Top 10 Things to Do in Northern Ireland

Hit the road on the Causeway Coastal Route, get down with Belfast's best musicians, and soak up the otherworldly scenery featured in Game of Thrones.

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Northern Ireland blends centuries of history with an engaging modern vibe that shows time definitely hasn’t stood still. Mix in welcoming smiles and jaw-dropping vistas, and it all adds up to ten travel experiences that simply can’t be had anywhere else.

 

ROCK OUT IN BELFAST

Belfast boasts a proud musical history and the beat shows no signs of slowing down. Modern bands that more than do their elders justice are on tap nightly at clubs and pubs all across town. The Oh Yeah Music Centre’s Belfast Music Exhibition proudly showcases memories and memorabilia of artists from Van Morrison to Snow Patrol. Take to the streets for a guided bus tour of musical Belfast including Ulster Hall, where Led Zeppelin first performed “Stairway to Heaven,” and “Van the Man’s” childhood home. Then dance the night away with an array of talented local musicians that you may not know yet, but will never forget. Culture Northern Ireland has the skinny on performers and shows from folk, rock, and reggae to techno and classical recitals.

 

TAKE A PASSAGE ON THE TITANIC

Arguably the world’s most famous ship was born right here in the Belfast shipyards. (“She was fine when she left here,” some locals like to say.) Titanic Belfast is an engaging exhibition of reconstructions, special effects, and interactive features that help you experience the Titanic journey from the docks, to the decks, and even to the bottom of the Atlantic. Continue the adventure on a boat tour around Belfast harbor for a different perspective on Titanic history and the entire port of Belfast. During summer months, the city’s large breeding seal colony, often appear over the bow.

 

TOUR THE CAUSEWAY COAST

The Causeway Coastal Route is world-renowned. There’s a good reason—those who soak in this road’s dramatic seaside vistas and emerald glens can’t stop singing their praises. Stop at the ruined Dunluce Castle, perched on an ocean cliff so precipitous that the castle’s kitchens dropped into the sea one night in 1639. Test your head for heights by walking the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge above the waves from clifftop to island and back. And marvel at the Giant’s Causeway, a 50-60-million-year-old pile of basalt columns, stretching into the sea, that has inspired awe and legends in equal measure throughout the long centuries of Irish history. When the day is done wet your whistle at another famed attraction. Take a tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery, the oldest working distillery in Ireland, to get a behind the scenes look at small-batch whiskey production and sample a smooth dram for yourself.

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WALK THE WALLS OF LONDONDERRY (DERRY)

Northern Ireland’s second city is vibrant, modern urban center with one of Europe’s youngest populations. But its heart is cloaked in 17th-century stone, an enduring engineering marvel of the age. Nearly a mile of stone walls, built between 1613-1618, encircle inner Londonderry (Derry) and provide a pleasant stroll around one of Europe’s very finest surviving walled cities. The ramparts are studded with seven gates and one of the continent’s greatest collection of cannons including Roaring Meg—famed for the terrifying sound she unleashed during the 1689 Siege. (The city never fell.) Learn more about the city’s fascinating history at the Tower Museum. Displays here include items salvaged from La Trinidad Valencera, which was one of the biggest ships in the ill-fated 1588 Spanish Armada before it came to grief just offshore.

 

TOUR THE SEVEN KINGDOMS

The real world Westeros features landscapes every bit as striking and unforgettable as those seen in Game of Thrones—and you can enjoy them without fear of being beheaded. Visit spectacular sites from the show scattered around Northern Ireland on your own, or on specialized tours catering to fans of the Starks and Lannisters—some including choose-your-own costumes, bonfires, and feasts fit for a king. Visit the Winterfell film set at Castle Ward and try your hand at archery or meet the Direwolves Odin and Thor. Stroll the Dark Hedges, an avenue of 18th century beech trees more familiar to fans as the King’s Road. If you dare, head north of the Wall into the Haunted Forest itself with a visit to Tollymore Forest Park. Tourism Ireland has painstakingly mapped the Seven Kingdoms to help fans plan their own quasi-medieval fantasy trips.

 

TEE IT UP LIKE RORY

With four major championships and counting, Rory McIlroy has raised Northern Ireland’s game in the golf world. You might not be able to play like Rory, but at least you can enjoy a round on the same courses he loves. Northern Ireland is home to some of the world’s best links courses and you’re welcome to play them even if your game isn’t quite world class. Royal County Down is a private club, but visitors are welcome to play the Championship Links (if reserved well in advance) several days a week. Royal Portrush Golf Club, which will be home to the 148th Open in 2019, also welcomes advance reservations from members of other recognized golf clubs. Although these two institutions enjoy global fame, don’t overlook a local favorite and Rory’s home club. Holywood Golf Club offers even duffers a scenic round set in the hills just a few miles outside of Belfast.

 

TAKE A HIKE TO HARE’S GAP

Some of the most rugged and inspiring scenery in the Mourne Mountains is found on the hike through Hare’s Gap, a moderately taxing jaunt of about 2 miles each way. As you climb to the pass imagine the ice sheets that once helped shape this range, and glimpse the inspiration for Belfast-native C.S. Lewis’s land of Narnia. Spare a thought for the smugglers as well. The gap was once a gateway for smuggled spices, coffee and other goods that were carried here from the coast along the Brandy Pad route for distribution into the Trassey River valley below.

For a more leisurely loop try the circular ridge trail around the top of Divis and the Black Mountain just outside Belfast. The moderate trail takes around three hours, and, on a clear day, it delivers incredible views of Scotland and the Isle of Man.

 

EXPLORE THE FERMANAGH UNDERGROUND

Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is a celebrated UNESCO site that shows off 895 million years of Earth’s history both above ground and below. Today the landscape surrounding Cuilcagh Mountain is an appealing one of uplands, lakes and forests. But over the eons it has seen mountains rise and fall, deserts, and even tropical oceans. You can read these ancient stories in the enduring rock, thanks to surprises like the coral fossils found on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mountain. Below the surface an entirely different world awaits. Vast caverns, running rivers, waterfalls, and fascinating geological features are on display in Marble Arch Caves, one of the finest European caves open to the public. From March to October, take a 75-minute tour through this subterranean wonderland by boarding an underground boat ride that leads to a mile-long guided walk through and out of the cave.

 

EXILE YOURSELF ON RATHLIN ISLAND

Robert the Bruce is said to have been exiled on Northern Ireland’s northernmost speck of land in 1306. Once you visit Rathlin Island you’ll be tempted to linger voluntarily. So get away from it all. Take the local ferry from Ballycastle, which takes 25 to 45 minutes. Some 150 friendly locals call the island home, and their quaint port village soon gives way to quiet country best explored by walking or by bicycle, which can be rented on the island. Stunning vistas blend land, sea and sky. Many interesting birds call the island home, at least seasonally, including a colony of puffins. The experts at the RSPB seabird center are a terrific help to experts and would-be birders alike. Whether you stay a few hours or a few days, don’t forget to take in the view from the unique “upside-down” lighthouse before you head back to the mainland.

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LIVE THE LAKE LIFE IN COUNTY FERMANAGH

County Fermanagh may be landlocked, but the way to its heart is by water. Lough Erne, actually two connected lakes, is dotted with intriguing islands to explore. Devenish Island’s monastic site dates to the 6th century and its famed round tower was built in the 12th century. Curious ancient figures are found on White Island and on Boa Island where the two-faced Janus figure was carved by Celts circa 400 to 800 AD.

The local waters provide plenty of live action as well. The Erne system is famed for fine fishing of two distinct flavors; brown trout on Lower Lough Erne and pike on the Upper Lough. The lake’s scenic shorelines are home to a number of National Trust castle and great house properties. Celebrated inns, hotels, and restaurants serve up the culinary delights that are increasingly earning rave reviews in Fermanagh and across Northern Ireland.

The lake is friendly to paddlers with plenty of canoe and kayak rentals and a designated trail complete with camping. Non-paddlers can hop on a day cruise, or hire a boat and chart a course wherever they wish. If the lough only whets your appetite for more, consider moving on to the Shannon Erne Waterway. Thirty-nine miles of scenic canal, river and lake connect the lough with Ireland’s famed River Shannon—and hundreds more miles of adventure.

 

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Titanic Belfast named King of the World!

Titanic Belfast have just been crowned the ‘World’s Leading Tourist Attraction’ at the prestigious World Travel Awards in the Maldives!

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Having already beaten the Colosseum, the Acropolis and the Eiffel Tower to become Europe’s official Leading Tourist Attraction, we’ve now sailed our way to victory, becoming the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction!! With over 1 million votes cast from over 216 countries in the awards, known as the ‘Tourism Oscars’, Titanic Belfast was awarded the title this afternoon, after beating off stiff competition from eight global finalists – including Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the Las Vegas Strip, USA, Machu Picchu, Peru and Guinness Storehouse, Ireland. It is the first time an attraction from Ireland, North or South, has won the prestigious accolade. Tim Husbands MBE, our Chief Executive, said; “Over the past few years, we have continued to go from strength to strength but to be voted the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction by both the industry and the public for excellence and for our original product, is really the jewel in our crown. We are delighted that this award firmly shines a spotlight not only on Titanic Belfast but Belfast and Northern Ireland, and celebrates our authentic insight and connection to RMS Titanic. “The Titanic story captures hearts and minds throughout the world and at Titanic Belfast, this is no exception. Our interpretation of the story and ability to engage with visitors on many different levels has been fundamental in winning this award. With the award, we hope to attract more tourists to Northern Ireland to discover it. A huge thank you to our staff and all our supporters that voted, locally and across the world, to help us reach this iconic goal of being the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction.” –

See more at:
http://titanicbelfast.com/Blog/December-2016/Titanic-Belfast-named-King-of-the-World!.aspx?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Link&utm_content=WTA2016&utm_campaign=Content+Marketing&utm_source=Titanic+Belfast+Customers&utm_campaign=5011521d8e-WTA_Final_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ef62fde800-5011521d8e-294256529

36 Hours in Belfast

Avoided, underrated or just plain forgotten, Belfast is a city that’s been fighting a bad reputation for half a century. A visit today, however, is an eye-opening experience in the best possible way. Belfast has been coming into its own in the last few years, developing a vibrant restaurant scene, award-winning architecture — the Royal Institute of British Architects gave the MAC, a sleek arts venue, a National Award in 2013 — and a new cosmopolitanism, although fried breakfasts and a heightened awareness of sectarian conflict are still an integral part of most residents’ days. The friendliness of the people is what’s most appealing in this small and very walkable city, from smiling servers to talkative bartenders to helpful strangers on the street. Visit Belfast to soak up good vibes, to eat well and to drink unstintingly. It’s a city that’s at its best when enjoyed from behind a pint glass.

Friday

1. Lunch with a view | 1:30 p.m.

Kick off the weekend with lunch at Robinson & Cleaver, a new restaurant housed in what was a 19th-century linen warehouse and department store. The “Taste of Ulster” sharing boards, with selections of smoked salmon, grilled mackerel, Oakwood cheese and wheaten bread, are perfect for sampling locally produced fare. Find a spot on the terrace, which looks directly out onto the ornate Edwardian City Hall. To its right is the imposing Scottish Provident Building, a late-Victorian sandstone edifice that’s currently metamorphosing into a high-end business center. Lunch for two around £30, or $44, at $1.47 to the pound.

2. Botanics and background | 3 p.m.

After lunch, stroll through Belfast’s Botanic Gardens, 28 acres of green lawns and trees near Queens University. Stop at the Palm House, an elegant Victorian greenhouse with a curved iron and glass structure that’s just as gorgeous as the abundance of exotic plants growing inside. Emerge from the gardens at the Ulster Museum (free admission), a well-designed space with exhibits on Northern Irish history, art and natural history, and one that offers a comprehensive background on the country’s heritage.

3. Crown jewel | 5:30 p.m.

The Crown Liquor Saloon is a treasure: a Victorian gin palace that’s been beautifully restored by its owner, the National Trust. Everything from the snugs — semiprivate tables sequestered by mid-height walls — to the red granite bar to the antique bell system for summoning staff looks like it’s straight out of a period movie. Order a pint of Guinness here (£3.90) and it comes with a shamrock traced in the head. The Crown manages to sit on the fence of sectarian feuds: While the name sounds decidedly Loyalist, there’s a mosaic of a crown decorating the ground outside the entryway upon which Republican clientele can happily step. Look up the street to see the Europa Hotel, known for a time as “the most bombed hotel in Europe.” The Europa was hit dozens of times during the Troubles, though it kept its doors open throughout.

4. From the sea | 7:30 p.m.

Though Ireland’s an island, all too often its best seafood is exported and the remainder overpriced at home. The Mourne Seafood Bar, though, has built a reputation over eight years on serving top-quality, locally caught fish and seafood that doesn’t cost the earth. Book ahead for dinner in this city center restaurant and feast on oysters brought straight from nearby Carlingford Lough, along with fresh langoustines, salmon, lobster and more elaborate tidbits like poponcini peppers stuffed with crab mayonnaise and watercress salad. Dinner for two, around £70.

Saturday

5. Breakfast of champions | 10 a.m.

The debate over where to get the best “Ulster fry” in Belfast is never-ending, but Bright’s is a top contender. This no-frills restaurant serves up the basics (fish and chips, eggs and beans) to locals who crowd in, three generations to a table. Push past the herd of strollers in the entryway and order the “Bright’s fry” (£3.50), a plate packed with eggs, sausages, potato bread, soda bread, bacon and black pudding, along with grilled mushrooms and tomatoes as a (meaningless) gesture toward health consciousness. Pair this with plenty of tea from the ubiquitous workaday steel pots and you’ll be set up for the day, as they say.

6. Taxis and Troubles | 11 a.m.

While the Troubles may seem like a part of Belfast’s past, Troubles tourism is alive and well. Visiting the areas most affected is essential for understanding the city’s fraught history. Ninety-minute “black taxi tours” (around £30 for up to three people, additional fee for more) take passengers through the Falls and Shankill Roads, Catholic and Protestant, respectively, and still strongly sectarian. Drivers also deliver a running commentary on the Troubles, and explain the significance of the numerous political murals that so clearly divide the neighborhoods. The Irish nationalist Bobby Sands is a staple of the Catholic murals while terrifying images of paramilitaries in balaclavas holding machine guns are popular in Loyalist areas. Many companies run black taxi tours; stop by the Visit Belfast Welcome Center on Donegall Square for brochures. The companies are much of a muchness — they all cover the same areas and advertise themselves as impartial, although individual taxi drivers, most of whom were born and bred in one of these neighborhoods, will make their politics quite clear.

7. Cathedrals and craft beer | 1 p.m.

Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is the trendiest neighborhood in town, its cobbled streets now home to bustling restaurants, pubs and arts venues. Begin with a visit to St. Anne’s Cathedral (admission, £5), a turn-of-the century Romanesque building with two quirky features: the 1,000 colorful hassocks hand-embroidered by churchgoing women since 1950; and the Spire of Hope, a 76-meter stainless steel spike that punctures the roof and was added in 2007. Nearby, tucked away on tiny Commercial Court, is Hadskis, which opened in late 2013 with a focus on local ingredients. Sit at the long bar overlooking the open kitchen for a lunch of pheasant, pearl barley and horseradish with a side of champ (an Irish spin on mashed potatoes), washed down with a Headless Dog or Titanic Quarter — both craft beers from the Northern Irish Hilden Brewing Company. Lunch for two, around £50.

8. Architecture and the arts | 4 p.m.

One of the shining examples of the new, more sophisticated Belfast, the MAC (Metropolitan Arts Center), which is free (performances require tickets), is a stunning asymmetrical tower of brick and volcanic stone housing seven stories of high-ceilinged galleries and cleverly designed reading nooks. It’s the ever-changing roster of exhibitions and live performances that’s the real enticement, however. Pop in to see the latest visual art exhibitions or check out the frequent experimental live performances (theater, music and dance). The MAC is well situated in the Cathedral Quarter overlooking St. Anne’s Square, which has emerged as a restaurant hot spot.

9. Drinks at the Duke | 5:30 p.m.

At the other end of Commercial Court from Hadskis is the Duke of York pub, where a young Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, tended bar in the 1960s. Outdoor drinking is a growing trend in Belfast, and the Duke claims a charming stretch of alleyway with brick walls, window boxes and benches. It’s a local haunt, and it’s worth walking across the alley to the parking lot to check out the mural of local celebrities. If the weather’s not conducive to sitting outdoors, take your Guinness (£3.70) inside, where the walls and ceiling are plastered with old-fashioned advertisements for stout and whiskey.

10. Seasonal Menu | 7:30 p.m.

Sitting pretty at the top of the Belfast culinary scene is OX, which opened in March 2013 to great fanfare. The former tile shop has massive plate glass windows that look out onto the River Lagan, and a menu that matches the décor in simplicity and modernity. Friday and Saturday nights are tasting menu only: five courses of seasonal dishes with a vegetable focus, like broad bean and radish leaf soup, and Mourne lamb with spelt, girolles and beetroot. With just 40 seats, it’s best to book in advance. Tasting menu for two, around £110.

 

Sunday

11. Tour the Titanic | 11:30 a.m.

Allow several hours for Titanic Belfast (admission, £15.50), which is a 20-minute walk or short taxi ride from the city center in the recently designated Titanic Quarter. The museum’s four wings are designed to look like high-tech ships’ hulls, covered in silver anodized aluminum shards. It opened in 2012 to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the Belfast-built ship (though the locals say, “It was all right when it left here.”). The exhibits are impressively detailed, from the recreated staterooms to the personal histories of builders, waitresses and guests. Don’t miss the compelling beginning exhibits, which describe life in Belfast’s linen mills at the turn of the century. Also essential are the interactive projection of the ship’s plans and the Shipyard Ride, a narrated, amusement park-style ride that’s entertaining and not just for kids.

Belfast - Titanic Belfast

Lodging

A former seed warehouse, Malmaison (34-38 Victoria St.) is a boutique hotel with a funky atmosphere and an abundance of cushy couches, plush cushions and deep colors. Amenities include free wifi, king-sized beds and a bar popular with local luminaries.

The Merchant (16 Skipper St.) boasts a chic Victorian-meets-Art Deco aesthetic accented by bespoke furnishings and a gorgeous old-fashioned bar. Situated in the Cathedral Quarter, it’s a good base for exploring the city.

 

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Northern Irish gems – 10 top things to see on a trip to Belfast.

1. Go back in time with a visit to the moving Titanic Museum.
Stunning architecture, and a museum which houses the world’s largest display of Titanic memorabilia.

2. Walk in the footsteps of TV stars from Game of Thrones on the Game of Thrones tour!
http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/gameofthrones/

3. Discover one of the best beaches in the world. Murlough’s wide, flat 6km long sandy beach is a 50 min drive from the city.

It’s backed by an ancient sand dune system and is an excellent area for walking and bird watching due to its spectacular location at the edge of the Mourne Mountains.

4. Get cosy in the Crown Liquor Saloon. Don’t miss this Victorian pub in Great Victoria Street.
It was once a Victorian Gin palace but today offers great beer and pub food. It also has stunning stained glass windows, wooden booths and a great atmosphere. A historic gem.

http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/Crown-Liquor-Saloon-Belfast-P4586

Giant's Causeway

5. See a show at the Waterfront Hall Conference and Concert Centre.
The impressive, circular building, nestling on the water front was built in 1997 and has been a Belfast favourite ever since.
See the opera La Traviata there in April, or groove with 80’s band Hot Chocolate, plus The Three Degrees in May.

6. Tuck into soda bread. It’s an Irish speciality.
TV celebrity chef Paul Rankin helped make it popular, and you can buy it everywhere in Belfast.

7. Walk the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim.
The amazing hexagonal-shaped columns of rock were formed from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago and it’s the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland.
Four stunning trails to walk and an easy drive from Belfast. Park at Bushmills village and, from now until October, use the ‘park and ride’ service.

http://www.ireland.com/en-gb/amazing-places/giants-causeway?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Icons_Exact

8. Go whiskey-tasting at The Old Bushmills Distillery, on the coast road, not far from the Giant’s Causeway.
It’s been lovingly made here since 1608 and you’ll find it on Distillery Road.

9. Chill out and find a great buy at the Sunday craft and vintage stall at St George’s Market, Belfast.

10. Stay and play with a golf break at Hilton Belfast Templepatick Golf & Country Club.
It’s home to one of the finest parkland courses in Ireland and the Ulster PGA Championship has been hosted here six times.
It’s an ideal base to discover why Northern Ireland is the home of golfing champions.

 

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Titanic Belfast beats Eiffel Tower to ‘best tourist attraction’ spot

Titanic BelfastTitanic Belfast has fended off one of the most iconic buildings in Europe to be named the continent’s best visitor attraction.

The 300m Eiffel Tower may have breathtaking views of Paris, bit it was Northern Ireland’s top tourist spot which won over judges at a major travel awards event in Berlin.

It also beat off stiff competition from artist Claude Monet’s Grand Gardens in France and the London Eye.

Inside an impressive exterior – designed to resemble the ship’s prow – Titanic Belfast contains a number of exhibitions on early 20th Centrury Belfast, the ship-building industry, the ship’s sinking and its legacy.

It was the only attraction from across Ireland to be recognised at the European Group Travel Awards.

CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said: “Congratulations to Titanic Belfast on this very well deserved award. Since its opening in 2012, Titanic Belfast has become a truly iconic and ‘must visit’ attraction for overseas visitors to Belfast.”

The inaugural European Group Travel Awards (EGTA) were organised to recognise and celebrate the best suppliers in the group travel sector, with group travel buyers around Europe asked to submit their nominees in 21 different categories.

 

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Ireland’s most popular counties and what to visit

The following counties are among the most widely visited in Ireland. With their lively arts and culture attractions it’s not hard to see why.

Cliffs of Moher

COUNTY ANTRIM

Belfast City (in Irish, Beal Feirste) is the capital of Northern Ireland and is located in County Antrim, one of Ireland most visited counties. History and politics have always played a major role in the fabric of Belfast, and perhaps for that reason its citizens are among the most vivid and witty people you’ll ever meet.

Belfast

Unsurprisingly, Belfast is rich in culture, art, music, dance, sports, shopping, attractions and historical sites. City Hall, one of the main seats of power, is located on Donegall Square and dominates the area with its magnificent classical renaissance style architecture and Italian marble interior. It was completed in 1903.

The Linen Hall Library, also located on Donegall Square, was established in 1788. It houses an Irish collection of over 20,000 volumes and a Robert Burns collection. Visit and you’ll be keeping company with many noted Irish authors.

The Crown Liquor Saloon is the most famous pub in Belfast and, frankly, one of the most beautiful pubs in the world. Featuring Victorian architecture, with the outside covered in thousands of colorful tiles, the inside decor has stained and painted glass, carved oak screens and mahogany furniture. Don’t miss it.

The Botanic Gardens, the rose gardens and herbaceous borders were established in 1920 and are unmissable. Two greenhouses dominate the gardens and the Palm House has a conservatory containing tropical plants like coffee, sugar, and banana plants. The Tropical Ravine has a high walkway that provides a great viewpoint.

Overlooking the city, Belfast Castle was built in 1870 and was the former home of the Donegall family, who gave the main square in the city center its name. The castle offers a spectacular view of the city. There is also a heritage center, antique shop, and children’s play area on the premise.

 

COUNTY CLARE

County Clare in the Republic of Ireland is steeped in history, and it offers beautiful seascapes, landscapes, lakes, cliffs, caves and music. Highlights include The Burren (an ancient perfectly preserved landscape), The Cliffs of Moher (700 foot high cliffs facing the wild Atlantic), and Bunratty Castle and Folk Park (an impressive castle dating from the early Middle Ages).

Clare

The Burren is over 500 square miles of limestone located in the northwest corner of County Clare. The area is a haven for botanists and ecologists because of the unique flora and rock. The ground surface is a floor of gray rock with long parallel grooves, known as grykes. There is an amazing variety of flora with Arctic, Alpine, and Mediterranean plants growing in spring and summer. For that reason there’s also an amazing range of color in the flowers, ferns and mosses.

Alwee Caves were discovered in the 1940s. There are caverns, underground waterfalls, stalagmite and stalactite formations and remains of brown bears, which have been extinct in Ireland for thousands of years. The caves are open for guided tours.

The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most spectacular sights of The Burren. These majestic cliffs rise more than 700 feet above the windswept Atlantic Ocean and stretch five miles along the west coast of Clare. Composed of shale and sandstone, the Cliffs’ ledges make ideal roosting homes for birds. On a clear day you can see as far as the Mountains of Kerry, Connemara and the Aran Islands.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is one of the most complete and authentic medieval castles in Ireland. This being Ireland it also has a long and bloody history.

The castle is a combination of earlier Norman castles and the later Gaelic Tower Houses furnished with a fine collection of medieval furniture, artwork and ornate carvings. A four-course Medieval Banquet and entertainment with performers in traditional costume is offered in the evenings.

 

COUNTY CORK

County Cork is the largest county in Ireland and Cork City is the second-largest city in the Republic. A unique and lively second capital, the distinctive people are as much an attraction as the place itself.
Saint Finbarr first built a monastery on the site that would later become Cork City in the year 650. The city grew along the banks of the River Lee at the point where it splits into two channels.

Cork

Cork City is essentially an island with 16 bridges. The main commercial area is located along St. Patrick Street, Grand Parade, Washington Street, Oliver Plunkett Street and Main Street. The charm and beauty of Cork City revolves around the contrasts the city offers. There are a multitude of theaters and a variety of arts. There is also a diverse range of excellent restaurants, cafes, and pubs with traditional Irish music.

The city also has many unique and quaint shops. Across the Southern Channel are some of the oldest streets in Cork, along with the campus of University College, Cork.

The nearby Blarney Castle was built by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster in 1446 and should be at the top of your must visit list. The castle is located on a thousand acres of beautiful woodland, and is partially hidden by trees, some up to a thousand years old. The castle has been witness to the triumph and turmoil of Irish chiefs and enemy armies.

Cobh, (pronounced cove) is a picturesque town located on the Great Island, one of three large islands in Cork Harbour. It was the port of departure for many Irish during the Great Hunger from 1844 to 1848 and has the distinction of being central for two of the worst maritime disasters in history. Cobh was the last berth for the Titanic and the nearest port to the Lusitania when it was torpedoed and sunk off the south coast of Ireland. The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage while crossing the Atlantic after leaving Cobh (then Queenstown).

Nearby Kinsale is a fishing and resort town with a picture perfect harbor. The town’s narrow streets are lined with colorfully painted buildings and it is widely renowned for its art galleries and gourmet restaurants. Kinsale is also considered the Gourmet Capital of Ireland. Many of the pubs offer traditional Irish music and upscale fare.

 

COUNTY DONEGAL

With its sandy beaches, unspoiled boglands and friendly communities, County Donegal is a leading destination for many travelers. One of the county treasures is Glenveagh National Park, the only official national park anywhere in the Province of Ulster. The park is a huge nature reserve with spectacular scenery of mountains, raised boglands, lakes and woodlands. At its heart is Glenveagh Castle, a beautiful late Victorian “folly” that was originally built as a summer residence.

Donegal

Donegal’s rugged landscape lends itself to active sports like climbing, hillwalking, scuba-diving, surfing and kite-flying. Many people travel to Donegal for the superb golf links — long sandy beaches and extensive dune systems are a feature of the county, and many golf courses have been developed. Golf is a very popular sport within the county, including world class golf courses such as Ballyliffin (Glashedy), Ballyliffin (Old), both of whch are located in the Inishowen peninsula. Other courses to note are Murvagh and Rosapenna.

The Donegal Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking district) also attracts young people to County Donegal each year during the school summer holidays. The three week long summer Gaeltacht courses give young Irish people from other parts of the country a chance to learn the Irish language and traditional Irish cultural traditions that are still prevalent in parts of Donegal.

 

COUNTY DUBLIN

Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland and is divided by the River Liffey. The Royal Canal and the Grand Canal provide connections between the port area and the northern and southern branches of the River Shannon.

Dublin

Dublin is a city steeped in history and boasts of having the oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, and the oldest university, Trinity College. It is a center of art and culture and the largest truly cosmopolitan city in Ireland.

O’Connell Street is the main thoroughfare and the widest street in Europe. At the south end, sits a huge monument of Daniel O’Connell, the Irish patriot. The General Post Office (GPO) is also located on O’Connell Street and was the headquarters for the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and the provisional government of Ireland in the 1916 Easter Rising.

The Dublin Writers Museum is a restored 18th century mansion located at the north end of Parnell Square. The museum houses manuscripts and first editions of the works of some of Ireland’s best writers, including: Behan, Joyce, Shaw, Swift, Wilde, and Yeats. It is also home to an impressive collection of painting, photographs, and memorabilia of the various writers.

The Temple Bar Area is the cultural quarter of Dublin. This is a historical and eclectic area filled with art, theater, music, pubs, cafes, and the highest concentration of truly upscale restaurants. There’s also the Market in Meeting House Square serving organic foods, unique shops, book and music stores. It also plays host to many open-air events.

Trinity College is one of the oldest centers of learning, dating back to the 16th century. The library is home to the world renowned Book of Kells, a Latin text of the four gospels, with meticulous artwork around the borders, created in the ninth century.

The National Museum of Archaeology and History is located on Kildare Street. This branch houses artifacts from 2000 B.C. through the 20th century and includes the National Treasury with many archaeological treasures of Celtic and Medieval art, such as the Ardagh Chalice and Tara Brooch.

Christchurch Cathedral is Dublin’s oldest place of Christian worship. The Christian Norse, King Sitric, founded it in 1038. Part of the structure goes back to the 12th century. It is presently an Anglican Church.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the National Cathedral for the Anglican Church. Originally built in the 12th century, it is the burial site of Jonathan Swift, a former Dean and author of Gulliver’s Travels.

 

COUNTY GALWAY

Galway City is known as the City of Tribes after 14 merchant families who controlled and managed the city in medieval times and is situated along the River Corrib at the mouth of Galway Bay.

Galway

Today, the city is a growing and thriving university city that offers the best theater in the country. There is also a vibrant nightlife and music can be found everywhere. During the summer, Galway offers many festivals.

Connemara, known for its wild beauty, is located north of Galway City, at the western tip of the county. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Ireland and a vibrant Gaelic-speaking area.

The Aran Islands, also a Gaelic-speaking area, are located 30 miles off the Irish coast. The islands themselves consist of three islands, Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.

Inis Moir, meaning Big Island, is eight miles long and two miles wide, and has a population of 900. The fort of Dun Aengus is built on the edge of a sheer southern cliff with a defense forest of sharp stone spikes.

Inishmaan means Middle Island. It is three miles wide and two miles long, with fields bordered by high dry stonewalls, and marked by vast sheets of limestone rock. The island peaks at 300 feet and a series of giant terraces slope down to Galway Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The island has a Gaelic speaking population.

Inisheer is known as the Little Island. It is 27 miles from Galway and covers 1,400 acres. It has a population of about 300. This island is an outcrop of the Burren landscape, consisting of bare limestone that is used for the many cottages, stonewalls, roads, and pathways around the island. The Gaelic-speaking island is a haven for birdwatchers and those interested in flora and fauna.

 

COUNTY KERRY

The locals know County Kerry as The Kingdom, a reference to the contrasts you’ll see in its astounding scenery, which suggest Ireland in miniature. The climate in Kerry is more unique than other places in Ireland, thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, and it’s actually possible to swim here year round.

Kerry

Kerry has preserved its heritage in many ways. The oak woods at Derrycunnihy and Tomies, for example, are the last of Ireland’s primeval forests. There are many small villages that are still Gaelic-speaking too, adding to the character of the county. Dingle Town is a fishing village that offers a wonderful selection of shops, restaurants and pubs with traditional music.

THE RING OF KERRY is located on the Peninsula of Iveragh. It lies between Dingle Bay and The Kenmare River. It is 110 miles of gorgeous coastal and mountain scenery, enveloping the towns of Killorglin, Glenbeigh, Caherciveen, Waterville, Sneem, Kenmare and Killarney. Each town has its own personality. The coastal drive is one of the most spectacular sites in all of Ireland.

The locals know County Kerry as The Kingdom, a reference to the contrasts you’ll see in its astounding scenery, which suggest Ireland in miniature. The climate in Kerry is more unique than other places in Ireland, thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, and it’s actually possible to swim here year round.

 

COUNTY KILKENNY

Kilkenny is a county looked on enviously by other counties, and not only because of the county’s incredible track record in the ancient Irish game of hurling. Kilkenny is a county filled with enchantment and delight. From the spectacular scenery of the Nore and Barrow river valleys to the cultured beauty of Kilkenny City, the county provides the perfect setting for whatever holiday you desire.

Kilkenny

Known through history as the Marble City because of its distinctive indigenous jet-black marble, Kilkenny City offers a curious, yet undeniably attractive mix of perfectly preserved old buildings and the vibrancy of a modern city which has made festivals like the Kilkenny Cat Laughs comedy festival, an event with international recognition. St Canice’s Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle are extremely important monuments and quality tours are available.

There are plenty of other things to see inside and outside the city and throughout Kilkenny’s rural hinterland. Some of Ireland’s finest craft studios are to be found in Kilkenny, from pottery to gold and silver-smithing. The experience of seeing a master craftsperson is not one to be missed.

For more physically active tourists, Kilkenny has no limit to the range of choices available. The Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course at Mount Juliet is one of the finest in the state. Arguably the best river wild trout fishing is to be found near Durrow on the River Nore.

The county has numerous ancient sites including Iron Age fortifications, inscribed stones and crosses, castles, and abbeys. The Dunmore Caves in Ballyfoyle are important both for historical and environmental reasons. The site of a massacre of the Irish by Viking raiders in 928, and according to legend, the place where The Lord of the Mice was slain Dunmore is best known these days for the wondrous sight of stalagmites of huge size dominating the chambers.

 

COUNTY MEATH

County Meath has traditionally been known as the Royal County, being the seat of the ancient Kings of Ireland at Tara. In the Boyne Valley of County Meath are some of Ireland’s most important archeological monuments, including the Megalithic Passage Tombs of Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, Fourknocks, Loughcrew and Tara.

Meath

Newgrange is the most famous of these prehistoric monuments. It was originally built around 3,100 B.C. and accidentally discovered in the 17th century.

 

COUNTY OFFALY

The heart of the Midlands, County Offaly offers bogs, meadowlands, and undiscovered pastures. Clonmacnoise, located at Shannonbridge on the banks of the River Shannon, is one of the most famous monastic sites.

Offaly

Begun as an isolated monastery founded by St. Ciaran in 545 A.D. it is to this day an ecclesiastical site, with ruins of a cathedral, eight churches, and three high crosses.

Irish chieftains, Vikings and Anglo-Normans plundered Clonmacnoise. Cromwell’s forces devastated it beyond restoration. There are guided tours during the summer months; a video presentation at the Visitor Center, and an informative five-mile trail tour of the Blackwater.

 

COUNTY TYRONE

Located in the center of the historic province of Ulster, County Tyrone is blessed with an array of places to visit. The Ulster American Folk Park, for example, is located three miles north of Omagh.

Tyrone

The Folk Park is an open-air living history museum that explores Ulster’s links to the many famous Americans who trace their ancestry to the North of Ireland. The park is comprised of an indoor gallery with information on the causes and patterns of immigration. Outside are a variety of reconstructed buildings of 18th and 19th century Ireland.

Throughout the park are costumed guides and craftsmen that add to the authenticity. Also on site is the Centre for Emigration Studies, an extensive research library. Plan at least half a day to explore the park.

 

COUNTY WICKLOW

County Wicklow is often referred to as the Garden of Ireland, due to its breathtaking scenery and located just south of Dublin it makes for a wonderful day trip or overnight stay away from the ‘big smoke.’

Glendalough is a 6th century monastic site that was founded by St. Kevin.

Wicklow

Nestled into the heart of the Wicklow Mountains it offers a truly spectacular setting, featuring a stone tower that stands 110 feet tall. There is a visitor center and guided tours are available.

Wicklow National Park is an unspoiled natural wonder with nearly 50,000 acres of raw beauty. A drive through the Wicklow Gap from Glendalough to Hollywood is one of jaw dropping beauty.

Powerscourt is a beautiful upscale estate with some of the finest gardens in Europe.

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In the footsteps of giants

Giant's Causeway

The only Irish attraction to make Conde Naste Travel Magazine’s “20 Most Beautiful UNESCO Word Heritage Sites” was County Antrims’s Giant’s Causeway. The 40,000 basalt stone columns that stretch into the sea towards Scotland were formed, geologists say, by volcanic lava. But Irish mythology says the strange formations were the work of the hero Finn McCool, who built the causeway as a path to cross the Irish Sea and do battle with a rival Scottish giant.

Whatever the derivation, the Giant’s Causeway is a scenic wonder that you can not only gawk at, but climb over and around as well. And that’s what hundreds of thousands of visitors do each year, after taking a short bus ride from the visitors’ center, operated by the National Trust. In addition to climbing on and among (weather permitting) the columns, there are hiking trails to the top of the impressive cliffs which tower over the causeway itself.

The visitors’ center also provides an informative and entertaining film, which outlines both of the conflicting accounts of the causeway’s beginnings. You can also purchase Irish handicrafts and souvenirs at reasonable prices (the causeway is no tourist trap), and get information on other attractions along the ruggedly beautiful coast of County Antrim.

Other nearby sites worth visiting include:

Dunluce Castle

Imposing ruins, dating from the 16th century, dramatically situated on a cliff overlooking the Irish Sea.

The Glens of Antrim

Take a breathtaking ride along the coast, detouring into the nine glens, where you’ll find lovely hidden coves, time-warped fishing villages, forests, waterfalls, and even the mountain where St. Patrick is reputed to have tended sheep while in slavery.

Carrick-a-Rede

Here, you can walk, if you dare, across a rope bridge that spans an 80-foot chasm.

The Old Bushmills Distillery

Recover from the rope bridge experience at Bushmills Distillery with a taste of Irish malt whiskey, after touring the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery.

The historic village of Bushmills is literally minutes away from the Giant’s Causeway. A great place to stay is the Bushmills Inn, which provides one of the warmest welcomes you’ll find in an island famous for hospitality. Having a Bushmills double malt before a turf fire in one of the inn’s cozy sitting rooms is only topped by the superb dining in the inn’s acclaimed restaurant, where you can feast on Irish smoked salmon or succulent New Zealand lamb.

The Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills are about a four-hour drive from Dublin, mostly on modern highways. If you decide to say in Belfast and tour one of Europe’s emerging “hot” cities, try the Fitzwilliam International Belfast, a boutique hotel adjacent to the Opera House. While Belfast was for years considered “off limits” due to the sectarian troubles, with the current peace initiative, it’s actually one of the safest places in Europe these days.
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