Northern Ireland occupies the northeastern corner of the island of Ireland. It shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland (Ireland) in the south and west while the Irish Sea in the east separates it from the UK mainland. Northern Ireland has the smallest population among the home nations or countries that make up the UK with just 1.8 million people.
In 1921, the island split into Northern Ireland and remained part of the UK while Southern Ireland became an independent country known as the Republic of Ireland. Despite its reputation of civil strife and violence (known as the Troubles) in the past, the political situation in Northern Ireland has stabilised since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Northern Ireland including its cities, towns and villages are now safer than before as a travel destination.
Belfast Castle by Stubacca
Crossing the Land Border
When you travel north by road from Ireland crossing the land border into Northern Ireland, you’ll notice several changes. You’ll realise that the road signs are in kilometres in the Republic of Ireland but miles in Northern Ireland. While prices are in euro in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland uses the pound sterling. Currently there are no checkpoints (immigration and customs controls) when crossing the border. Therefore, you will probably not realise that you have crossed into another country until you notice a simple road sign indicating you have crossed the border. Brexit may change the ‘borderless crossing’ until negotiations with the EU are finalised.
Border at Altnamachin by Dean Molyneaux
People & Culture
There is a conscious divide in Northern Ireland between people who recognise themselves as Protestant Christians (53 percent) and those as Catholics (44 percent). Protestants generally identify with British culture and Catholics with Irish culture. This also transcends into political association, where one lives and consider themselves British, Irish or Northern Irish. Whatever the divide, visitors will find the people here to be friendly and welcoming towards visitors. English is the language used by all but English may have difficulty understanding the different accents across Northern Ireland.
Ann Street in Belfast by Ardfern
Northern Ireland as a Travel Destination
Northern Ireland comprises only a sixth of the Irish landmass but packs so much as a travel destination. After the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, it has become a safe place to visit but be sensitive with the locals about the social divide and the Troubles. Belfast is the capital and largest city in Northern Ireland and today a thriving city experiencing a new beginning but proud of its Victorian and Edwardian heritage. Beyond the cities, there are the beautiful sceneries of rugged mountains, sheltered lakes, lush forest parks, enchanting coastlines and unspoiled beaches. There are also the tranquil villages, impressive castles and superb golf courses.
Major Destinations in Northern Ireland
- Belfast is located at the mouth of the Lagan River. It is the capital and largest city in Northern Ireland and attracts visitors curious about city’s violent past known as the Troubles.
- Derry (Londonderry) is on banks of the Foyle River. The city dates back 15 centuries and its most famous attraction is the 1.5 km (1 mile) City Wall built in the early 17th century.
- Portrush is a resort town on the north coast of Northern Ireland. The town offers visitors its splendid beaches and makes a good base for exploring the nearby areas.
Beach at Portrush by Giorgio Galeotti
Transport in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has three airports with Belfast International Airport being the main airport. There are ferries sailing between Belfast and Larne in Northern Ireland and ports in England, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) operates the rail service and uses Belfast a its hub. NIR also operates a joint service with Irish Rail travelling between Belfast and the Irish capital of Dublin. Roads radiate from Belfast connecting with the cities and towns across Northern Ireland. While the motorways and main roads are generally of good standards, the secondary roads passing through the country are narrow with few road signs and markings.
Check-in at Belfast International by Ardfern
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