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Seatbelt laws in Northern Ireland

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Seatbelt laws in Northern Ireland

A MUST for every person in the car. This is serious stuff and rightly so the Police treat it as such.

Who needs to wear seatbelts

Back seat passengers need to wear them. Children up to 3 years old must be in an appropriate child seat. A child aged 3 – 12 over up to 1.35m tall must wear the appropriate child restraint. All others must wear the normal, adult seat belt.

For children up to the age of 14 the driver is responsible for the seatbelts. For passengers aged 14 and above the passenger is responsible.

You must wear a seatbelt in cars and goods vehicles where one is fitted. There are very few exceptions to this, please see below. The driver of the car is liable to prosecution if a child under 14 years does not wear a seat belt or child restraint.

If your car does not have seat belts in the back and you do not have appropriate child car seats, you cannot carry children.

Seatbelt laws for children:

  • You must not carry an unrestrained child in the front seat of any vehicle.
  • Children up to 135cms in height must use the appropriate child restraint when traveling in any car, van or goods vehicle – there are very few exceptions, see above.
  • A child may use an adult belt when they reach 135cm or the age of 12.
  • In buses and coaches with seat belts fitted, passengers aged 14 years and above must use them. Passengers on vehicles used as a local service on routes consisting of restricted roads or where provision has been made for standing passengers and the operator permits standing. are exempt.
  • Exceptions

    For adults: only if seat belts are not fitted.

    For children:

    • if traveling in a taxi,
    • if two child carseats are already fitted in the back seat and a third will not fit.

    For more information you can visit Road Safely Northern Ireland

    For those of you who are thinking of renting a car, the rental company can provide appropriate baby and child carseats for a small fee.

    So.. if you are to drive to Northern Ireland, buckle up, folks…

    Now you know you should wear your seatbelt, read drinking and driving in Northern Ireland.

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Northern Ireland Rathlin Island. Nature at its best.

Birdwatching in Northern Ireland’s Rathlin Island? You bet!

Birdwatching is contagious. Ask me how I know. Once you get hooked, you are prepared to go to any locale that promises birdwatching opportunities.

I knew that Rathlin island had massive colonies of birds and it was in my places- to-visit list for years.

We wanted to go with a group of friends, and as Murphy’s law dictates, I was nesting with a newborn at home…Life is not fair…

Here’s my husband’s account of the day, plus a few fast facts I am sure you didn’t know…

Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island

Most people have not heard of Rathlin Island. Most locals have not visited it.

Yet it lies there, tantalisingly close and at the same time remote, Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island.

We decided to visit one sunny May day with some friends from Larne at the prompting of an artist, a painter who knows how to appreciate the beauty of a serene landscape.

Alas, it was a public holiday, probably the only time when traffic to the island actually gets busy.

rathlin-island-from-above

How to get to Rathlin Island

By car to Ballycastle, a busy seaside town and resort with excellent views and some of the best fish and chips in Ireland.

The one little ferry that covers the route Ballycastle to Rathlin was booked up. A day wasted? Certainly not!

We asked around and in the town marina found a speedboat boat that did the trip in half the time for double the price.

It was worth it! We donned our orange life jackets and raincoats and prepared for the 25 minute sail.

Raincoats? Why raincoats? We were soon to find out. A north-easterly wind was blowing and the boat was flying over the waves spraying water over the passengers.

The children loved it – all of them, the young, the not so young and the old.

Sailing on that boat we all became children. 25 minutes later we landed on Rathlin’s quaint little harbour. No wind here. The landmass of the island was blocking the flow of the wind.

On Rathlin Island

Scattered next to the harbor around two dozen little houses, some inhabited, others holiday cottages. Though the boats were full, the village looks surprisingly serene.

If you are looking for a place to spent a quiet weekend or week, this is as quiet as it gets.

We take the road to the east and south of the island. On the right hand side the Boathouse Visitor Centre with its tourist office and museum. Small, but well worth fifteen minutes of your time.

We continue on a sharp left turn past a canteen that sells hamburgers and… crab sandwiches.

rathlin-island-seal

Rathlin Island Seal habitat

Five hundred meters down the road we find what we have been looking for.

Mill Bay is a seal habitat and before us we see about half a dozen enjoying the sunshine on the rocky beach.

The cameras come out. We try to approach. The seals follow our movements and when we come to within thirty meters they slowly go into the water.

The children had hoped to pet them, but even at thirty meters they are a sight worth seeing

rathlin-island-puffins

Bird watching

Back into the village we wait for the bus that will take us to the western edge of the island. The driver is an extremely friendly local who knows every square meter of the island.

As we drive along he stops the bus to give us a taste of local folklore dosed with a lot of humour. Here is the house of a famous singer. There is the old school.

We reach the end of the island, a high cliff with beautiful vistas of the ocean and the Antrim coast in the distance.

We disembark from the bus and begin to descend down a steep flight of stairs. About 200 steps down but still high above the ocean is an observatory. Observe what?

Observe the over 100,000 birds, Kittiwakes, Puffins,and Razorbills that come there every May and June to nest. Awesome. Absolutely awesome. They are the reason we timed our visit for the end of May.

In some places you can barely see the rock for the number of birds.

Rathlin Island Seabird Centre

We spend about an hour and a half there. Friendly RSPB volunteers are on hand to explain the birds’ nesting habits, lend you a pair of binoculars, or take pictures of you as you bask in the joy of your discovery.

The RSPB Seabird Centre is without doubt the highlight of a visit to Rathlin…

Walking back

It is already afternoon and we begin the road back.

Mothers and children take the bus. We hardy men decide to walk. The sun is still shining, there is now a pleasant breeze and the countryside is so utterly peaceful. The walk back takes about an hour, but we enjoy it.

We are now at the village and as we wait for the boat to take us back, we enjoy a packed lunch by the seaside. We sail back, into the car, and back home.

Rathlin island truly is one of the the Must-do if you visit Northern Ireland.

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Drunk driving: illegal in Northern Ireland

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Drunk driving

The Northern Ireland authorities are serious about drinking under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Currently (Nov. 2008) the legal alcohol limit for driving in Northern Ireland is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood, or 107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of urine or 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath.

How much drink will induce these numbers will depend of you age, sex, metabolism and stress levels.

To be safe, don’t drink at all when you drive. To be even safer, don’t drink at all!

We are a family of teetotalers and enjoy life without coming under the influence irrespective of whether we are driving or not. And we recommend this lifestyle choice to all!

Now you know the rules about drinking and driving, do read about Seatbelt safety Laws.

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Carlingford Ireland: A day trip full of medieval charm

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About Carlingford Ireland

What makes Carlingford an ideal day trip from Northern Ireland is the town’s character and accessibility, at mere 10 miles from Newry and 47 from Belfast.

Carlingford is the place to go after a few days of hectic seight-seeing, when you want to take it easy but still don’t want to play the couch potato.

We visited several times and never did we regret it.

Getting There

The best way to Carlingford is down the A1 from Belfast direction or the A27 from Armagh, and just as you are exiting Newry follow the signs to Carlingford/Omeath.

From Newry onwards the road follows the coast of Carlingford Lough and is scenic and usually with little traffic. Feel free to stop at the quaint little villages on the way; this is not a rushed visit.

Things to See and Do

Once there park the park as close to the town centre and begin exploring.

The town is small enough that you will not need any other mode of transport neither will you feel you have walked a marathon by the end of your visit.

King John’s castle

Begin your visit with King’s John castle, probably the town’s main attraction.

Construction began initially by Hugh De Lacy in 1190 it was completed in 1261.

It is named after King John, the brother of Richard the Lionheart, who visited in 1210.

The castle is modest in size and was built to guard the entrance to Carlingford Lough.

Entrance is free. Feel free to roam around and enjoy the views of the Mourne Mountains across the sea.

Other Sights in Carlingford Ireland

Once you have absorbed the Medieval atmosphere of the castle walk to the main town centre.

Make sure you don’t miss the Tholsel, the only town-gate remaining in Carlingford which once also served as a prison.

The Mint and Taaffe’s Castle are essentially fortified houses, the later once belonging to the famous Taaffee family.

Do visit Holy Trinity church.

Parts date from the Middle Ages. More importantly, it now functions as a local museum (http://www.carlingfordheritagecentre.com/ ) with photographic, audio-visual and material exhibits that outline the history of Carlingford and the area from Viking times.

The Dominican Friary is another place of historical interest.

Established in 1305 it was dedicated to the famous St. Malachy of Armagh.

After a tumultus history that involved King Henry VIII, it was abandoned in the 18th century as the friars moved to Dundalk.

Even as you are walking around town keep an eye out for Mr. De Gaulle.

No, there is no statue of the great Frenchman neither did he visit or leave his mark there (to my knowledge).

De Gaulle is rather the name the locals have affectionately given to sculpted stone head that appears on an old house. Someone jokingly placed a slate over it to resemble a hat and the name was coined.

Slieve Foy

A visit to Carlingford would be more complete if it includes Slieve Foy, the mountain at the foot of which the town nestles.

The mountain affords many hikes both for the amateur and for the more ardent hiker.

Even if you don’t feel like hiking, drive up the mountain road and enjoy the spectacular views afforded of Carlingford Lough and of the Mourne Mountains and towns of County Down across the lough.

As you walk around Carlingford remember that what gives the town its charm is not one or more spectacular sights, but rather the medieval look of all the above buildings and the narrow lanes, portions of old city walls, and the restaurants and cafes offering traditional Irish food and sweets.

So if you miss a sight don’t worry; just ensure you absorb the atmosphere.

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Driving in Ireland-points to remember

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Driving in Ireland and in Northern Ireland

If you are planning to drive in Northern Ireland, READ THIS PAGE, no matter where you are coming from!

Adjustments you have to make

  • British drivers are best placed to drive in Northern Ireland, because they also drive on the left side. However, some laws are different so even if you are British, read on.
  • Drivers from continental Europe will have to adjust to driving on the left side as well as using miles instead of kilometers.
  • American drivers will have to adjust to driving on the left side, and driving in (sometimes) very small roads. I have met many an American driver who found it a challenge to drive in Northern Ireland They quickly get used to it, though, and thoroughly enjoy it.
  • Remember, in Northern Ireland it is prohibited to talk to your mobile/cell phone while driving. You will get a hefty penalty and 3 points on your driving license.
  • So, wherever you come from, read on!

    Road System

    • Motorways are limited to the immediate vicinity of Belfast. They are marked by the letter M followed by a numeral. E.g. M2.
  • “A” roads are next in size and connect most of the main cities. Some A roads like the A1 going south from Belfast to Banbridge, Newry and joining the M1 in the Republic, or the A8 going from Belfast to Larne are mostly dual carriageways and fairly efficient. Other A roads are smaller and more given to congestion. If you are planning trips to/from Enniskillen or Londonderry, be prepared for slow progress at times.
  • Beyond the M and A roads there is a multitude of smaller roads that connect everything to everywhere. Often very scenic, they are also very narrow and not always well signposted.
  • Farm traffic is common and can slow things substantially. If you live a fast paced life you might find it frustrating. But chill out! You are on holiday and when in N. Ireland do as the N. Irish do! Do not honk, do not get upset, wait patiently and wave politely when the road clears. This way you will make good friends quickly.
  • Maps and Navigation

    If you are tech savvy, ensure you have a good satellite navigation system. Emphasis on the word “good” because until recently N. Ireland was not well mapped out in satellite navigation systems, sometimes leading to confusing directions. I understand things have rapidly improved.

    If you get lost, don’t be embarrassed to ask for directions. The people are very friendly and they will happily help you out. In fact, while asking for directions we met a gentleman who got into his car and led us all the way to the place we wanted to go!

    With or without a satellite navigation system, it is wise to have a good old-fashioned road map. It is inexpensive and widely available. You can buy it from any Gas Station/Garage/Petrol station, any big supermarket or Newsagent and even online.

    roundaboutSpeed Limits

    • Motorways: 70 mph or 112 kph, unless otherwise indicated.
    • Most A roads outside urban areas: 60 mph or 96 kph, unless otherwise indicated.
    • Urban areas: 30 mph or 48 kph unless otherwise indicated.

    Roundabouts

    Roundabouts are (most of the time) a handy piece of road design aimed at facilitating the flow of traffic. My South African friend calls them circles. Very popular in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, they are less common in other countries.

    Who has priority on a roundabout?

    The one who is going around the roundabout has priority over the one who is entering, unless otherwise indicated (e.g. by traffic lights). If you are in a roundabout and realize at the last moment that you need to take the left exit and you are on the inside lane, do not swerve, cause you might cause an accident. Since the roundabout is in the shape of the circle, just follow it around one more time and this time position yourself better for a timely and smooth exit.

    Roadblocks

    Occasionally you will see armed police or even the army on the road stopping cars and checking people. Don’t panic (unless you have reason to!!).

    This was normal during the Troubles, less so. In the five years we came across maybe ten or so roadblocks. Just stop when they ask you to and show some ID. They are usually very polite and might even give you directions to avoid traffic if there is any bottleneck.

    Seatbelt safety

    The law in Northern Ireland is very strict about seatbelt safety. Please read our Seatbelt laws article.

    Drunk drivingIt is a serious offense in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to drive under the influence of alcohol. Do read about drink driving in Northern Ireland here.

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Ulster Flag: The ex-official Flag of Northern Ireland

The Ulster Flag- Fast Facts

  • Other names for the same flag:The Ulster Banner or Ulster Flag (Six Counties) or Red Hand of Ulster
  • it was the official flag of Northern Ireland between 1921 and 1972.
  • It was designed by Sir Gerald Woods Wollaston (1874-1957).
  • It is still used extensively but unofficially by Protestants.
  • ulster-banner

    What are the symbols of the Red Hand of Ulster?

    • The white background and the red cross of Saint George is the most obvious feature.

    It is also the flag of England and the basis of the flag of the county of Georgia in the Caucasus. In medieval times is was the flag of the Republic of Genoa.

  • The crown was intended to symbolise the loyalty of Ulster royalists to the British Monarchy.
  • The star. Its symbolism is disputed. Some claim it is the Star of David and might be witness to a belief among some Protestants that they are descendants of the tribes of Israel.
  • Others claim the six points of the star represent the six provinces that constitute Northern Ireland.

  • Red Hand of Ulster. Its origins are obscure.
  • Some Protestants connect it to Genesis 38:28-30. Judah’s wife had twins, Zerah and Perez.

    As the twins were about to be born Zerah put his hand out first and the midwife tied a red thread to indicate that he was the firstborn and thus entitled to the birsthrights.

    However, Zerah pulled his hand back and Perez was born first.

    red-hand-of-ulster-belfast-mural Mythology of the Red Hand in the Ulster Banner

    The Red Hand, we are told, was the symbol of the Celtic sun god Labraid of the Red Hand.

    Another account tells of a time when Ulster was without a king. A boat race was arranged with the stipulation that the one whose hand would be the first to touch the shore of Ulster would win the crown.

    One contestant loved Ulster so much that he determined to be the next king. Seing, however, that he was losing the race, he cut off his hand and threw it to shore thus fulfilling the conditions and winning the race and crown.

    Hence the red hand symbol.

    Another myth tells of an Ulsterman who dipped his hand in red wax to protest high taxes in Belfast.

    Myths aside, the Red Hand has been a heraldic symbol of Ulster and of one of its chief and most ancient families, the O’Neills.

    By the way, we have met a member of the O’Neill family in the summer of 2008!

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Northern Ireland Neolithic History : The Dolmens

Northern Ireland Neolithic History: Early period – Megalithic Monuments

If Stonehedge is your dream destination, if you are fascinated by huge stones set in strange formations and your every second word is “dolmen”, you will find plenty to visit in Northern Ireland.

neolithic-history-ireland-dolmen Northern Ireland History-The Early, Neolithic period: Fast Facts

When was Ireland inhabited? It was inhabited from very early times.

How do we know that? We have found tombs! (You can’t have tombs without people! )

Who is buried there? Archeologists suggest hunter-gatherer communities that in addition to hunting, lived off the sea.

Do we know their language or ethic composition? Nope.

Then what do you know? They were competent smiths and produced fine ornaments in gold and bronze. They found the fruits of their labours in the tombs, you see.

Where did they found the tombs? Some of the early excavated settlements are in Mount Sandel, County Londonderry and Curran, County Antrim as well as places in the Republic of Ireland.

So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, they found different styles of tombs,and if you are interested in archeology, that’s big News!

In Northern Ireland you can visit all four kind of megalithic monuments (court, passage, portal, and wedge tombs). Read on to find out…

By the way, do you know that megalithic means Big stone? It comes from the greek words mega=big and lithos=stone. I am Greek, you know…

Court tombs are almost always aligned north to south. Handy to know if you ever get lost! They usually consisted of an uncovered entrance courtyard followed by a gallery covered with stones (cairn)or earth.

Where? Creggandevesky in County Tyrone.

dolmen-northern-ireland Portal tombs or dolmens are more abundant the world over and are easy to recognise.

They were single-chamber tombs consisting of usually three upright stones supporting a large horizontal stone.

Where? Try to visit Legananny in County Down on the way from Banbridge to Newcastle. Located on a hill it offers beautiful vistas of the surounding hill country.

Near Newcastle you will find Slidderyford too.

Tirnoney in County Antrim, Bullylumford in Island Magee.

Wedge tombs are a typical irish type of Neolithic History. There are more than 500 examples of wedge tombs surviving.

They are called Wedge Tombs because the chamber becomes narrower at one end creating a wedge like shape.

Where can I see one? A good example of Northern Irish Wedge Tomb is Loughmacrory near Omagh in County Tyrone.

newgrange Passage Tombs seems to have developed out of Dolmens and include a passage leading to a main chamber.

Where? The best example in Ireland is Newgrange. Though located in the Republic, it is only a short drive across the border from Northern Ireland.

Now read about the History of the Celts here

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Flights to Ireland and Northern Ireland to suit your budget

Flights to Ireland or Northern Ireland

If you are planning to visit our beautiful corner of the world, you have to shop around for your airfare.

Have a look at the prices below to give you an idea of how much your flight is going to cost.

(Coming soon)

ebookers.com flights

You might be looking for insurance too..

Look no further

ebookers.com insurance

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Ways to Travel to Northern Ireland

Travel to Northern Ireland by Air, Sea and Land

Travelling to Northern Ireland is now easier than ever before. Whether you are flying in from the other side of the globe, or driving up from the Republic, Northern Ireland is accessible via land, sea and air.

Travel to Northern Ireland By Air

Northern Ireland has three airports:

  • Belfast International
  • Belfast City also known as George Best Airport
  • Londonderry.

You might also want to consider Dublin airport. Though 100 miles from Belfast, the good road system and good transport services means you can be there quickly.

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Travelling to Northern Ireland from America, or further afield?

Dublin is probably your best option. Most major airlines fly to Dublin rather than Belfast so you will have more options.

If you do fly to Dublin, the easiest way to travel to Northern Ireland is to take the bus. There are three bus companies that service this route: Ulsterbus, Bus Eireann, and Aircoach.

Services are regular, and very reasonably priced. They stop at Newry, Banbridge, Hillsborough, Lisburn and Belfast.

However, services do not always run at night and at peak travel times during the day the buses get full quickly. You might want to book in advance, or risk some delay.

London airports

Alternatively, try one of the London airports and then connect. This is easier today in that there are a number of low cost and regular airlines that have multiple flights every day to Northern Ireland airports.

Beware of lost connection flights:

Low cost airlines will usually not take responsibility if your inbound flight is delayed and you lose your connection.

So you might want to arrange it in such a way that you spend a day in London. Or that you book your onward flight with one of the major airlines as one ticket in which case your connection is assured.

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Travelling to Northern Ireland from Europe or Great Britain?

Both Belfast airports and Londonderry have good connectivity.

Try the low cost airlines like Easyjet, Ryanair, Jet2 and BMI service over 100 routes so chances are you will find one that suits you. If you book well in advance and choose your dates carefully, you can get REALLY cheap flights.

Beware of extra costs.

Some of the low cost airlines will charge you extra for services that are standard in other airlines.

So before you make your booking check not only the advertised price, but the total price once you have made all selections.

Travel to Northern Ireland By Sea

Take the boat only if you are bringing a car. Otherwise, it is easier (and often cheaper) to fly.

There are numerous options.

  • Option 1: Scotland to Belfast/Larne – Stena Line or P&O Irish Sea
  • This is the shortest route, it takes about three hours on a normal boar, or just over an hour on a super-fast ferry.

The downside: If you are coming from the south of England it means a long drive to south-west Scotland to take the boat.

  • Option 2: Liverpool to Belfast/Larne – Norfolk Line or Stena Line
  • This trip takes over 10 hours. You can either travel overnight, or over the day.

    Travelling to Northern Ireland overnight sounds ideal, you leave at night, sleep on the boat, arrive fresh and relaxed in the morning.

    The downside: This is probably the most expensive option.

    By contrast, the day sailing can be the cheapest of all options. You can opt to have a cabin, or stay on deck. A free meal is often included with the ticket (check when you book).

  • Option 3: Holyhead to Dublin/Dun Laoghaire – Irish Ferries or Stena Line
  • Three hours on a ferry, an hour and a half on a super-fast ferry. Usually slightly more expensive than Scotland to Belfast/Larne.

    The downside: You have to drive to Holyhead in north-west Wales, and then from Dublin to Northern Ireland.

    Our Advice

    In our five years in Northern Ireland we tried all three options, some several times.

    If you don’t mind spending some extra cash, the night sailing of Option 2 is the best.

    If you are not pressed for time and want to save $$ or ££, the day sailing of Option 2 is the most cost effective.

    Liverpool is easily accessible from most of England and you arrive at the heart Northern Ireland. You can have a cabin and rest during the trip and enjoy a good meal on the way.

    If you are coming from Scotland of Wales, options 1 and 3 are best respectively.

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    Travelling to Northern Ireland from Mainline Europe

    You can either cross by boat from France to the Republic. This is nice if you want to stop over in the Republic. If, however, you are in a hurry to reach Northern Ireland, it is a long trip made on secondary roads.

    Another option is to cross the English Channel by boat to England and then go for one of the three options above.

    Travel to Northern Ireland By Land

    Since Northern Ireland is part of an island, the only way you can come by land is from the Republic of Ireland.

    However, if you are a tourist from America, chances are that you have gone to the South first and are now considering travelling to Northern Ireland.

    The roads connecting South to North are generally small (as with most roads in the South) and not always in the best state of repairs. So, count on a lengthy trip even if the millage involved is not high.

    However, if you are in the Dublin area, then it all becomes so much simpler.

    The M1 is the main artery that leads from Dublin towards the North (just to make matters confusing, there is another road named M1 that starts is Belfast and heads south-west but the two are distinct).

    If you take the M1 from Dublin and avoid the rush hour, your trip will be quicker and more pleasant.

    From Dublin it is about 60 miles to the border, 66 to Newry, the first main city in the North,75 to Banbridge and about 100 to Belfast. The road is motorway until Newry and dual-carriage way from then on. Currently they are doing road works around Newry which can cause delays at rush hour, but otherwise it should be smooth driving.

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Tours-Northern-Ireland ? Where to start?

Tours-Northern-Ireland

So you have decided to visit my secret Tourist destination (at last, what took you so long!); or maybe you are already there. You are crouching over a map and are trying to plan you itinerary. You are wondering which places are worth a visit and which you can skip. Relax… Here is a list of some of the most fascinating places. Take your pick.

Giant’s Causeway Even if you don’t like natural attractions, you MUST plan a visit to Giant’s Causeway, the foremost natural wonder with the greatest claim to fame. Don’t miss it.

Rathlin Island If you want to beat the crowds, go off the beaten track, to Rathlin Island, a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Mourne Mountains. The crown of Ulster. Full of heather and ragged beauty, they will mesmerise you.

More Tours-Northern-Ireland to be added soon. Come back and check on us, we have so many things to tell you, we wish we had more hours in the day!

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