Northern Ireland - A newly discovered destination
January 1, 1970
by Alexandra Côrte-Real
A few years ago nobody would even think of going to Northern Ireland for a visit. Today things have changed and we are glad they did. Northern Ireland is today a very interesting destination, with many interesting things to see. First of all, if you are considering going there, don´t underestimate it. Yes, it is a small country, but it is worth staying for a couple of days. If you really want to experience everything you are entitled to, rent a car and do it at your own pace!
From being the centre of political conflicts until the end of the nineties, Belfast has become a very interesting youg vibrant city. If you are bold enough and interested in recent history, you can go around the formerly “problematic” neighbourhoods and experience a bit what it really is to be in a republican/nationalist neighbourhood or in a unionist/Brittish-supporting one. You´ll see the flags around and most important the wall paintings, which have become an icon in the city. It will be difficult not to come across the Peace Wall, separating the two neighbourhoods, which still exist, despite the fact that a Peace Treaty has been signed in 1998!
If you are a fan of the story of the Titanic, then Belfast is the place to go! In 2012, 100 years after the tragedy, the Titanic Experience opened to the public, and it’s well worth a visit. But take into account that you will need at least two hours to see the whole thing properly. It is an interactive museum, very well made, where you can learn everything about the Titanic since its construction, as well as a lot about what the city of Belfast was at the beginning of the 20th century, and also a bit about the company that owned the Titanic and the other ships it owned. http://titanicbelfast.com/
The area where the Titanic Experience is located was recently rebuilt and brought a new life to the city. But Belfast also has a wonderful old city centre worthy of a stroll. The architecture of the city is mostly Victorian, as her times were the glorious ones out here. Queens College, opened in 1845 by Victoria, is one of the landmarks, as well as Albert´s Clock built to honor the Queen´s husband. Then there are places like the City Hall, the Opera House and the Crown Liquor (the most famous pub in the city), all worthy of a visit. Keeping these very interesting things within the city centre, Belfast is also a good spot if you want to go shopping! Like any good European city, Belfast has a bit of everything and because you can never forget you are in Ireland, there are plenty of pubs around to go for a pint.
The Antrim Coast, the Giant´s Causeway and Bushmills
If you are in Northern Ireland there is no way you can miss the Giant´s Causeway, and what better way if not by taking the coastal road all the way up? The Antrim Coast is a protected landscape and it deserves to be. Besides the stunning landscape, which we already expect around the island, you will find castles, churches and romantic fishing villages that will melt your heart. When you get all the way up north, and before you reach the Causeway, your can stop at Carrick-a-rede and defy your fear of hights by crossing the rope bridge connecting to a tiny little island by the coast. Good pictures guaranteed!
The Giant´s Causeway is really a “must” in Northern Ireland, and it is just a mind-blowing place! Especially if you stop to think how old it is and how it was formed. Of course you can always choose to believe that it was actually built by a giant called Finn and get into the whole irish mythological thing… If you like to walk and hike, you could spend a good 3-4 hours at the Causeway, and walk around all ways possible, not only down by the coast, where the actual causeway is, but also up the cliffs through the various bays and on top of the cliff, where if your are lucky with the weather (which can be tricky in Ireland) you will be able to have stunning views to all the different bays.
Right next to the Causeway is the town of Bushmills, obviously famous for its whiskey. The town itself is cute, and the destillery is worth of a visit, even if just for the tasting! You can get a nice drink and feel like an expert on the way out, for knowing finally the difference between an Irish Whiskey and a Scotch Whisky!
If you continue along the coast, you will come across Dunluce Castle, said to have been the inspiration for C.S. Lewis´ Chronicles of Narnia. Not only does a visit of these ruins bring you back to the Middle Ages, but you can also enjoy the typical dramatic landscape of the island. A couple of bays west from Dunluce is the Whiterock Beach, which is personally a favourite! Here the Cliffs are actually white and the beach is so long and flat, that you can actually get to Portrush town along it! However, this is absolutely not the only stunning beach in Nothern Ireland. I have come across the gorgeous Downhill beach, also a beautiful place to go walking on sand, with the ocean on one side and huge dramatically green cliffs on the other. And guess what I found out? Game of Thrones has been filmed there! That’s right, if your are a Game of Thrones enthusiast, Northern Ireland is also a place for you to explore! http://www.ireland.com/en-gb/articles/game-of-thrones-locations/
Finally the city of Derry (officially Londonderry), very close already to the Republic of Ireland. I would not say Derry is a gorgeaus city, but it certainly is an interesting one. And if you get to know its history it just becomes more and more so. As the last walled city in Europe, understanding Derry is understanding most of the history of Ireland since the 17th century and the reasons behind the existence of two Irelands. It is a very rich city in terms of history, starting with its formation in the early 1600´s all the way until The Troubles. And if today Derry is a young enthusiastic city, one does not forget that it was the stage of the 1972 “Bloody Sunday”. Stroll around the wall, visit the museums and go to the Bogside to see the People´s Murals and the Bloody Sunday Memorial. Derry is history. If you like it, don´t miss it! http://www.visitderry.com