Cows laying in a field near the Mourne Mountains.

Adventure Awaits: Northern Ireland

By Brittany Anderson
Web Content Contributor

If you were to tell someone that you were traveling to Northern Ireland, they would probably just assume you’re talking about the northernmost part of the country of Ireland. But Northern Ireland is actually a country all on its own; a hidden gem nestled on the coast of the North Channel. Unlike its southern counterpart, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and although collectively they are both part of the European Union, that will soon change due to Brexit.

For perspective, Texas is 50 times as big as Northern Ireland. With their small winding roads, lack of air conditioning and unwavering rainy days, this tiny country is sure to be a culture shock to any native Texan. But just like Texas, there is no shortage of historical treasures, jaw-dropping backdrops and friendly faces to encounter. Here are five reasons why you need to put Northern Ireland on your travel bucket list.

Titanic Belfast is a museum dedicated to the infamous ocean liner. There are three sections of the building that stand 126 feet high, the same height as Titanic’s hull, to emulate the appearance of the ship. The building is covered in aluminum shards which some have suggested make it look like an iceberg.
Titanic Belfast is dedicated to telling the story of the ill-fated ship. This is one of the three sections of the building, each of which stand 126 feet high – the same height as Titanic’s hull – to emulate the appearance of the ship. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

1. Its capital city, Belfast, gives you that big city feel. Between the mountains, the coastline and all the fields in between, Belfast offers all the exciting parts of a big city with a small town feel. It’s the proud birthplace of the Titanic – see for yourself at their massive Titanic museum or the ship’s original dry dock. Make sure you’re in the city during the weekend for St. George’s Market to enjoy hundreds of food stalls, farm fresh produce, art, antiques and live music.

Giant’s Causeway, located on the north coast of Northern Ireland, is an area with mostly hexagonal shaped basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. An Irish legend says that the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant.
Giant’s Causeway is a coastal area of staggering, uniquely shaped basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Irish legend says that the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

2. It is home to some incredible historical sites. A few must-sees include Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, both of which are just minutes from each other and easily accessible from Belfast on a bus. Wear your walking shoes, bring a windbreaker and don’t forget your camera: the stunning views and stories more than make up for the uneven terrain and inevitable chilly weather.

The coastline of Crawfordsburn Country Park, a seaside village in Crawfordsburn, County Down.
The coastline of Crawfordsburn Country Park. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

3. Every route is a scenic route. Within minutes of driving through any town, you’re bound to hit miles of hills and fields in every shade of green. Travel along the coastline for collecting sea glass beside deep blue water. You might even stumble across the Mourne Mountains, a massive mountain range in the south. Wherever you are, hop on a bike or just walk it– there are plenty of nooks and crannies to be found amongst the breathtaking scenery.

Old Castle Ward was the 16th-century home of a wealthy socialite family that was used for filming during season 1 of Game of Thrones.
Old Castle Ward is a 16th-century home that is now easily recognized as being part of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. This castle is notably the location of Bran Stark’s tragic fall. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

4. There are tons of “Game of Thrones” sites to see. Some major filming took place around the country, including the beloved Winterfell and the mystifying Dark Hedges. Any “Game of Thrones” fan will love seeing these iconic sites from the show come to life.

The Turnip House is a craft workshop settled near the Mourne Mountains, owned and operated by John and Elaine McCombe.
Turnip House during an evening summer music show. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

5. It’s home to Turnip House. Turnip House is owned and operated by John and Elaine McCombe. Situated near the marvelous Mourne Mountains, they offer felting workshops, sell a variety of handmade craft items from their gorgeous shop and are currently renovating a farmhouse abandoned in the 1970s on the property. Stop by for some tea and homemade cooking, visit with their treasured dog Charlie or even just admire the stunning backyard garden with breathtaking mountain views.

If you’re looking for a unique getaway with all of the European charm and none of the intense hustle and bustle, Northern Ireland is the perfect mix of city and country. From sunlit coastlines, rolling green fields and misty mountains, this little country has no shortage of picturesque views that will have you coming back for years to come.

Featured image by Trevor Anderson.

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