Many tourists don’t realize that Ireland is split up into two countries. Just a few decades ago was the Northern Ireland Conflict. Northern Ireland was (and still is) a part of the UK and many people were against this, wanting a united Ireland. Guerrilla warfare broke out in Northern Ireland to protest this division. Today it’s hard to notice a difference, especially since you can drive freely between the two without any notice of a border. The only signs are a change in currency from Euros in Ireland to Pounds in Northern Ireland, speed limits in Northern Ireland are posted in miles/hour as opposed to kilometers/hour in Ireland, and signs are listed in both Irish and English in Ireland but only in English in Northern Ireland. You might also notice heavily fortified buildings in Northern Ireland, which are the leftover defences of police compounds from what the people now call “The Troubles”. However this not-so-pleasant history is just that — history — and Northern Ireland is an amazing place to visit. Belfast is once again a bustling city centre, with pubs on every corner, markets to explore and a great Titanic museum. Along the northern coast of the country is the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route, offering great views of the ocean and a multitude of stops to check out along the way. Many people skip the north of this green island, but we believe the north it is definitely worth a visit!
- Belfast – This was the only city we actually stayed in, as Northern Ireland is fairly small and everything can be reached from Belfast within a 3-4 hour drive. Belfast found it’s way onto the map through shipbuilding, and it’s crowning jewel was the famous Titanic. There is a great Titanic museum to check out, constructed on the same grounds the famous ship was built on. It is much less touristy than Dublin (it’s neighbouring capital to the south), which to us was a breathe of fresh air. Check out the historic pubs and bustling markets, then head out to the Causeway Coastal Route to find castles and scenic harbours, as well as the famous Giant’s Causeway.
We only stayed in Belfast, but we did visit many small towns such as Killyleagh, Carrickfergus, and Portrush. Heading out into the countryside is a trip in itself, as you’ll see never-ending green hills and quaint little towns. We recommend just going for a drive through these traditional Northern Irish towns for a day or two to experience the scenery.