Northern Ireland is well known for a series of both natural and man-made attractions it boasts. Shunned by travellers for years, Northern Ireland made a strong comeback following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and power-sharing contract that promoted peace. Since then, Northern Ireland (also known as Ulster) has rebounded culturally and economically to become one of the world’s top destinations.
Even before 1998, this corner of Ireland had maintained its status as a destination for sightseeing. The legendary natural attractions including the mystical Giant’s Causeway still remains as one of the more popular destinations for many travellers. Other new arrivals such as the Belfast Titanic quarter are also high on the list.
The Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway remains to be the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ireland, famed for its columns of layered basalt. The natural polygonal-shaped features were created over 60 million years ago by a volcanic eruption. Today, Allen’s Tours to the Giant’s Causeway remains to be the prime choice for many travellers in this area of outstanding natural beauty. The birth of the Lower, Middle and the Upper Basalts occurred in three different periods of the volcanic action.
The famous amphitheatres of columns shaped like hexagons are formed by the Middle Basalt rock. Although this is the science, the legend on the area says that it was carved out by a mighty giant called Finn McCool, who left his home for a battle with one of his foes named Benandonner across the waters in Scotland. There are various names that bear a testament to the myth including the Giant’s Boot, The Camel, The Giant’s Granny, The Wishing Chair and The Organ seen high on the cliffs. You can also see Scotland at a distance with good weather. Giant’s Causeway tour is open daily from 9am-7pm.
The Causeway Coast
Normally, most visitors will stop along this scenic coast towards experiencing the Giant’s Causeway. The surrounding coastline is magnificent and should not be bypassed. There are beautiful dunes, beaches, rolling waves at Portrush and Portstewart.
At Portrush, you can also enjoy a world-class golf course. The ruined medieval Dunluce Castle are just a ten-minute drive to the west, through the scenic village of Bushmills. Visitors will also enjoy perching precipitously on the edge of the cliff. Many centuries ago, the kitchen plunged into the flail of waves on one night. The kitchen boy was the only survivor, perching on the windowsill and was later rescued.
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is another of Ulster’s must-sees and it’s just 15 minutes east of Giant’s Causeway. This vertiginous bridge is used by fishermen to a nearby tiny island, where they catch salmon.
The Glens of Antrim
If you have seen enough of the Northern Antrim coastline, the nine Glens of Antrim exude their own charm. If you drive from Ballycastle towards Larne, plenty awaits along the way from tumbling waterfalls, serene lakes, rolling hills and forest trails. The Glenariff is the most famous and the Queen of the nine Glens. Along the way, you will notice the Glendun Bridge which is an excellent man-made feature that makes an excellent example of the innovative designs and construction in Northern Ireland. Visitors will also enjoy the scenic views of the Ballypatrick Forest Park, with over 10 kilometers loop drive around the Carneighaneigh Mountain.
The Titanic Belfast
Tracing Belfast’s maritime history and as an honor to Titanic’s story, this star-shaped building is a striking landmark representing the White Star Line logo. As part of history, Belfast used to be the powerhouse of British Empire shipbuilding. There are also nine other interactive exhibitions to enjoy including the spot where the infamous and ill-fated Titanic was built. This is truly a world-class destination. Titanic Belfast is open daily June-August (and April) 9am-7pm, May and September 9am-6pm, October-March 10am-5pm.
The town and port of Carrickfergus is just a 20 minute drive from Belfast and is home to Carrickfergus Castle. This is one of the best and well-preserved medieval structures to see in Ireland, the Norman castle has been in use for over eight centuries to see off foes. The castle dominates the town and is perched near the shore, with its banqueting hall being one of the best treats for kids visiting the area. You can explore the battlements and the interior with a guide from the vision center and enjoy them at your leisure. Andrew Jackson Centre, is a nearby re-imagined ancestral home to the 7th president of the USA. Carrickfergus Castle is open daily from Monday – Saturday 10am – 4pm and on Sundays from 12 noon to 4pm.