Northern Ireland has made a comeback and it shows no signs of dropping titles like ‘one of the world’s must-see destinations’ any time soon. The country goes from strength to strength as beautifully scenic landscapes, attractions both historic and contemporary and wonderfully warm welcomes captivate repeat and first-time visitors alike.
It is home to some of the world’s outstanding beauty – 8 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 47 national nature reserves, 43 special areas of conservation, and 10 special protection areas, to be precise. It is also home to the globes most famous icons – St. Patrick is buried here, the Titanic was built here and the mythical stories of the Giants Causeway are only told right here.
But, you would be mistaken if you thought that is all it can offer. The hidden gems dotted across each county is the best reflection of the transformation this country has well and truly pulled off.
The transformed city of Belfast only makes headlines for the right reasons these days. The reputation of this port city was built on its accomplishments in shipping building, linen and cotton industries and like a proud Peacock, it tells the world these stories with color and vibrancy at attractions like SS Nomadic, HMS Caroline and the Ulster Museum.
Nowadays, Belfast is expertly weaving its contemporary thread into a city rich in traditions and it’s paying off. It invites you to explore its famed history and encourages you do so in a rejuvenated culture. You’ll also find hospitality in Belfast is quickly becoming the benchmark of Ireland and with the likes of the Cathedral Quarter playing host to bustling bars and quality restaurants, the city is radiating good times and people are finally taking notice.
The Peacock – the unique and social bird which is really something special when it shows its true colors – just like Belfast today.
Antrim was once world renowned as the top shelf whisky producer but its beauty is doing the talking nowadays. The Causeway Coastal Route is the silver lining on a county thriving on a contemporary food and drink culture maintained with a traditional edge. It fortunately surrounds and enhances the existing stunning beauty of Antrim, travel writers are busy dubbing the route itself as one of the world’s best coastal drives and the road is the gateway to some of the most unique, exhilarating and special experiences in Antrim and Ireland.
Within the coast of Northern Ireland, you will find walking trails on extinct volcanos tied to the legend of St. Patrick at Slemish Mountains, an electrifying cliff-facing path at The Gobbins, a thrilling rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede and invigorating boat trips to explore Northern Irelands only inhabited offshore island, Rathlin Island.
That said, Antrim offers more than just an adventurers paradise. It puts the ‘West’ in Westeros as the Antrim coast is the backdrop for the award winning series Game of Thrones. The Dark Hegdes, Glenariff Forest Park and Ballintoy Harbour are just a few Game of Thrones props doubling as The Kingsroad, Runestone in the Vale of Arryn and The Iron Islands.
So whether you are a thrill seeker, a ‘Thronie’ or simply looking a good time, you are sure to find it all and more with a Bushmills in hand in Co. Antrim.
Derry, the city whose past is entrenched in history and whose present is enriched in, well, happiness. There is a captivating culture radiating from the Norths second largest city, the kind that makes you want to act like a local – and after a day or 2 here, why wouldn’t you want to?
The hard working people of Derry have rejuvenated their city, their home, and now, they want to showcase it with inspirational statements like the Peace Bridge which is bridging the gap between local communities and the striking bronzed symbol of reconciliation and hope, The Hands across the Divide.
The uniqueness of this former UK City of Culture is found in more than just its honors as ‘Ireland’s only remaining walled city’. Those impressive walls surround a city whose excellently educating on its past at the equally compelling Museum of Free Derry and The Siege Museum. Most importantly, it is moving forward as a contemporary haven with old school roots, all fueled by creativity, collaboration and craft beer.
See it for yourself inside the iconic Guildhall and even outside it – because this city spirit can really be that unstoppable on the right evening by the waterfront.
Is the coastal county of Down Northern Ireland’s best kept secret? I mean, it puts up a strong case by any explorers map. The foodie scene in Down is only on the up as artisan producers have their homegrown ingredients focused in considerate menus. Once a land shaped by the Scots Irish, it nowadays plays an important part in discovering family heritage at the likes of Ross Monument or North Down Museum. And as if being positioned by the Lough Neagh couldn’t deliver enough photo opps, add the Mourne Mountains (CS Lewis inspiration for Narnia) and Mount Stewart with Murlough National Nature Reserve and Strangford Lough to really get the ultimate postcard shot. Even the Patron Saint of Ireland hand selected Down as his favorite and subsequent resting place on the Island.
Down is also too smart to be underestimated as its people quietly get on with delivering excellence consistently – Down lets other people do its talking for it. And these other people? They just so happen to be the biggest names in Holywood and PGA Golf. Thank Tollymore Forest Park for keeping the white walkers roaming The Haunted Forest, Castle Ward for housing The Stark Family at Winterfell Castle and Portstewart Strand for The Bay of the Kingdom of Dorne, home to the flamboyant Oberyn Martell. Whereas, Golf Digest named Royal County Down ahead of the famed Augusta Nation as the number one layout in the world. Join the home grown talent in tipping their hat to the golfing heritage and all things glorious by location in Co. Down.
Down seems like your multi-talented cousin, the one who exceeds in academics just as well as sport, but refreshingly, Down is charmingly modest about what it can really do to welcome you.
Northern Ireland Must-Sees
Titanic Belfast, which was awarded the world’s number one attraction in 2016, takes you through nine galleries to tell the story of RMS Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her famous maiden voyage and tragic end.
The Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, is NI.I’s only World Heritage Site. Resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, this simply stunning area of natural beauty harbors a wealth of local history like a shipwreck site & traces of the legendary giant!
Built in 1618, this former defense mechanism is still standing around Derry making it the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland. Take a walk around the walls and uncover the real uniqueness of this iconic attraction: the history, its heritage, and their people.
Trace the tale of Ireland’s patron saint and get insight of St. Patrick’s intriguing journey from slave and saint to his resting place. Start with the Exhibition before visiting the adjacent facing Down Cathedral to see his burial place and the only shrine to the saint in Ireland at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.