Part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland sits in the northeastern part of the island of Ireland. Famed for its jaw-dropping Causeway Coast and dynamic capital city of Belfast, Northern Ireland is said to be ‘Great Britain’ in miniature. With spectacular glens and lochs, quaint countryside villages and Victorian-era cities, Northern Ireland is an easy to navigate treasure of the British Isles. Of course, Northern Ireland also has all the warm hospitality and Irish traditions of its southern neighbour, the Republic of Ireland, and you’ll find that a pint of Guinness goes down just as well on this side of the border!
For visitors who travel to Northern Ireland, the main tourist attractions continue to be its thriving capital and the natural wonders of the Causeway Coast, namely the spectacular Giant’s Causeway, alongside the vibrant cultural scene of Derry/Londonderry. Northern Ireland is composed of six historic countries, each with its own traditions and identities: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone. Separated from Scotland by just 13 miles at its closest point, Northern Ireland boasts an eclectic mix of cultures and histories, making it an eternally fascinating place to visit.
History of Northern Ireland
A relatively young country, Northern Ireland was established in 1921 following the partition of Ireland. Just a decade earlier, in 1911 the famous RMS Titanic was launched from Belfast shipyard, still one of the best-known events in the country’s history and a major source of tourism in Northern Ireland.
The partition of Ireland followed centuries of complex religious and political unrest, including the Easter Rising of 1916, the rise of the Irish Independence movement and the Irish War of Independence. Following the partition, Belfast became the capital of the newly formed nation of Northern Ireland, but bitter conflicts and divisions along sectarian lines continued for many years. The Troubles of the second half of the 20th-century were among the most difficult periods in Northern Irish history. If you travel to Northern Ireland today you can still view the sectarian murals in the streets of Londonderry/Derry and Belfast, a symbol of this troubled time.
The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 marked the beginning of the end of the violence in Northern Ireland and the establishment of a new power-sharing assembly. If you take a tour of Northern Ireland you’ll soon realise there’s more to this country than its history. A land of ancient forests, charming cultural traditions and historic castles, recognisable as the filming locations for the TV series Game of Thrones, visiting Northern Ireland is always a good idea!
Nature in Northern Ireland
Blessed with a wide array of natural wonders, the landscapes of Northern Ireland do not disappoint. From rolling countryside to dramatic mountains and glens, it’s highly recommended to get out and explore the great outdoors if you travel to Northern Ireland. Undoubtedly, the top natural attraction is the incredible Giant’s Causeway, a unique geological formation on the northern coast, shrouded in myth and legend! Other natural attractions to include on your tour of Northern Ireland include the picturesque Dark Hedges, a famous avenue of beech trees, and the spectacular Tollymore Forest, a pristine woodland reserve, perfect for hiking enthusiasts.
At the heart of the country is Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles. If you’re interested in immersing yourself in the wild Northern Irish countryside, be sure to visit Lough Neagh as it’s a great destination for boating, birdwatching, kayaking and appreciating the beautiful flora and fauna.
No matter the time of year you visit Northern Ireland, you’ll find the weather can be pretty unpredictable. Like anywhere in Ireland or the British Isles, rain is abundant, so be sure to pack your waterproofs so you can fully enjoy this picturesque corner of the Emerald Isle!
Culture in Northern Ireland
With a rich mix of both Irish and British culture, Northern Ireland is filled with cultural traditions. If you travel to Northern Ireland you can savour a national culture filled with musical and artistic traditions and perhaps even see one of the famous parades that frequently fill the country’s major cities. Traditionally, Northern Irish culture is centred around its Roman Catholic and Protestant roots, as well as its rich heritage of agriculture and industry.
Much of the Northern Irish population consider themselves to have a distinct identity, separate from both English and Irish culture, and are proud of their country and heritage. Nevertheless, the shared love of football, family and traditional Gaelic sports is something almost all Northern Irelanders have in common.
When it comes to languages, although English is spoken by almost the entire population, Irish and Ulster Scots remain important parts of Northern Irish heritage.
If you travel to Northern Ireland, one of the best ways to get to know the local culture is to attend a ‘Trad’ music night, explore Belfast’s brilliant museums and galleries or simply pop into a local pub for a pint and enjoy the ‘craic’ with the locals!