From spectacular scenery and captivating history to colourful street art and a thriving culinary scene, Northern Ireland holidays offer new discoveries in abundance.
Northern Ireland is brimming with beautiful views and world-class attractions, yet it remains something of a hidden gem. Those that do venture to this beautiful part of the United Kingdom are often very pleasantly surprised with just how much it has to offer. The countryside is unspoilt, the food is delicious and hearty, the locals are friendly, and the cities are full of things to do. The region also has a rich and sometimes turbulent history to explore; from medieval settlements to Victorian industry, and most recently, Ireland's 'Troubles', and you'll find plenty of opportunities to delve deeper into what shaped the region we see today.
One of the biggest draws for many Northern Ireland tours is the breathtaking scenery the region offers. Antrim is home to beautiful green glens and a pretty coastline complete with traditional arcades, while the enchanting Giant’s Causeway never fails to delight visitors from far and wide. The Mourne Mountains make for dramatic photographs, while the loch of Strangford Lough provides a serene escape, as does Lough Erne; a particular favourite for fishing and watersports. Lough Neagh is another highlight of many Northern Ireland trips; it's the largest lake in the United Kingdom, no less.
Northern Ireland doesn't just offer beautiful rolling countryside, however. Its cities are vibrant and welcoming, with a wide variety of things to do and see. Belfast is full of history, from its industrial past and the birthplace of the Titanic to the more recent Troubles. With grand architecture, a thriving arts scene and plenty of great dining options, it's well deserving of its status as Northern Ireland's capital. Derry, meanwhile, is home to medieval relics, a fantastic museum and easy access to the gorgeous County Donegal.
Things to see and places to visit on your Northern Ireland holiday.
Northern Ireland holidays provide a fantastic variety of things to do and see. Of course, as the capital city, Belfast is the region's liveliest destination, and here you'll find plenty to keep you busy. The city has made the most of its status as the birthplace of the Titanic in recent years, and there are now several fascinating attractions in the city's own Titanic Quarter. The Titanic Belfast is a particular highlight. This incredibly informative museum, complete with interactive displays and animated projections, tells the story of how the ship was built and the lives of those who built it. For another important look into Belfast's history, a tour of the colourful and often poignant peace wall murals are a must. Elsewhere in the city, the Botanic Gardens make for a serene afternoon, as does a tour of Belfast Castle or a stroll in one of the various leafy parks. There is also the option to visit the extraordinary 18th-century Mount Stewart from Belfast. Undoubtedly one of Northern Ireland's most magnificent stately homes, this National Trust property and its carefully manicured gardens was once a regular haunt to guests such as WB Yeats and Winston Churchill.
Located in the north of the region, the Antrim coast is another much-loved stop on many Northern Ireland tours. This scenic coastline is home to pretty beaches and traditional resort amusements. The town of Portrush makes a great base for exploring the area; from here you have easy access to wonderful sights and attractions such as the Dunluce Castle ruins, the world's oldest whiskey distillery, and the iconic Giant's Causeway. This sensational rock formation features a series of stone columns, and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Learn more about how it came to be at the Visitor Experience, then choose from one of the cliff-top or lower coastal paths for a scenic walk. Elsewhere, Lough Erne in County Fermanagh is another much-loved spot. Here you can find relics providing a glimpse back to the area's ancient past, and a boat trip exploring the islands and their wildlife is sure to be a hit.
Few Northern Ireland trips would feel complete without a visit to the region's other major city, Derry. With a thriving arts and cultural scene, a wide range of dining options and history in abundance, it's certainly worthy of an addition to the itinerary. A wander around the city's walls, dating back to the early 17th century, is a great way to get a feel for its past. St Columb's Cathedral, completed in 1633 and the city's oldest building, provides another fascinating glimpse. The People's Gallery consists of 12 murals painted by three men who lived through the worst of the area's violence during the Troubles, and is an important reminder of the struggles that locals faced during the turbulent era, and how they have come to terms with it since.
Northern Ireland is home to a thriving food scene, with a variety of cuisines and cooking styles to choose from. Whether you're looking for fine dining or a casual bite on the go, you'll find plenty of great food to keep you going during all of that sightseeing. From the elegant restaurants of Belfast and Derry to charming local venues and gastropubs off the beaten track. For foodies visiting Belfast, a wander around St George's Market, home to delicious artisanal products and local fare, is a must-do.
Of course, Northern Ireland holidays wouldn't be complete without trying the local dishes. The region is best known for producing sensational cheese, beef, and whiskey, and the seafood here is also exceptional. Indeed, Lough Neagh is home to the biggest wild glass eel fishery in Europe. When it comes to local favourites, you'll find unpretentious but tasty and filling meals such as stews made with beef or lamb, pasties, and boxty; a traditional potato pancake.
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