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Last updated : Nov 2009
Other Region in Northern Ireland
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County Antrim

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 cliffs.

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.

County Armagh

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 Centre.

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.

County Down

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 guided tours.

County Farmanagh

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.

County Londonderry

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 history.

County Tyrone

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.