Northern Ireland

Despite its reputation for being a terrorist hot-spot, Northern Ireland is relatively peaceful these days and is a good place to visit when planning an affordable trip to Ireland.
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The province, which is ruled by Great Britain, includes the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry (called Londonderry by the British), Down, Fermanagh, and Tyrone.

Northern Ireland’s coastline is absolutely spectacular. It is known as the Coastal Causeway.

Popular tourist destinations include the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of a volcanic fissure eruption millions of years ago.

The region can be explored by taking various walking trails, depending on one’s fitness level.

An audio guide is available.

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, a visit to the Dark Hedges in County Armagh is a must.

trees over a roadway planning an affordable trip to Ireland
The Dark Hedges, Co. Antrim, a popular attraction in Northern Ireland. Photo: Colette Connolly

The avenue of beech trees, which forms an atmospheric tunnel on either side of the entrance to Gracehill House, is popular with visitors to the area.

The avenue represents the fictitious King’s Road and was first featured on episode 1 of the second season of the show.

Despite its painful history, Derry is a city worth visiting. It is the only surviving walled city on the island of Ireland and one of the finest examples of a walled enclosure in Europe.

The walls form a walkway around the inner city from where you can get a good view of Derry and its excellently preserved Renaissance-style street plan. The city also claims to have the largest collection of cannons displayed at various points along the city’s walls.

a building with a clock tower Northern Ireland
The beautiful Guildhall building in Derry. Photo: Tourism Northern Ireland.

Attractions worth visiting in Derry city include the Guildhall, a neo-gothic style building with Tudor overtones, where elected members of the Derry and Strabane District Council meet.

They also include The Museum of Free Derry, located in Derry’s Bogside, which explains the early conflict in the city such as the Battle of the Bogside, internment, Bloody Sunday and Operation Motorman.

a city skyscape city of Belfast
The Belfast skyline. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, lies in both Counties Down and Antrim. It also has a painful story to tell but with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, businesses have been keen to invest in the city.

Tourism is booming thanks in part to the redevelopment of the Titanic Quarter, which includes Titanic Belfast, film studios, educational facilities, apartments, and a riverside entertainment section.
Titanic Belfast is the city’s most popular attraction featuring nine interpretive and interactive galleries that retell the story of the RMS Titanic, as well as a history of the city itself and its people.

Visitors can also tour the SS Nomadic, the sister ship of the Titanic, the last remaining White Star vessel that is moored nearby.

A new distillery is set to open in the old Titanic Pump House, also part of the Titanic Quarter.

a large building with a statue in front Northern Ireland
Belfast City Hall. Photo: Tony Pleavin for Tourism Ireland.

Other attractions in Belfast include Belfast City Hall, Queen’s University, the Albert Clock, the Crumlin Road Jail and more.

While there are many things to see in County Tyrone, Americans, in particular, will find the Grant Homestead, the Wilson House and the Ulster-American Folk Park of particular interest.The Grant Homestead is the birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant’s maternal ancestors and the Wilson House, where President Woodrow Wilson’s grandfather was born.

Fermanagh is known as Northern Ireland’s lake district with four beautiful lakes within its border. They include Lake Erne, Finn Lough, Lough MacNean, and Lough Melvin.

fields in Ireland planning an affordable trip to Ireland
The Fermanagh countryside. Photo: Colette Connolly

A popular attraction in Co. Fermanagh is the Marble Arch Caves Global Geo Park, which also extends into Co. Cavan. Visitors can take a subterranean boat trip through the caves and explore this natural wonder. The Marble Arch Caves are part of the UNESCO-designated geopark.

It also includes approximately 50 other sites around the region, including waterfalls, wetlands, and forests.

About four miles from the Marble Arch Caves is another popular Fermanagh destination.

External image of Florence Court gardens and surroundings in Northern Ireland.
External image of Florence Court gardens and surroundings in Northern Ireland.

The Florence Court mansion, which was the home of the Cole family (the Earls of Enniskillen), contains a large collection of Irish furniture and some of the best Rococo plasterwork in any house of its kind in Ireland.