The Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills, Co. Antrim
This natural attraction has numerous legends surrounding its origins. The most popular is that Fionn MacCumhaill, a legendary Irish hero, fell in love with a lady giant on a nearby island. In order for her to cross into Ulster without getting her feet wet he built a highway of stepping-stones from Antrim to Scotland, hence the Giant’s Causeway. The unique structure is a mass of basalt columns packed together and the tops from the stepping-stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. There are forty thousand of these columns and most are hexagonal. The tallest reach up to forty feet in height and are up to ninety feet thick. It really is a fascinating outcome of the forces of nature.
The Ulster American Folk Park, Castletown, Omagh, Co. Tyrone
For a museum with a difference head to this fascinating centre. A fifty acre outdoor museum, the park and its contents tell the story of the mass emigration from Ulster to America which took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Over twenty different houses and buildings are there for you to explore and everyone who works in the park is dressed in costumes which would have been common at the time. There are also a host of craftsmen at work showing some crafts and skills from both Ulster and America.
Glens of Antrim
A collection of nine green valleys, each with its own unique characteristics this is some of the most picturesque landscape in the country. Rivers and waterfalls as well as the natural flora and fauna of the area make this a particularly popular region of Northern Ireland. The only disadvantage with the glens is that the bus service is quite sparse but where there’s a will there’s a way and there are enough connections to take you there and back. Alternatively many opt to explore the area by bicycle from some of the nearby seaside towns.
Castleward, Strangford, County Down
Renowned for its contrasting his (Classical) and hers (Gothic) facades which were built for Lady Anne and Lord Bangor, this eighteenth century estate is now the property of the National Trust. Situated about two kilometres outside Strangford village this attraction is built on an eight hundred acre on the shores of the lake and includes wonderful gardens, a tower house, a working corn mill and saw mill, a Victorian laundry as well as an information centre and a craft and gift shop. A really impressive property and a superb place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, Cultra, Holywood, County Down
One of the most visited attractions in Northern Ireland, this museum preserves a host of age-old skills in traditional surroundings. You can observe crafts, many of which have already disappeared as well as check out Ireland’s largest transport collection which includes a road and a rail gallery. Just a few minutes from Belfast, this is one you don’t want to miss.