraction is Giant’s Causeway, a formation on its coast of mostly hexigonal basalt columns tightly packed together. The tops of the columns form stepping stones for a platform that extends about 300 yards along the coast and at one point about 500 feet into the sea.

Finally, St. Patrick’s remains are believed to be buried at Downpatrick Cathedral, County Down.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Stay in Ballygally Castle, which is believed to be haunted. The ghost is said to be Lady Shaw, who gets her kicks knocking on hotel room doors.
  • Suit up for scuba diving on the Atlantic coast of County Down. The season usually extends from March to October.
  • Challenge yourself. Take a multiday walk through Northern Ireland following several of Ulster’s Waymarked Ways. The routes, marked with the Waymarked Way symbol, cover 225 miles, and most routes take several days to complete. Guidebooks and maps for each are available at any tourist information center.
  • Make your own pot at Ballydougan Pottery in Craigavon, County Armagh. Or, tour the pottery maker’s operation and buy pieces made by the on-site experts.
  • Try your skills at archery or clay pigeon shooting at the Clearsky Adventure Centre on the Castle Ward Estate in County Down.
  • Get into the game at Jungle Paintball at Magherafelt in County Londonderry, or at any of a number of other paintball facilities in Northern Ireland.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Go deep-sea fishing off the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. Or fish for trout and salmon in the area’s rivers.
  • Take a torchlighted tour of the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, County Tyrone, at Halloween. Hear ghost stories and sample traditional Ulster and American fare such as bambrack, pumpkin and shoofly pie.
  • Buy a traditional Aran sweater. Wear it home.
  • Stop in at the Meeting House, a traditional pub in Ballygally, Country Antrim, for bar food, a beer garden — and Irish music on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons.
  • Go pony trekking. Or ride powerful Irish horses on the beach or in the forests. Or take riding lessons. There are numerous equestrian establishments to choose from.
  • Attend an Irish dancing workshop at the Clearsky Adventure Centre on the Castle Ward Estate in County Down. Or, more informally, grab any opportunity to try your skills at Highland dancing, square or country dancing.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Tour the Old Bushmills Distillery in the village of the same name, in County Antrim.
  • Have a meal in a historic establishment, such as the Downshire Arms, a Georgian coaching inn built in 1816, located in Banbridge, County Down. The town was a coach stop on the route between Belfast and Dublin. Or, look in at Harrys Bar, a traditional pub, also in Banbridge.
  • Take a factory tour in the home of Belleek porcelain in the town of the same name in County Fermanagh. Buy Belleek pieces to carry, or ship, home.
  • Go shopping on Lisburn Road in Belfast, described as a shopper’s mecca.
  • Ride the Drumawhey Junction Railway miniature train at Donaghadee in County Down. The track, of less than a mile, includes bridges, embankments, gradients and a tunnel. The rides, operated by the Belfast and County Down Miniature Railway Society, are available on a limited schedule determined by the availability of volunteers.
  • Get thee to Giant’s Causeway and be amazed at Mother Nature’s ways.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Tourism Ireland at www.ireland.com