To the northwest lies the Causeway Coast
with its resorts; the Giant’s Causeway, 38,000
hexagonal basalt columns formed by cooling volcanic flow and listed
by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Old Bushmills Distillery
is one of the oldest whiskey distilleries in the world. Nearby,
the massive Dunluce Castle ruins stands atop the
The nine Glens of Antrim, and the coast road running
north from Larne, are prime draws in the east, as is Carrickfergus
Castle, on the north shore of Belfast Lough.
Castle Gardens at Antrim, on the northeast shore
of Lough Neagh, exemplify the beauty of 17th-century
horticultural design. Nearby, Patterson’s Spade Mill
at Templepatrick is an unusual site. Ferries serve
Rathlin Island, where Robert the Bruce
is said to have observed the persistent spider, nowadays a bird
sanctuary, from Ballycastle.
The capital sits on the River Lagan at the head of Belfast
Lough. It offers excellent shopping and a range of visitor
attractions. A unique Belfast experience is the guided bus tours
around the focal points of Belfast’s recent history, including
Falls Road and Shankill Road,
to view the famous murals.
The Ulster Museum, in the Botanic Gardens,
covers a mix of archaeology, art and natural sciences. North of
the city are Belfast Zoo, Belfast Castle and Cave
Hill, a popular viewing point.
The Lagan Lookout on Donegall Quay
covers the river’s role in Belfast’s development. Opposite
the Grand Opera House in Great Victoria Street
is the ornate Crown Liquor Saloon, a Victorian
public house owned by the National Trust. For younger visitors,
the Dreamworld indoor theme park is a newer venue
in the Windsor district.
The smallest county rises from Lough Neagh to rocky
Slieve Gullion, Cuchulain’s mountain, in
the south. Armagh City is the all-Ireland religious
capital, with two cathedrals; the Armagh County Museum;
Georgian Mall; and the Planetarium/Space
Outside the city, the Navan Centre, at the site
of ancient Ulster capital, Emain Macha, offers
a multimedia window on the past. At Craigavon, the Lough
Neagh Discovery Centre explains the UK’s largest
lake. The lough and the Blackwater River offer watersports and angling.
From Silent Valley in the Mountains of Mourne,
to Strangford Lough (according to legend St Patrick’s
landfall when he arrived in Ireland in AD 432) and the resort coast
of Belfast Lough, is a county of great variety.
At Holywood, west of Belfast, the Ulster
Folk and Transport Museum is a major venue, while in Bangor,
the Castle and the North Down Heritage Centre are also highlights.
Mount Stewart House, near Newtonards, is a fine
example of a stately home.
Portaferry has the Exploris Aquarium, while students
of St Patrick flock to Downpatrick, where his grave
reputedly lies in the cathedral grounds, and the Saint Patrick Centre
explains his story. The linen industry is important to west Down
culture, and visitors to Banbridge can take themed
Ulster’s Lakeland is the feature of the county. Enniskillen,
the county town, straddles between Upper and Lower Lough Erne. Pleasure
boats run to Devenish Island, an early monastic
site complete with round tower. Enniskillen Castle includes a Heritage
Centre and the Museum of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
regiment. Sailing, golf, water-skiing and even pleasure flying are
available nearby. Fishermen make record catches here and the lakes
are said to be ‘polluted with fish’.
Nearby, two stately homes, Florence Court and Castle
Coole, are open to the public. Upon entering the Marble
Arch Caves to the south of Enniskillen, visitors can take
an underground boat trip to the showcaves. At Belleek Pottery
in the far west of the county, craftspeople demonstrate their skills
in fine porcelain making.
Massive 17th-century city walls and ‘singing pubs’ are
the famous features of Derry/Londonderry, on the River Foyle. The
Tower Museum vividly interprets the city’s
turbulent history, while the Fifth Province celebrates Irish Celtic
culture. The Foyle Valley Railway Centre focuses
on the area’s former narrow-gauge network. The wild Sperrin
Mountains lie south of Limavady, near the beautiful Roe
Valley Country Park, where Ulster’s first hydroelectric
power station, the Power House, is open to the
public. At Draperstown to the east, the Ulster
Plantation Centre tells the story of a notorious Irish
Between the Sperrins in the north and Clogher
Valley with its village cathedral in the south lies a area
of great historical interest. The Ulster-American Folk Park
near Omagh acknowledges the county’s close connections with
the USA. The Ulster History Park is nearby. Gray
Printers’ Museum at Strabane still houses its original
19th-century presses. There are parks at Gortin Glen
and Drum Mano. Dungannon, in the
southeast of the county, is home to Tyrone Crystal
– whose glassworks are open to the public.