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Viewing: Northern Ireland
Since the new millennium, Belfast let down its scars from its heavy conflicting past and is now a vibrant and rejuvenated city in complete reinvention. Belfast played a key role in the Industrial Revolution and has kept a lot of industrial features in its architecture which gives the city a very particular character. Belfast may be the capital of Northern Ireland but it is a pleasingly walkable city laid out on a human scale.
It has four quarters each with its own identity and character. The Cathedral Quarter is the oldest quarter, located closest to the water front and dominated by the Church of Ireland Cathedral, St Anne's. The Queen's Quarter, an energetic and lively area, with the Queen's College at its heart. The area fuses entertainment, culture and commerce to create a uniquely spirited neighbourhood.
The Titanic Quarter, located in the old shipbuilding yards of Harland and Wolff. This area catapulted Belfast onto the map and gave the city its reputation and fortune. And finally, the Gaeltacht Quarer, Celtic roots, music and folklore. The Irish heritage is celebrated here in west Belfast. Along the Falls Road the Irish language, music, literature and culture have flourished.
County Down is a spectacular region of Northern Ireland that has picturesque, low rolling hills which roll directly into the contrasting Mourne Mountaina and Slieve Donard. This mystical and inspiring landscape inspired CS Lewis to create the magical land of Narnia in the well-loved children's story books. The history of County Down stretches back over 7000 years and unsurprisingly plays home to wealth of ancient heritage sites. The most famous of these is Downpatrick, the area in which the patron saint of Ireland is said to be buried.
Slieve Donard is Northern Ireland's highest mountain, which sits beautifully in the stunning Mourne Mountains – a range which sweeps directly into the sea. The Mournes are close to Dublin and Belfast and very easy to access yet in contrast to these great cities it is like entering another world.
The picturesque gateway to the Mourne's is the popular Victorian seaside town of Newcastle. Newcastle combines high mountain passes with beautiful sandy beaches and has been recently redeveloped making it the perfect base for exploring Murlough National Nature Reserve and the Mourne Mountains.
Giant's Causeway Coast
Northern Ireland's number-one attraction, the Giant's Causeway (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) were formed around 62 million years ago featuring approximately 40,000 hexagonal columns. The fascinating patterns you see in the causeway stones formed as a result of the red-hot lava crystallizing under conditions of accelerated cooling when it came into immediate contact with water. But the legend says an Irish giant, Fionn mac Cumhaill built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his enemy Benandonner. You can walk upon the stones of this natural wonder on two of well-established footpaths and enjoy the view of its surroundings on a boat trip.
Londonderry – also known as Derry is the only completely Walled City in the British Isles. The walls were built in the 17th century as defences for early seventeenth century settlers from England and Scotland. It is well worth the visit if you're based in Belfast and want to make an excursion out of the capital. Situated around 62 miles away, the trip would take around 90 minutes. Derry will keep you busy with its beautiful riverside setting, its several fascinating historical sites and the numerous museums, galleries and theatres, as well as thriving musical and literary scenes.