Although Ireland is on the top of many a traveler’s bucket list, Northern Ireland is often times overlooked. I had the privilege of visiting this fascinating country and I absolutely fell in love. And what timing! It was the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the deal that brought an end to 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles. There were lots of political mucky mucks celebrating around the country while I was there.
Northern Ireland is less touristy than Ireland, making it a wonderful destination for those who are trying to avoid crowds. And with summer crowds overpopulating so many European cities, this is the PERFECT destination. It’s rife with history, castles, ruins, geological formations, pubs, wild coastlines, and oh so famous filming locations!
Belfast is a very walkable capital city. Lots of fun pubs to wet your whistle in as you explore the streets of the city. The Titanic Museum is, hands down, one of THE best museums I’ve ever visited. Not only is the architecture impressive, but the experience of the museum itself is exemplary.
No visit to Belfast would be complete without a Black Cab Tour. If you are confused about The Troubles, you will come away with a very good understanding of this complicated time in Northern Ireland’s history. The murals on each side effectively depict the plight on many levels.
Derry/Londonderry is the only city in Northern Ireland with completely intact city walls. The name dispute is something I’ll leave to you to discover on your own. Start your day by walking along the city walls. It will give you a nice perspective of the city. Derry was a hotspot during The Troubles. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” ran through my head the entire time I explored the city. There are amazing murals around the city reflecting many aspects of those times. It’s a charming city well worth a visit. I had to check out the popular Netflix series, “Derry Girls” after visiting.
VENTURING OUT FROM THE CITIES
Travel along the iconic Giant’s Causeway Coastal Route and let yourself be enchanted by the gorgeous locations on the Antrim Coast and the lush beauty of the landscape. The coastline of County Antrim in Northern Ireland is renowned for its scenic beauty, with possibly the world’s best-driving route, the Causeway Coastal Route, clinging to its edge. The Giant’s Causeway, sitting at the northern end, takes the centerpiece as the crown’s unique jewel. The famous jagged promontory of around 40,000 neatly packed columns of hexagonal volcanic basalt columns, descending gently into the sea, was created some 6 million years ago. Depending on who you believe, the stones were formed either by an underwater volcano’s geological actions or by a giant named Finn McCool, who lived and battled along the north Antrim Coast. Giant’s Causeway is not only Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage, it is the most visited site.
Of course, there are those Game of Thrones enthusiasts who love to visit all of the filming locations of which there are many!
Many thanks to Eoin McGrath and Hastings Hotels for your generosity and invaluable assistance during my trip.