First let me try to clarify some misconceptions about Northern Ireland (NI). Although geographically located in Ireland, Northern Ireland is part of the UK. The UK includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland whilst Great Britain doesn’t include Northern Ireland. It is also the smallest country in the UK with less than 2 million people. During 30 years Northern Ireland lived a very troubled period which has fortunately ended about 20 years ago and it’s now a peaceful place to live that offers spectacular places to visit. NI is divided into 6 counties (Antrim, Down, Londonderry, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh) and it is my intention in this post to share with you one outstanding place per county, but don’t be disappointed thinking this is it, that NI is limited to these 6 places, far from that, NI has a lot to offer like mountains to hike, a coastal area that is simply stunning, beautiful beaches, picturesque villages, castles, Georgian and Victorian mansions, parks and forests…plenty of reasons to come and experience from yourself the beauty of this small country. I will take you with me to several other magical places on following posts. So lets get started!
Giant’s Causeway (County Antrim)
This is probably the ex-libris of Northern Ireland, the invitation card in all prospectus advertising this country. The uniqueness of this place awarded it the Northern Ireland’s first UNESCO Heritage Site.
There isn’t consensus regarding the formation of those basalt stones. Some believe it’s the result of volcanic eruptions that happened 60 million years ago and the turnover were those 40000 basalt stone with a hexagonal shape arranged in a way that looks like honeycombs which makes it so beautiful, mystic and mysterious. Those who believe in myths would say that this place is connected to an Irish giant called Finn MacCool who didn’t like the Scottish giants and in his intention of getting to them he built a whole causeway from Ulster across the sea to Scotland. If you want to learn more about this special place you can visit the Visitor Centre where all the information is displayed and provided.
Open daily from 9 am to 6 pm during Summer time and closing one hour earlier during Winter time. The price is £11.50 per adult.
The Crom (County Fermanagh)
The Crom is located in county Fermanagh. This county is famous for its endless number of lakes. I went to the Crom during an Easter holiday and I had a fantastic boat experience through Lough Erne. The rowing boats can be hired for £7.50 per hour and Canadian Canoes have a cost of £15 for half a day or £30 for the full day.
Enjoy the tranquility of the place and the stunning landscapes, castles, ruins and woodland that the place offers. The quietude of the place will allow you to spot a variety of wildlife (cows crossing the lake, martens, squirrels, deer…). Take some time to walk through the woodland and explore the Estate.
If like me, you are fascinated by trees here you will find some gorgeous ancient and majestic of these beautiful beings.
Silent Valley (County Down)
Located in county Down, this reservoir was built to use the water from Mourne Mountains and supply it to county Down and Belfast. The location is absolutely stunning as it is surrounded by the Mourne Mountains. When you reach Silent Valley you will feel overwhelmed with the silence, it’s like you can hear the silence. It is so tranquil, serene and peaceful that you will feel embedded with the nature. How can nature have such an effect on you? These marvelous brown mountains are also the perfect place to explore. There are some trails that you can use to enjoy the stunning views. There is a car park (£4.50) which is open daily from 10 am to 6.30 pm during Summer, though during Winter time it closes at 4 pm.
I haven’t done this yet but it’s in my bucket list to hike Slieve Donard, the tallest mountain with an altitude of 850 metres. The Mourne Wall with an extension of 35 km it’s another highpoint. This wall made of granite stone, crosses fifteen summits in the Mourne.
Sperrin Mountains/Beaghmore Stone Circles (County Tyrone)
Beaghmore Stone Circles are located at the Sperrin Mountains and it’s believed they belong to the Bronze Age. In this mysterious place you can observe stones arranged in circles, seven circles to be more precise. There isn’t enough information regarding these circles but it is believed it was connected to some kind of religious belief or the movement of the sun and the moon. Even though it’s in a much smaller scale than Stonehenge it’s still an interesting place to visit.
Some of you might be thinking “More Mountains?” but believe me you will love it. The Sperrin are brown mountains completly untouched. One of the things I really enjoy in NI is that unlike many other places overcrowded with tourists, here you can feel yourself immersed with the nature, some times it’s only you and the breathtaking views.
Take some time to walk on these beautiful mountains and let yourself be mesmerized with the views.
Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne (County Londonderry)
This beautiful Temple built in the 18th century is on top of a cliff facing the ocean and literally at the edge of the cliff. This Temple was in the past a library of a bishop. Can you imagine yourself in here surrounded by books and with these stunning views? I would certainly be inspired and probably today a famous author! The place offers striking views to the beaches.
On site it’s also possible to visit the ruins of the bishop’s mansion almost completely destroyed by a fire in the 19th century.
The price to access Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne is £5.60 per adult.
Gosford Forest Park (County Armagh)
This is an excellent place for walking, cycling, camping and caravanning. But the reason I recommend this place is because I’m a nature lover and here you have 240 hectares of woodland and parkland that will allow you to explore the diversity of magnificent and ancestry trees and a lot of animals like sheep, cattle and the astounding red deer.
There is also a a castle from the 19th century, the Gosford Castle designed in a Normal style, used to accommodate troops and prisoners of war during the second world war, unfortunately I didn’t have the chance the visit the interior of the Castle as it was closed.
The access to Gosford Forest park has a cost of £5.
Are you considering to come and visit Northern Ireland?