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Destination Guides


Northern Ireland

General   Weather   Airports   Attractions   Activities  

Introduction

Scrabo Tower, County Down ©Guliolopez

Once the ancient kingdom of Ulster, Northern Ireland has been home to Gaelic kings, ancient Irish clans and seafaring Vikings. It is the land of St Patrick and the giant Finn McCool, and is steeped in the myths and legends of a mysterious and heroic past. Northern Ireland's appeal encompasses beautiful scenery, historic forts and castles and a rich legacy of Celtic Christianity, as well as the Ulster people themselves who are welcoming and genuine, with an impetuous sense of humour. Another attraction is the small size of the country - its sights are all just a short, scenic drive from each other along mostly rural roads whose only traffic jams are caused by flocks of sheep and cattle crossings.


To the southeast lie some of Ireland's loveliest landscapes in the Kingdoms of Down, a region recognised worldwide as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. County Down combines miles of spectacular coastline with fishing villages, seaside resorts, loughs, forests and the Mountains of Mourne. To the north is the dramatic Antrim coastline with its soaring cliffs, unblemished beaches and the magnificent, glacier-carved Glens of Antrim. Among the unusual rock formations glimpsed from the coastal road, none is stranger or more memorable than the famous Giant's Causeway, the legendary tourist attraction that is fabled to be the highway built by giant Finn McCool, to bring his lady love to Ulster from an island in the Hebrides. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a mass of thousands of basalt columns tightly packed together to form stepping stones leading from the foot of the cliffs into the sea.


The gateway to the northwest is the historic walled city of Londonderry, or Derry, a city popularly home to poets and storytellers, which hosts plenty of live music and festivals, and is a centre of culture and creativity. Across the Sperrins is the city of Belfast, surrounded by hills and a wealth of industrial sites, such as old linen and corn mills that are a reminder of Northern Ireland's industrial heritage. Belfast played a significant role in the Industrial Revolution and the development of its manufacturing businesses quickly turned the 17th-century village into a robust metropolis that today is home to a third of the country's population and some wonderful architecture.


With its green hills, rivers and lakes, mountains and spectacular coastline, Northern Ireland is the perfect setting for many outdoor activities, while in the towns and villages visitors will undoubtedly be invited to join in the or good fun, centred on a traditional Irish music session and a pint or two of the black stuff.


Climate Info

Ireland has a temperate oceanic climate, with weather that is generally mild, wet and changeable. Northern Ireland enjoys warm summers and mild winters, warmed up all year by the North Atlantic Current. Extreme heat and extreme cold are both rare. Inland areas tend to be colder in winter and warmer in summer than the coast. Northern Ireland is cloudier and cooler than England on average, because of the hilly nature of the terrain and the proximity to the Atlantic. July is the warmest month with temperatures averaging around 64ºF (18ºC). The highest temperatures occur inland and rainfall is more frequent in the mountains of Sperrin, Antrim and Mourne, as is snow. Rain is possible at any time of year, with December and January the wettest months.


Most travellers visit Northern Ireland between May and September, when it is warmest. The summer months of June to August are the most popular. Winter, between November and February, is generally avoided because it is the wettest as well as the coldest time of year. Late spring and early autumn - May and September - are good times to visit for those travelling on a budget as the weather is still pleasant but prices tend to drop outside of the peak season.


Belfast International Airport (BFS)

LocationThe airport is situated 18 miles (29km) northwest of Belfast.
Time DifferenceLocal time is GMT (GMT +1 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts

Tel: +44 (0)28 9448 4848.

Getting to city

The Airport Express operates between the airport and the city centre every 10 minutes from outside the terminal building, 24 hours a day. The International Airport Taxi Company offer taxis outside the right hand door of the airport exit lobby with a list of fares displayed in the exit hall of the terminal. The journey takes around 25 minutes.

Car Rental

Car rental companies include Avis, Budget, Hertz and National and can be found in the Arrivals hall.

Airpor Taxis

International Airport Taxi Company offer taxis outside the right hand door of the airport exit lobby with a list of fares displayed in the exit hall of the terminal. The journey takes around 25 minutes.

Airport Facilities

Facilities at the airport include bureaux de changes, ATMs, wifi, duty-free shopping, travel agent, business lounge, information desk and a variety of shops and restaurants. Passengers with disabilities are well catered for.

Car Parking

There are three parking options at Belfast International Airport: short-stay parking; the main car park; and long-stay parking. The pick-up and drop-off zones are also charged for, costing about £1 for a 10-minute stay.

Depature TaxNone.
Websitewww.belfastairport.com


George Best Belfast City Airport (BHD)

LocationThe airport is situated a mile (3km) east of Belfast.
Time DifferenceLocal time is GMT (GMT +1 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts

Tel: +44 (0)28 9093 9093.

Getting to city

Approved taxis are available outside the terminal building. The Airlink bus service departs every 30 minutes from the airport terminal to the Belfast Europa Bus Centre in the heart of the city. The service runs between 6am and 9.50pm daily at a fare of about £3 for a single journey. Buses also connect the airport to main railway stations.

Car Rental

Car rental companies include Avis, Budget, Hertz, Europcar and National.

Airport Facilities

Airport facilities include ATMs, bureau de change, wireless Internet, restaurants and shops. Passengers with disabilities are well catered for.

Car Parking

Short-term and long-term parking is available at the airport. The long-term lot is a 10 minute walk from the terminal, but is connected to it by a shuttle bus.

Depature TaxNone.
Websitewww.belfastcityairport.com


Cathedral Quarter


Once the city's centre for trade and its warehouse district, the Cathedral Quarter is now the heart of Belfast's cultural and tourist hub. The district is named for St Anne's Cathedral. The cathedral itself is a beautiful Romanesque place of worship, more than a century old, which houses
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The Orb at the Cathedral Quater Arts Festival ©Recycled Alien



Belfast Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum


The Belfast Botanic Gardens date back to 1828, but were only opened to the public in 1895. The gardens boast the Palm House, a cast iron and glass house built in 1852, rose gardens, green walkways and the Tropical Ravine greenhouse, which was built in 1889. The gardens are popular with o
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Belfast Botanic Gardens ©www.sxc.hu



Belfast Zoo


The Belfast Zoo is packed with animals from all over the world housed in a range of habitats, and offers a fun-filled day out for the whole family to enjoy. The zoo is home to more than a thousand animals covering something like 150 different species. Animals in the zoo include bears, li
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Ring Tailed Lemurs at the Belfast Zoo ©www.sxc.hu



St Georges Market


Built between 1890 and 1896, St George's Market is one of the city's oldest attractions, and the last remaining Victorian covered market in the region. After painstaking (and expensive) restoration, the market has reopened. It is considered one of the best markets in the UK, having won m
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St George's Market ©www.sxc.hu



Giants Ring


The fascinating and mysterious Giant's Ring, in Ballynahatty, near Shaw's Bridge, is made up of a circular enclosure nearly 656 feet (200m) in diameter, with five entrances, and an older Neolithic passage tomb dating back to roughly 2,700 BC (meaning that it predates the Egyptian pyramid
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Giant's Ring ©robertpaulyoung



Ulster American Folk Park


The Ulster American Folk Park is an open-air museum that focuses on the large-scale emigration from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries, and is the biggest of its kind in Europe. Displays illustrate the everyday life of the emigrants through reconstructed original and replic
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Ulster American Folk Park ©Liam Hughes



St Annes Cathedral


The focal point of Belfast's trendy Cathedral Quarter district, St Anne's Cathedral is a gorgeous monument, and a proud symbol of all the best that the beleaguered nation of Northern Ireland has to offer. With its foundation stone laid at the turn of the 20th century, the cathedral was c
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St Anne's Cathedral ©Ross



Giants Causeway


The pride of Northern Ireland's tourist attractions, the Giant's Causeway is a must-see sight for visitors to the northern half of the Emerald Isle. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant's Causeway is a series of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, a wondrous geological feature c
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Giant's Causeway ©Dave Green



Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge


Situated in an area of significant natural beauty, with views of Rathlin Island and Scotland stretching out in the distance, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is one of Northern Ireland's newest and most popular tourist attractions. The rope bridge, which connects tiny Carrick Island with t
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Carrick-a-Rede ©Supermac1961



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