• Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
    © iStockphoto.com / Espiegle
  • Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
    © iStockphoto.com / Richard Semik
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Northern Ireland

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
As Britain's smallest country, do not be fooled by the size. There is more than enough character, culture and stunning landscapes to compete with the largest of countries. With beautiful stretches of greenery and dramatic craggy coastlines onto the Atlantic Ocean via St George's Channel, Northern Ireland is somewhere that will surprise you endlessly.

Travel guide

Blithe Belfast

Once lumped with Beirut, Baghdad and Bosnia as the four Bs not to visit, Belfast has made a major turn-around. A very culturally rich city with lots of exciting history to learn about and important landmarks to see, starting off with the site of the construction of Titanic. The ill-fated, immense cruise liner was built in the Northern Irish port where there is now a fantastically presented museum displaying virtual exhibitions to learn all about the building process and the history of the Titanic and its sister ship Olympic. The interactive displays and animated projections give the pretend yet enjoyable experience of travelling through the old shipyards that made Belfast the industrial power that it was proud to be. The wonderful thing about Belfast's cultural attractions is the new venues that keep emerging. The historic Crumlin Road gaol, SS Nomadic, and WWI warship HMS Caroline are all good spots to see at the famous dockyard. However, the most famous cultural spot that you cannot go to Belfast without seeing is the Ulster museum, where they showcase historical souvenirs panning from artefacts retrieved from the 1588 wreck of the Spanish Armada to a 25,000 year old mummy that was unwrapped in Belfast in 1835. Additionally, the traditionally designed Renaissance style City Hall is a symbol of the city centre and is very interesting to wander around to understand the political history of the country and feel inspired by the very British, Victorian architecture.

The city has a friendly but firm attitude with its pockets of street art that sometimes reflect its difficult past. There are plenty of cosy pubs to curl up in after a busy day and plenty of cafes to try the Ulster Fry in the mornings. Overall, Belfast is a fascinating city combining truly British elements with a new, completely original twist as you will experience from its Victorian shop fronts to its hip restaurants.

The causeway coast

The magnificent coast of Northern Ireland is one of the main reasons native British tourists venture across to the island and why visitors come all the way as well. The stunning green fields that cover the dramatic mountainous terrain look out onto the clearest blue sea. It is a breathtakingly stunning coastline with a raw British appeal as well as the natural beauty. There are plenty of small, quaint towns with a seriously authentic Northern Irish history to learn about all along the whistling coastline. The Giant's Causeway is one of the main attractions along the coast due to its mystery and natural awe. For centuries humans have been baffled by the intriguing natural rock formation of the mere 40,000 black basalt columns that stick out of the sea. As soon as you see it, you will understand because it is very hard to believe that such a bizarre and precise looking design was naturally completed. The Irish have many legends surrounding the possible history of the Giant's Causeway and many of them relate to Finn MacCool, giant among giants and leader of the guardians of the King of Ireland.

Counties Derry

Not only are there hill tops that will sweep you off your feet with rich fresh air that you will not have tasted in years, Counties Derry also is home to Derry - a historic, quaint city that oozes personality. Londonderry, as it's also known, is a small northern city in the central valley of the county, surrounded by luscious greenery and water from the sea's estuary. With history around every corner built into its 400 year old buildings, cobbled streets and visually experienced in the city's artwork on the walls and stained glass windows it is impossible to be ignorant to the Northern Irish culture.

Our Editorial team's advice

Northern Ireland is exceptionally easy to travel to via plane, with the ability to fly to Belfast from almost every major city in England, and with the possibility of flying onwards if you were feeling very adventurous. It is an exceptionally well connected city via aeroplane and also if you feel like taking a tour of the British Isles, it is easy to transport yourself around the craggy coastlines on the ferry with your car. It is also exceptionally useful to have your car while you're located on the Emerald Isle to make it easier to move around and see the different areas, from the infinitely spectacular scenery to the happening cities.

It is important to remember that while the political situation in Northern Ireland has calmed down somewhat since the turbulent period some short years ago, the subject of the distressing time is still a very sensitive topic. It would be a bit silly to express any opinions you were not entirely sure about because people could take it offensively and it could cause some trouble. Be aware that the Northern Irish are relatively feisty characters, which usually is a wonderful trait but it can be quite intense on the odd occasion - especially if you're down the pub! Despite a lot of confusion, Northern Ireland is in the United Kingdom and their currency is pounds as well, which means it is very easy to head over for an effortless holiday or a short break without having to do too much extra organisation. It is also easy enough to cross over to Southern Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland, without too much hassle.

The weather, as one would imagine, is not incredible so do not forget to come prepared with an extra jumper and a raincoat! However, the reason you will have chosen to venture across the northern channel will not have been due to Ireland's weather but rather their cultural flare and gorgeous landscapes.

pros

  • +This destination has very charming natural sites.
  • +Few tourists presently go there.

cons

  • -The climate is hardly good.
  • -The political situation remains quite sensitive.

Traditions

Although English is the most widely spoken language in Northern Ireland they are also proud of their regional languages, like the Irish language and a local variety of Scots which is known as Ulster Scots. There are plenty of Celtic myths and legends that have been passed down through the generations, especially in the windy coastal towns. Religion has obviously been a major part of disagreements in Ireland but it does not prevent people from still having serious faith and connection to the church. There are many beautiful churches all around Ireland with ornate, traditional Celtic style embellishments and engravings that can give insight into the different designs across the British Isles. Poetry and music have been very prominent parts of Irish culture throughout not only its distant past but also its recent history. Many famous writers and actors were inspired by and became exceptionally creative through their home isle, giving the Irish their reputation for having a creative flare. The music is eerily haunting and beautiful at the same time, with the whistling sounds of the pipes and the fiddle that sings all night long.

Food

Guinness is a very popular delicacy and must be tried while you are in the country because of its original texture and taste. With its creamy head and dark stout base it tastes all the better in local terrain. Whiskey is also very popular; with close roots with Scotland you can understand the spiritual connection between the two British locations. Drinking is a very big part of Irish culture so make sure you get sociable and get involved!

The food in Northern Ireland is very comforting and contains lots of food substances that are extremely common in England and other regions of Great Britain. Some specialities include soda bread served with deliciously thick winter soups, Irish stew, steak and Guinness pie, pasties, and there is an undying love for potatoes. Soda break is particularly specific to Northern Irish dishes with its thick, chunky bread with a soft, fluffy centre. Served with a large slab of butter which melts in deliciously it is the perfect addition to a vegetable soup or your Ulster fry. Irish stew is basically a hearty casserole consisting of meats, vegetables and potatoes all served in a thick, flavoursome sauce. The traditional confectionary that is adored by locals and visitors alike is the Golden Man which is a crunchy, golden sweet that resembles honeycomb in many ways. The Ulster Fry is another celebrated dish in Ireland which can be scoffed down at any time of the day, but usually makes the perfect meal for brunch. A twist on the usual British fry-up but with thick soda bread, deliciously crispy fried potatoes along with fried bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs. Not to miss out on!

Souvenirs

You will equally find top quality gourmet specialties: smoked salmon, whisky mustard, home-made jam and caramel fudge. You will equally find elegant clothing of wool (pullovers, jackets, cardigans...) and tweed (jackets, caps, scarfs). In handicraft shops, you will fish out original jewellery, semi-precious stones and decorative items (vases, ceramics, statues...). Shops open from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM during the week.

What to see

Lake Lough Erne , Lake Lough Erne, Northern Ireland , United Kingdom
Lake Lough Erne
Mourne Mountains , Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland , United Kingdom
Mourne Mountains
Glens of Antrim , United Kingdom
Glens of Antrim
Northern Ireland : Explore