“ Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and covers 5,459 square miles (14,139 km²) in the northeast of the island of Ireland, about a sixth of the total area of the island. It has a population of 1,685,000 (April 2001) between a quarter and a third of the island's total population. It consists of six counties situated within the province of Ulster, and in the UK is generally known as one of its four Home Nations, forming a constituent country of the United Kingdom. Some of these terms have controversial implications in relation to political ideologies concerning the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. As an administrative division of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland was defined by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and has had its own form of devolved government in a similar manner to Scotland and Wales. The Northern Ireland Assembly is, however, currently in suspension. „
The troubles were bad. There, now that we've gotten that out of the way we can get down to business.
I live in Northern Ireland, and no amount of penicillin will ever cure that. Having lived here for over a quarter of a century I think I've developed a keen sense of what this country is about, not to mention a thick coat of fur on the palms of my hands and an unyielding yearning for curry chips. My experiences, as varied and as adventurous as many of them have been, have all in their own ways left me with a profound and, frankly, welcome awareness of my own mortality. I've also learnt quite a lot about the human condition via my experiences in these six counties, and what it smells like when drenched in blue WKD and vomit.
~ [ Tourist Attractions ] ~
The Giant's Causeway is probably the main attraction here, and it's so dazzling and wondrous that I've never bothered to travel the 20-odd miles from my house to go and see it. If I want to see numerous hexagonal formations in one location I'll raid my piggy bank and count the 50p pieces. Incidentally, here's a little bit of trivia for you about the 50 pence piece. It was developed in Northern Ireland by a consortium of clergymen representing various faiths, so that wrenching the coins out of the hands of the poor would require little more than a spanner. True story.
Someone once characterised the Giant's Causeway as being a place worth seeing, but not worth going to see. Volcanic protuberances being photographed by schoolchildren may satisfy the discerning tastes of certain geologists, but for the rest of us there's more interesting formations happening every day in our very own vegetable crispers. I'll bet you've never seen a black carrot! I have, and it was delicious. At least that's what I wrote on my toilet wall in orange crayon during the ensuing fever; an experience probably more enjoyable than the bus trip to the Causeway.
If the Giant's Causeway doesn't intrigue the b'Jaysus outta you there are several guided tours which take you around areas of Belfast showing you where people met their demise via the quick and sudden absorption of lead. I'm not kidding - death tours are a reality here, although they're characterised as historical tours of "the troubles", but no one wants to see the outside of the Stormont buildings or the marching routes of the NICRA - they wanna see blood stains. I'm not entirely sure who goes on theses tours, or what the locals think when they see buses packed with tourists rolling into their streets taking snapshots of the bullet holes, but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought of going on one myself. You know, just for the crack.
Ahhh yes, the crack. If you see that word spelled "craic" you are allowed - and in fact legally obliged - to inflict grievous bodily harm on the writer. The word craic was created during the 70s, because it sounded more Irishy, and that's a fact. Borderline racist, I'm sure you'll agree (and if you don't, that makes you a racist too. HA!). Anyone with even a moderate grasp of Irish language and culture will either laugh or grind their teeth with frustration when you spell it that way in their presence. The word is "crack", and there's plenty of it in Northern Ireland (I blame Burger King). I've often wondered about the legendary sense of humour the Irish are said to possess. It seems more likely to be an illusion; when you're talking to an Irishman there's just more to laugh at.
If you are coming here to enjoy the night-life or to mingle with the local population in its natural habitat - the pub - I strongly recommend...nay, I implore you to at least have one contact who lives here and will show you the ropes. A few tips from yours truly:
1. If you are brought to a windowless pub with a big metal cage on the front door which has to be opened by a bouncer after a radio conversation between you and said bouncer takes place, and after you are asked to stare intently at the CCTV camera for a few seconds, you'd be better off heading to the KFC for a Zinger burger instead.
2. If, when you walk into a pub, you experience that classic Western movie scene where everyone goes quiet and stares at you, might I recommend playing a few rounds of bowling at the leisure centre instead?
3. If you're in a night-club with pounding dance music, and if the majority of the occupants are luminous, and someone asks you if you're interested in a bit o' crack in the gents'...yeah...that could go wrong in so many ways.
4. If you're feeling peckish after a hard night's boozing and spot some sort of fast food conveyance in the street, on its own, with puddles of sick beneath the serving window, I'd suffer the hunger. It's not that I'm trying to put N. Irish fast food down or anything, but when Saddam Hussein puts in a £3,000,000,000 order for Big Pat's cheesy chips you know something's not quite right.
Have you ever seen the movie "Titanic"? If you would like to visit the shipyard where the ship which inspired it was built - you know, so you can fling DVD copies of the movie at the locals as some sort of compensation for the three hours you lost - there is a guided tour in Belfast which will take you there. I'm not exactly sure what the tour consist of. "Hello, welcome to Derek's Awesome Tours. See that building over there with the water around it? That's where the Titanic was built. That'll be three quid."
The largely untouched landscape which surrounds pretty much every industrialised area in Northern Ireland is breathtaking. I live in an area which lies between straight-up rural farmland and town centres with Lidls, and the scenery is worth experiencing first-hand. If you enjoy relaxing walks/rambles and don't mind the smell of cow pie, you're in for a treat. There are areas which are organised solely with ramblers in mind, and while I've never been on a ramble except for mandatory school charity events (damn you, needy children!) I've only ever heard good things about them. Of all of the clichés the Irish have endured over the centuries this is one that I feel is justified.
If you do decide to come here as a tourist of some description I'd highly recommend NOT coming during the summer months, because the summer is Northern Ireland's "silly season". Orange Order marches are always contentious and regularly break out in rioting when they find themselves walking along largely Catholic marching routes. It really depends on where you're staying and who you are staying with, but I'd just play it safe and book a winter holiday instead.
~ [ The People ] ~
As is the case in all corners of the globe, poverty and depression tends to breed violence, mistrust and the mass production of sovereign rings. Steer clear of areas which are known to suffer from social deprivation unless you are ingratiated into them by an insider, i.e. me. Imagine you are being introduced to the tribes of the Amazon; it's customary to bring offerings by way of friendship and to show your peaceful intentions. Anything from the local off-licence is generally acceptable, and fried confectionery will only sweeten the deal. Hey, my first pun!
In all honesty the vast majority of people here, including the teenagers (most of whom are emos anyway), are approachable and friendly. Talking politics - Irish politics, that is - is probably best kept for intimate conversations with close friends. Walking around council estates on a Friday night isn't a good idea no matter where you live, but there's nothing extraordinary about the head-cases here as compared to those of anywhere else. Just apply the same reasoning you would in your own towns and estates. The last I heard Northern Ireland had the lowest crime rate in the entire British Isles, even during the height of the troubles! So, you can safely leave your mace at home.
~ [ Politics ] ~
Those of you who remember the hilarious Monty Python's Flying Circus war re-enactment sketches already understand all there is to know about Northern Irish politics. Finding a moderate politician with any substantial support here is like trying to find Matt Lucas in a salad bar.
~ [ Cuisine ] ~
Northern Irish cuisine, as you can probably imagine if you have some understanding of how Northern Ireland came to be its own country, consists of elements of both Irish and British culinary principles. That is, the worst of both worlds. Unless you pop in to one of the numerous overpriced trendy bistros which dot the country for a croissant you'll be enjoying the taste of chip fat with every single meal, with the exception of potato and soda bread, the best things the Irish have come up with since Dr. Frank Partridge invented the portable defibrillator. These two breads are traditional Irish concoctions which would give any baguette a run for its money, and they typically take their place alongside various fried meat and eggs in what is known as The Ulster Fry (hilarious to note the token tomato-half placed gingerly on the edge of the plate). The fry you may be used to if you are from mainland Britain is pretty much the same affair, minus the aforementioned Irish breads. This represents the pinnacle of what Northern Irish cuisine has to offer your soon-to-be-impacted bowels.
~ [ Culture ] ~
The Northern Irish arts are starting to find their footing alongside some of the most respected in the world. The art I'm most interested in, despite being a musician, is Northern Irish film. The potential for growth here is unreal, with a largely untapped reservoir of film-making talent simmering patiently in the wings, held back by 30 years of war and neglect (the war had always dominated the subject matter of any film produced here, and was usually as close to the reality as Blade Runner).
I'm not a culture vulture by any means, but I do know that there is plenty to whet your appetite in Belfast alone. You'll no doubt find literature online about theatre and art house cinema events if these things appeal to your tastes.
~ [ Conclusion ] ~
Northern Ireland is far from special, and it hasn't quite recovered from the bleak, soul-crushing troubles and the poverty which was so rampant in recent history, but the wounds are healing. The luscious scenery and burgeoning film industry growing amongst the rusting memories of our tragic past brings with it the promise of hope and opportunity. We're not quite there yet, but give us time to get ourselves in order and then book your holidays. You never know, by that time another volcanic spasm might have created lots of rectangular formations along the coast!
We get a lot of bad press still about the "troubles" and as someone who has lived here all my life will say, its all media hype. Northern Ireland is a wonderful place to live or visit and hopefully my review will get you over here.
The People. We are all welcoming and always up for a bit of "banter or craic" with you. We are friendly and warm always willing to help, just look at the support for our sports teams, Ireland rugby and Northern Ireland soccer, everyone is happy when they know that we are coming. Whatever background we are from here we always want to promote our country and will do whatever it is to promote it.
The Places to visit.
The Mourne Mountains. A sprawling mountain range here in my very own County Down, beautiful is the best way to describe them. A great day can be had here or even a few days camping, long walks, lakes and views. Spelga Damn are all wonderful features of these beautiful mountains that dominate the Newry and Mourne skyline. The quaint towns and villages that you encounter on your way to this mountain range make it even better, from Warrenpoint to Mayobridge, Castlewellan to Kilkeel you'll find different cultures, backgrounds and people.
Royal County Down. If your into golf or even if your not this is a must visit. It is permanently in the Worlds top 100 golf courses and regularly appears as Europe's number one golf club. With over 7000 yards of beautiful Irish landscape and greenery with the already describe impressive Mourne's in the distance you will think on a sunny day that you are in a far away land. Golf isint everyone's cup of tea but this is a place we are proud of and even the non golfer will see why we are so proud once they visit here.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Strangely this bridge has become a massive tourist attraction for Northern Ireland, opened only 6 months of the year and this 20 meter rickety bridge takes in 400,000 tourists per year, The big attraction is that this rickety rope bridge is 30 meters up and joined by two cliff edges and you can walk over the vast ocean spraying onto the rocks below, I say it's a strange one, well that's because even I never understood it until I went. You take your self away from everything here and just drift to a place of tranquillity. On clear days you can get stunning views of Rathlin Island, Scotland from here.
Armagh City. The historical capital of Ireland. With the two wonderful St Patrick's cathedrals a historian or tourist would find a day pass here very easily, both buildings that are beautifully built and must visit places regardless of your beliefs. This is the least populated City on the island of Ireland with only 14,500 residents, but for what it lacks in people it makes up for in charm with the cricket pavilion on the mall to the old churches littered trough the cobbled streets Armagh is a city of charm and splendour.
Belfast City. Our capital city and a place too often in the news for the wrong reasons, the good points are never mentioned. You can visit the Titanic quarter which incorporates the jaw dropping Harland and Wolf cranes at the shipyard that helped build the worlds most famous liner, The Titanic. City Hall, a wonderful building that houses the Belfast City Council officers and Lord Mayor, but has also witnessed some fine moments, Bill Clinton spoke from here at Christmas whilst he was President on a night that many people believe was the beginning of the end of the modern day troubles. Also at City Hall we have our own version of the "London Eye" although currently a temporary feature plans are afoot to make it permanent. Stormont, which houses our local Parliament, the wonderful Stormont castle which is one of the most impressive if not the most impressive Houses of Parliament in the World. You also have here the beautiful Stormont Gardens, a regular haunt for locals and tourists alike. A bus trip round the City to see the wonderful murals depicting our history and traditions can be got in the city centre.
Derry City. The beautiful walled City of Derry or is it Londonderry or as locals call it, The Maiden City. Ringed by walls that have stood for centuries tourist daily walk round this unique city taking in the wonderful views on offer. The river Foyle runs right through the centre of Derry splitting it in two, connected only by the wonderful Foyle bridges. Visit the historical Free Derry Corner and the Free Derry museum and learn the history behind Bloody Sunday or the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and learn about the Siege of Derry. Derry is a City steeped in generations of history.
The Giants Causeway. Our most famous and world renowned Causeway, Stepping stones fading out into the North Atlantic, with very few collections of stones like this the world over we are very proud of them. Scientists will have what the perceive as facts on the amalgamation of this area of natural beauty but legend has it that Finn McCool, a legendary Irish warrior, built these in an attempt to get to Scotland to fight an enemy. Plans are in motion for a new state of the art visitor centre to be built in the very near future to make your time there all that better. If you visit our wonderful shores and do not come to the Causeway you will have missed out.
Beaches. We have many blue flag rated beached around Northern Ireland such as
Murlough - Co Down
Portrush (Mill) West
these are all situated at different points around Northern Ireland but the unique thing is that you are never more than a couple of hours at the very most away from a wonderful beach.
Sports and Events. We have them from our local soccer, The Irish League, the Ulster Gaelic Championship, Ulster Rugby and Irish Rugby and our most famous North West 200 biking event there is something new or different for every visitor.
Getting Here. Fly to either Belfast City or Belfast International or Derry City airport. There are boat terminals situated in Belfast, Larne and Warrenpoint and it is relatively cheap to get here and to stay here.
Come join us here and have a pint of Guinness or Harp in one of our wonderful pubs, enjoy a good Ulster Fry to kick start your day, tell your friends and come back.
This is a wonderful place and you wont be disappointed.
Danny McCrossan loves to keep busy, not content with travelling the length and breath of both the UK and Ireland performing his unique brand of stand up comedy, Danny has thrown himself into writing. He's penned a radio sitcom for the BBC entitled "Final Vinyl", is currently developing a television sitcom for future UK broadcast (watch this space) he writes an online column for UK Broadsheet The Telegraph, has developed sketches and comedy pieces for Channel 4 and writes regular reviews on comedy clubs from the perspective of the comedian for a number of different culture loving websites.
So, when we bumped into Danny back in his home town Derry, Danny was all set to play the city's brand new club "The Magners Masons Comedy Club," We thought we'd pin him down and get him to write the very first review of this fledgling club for us, lucky us.
"Starting a new comedy club is a lot like sex, first you do it because you like it, then you find yourself doing it for other people who like it, but if you're any good at all, you'll end up doing it for money. Sadly though, sometimes it just doesn't work.
I've played numerous new clubs in my time and there's a multitude of things that can go wrong, the layout is all off beam, the PA system works like two tin cans and a length of string, the audience are unaccustomed to live comedy, unfriendly or plainly uninterested in anything other than the un-broadcasting television set. Yes, it's a tricky business if you don't know what you're doing, thankfully though, that's not the case for Masons, in fact, they make is look easy.
The Magners Masons Comedy Club is located upstairs in Masons Bar, Castle Street. The club is small and fairly intimate so it provides a great place to catch big acts in a little venue. In terms of layout, Bar Manager Billy Campbell has gone for the winning formula of closely nestled groups of stage-facing tables, each table seating up to five patrons right up to the foot of the stage. At the back of the room, larger tables are rowed to accommodate bigger groups of audience members, or those wishing to avoid some of that night's comic's critical observations. Each table is crowned with a small candle encased in red glass holder, which provides a nice warm glow radiating from each table, this is quite pleasing to the eye for any comic lucky enough to play this charming club.
The club's resident compere is seasoned MC professional Ruairi Campbell who, although much younger than most MC's currently warming up rooms, could go toe to toe with any of the big boys and hold his own. Ruairi expertly and irreverently worked the room up though the gears, keeping them laughing whilst all the while sustaining the status quo, always ready to remind any potential trouble makers who was boss.
Headliner that night was the sensational Fred Cooke who, quite frankly, has to be seen to be believed. Manic, genuine, musical, eccentric and tremendously funny, Fred has been playing clubs across Ireland for numerous years and is without doubt one of the brightest and funniest men on the Irish circuit today. The audience absolutely loved his mix of music, improvisation and insightful comedy and the intimacy of this club really worked beautifully with Fred's hilariously entertaining forty minutes.
Most of the credit for this new clubs success has to go to Ms Eavan King. Eavan has previously promoted and booked acts for Derry's Big Tickle festival and has a wealth of talent and know-how at her disposal. In choosing this venue and booking the subsequent performers, Eavan has developed a comedy club which I have no doubt will go from strength to strength. Where other potential clubs have tried and failed to make a success of things, Eavan has blended her knowledge of the industry, her love of comedy and her sheer intelligence to create a club where comedians will love to play and audience members will love being played to.
All comedy fans in the North West officially owe Eavan a drink, at least. This is one new comedy club that officially works and the city of Derry has something new to smile about."
Magners Masons Comedy Club runs on the first Thursday of every month. Admission £4. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.
For directions and further info: http://www.masonsbar.co.uk
Thanks to Danny McCrossan: www.myspace.com/dannymccrossan
Ive lived in this wee small country now for 20 years and im loving every minute of it, the times of troubles and fighting seem to be over, not that it was as bad as people make out in recent years, truth is now this is a great place to live, so friendly and welcoming.
Theres a lot of major attractions in northern ireland, the marble arch caves in country fermanagh, the giants causeway on the north coast, and the cutural city of belfast which includes the odyssey arena which is a massive entertainment areana where massive bands have played such as the eagles, boyzone, westlife, then artists like kayne west, 50cent and bruce springsteen just to name a select few.
The nightlife in Northern ireland is also brilliant so many nice bars and pubs, and for the younger ones some brilliant clubs.
I could talk all day on this country but i just basically want to say how its such a good country to live in now all the troubles seem to have come to an end and the future looks really bright :)
The last review for Northern Ireland here was written in 2004. Well it's 2009 and I want to share my love for this small country.
Historically and politically well known, for the majority of those living in Northern Ireland, politics and history have never played a major part to this great place. My friends and I are from a very mixed background and not once has religion played a factor in out friendship.
Northern Ireland the present ***
What is there to do:
There are many great places to visit especially if you are travelling from Europe where the Euro is so strong. Belfast the capital has been recently nominated by Frommers as one of thier top ten recommendations for 2009 as places to visit.
Why might you ask? Well, Belfast is a small city that is easily accessible to all. It has a number of attractions , boat rides towards the tiatanic quarter, the black taxi ride past all the murals, or the "belfast sightseeing bus," the "wheel", W5, the odyssey, great restaurants expensive and otherwise. if you need suggestions please send me a message. In terms of bars, for more chilled out bars include, Robinsons, the Crown, Auntie Annies, and Whites. For more younger hipper bars, the Apartment, Irene and Nans, and Cafe Vaudeville.
Outside of Belfast, Derry, L'Derry is a historic place and the walls are particularly interesting. The museum in derry also makes for interesting viewing and explains the derry / londonderry / stroke city that it often gets referred to. Bushmills - the distillery that makes Bushmills whiskey is worth a visit but please note that prior booking is helpful during the tourist season. You can turn up and book your ticket but you may be allocated a later time slot. But there is a cafe / bar / tourist gifts in the complex.
Enniskillen - the marble arch caves and the lakes are beautiful. enjoy this green area and relax and enjoy the craic.
One of the most scenic things to do in Northern Ireland is to take the coastal route by car. I remember the first time I took a friend by this and she literally held her breath. it really is beautiful. past glenarm and ballycastle as far as mussenden temple (which use to be a library) overlooking donegal it will not fail to delight. And make sure to take your camera. A top tip - after mussenden temple on the road to downhill beach a long downhill stretch of road there is a small road off to the left. Take this sharp small road and follow it to get panaromic views of Donegal and Bievenagh.
So northern Ireland really is worth a visit particularly from our euro friends or those who can't afford to go further afield. i think you will be pleasantly surprised!
?A Great Country, just pretending to be Small!? I?m afraid I?m not sure who said that, but it sums up my opinion of Northern Ireland perfectly. Let me explain? I?m Northern Irish. If I?m ever asked what my nationality is, I always say Northern Irish. According to the national census I?m in the minority. Tradition here in our country is to define yourself as either British or Irish according to your religious beliefs. Personally I?m very proud of where I?m from. I don?t want to be British, nor Irish. We have enough history to rightfully establish ourselves as a separate entity to either England or Ireland. And if anyone?s going to write a review on Northern Ireland, I reckon I might just be biased enough to make it sound like the most phenomenal place on earth! So, lets go with the hard sale? Let us begin with a short journey back in time. Ireland was ruled by the Celtic Earls, and each earl owned a County. With there being nine counties in the province of Ulster this meant there were nine Earls. This is the back-bone of Irish culture, and the source of all the wonderful tales you hear from the land. Ireland was the bane of England?s life, as they feared the French becoming allied with Ireland and thus joining forces and attacking England. So being a stronger nation they sent powerful barons from England who barbarically confiscated the land from the Celtic Earls by King James I. They enforced the protestant religion, slaughtering anyone who publicly denied it, and so began the troubles in Northern Ireland. I?ll bet you all thought the troubles began in the 1970s? so there?s an interesting piece of information to mull over, it began in the 17th Century! I?ll give you a great link to check out if you?re interested in learning more from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/plantation/religious/index.shtml So, Ulster kept its nine counties, but eventually lost three to become known as Northern Ireland. I think it?s quite interesting
that if I trace back my family tree I?m a descendant of an Irish Chieftan , and my boyfriend is of planter descent from Scotland so in the olden days we most certainly would not have been together! It would have been unheard of and unacceptable! But then I?m trying to show that Northern Ireland?s future is much more positive than its past. We?ve had very bleak years. It has been well documented in the press, and few people have escaped without feeling the impact of terrorism both sides of the political divide. But people here began to get their act together after the Omagh atrocity. The people of Northern Ireland had been crippled one last time by individuals taking it upon themselves to take the lives of innocents in the name of a war no one wanted. The bombing of those 29 people was the final straw. It was time to get this country sorted out. Of course it is taking a long time to make forward progress politically, but the everyday people here began to look into the future and try to make things a little better for us all. I can?t say it?s all peace and daisies here, but it is a shock to hear of a sectarian murder in the country now, rather than a regular everyday thing. Let me reassure one and all, I?m twenty three now, and I?ve never encountered a bomb, I?ve never had a relative injured, and I?m unscathed by the land I grew up in. Forget army checkpoints and bag-searches. Such things have not existed here for over a decade. What people need to see about this country is the Lakes of Fermanagh, the Mountains of Mourne and the Walls of Derry. So let me give you a guided tour County by Country. Highly recommended by me, and I should know! I live here! COUNTY ANTRIM +++++++++++++++ If you?re coming to Northern Ireland by Plane or Ferry then it is more than likely that Antrim will be the first sight you see. The capital of the country, Belfast is located in Antrim, and is home to the two main airports, and Ferry ports. Belfast is a sprawl
ing great city, and having survived probably the hardest times in the past it is now a modern buzzing place with a great nightlife and a varied culture. Belfast is also a great shopping place for all the shopaholics out there, but Antrim has much more to it than the industrial / urban side. Some of the most scenic areas of the country are located on the Antrim coast. The Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-reed rope bridge (you may remember it from an old guinness ad) are all on the coast, and going further around will take you to the old Bushmills distillery. The 60 mile drive around the coast is dangerously breathtaking and attracts many nature lovers each year. And if you get a chance, do call in a town called ?Portrush.? It?s our equivalent of Blackpool, and worth going to for a laugh. The Glens of Antrim are also worth visiting if you are interested in scenery and wonderful waterfalls. One waterfall there is called ?tears of the mountain,? I?m sure you can just imagine how pretty that is! COUNTY L?DERRY ++++++++++++++ Derry/ Londonderry/ Doire. The town so good they named it thrice. Oh dear, I?m going to be terribly biased here as it?s my home county! Derry is home to the Sperrin mountains. The River Faughan in the North of the county provides a great trail for those keen on hill climbing, great for fishing too. The Ness Woods here are home to the countries highest waterfall, at 30 ft. This is the Oak Leaf County (that?s what the name Doire means) and a visit to the county shows why it is called so. While in the North of the county you must visit the city itself, a wonderful, friendly place with a great emphasis on the arts and culture. The architecture here is breathtaking. Walk the mile round trip of the walls. Derry City is one of Europe?s last remaining Walled Cities. Travelling towards the Derry coast you will find the blue flag beach of Benone, Magilligan Strand, which is the longest beach in Ireland, the Georgia
n town of Limavady, and the historically basked castle at Dungiven, where the clans of O?Cahan lived hundreds of years ago. If you want history, if you want to hear about clan battles, horsemen, and the more recent (but still very old!) fine English influence on architecture then you could not do any better than come to this county. It is a Culture Vulture?s dream. COUNTY TYRONE +++++++++++++++ Tyrone is the biggest county in Northern Ireland, although at the risk of offending the people who live there, it may well be the least interesting! Because it is so huge, it is quite sparsely populated and there are great sweeps of rugged green land. Omagh is the county town of Tyrone, although it isn?t a great place for shopping, it does have some great examples of architecture in it?s Cathedral and the surrounding buildings. The emphasis in Tyrone is very much historically orientated. A must-visit if you want to understand a little more about Northern Ireland, is The Ulster-American Folk Park, which is located outside Omagh. The Folk Park is a huge expanse of land on which old houses have been taken from all over the country, brick-by-brick to tell the story of Ireland in olden times. They don?t do things by halves here either? when you visit, all the staff are in full costume. There are a few Neolithic sites in County Tyrone which are rather unique, and one in particular is based in Gortin, at the Ulster History Park. Even if you are not interested in history, the Gortin Glen is the most eeriliy beautiful glen I personally have been to, and I love to drive the windy roads there. COUNTY DOWN +++++++++++++ If you like to walk, then come to County Down. The infamous Mountains of Mourne are in County Down, and they form a postcard perfect backdrop where ever you look at them from. Strangford Lough is a bird sanctuary and of course the main hobby for people in Down is fishing! Their waters are healthy with fish, and
many people living on the coast make their livelihood from the sea. Picturesque villages such as Kilkeel and Warrenpoint dot the Down coast, but it is Newry, the County Town where you will find a warm welcome, and a surprisingly good shopping area. The father of the Bronte sisters came from the North of Newry, near another pretty town called Banbridge. And if you are religious, Saint Patrick is buried in a town called Downpatrick, also worth a visit. COUNTY ARMAGH ++++++++++++++++ To anyone from Northern Ireland, nearly the first thing you think of when someone talks of Armagh is the planetarium! A staple of school visits for all of us from a young age, I?d say there aren?t too many of us that haven?t been! But you know I?m going to say that there?s certainly more to Armagh than that! Armagh is an almost regal Strongpoint and they emphasis this to the strongest ability. It is the seat of both the Catholic and Protestant archbishops and therefore has a great reputation of holiness. Navan Fort is an oddly formed fort, and was the seat of the high kings of Ulster. There was a visitors centre here which explained the stories of the kings of Ulster, but something went wrong with investment here, and as far as I know the centre closed down, but you can still visit the fort. Armagh is a strange county, sometimes it seems more Irish than Ireland itself, but it has a lot of potential for tourism and in my opinion it would be nice if there were a little more money and thought put into investing in the county. Armagh people are extremely friendly and very cheerful, they certainly will make you feel welcome if you decide to visit. COUNTY FERMANAGH +++++++++++++++++++ I make no secret that I love Fermanagh. This little forgotten county boasts the richest countryside you will ever experience. I?d move here tomorrow! Enniskillen is the County town, and it is completely on an island, you have to cross a bridge to get
to it. Then there?s the home of Bellek Pottery, where you can have a tour. Fermanagh is most certainly the county for water-lovers. Everywhere you go you are not far away from water, and the people of the county are great boats-people. Lough Erne, aside from being pretty, is usually full of yachts, Speedboats and Cruisers and the atmosphere is usually one of great fun with people enjoying themselves on the water, surrounded by a backdrop of lush greenery. It does seem to rain a lot in Fermanagh though, so take a raincoat. If you have spare time I?d suggest a visit to the Marble Arch Caves, or a walk in the grounds of Castle Archdale where you might catch a glimpse of Red Deer. The best thing about Fermanagh is the unique wildlife you can find here. Swans and Ducks are so used to people they wander tamely around human legs, and in the forests you can hear the cries of guinea-fowl. I?ve never encountered any of these animals at home. If you do visit here, remember the people are very relaxed and chilled out. You know how we all run to GMT, well here they all run to ?FMT- Fermanagh Mean Time? that means you really should set your watch back half an hour. No one rushes in Fermanagh! SO WHERE SHOULD YOU TAKE THE CHILDREN? Odessy Arena, Belfast- Visit the iMax cinema, and the W5 science exhibition. Dundonald IceBowl, Belfast- Ice-skating to enjoy the day. Waterworld-, Portrush. The best, most exciting swimming pool in the country. Banana?s Play World, Derry City- a small kiddie?s dream! WHY NORTHERN IRELAND IS A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ * We have all the pros of both England and Ireland available to us, and right on our doorstep. We have the great NHS (some may disagree) and yet we only have to cross the Irish border to fill our cars with cheap petrol- 20 Euro (£13) fills my tank! * We can claim dual Nationality, so heaven forbid we get kick
ed out of a country, we can just go back under a different passport. (I?m kidding!) * We are becoming a more prosperous country due to our friendly links with most of the world, and the fact that we have progressed into a time of peace. * Our countryside cannot be compared to anywhere else. * The people are friendly and welcoming and the Ulster Fry is a fine breakfast! * We have a high quality of life, and a strong education system. * House Prices are MUCH cheaper here! * We have one of the lowest crime rates in the world! * We are in a time of great transition, where Protestants and Catholics are beginning to learn about each other?s cultures and shake off the old biases and arguments. Who wouldn?t want to be part of that optimism and the development of integrated children?s schools and playgroups? * We have fine alcohol, community spirit, great nightclubs and most importantly a new-found pride in who we are. So grab your tour-book, and circle all the places I?ve listed and spend a month here! I?ll promise you won?t regret it. Please feel free to embellish and add parts to my review if you?re Northern Irish? I think it?s about time we let ourselves be known! Oh dear, i think i've written Dooyoo's longest review ever. I'm just too enthusiastic!
Northern Ireland has been given a really bad reputation due to the troubles but really it's not bad at all in fact it's brilliant. Not only is it possibly the greenest country in the world its towns and cities all have a beauty of their own. I am from Belfast, which is the capital of Northern Ireland. And while I'm only sixteen I know Northern Ireland really well. This is partly due to my camping weekends with my mum and dad which have been taking place for about the past 16 years, but I think it is mostly due to Northern Ireland being so incredibly tiny. I'll try and give you a brief outline of all the parts of Northern Ireland so I'll start off with my hometown Belfast. BELFAST Belfast is situated in the east of Northern Ireland on the banks of the river Lagan and has a population of around one and a half million people. The city is growing and becoming more vibrant every year. It's Laganside area is under massive development and is quickly becoming the culture area of Belfast. The jewels in lagansides crown are the Waterfront hall (a massive concert arena) and The Odyssey Arena (a vast leisure complex with Imax Cinema, Ice rink, Hard Rock Café, and ice rink where the newest Seconda super league team the Belfast giants play). Belfast's city centre is a vibrant mix of historical buildings and fashionable shops. The City Hall situated right in the centre of the main square was designed under the same blueprints as Johannesburg's City Hall. It is a great place to come to if you get lost while walking round the city. Other interesting buildings are the Linen Hall Library, Queens university, Stormont (Parliament Buildings) and Belfast Castle which is on the outskirts of the city. As you can imagine there are a lot of great pubs and eateries in Belfast. Perhaps the most famous is the Crown Bar which is the only public house to be listed by the National Heritage. Belfast is a city with a lot of history for instance it was where the Titanic was made. To find out more about the history of Belfast go to the Ulster Museum near Queens University. Good Pubs: Kelly's Bar, The Crown, The Botanic Inn, And The Globe. Good Clubs: The Fly, Storm. Sites: Albert Clock, Laganside, City Hall, Stormont. NORTH COAST This includes places like Portrush, Portstewart, Bushmills, Coleraine and Londonderry. This is the main holiday area of Northern Ireland. Portrush and Portstewart are both major coast resorts. A bit like the ones in Britain but less loud! This is also where the famous North-West 200 races are held and this is a major event if you are interested in motorbikes. The northwest also has some of the most spectacular scenery in Northern Ireland and is a popular place for tourists to go. You will find the world famous giants causeway here. The Giant's Causeway is one of the natural wonders of the world. It consists of hexagonal pillars of black basalt rock, and also has an interesting myth behind it about Finn McCool, Ulster's resident giant. The story is that Finn found out about another Scottish giant who was saying he was far stronger than Finn. Finn then sent him a message challenging him to a fight. The Scottish giant agreed and they both began to build a massive bridge made out of the hexagonal pillars. They were able to do this without too much difficulty, after all they were giants. However it soon became apparent to Finn that the Scottish giant was building his part of the land bridge at a far faster rate. Finn then saw on the other side of the causeway the Scottish giant. He was far bigger than Finn and Finn knew he could not win the fight. However Finn was a clever giant and ran home and got into a baby bonnet and baby crib. Once the Scottish giant arrived at Finns house he asked Finns wife where he was. She told him Finn had just gone out to ch
op some wood and would be home soon for the fight. The Scottish giant then saw the crib and went over to play with the baby. When he saw the size of the baby he was amazed. It was smaller than he was but he thought to himself if the baby is this size what size must Finn be if his child was so large. The Scottish giant apologised to Finns wife and ran screaming from the house and sprinted back to Scotland as fast as he could, as he ran he broke most of the causeway apart from two bits a tiny bit of his causeway in Scotland and the bit which is still left on the north coast today. Another popular spot to visit is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This was set up so as salmon fishermen could get out to their trawlers or alternatively fish from the bridge when the tide was in. Although it is frightening to cross it is well worth it as you get across to a lovely island and get great views. My advice for someone going to the north coast would be to get a ferry to Rathlin Island which is a two-mile wide strip with a small village at one end and a puffin sanctuary at the other and beautiful countryside in between. THE BANN AND LOUGH NEAGH If you are a keen fisherman there is no better place in the world to come than the River Bann. The Bann is northern Irelands largest river and it goes through Europe's biggest lake Lough Neagh. Lough Neagh is also the biggest fishing place for eels in Europe although nearly all of the eels caught are exported to places like Holland. Near Lough Neagh and the Bann is the cathedral city of Armagh which in fact has two cathedrals. With the amazing cathedrals and fascinating myths connected to the town it is definitely a place to visit on your travels. You should also make an effort to go to the Tyrone crystal factory which has a tour of the factory and shows you every stage of the process of making world class cut crystal. Not far from the Lough are the Sperrin Mountains which have a whole
host of walks and breathtaking scenes. DOWN AND THE MOURNE MOUNTAINS The beautiful Mourne mountains really do sweep down to the sea as the song says. Sleive Donard which is the highest mountain in northern Ireland looks down on a rich patchwork of farmland and homesteads. Dotted around the Mournes are many castles and ancient remains. This is a great place to come if you are a keen walker and most of the schools in northern Ireland choose to do their Duke of Edinburgh Award schemes because it is a place of such beauty. There are countless peaks, valleys, streams and waterfalls which all go towards making this one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. The main town in the area is Newry and you are only about ten minutes from the border. You can also visit Downpatrick which is the resting place of St. Patrick, St. Brigid, and St. Columb. Other places to visit in down are Strangford Lough where you can visit the largest Aquarium in Northern Ireland called Aquarius in portaferry. You can also visit Sketrick Castle, Scrabo Tower and Castleward House. I hope I have given you a pleasant picture of northern Ireland and that you will consider coming for a holiday. I guarantee you will have a good time wherever you choose to go.