Portrush, Northern Ireland

A small town that once played host to the British Open in 1951, Portrush,  is a resort town in on the edge of Northern Ireland. The name Portrush comes from the Irish Port Rois, which translates to Promontory Port, and it features three sandy beaches. The city itself sits on the Atlantic ocean which makes for a perfect place to have a get away. Over the years, the town has become an ideal vacation destination, featuring history from many different centuries as well as beachside attractions and activities.

Similar to many towns nearby, Portrush started out as a fishing port. The city was built nearby the Dunluce Castle, a now-ruined medieval castle built in the thirteenth century. The city is rich in history even before the castle was built. Where the Royal Portrush Golf course now calls home, there was once a terrible battle between the Irish and Vikings. In 1103 the King Magnus Barefoot was slain by Irish Clans. In the 20th century, the area became a resort town. Portrush was a popular stop for passenger steamer ships which were much like the cruise ships of today. The beaches are lined with Georgian style houses built by the wealthy in the last century.Dunluce Castle & Portrush, Northern Ireland

Today, the coastal town remains a popular vacation destination. While the area has a lot of history, there are activities for everyone. Royal Portrush Golf Course, is one of the top courses in the world and was the host of the 1951 British Open. The beaches are popular surfer destinations and can easily become crowded when the waves are perfect. Portrush also offers the best nightlife in Northern Ireland. The Kelly is an entire complex dedicated to nightclubs and bars, and it often attracts some of the biggest DJ names in the world. The beaches host a variety of music events and festivals throughout the year.

The weather in Portrush is similar to the rest of the United Kingdom in that has a very mild climate. The winter months are more chilly than cold and it averages in the 40′s during the day. In summer time, the temperatures average at around 60 degrees fahrenheit, but there tends to be more rainfall during the summer months as well. The best time to head to Portrush for a vacation would be anytime from April to July. During these months, the Northern Irish town experiences the most sunshine and the least rain.


Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

Downpatrick is a small city in the southeastern part of Northern Ireland. The current population stands at approximately 10,000 residents. The town is an important place in the history of St. Patrick, and the town’s name actually means “stronghold of Patrick”.

The area around Downpatrick was inhabited by Celtic people far back in ancient history. There was an ancient, Celtic fortification at the site that is now the city’s cathedral.

St.Patricks Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, Northern IrelandDuring the Middle Ages, the town was associated with the ministry of St. Patrick. The city was the site of military encounters between the Irish and the English.

A large, wealthy family named Southwell helped to improve the fortunes of Downpatrick in the 1700s. They built several important buildings including a school.

Today, Downpatrick is an important tourist destination in the United Kingdom, and tourism is one of the mainstays of the economy. Travelers will find great Airfares to Belfast Airport, just 32 miles from Downpatrick. It is also a community of commuters as many of the city’s residents travel to Belfast for employment opportunities.

One of the major attractions in the Downpatrick area is the Saint Patrick Centre. This center is built on the location where St. Patrick is believed to have built his first church and made his first converts on Irish soil. The center shows an interesting film about St. Patrick’s life and ministry. There are several displays concerning the life of the saint at the center.

Another important site in Downpatrick centered on the life of St. Patrick is Down Cathedral. This cathedral and its spire tower over Downpatrick. Down Cathedral was built in the 12th century. On the cathedral grounds is the place that is believed to be the burial place of St. Patrick. The grave is marked by a large stone, and it is a much visited site.

The ruins of Inch Abbey are another important religious site worth visiting. This abbey was established sometime in the 9th century and continued in operation until the 1500s.

Ballynoe Stone Circle is a site that takes visitors back to the ancient history of Ireland. The cirlce is made up of around 50 stones spread out to form a circle. It is believed to be the location of an ancient burial site.

Those traveling to Downpatrick will find a rainy climate that is cool in winter. Summers are warm, but they are not exceptionally hot.


Dungannon, Northern Ireland

Famed in the past for a troubled history as well as its bustling textile industry, Dungannon in Northern Ireland today is renowned more for its famous rugby team, the golfer Darren Clarke and award-winning snooker player Denis Taylor.

Set like a jewel in the deep green countryside of County Tyrone, Dungannon invites one and all to come and experience the town’s deep history as well as admire its innovational approach to the 21st century.

County Tyrone was ancestral home to the O’Neills, Irish lords who resisted the incoming British. Ultimately, the Irish lost the battle and 99 Gaelic lords fled the country for the continent in the episode known as The Flight of the Earls. Dungannon is home to Castle Hill, Earl Hugh O’Neill’s fortress, from which all six counties of Northern Ireland can be seen when weather permits. A team of archeologists from Queens University and Channel Four’s Time Team excavated the site in 2007, uncovering the moat and walls of the castle ruins.Northern Ireland Antrim Coast

Northern Ireland’s busy textile industry gave birth to fine Irish linen, which flourished from its beginning as a domestic trade in 1273 to world renown until the world wars required all the linen for military use. Street names to this day reflect the importance of cloth and linen to Northern Ireland, with Mill, Flax and Cambric streets in many towns and villages. Dungannon’s Moygashel Mills’ very name came from a term for a particular type of linen cloth. Today Dungannon celebrates its past with The Linen Green, a handicraft designer village luring customers from Ireland and the world.

With a population of over 15,000, Dungannon has turned from its industrial past and today focuses on local food production and light engineering. Organic food farming began in the 1990s and has blossomed in County Tyrone, producing prime beef, lamb and dairy products as well as lake fish such as the salmon trout and pollan from Lough Neagh. Farmer’s markets abound in towns surrounding Dungannon, providing an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables for a true taste treat.

Northern Ireland, like much of the British Isles, receives its share of rain, but that rain makes Ireland one of the greenest places on the planet. Nestled at the foot the Sperrin Mountains, Dungannon shines in its ancient history and folklore, stunning natural beauty and friendly, hospitable people. With interesting architecture and a variety of historical and archeological landmarks, Dungannon flourishes as a place to visit and enjoy.


Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland


The town Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland was made famous with the folk ballad called, “Carrickfergus.” The small coastal village has a population of around 30,000. Known locally as Carrick, the town of Carrickfergus means “Fergus’ rock” in the Irish language.

Situated on the northern edge of the Belfast Lough that opens into the Irish Sea on the east coast of North Ireland, the town is in County Antrim. The capital city of Northern Ireland is Belfast, and Belfast is only about 18 kilometers down the shores of Belfast Lough from Carrickfergus.Carrickfergus Castle in Northern Ireland

The area experiences a maritime climate like much of the British Isles. The temperatures are moderate with winter averages around 6 or 7 degrees Celsius, and about 18 degrees in the summertime. Clouds and overcast skies are common, and verdant green is the color of the landscape.

Fergus or Fergus Mor mac Eirc was Dal Riata’s king in the 500s AD. Dal Riata was located where County Antrim is today. Settled in the late 1100s, Carrickfergus is a much older settlement than is Belfast. In fact, Belfast Lough used to be called Carrickfergus Bay until the 1600s.

Fergus’ rock where the castle was built and for which the town was named became thus titled because King Fergus grounded his ship on that particular rock in the mid-500s. The rock is a jagged volcanic dyke near the water’s edge. King Fergus was returning from Scotland.

The heart of the town is where the old walled city used to stand. Some remnants of the wall remain. On Fergus’ rock, the knight named John de Courcy constructed the castle in the 1170s for the Anglo-Normans. Carrickfergus Castle is a well-preserved example of Norman castles to this day, an impressive monument and landmark. Visitors are welcomed to take self-guided tours of the historic fortress.

John de Courcy had the Saint Nickolas’ Church built within 10 years after the castle. This historic stone church is still in use today as a sanctuary for worship. Its spire rises above the town. Visitors are also always welcomed to the church services and tours of the building.

Other sites of interest are found around Carrickfergus. Green golf courses by the sea are lovely places to spend the afternoon. The marina and waterfront area is great for strolls. Then, Flame – The Gasworks Museum of Ireland gives a remarkable look at the local history during the Industrial Revolution.


Whitehead, Northern Ireland


A picturesque town by Belfast Lough that opens into the Irish Sea, Whitehead, Northern Ireland sits on the shores of a small bay. The village is historically known as a beach town that drew crowds in the Edwardian and Victorian eras. Today, Whitehead is known as the only place in Northern Ireland where a Jubilee Wood was planted in honor of Queen Elizabeth II and her Diamond Jubilee.

Whitehead is named for the Whitehead limestone cliffs that contrast with the nearby Blackhead volcanic cliffs. Located between the towns of Larne and Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland’s east coast and County Antrim, the town has an unusual feature. No roadways through the town have a name that ends with the word, “street.” Consequently, Whitehead is known as a no street town.

Blackhead lighthouse on the coast of Northern Ireland near BelfastIn this part of the country as in all of the British Isles, the climate is maritime and the temperatures are moderate. Summers usually have temperatures around 18 degrees Celsius. Winters see average temperatures around 6 degrees. Many days are cloudy, and rain does fall frequently to keep the countryside vibrant and green.

Besides being popular as a beach resort in the past and present, Whitehead served its country during World War I by constructing an aerodrome that housed two aircraft. Then more recently in 2005-2006, town’s Brighter Whitehead organization put hundreds of flowers in the ground and won for the town the silver in the Britain in Bloom event. In 2012, Whitehead with the help from the town of Carrickfergus planted the Jubilee Wood with 6 million trees.

Seeing the new trees in the Jubilee Wood is inspiring, and return visits over the years will show they have grown. However, other attractions are also available in the seaside town of Whitehead. The Blackhead Trail is absolutely an amazing pathway with lovely scenes and historic sites of the quarry area including workers cottages. The trail is free to the public and so is parking. The waterfront and local harbors as well as the public library and The Gallery Whitehead are also fabulous spots to visit.

Whitehead is a pleasant village to visit. The population is less than 4,000. Still, the town is welcoming. Hints of the Victorian and Edwardian age seem to linger, and stunning views of the harbor and islands are free.


Bangor, Northern Ireland

Bangor, Northern Ireland, lies along the Belfast Lough where it feeds into the Irish Sea. The town is within the Belfast Metropolitan area, and sits only a few minutes away from the city itself. Through much of its modern history Bangor has been a favored resort town, and tourism still plays a large role in its economy.

The climate around Bangor is mild, with average low temperatures above freezing throughout the winter. Although it is situated by the sea, Bangor’s location on the sheltered east coast of Northern Ireland means that it gets only moderate amounts of rainfall. The sea air and moderate weather were key factors in making Bangor a resort destination in the Victorian Era.Bangor Marina, Bangor Northern Ireland

Bangor’s early claim to fame arrived ca 555, when Saint Comgall established a monastery there. The abbey was destroyed by the Danes in the early 800s, but rebuilt 300 years later.

Because of its northerly location, Bangor did not see the same level of air attacks as did some of the United Kingdom’s southern ports during the Second World War. The city did play a role during the conflict though, and some of the troops who took part in the D-Day landings departed from Bangor. The Bangor marina’s North Pier was renamed Eisenhower Pier to commemorate this event.

During the violent political troubles that plagued Northern Ireland in the late twentieth century, there were several bombings in the 1970s and 90s. Peace returned after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

There are many things to see and do in Bangor. The marina is the largest in Ireland and hosts many sailing events. Bangor Castle, a mansion built in the 1850s, now serves as the meeting place for the North Down Borough Council. The current abbey in Bangor sits on the site of the original monastery, and many of the buildings are hundreds of years old.

Visitors to Bangor don’t have to look far for accommodations. There are several hotels in and near the town, as well as a number of bed and breakfast establishments. The night life can be enjoyed at several pubs and nightclubs.


Newcastle, Northern Ireland


Newcastle,  is a small town on the Northern Ireland coast that is known for its beauty and the excellent golfing in the area. It lies at the base of Slieve Donard, which is part of the Morne Mountains. Visitors are drawn to the area to enjoy the picturesque beauty of the mountains as well as the beautiful sandy beach. The population of Newcastle is just under 7,500 people.

Not much is known about the early history of Newcastle. Most of the early history simply exists in the form of folktales that were passed down orally through the generations. The town derives its name from a castle that was built in the late 16th century by Felix Magennis. The town was not very populated until the 17th century, when it began to be used heavily as a port.

Newcastle, Mourne Mountains, Northern IrelandOne of the most famous events to happen in the history of Newcastle was a terrible tragedy. On January 13, 1843, 12 fishing boats were lost at sea when a heavy storm sprang up. 76 fishermen drowned in the tragedy, leaving behind a few dozen widows and more than 100 fatherless children.

A more cheerful event in the town’s history occurred in 1910, when Harry Ferguson flew one of the first airplane flights in Ireland along the beach outside Newcastle.

These days, Newcastle is still a town that relies on fishing, but it is more known for the charms it offers tourists. There are many outdoor attractions that are a big draw for visitors. Tourists come to enjoy the beautiful sandy beach that is particularly enjoyable during the summer.

Visitors are also able to enjoy hiking up the largest mountain in all of Ireland, Slieve Donard. This mountain is part of the Morne Mountains, which are said to be the mountains where Saint Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland. There is a stream, known as Saint Patrick’s Stream, that runs down from the mountain. In the stream is a rock that legend says contains the handprint of Saint Patrick from an occasion when he bent down to drink from the stream.

Royal County Down Golf Club is the most popular tourist attraction in Newcastle. Many golf experts consider it to be one of the top ten courses in the world. The club has two 18-hole links courses that are of championship-caliber. The club has been home to many of the top golf competitions, including the Senior British Open and the Walker Cup.


Armagh, Northern Ireland

Armagh is located in the southern part of Northern Ireland. Armagh is not a large town. The current population stands at just over 14,500 residents.

The town of Armagh has a history dating back to ancient Celtic times. At one time, Armagh was the center of the ancient Celtic religion. In fact, the name Armagh is derived from the name of a Celtic goddess.

In the 5th century, Ireland was converted to the Christian religion through the efforts of St. Patrick and his associates. St. Patrick set up a major church and monastery in Armagh.Craigavon lakes, Armagh, Northern Ireland at sunset

During the Middle Ages, the town was frequently raided by the Vikings. Also during this time, Armagh developed as an important educational center for the clergy and other scholars.

One artifact from this time period is the Book of Armagh. This manuscript is written in Old Irish, and it contains numerous stories about St. Patrick and the early Irish church. It is now part of the collection at Trinity College in the Republic of Ireland.

In the modern era, Armagh saw disputes between Catholics and Protestants. This period known as “The Troubles” saw the death of several Armagh residents.

Today, Armagh is noted for having two beautiful cathedrals in the city that are both named in honor of St. Patrick. One of the cathedrals is a Catholic cathedral that was built in the late 1800s. The other cathedral is operated by the Church of Ireland and was built in the 5th century. This cathedral is also the seat of the Archbishop of Armagh who is the leader of the Church of Ireland in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Many of the buildings in Armagh are noteworthy representatives of Georgian design. Those visiting the city will want to see the library building, the old prison and the merchant house.

An interesting place to visit with the entire family is the Armagh Astronomy Centre and Planetarium. Visitors here can see several programs about the universe and space exploration.

Also of interest is the Navan Centre and Fort. This area is a recreation of an ancient Irish fort. The lives and rituals of the ancient Celtic people are on display.

Visitors to Armagh should keep in mind that the weather here can be rainy, just like in the rest of Ireland. Summers are warm but not hot. Winters are not excessively cold.


Derry, Northern Ireland


Derry is one of the oldest cities in Northern Ireland. This means that it has a lot of history for visitors to enjoy as they explore the city. It has lots of museums and attractions that will appeal to visitors who have an interest in history. Derry’s full name is actually Londenderry, but this is a source of problems for many residents. The fact that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom causes lots of problems. Residents who want to remain part of the Union call it Londenderry, while those who want Northern Ireland to become part of the Irish Republic shorten the name to Derry. The city is most commonly simply called Derry.The beach and coastline at Downhill on the Derry coast of Northern Ireland.

Derry is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland. The city is also the fourth-largest city on the entire Irish island. People have been living in what is present-day Derry for thousands of years. The earliest historical references to Derry refer to the establishment of a monastery there by Saint Columba in the 6th century. Between the 6th and the 11th centuries, the area that is now Derry remained primarily a monastic community.

Beginning in the 11th century, Derry became an important strategic location during the frequent conflicts between the Irish and the English. During the 17th century, the English laid out a proper city in Derry, including surrounding the entire city with massive walls. This made Derry the first planned city in all of Ireland.

Derry remained a city that suffered lots of fighting between Irish and English forces over the next few centuries. There were many famous battles and sieges that involved Derry.

During the 19th century, Derry became one of the most popular ports for Irish emigrants fleeing the notorious potato famine that starved many people.

These days Derry does not see much fighting as “The Troubles,” as many refer to the conflict in Northern Ireland, has mostly faded into memory. The city now brings in many tourists who like to visit the museums that showcase the city’s troubled history. There is a lot of old architecture for visitors to explore. Tours of the city walls are very popular as they are some of the oldest city walls in Europe. Derry is the only city in Ireland which has a complete set of city walls.

Halloween is a very popular time for visitors to come to Derry. The Halloween celebration is the largest in all of Ireland.


Belfast, Northern Ireland


Belfast, Northern Ireland has a millennium of documented history and has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. It is a city of over half a million people and the capitol of Northern Ireland. The name, Belfast, means something like “sandbar at the mouth of the rivers.” It was an ideal location for ship building.

Since the the century anniversary of the Titanic sinking, Belfast has been in the news for its museum, Titanic Belfast. It tells the story from beginning to end and events afterwards. Called “The Iceberg” for its silvery aluminum, block-like appearance, it sits on the grounds of the former Titanic ship builders, Harland and Wolff.City Hall, Belfast Northern IrelandVisitors will not want for restaurants and bars in Belfast. From very inexpensive fare to fine dining, it is well-stocked with food and beverage purveyors in every quarter. The Black Taxi tours provide information about all aspects of Belfast, including dining and drinking establishments, and the tour ends with a Guinness and a bowl of Irish stew. This simple fare tastes divine in Ireland and cannot be replicated elsewhere.

The Troubles in the 1970s drew attention to Belfast for the tragedy and violence of the Catholic-Protestant conflicts and frequent murders. Since the 1998 peace treaty between Republican and Loyalist factions, peace has reigned and tourism has boomed. The Belfast Murals Tour is a good way to learn about this sad history and the hard-won path to peaceful times.

The western part of Belfast, where many incidents occurred, has murals depicting scenes from those times, and visitors can talk with individuals who were involved as activists, former prisoners or educated guides. Some who went on hunger strikes, MPs, peace negotiators and escapees from the horror of jail are also available to talk with on some tours. There is no more authentic account about this time period and what it meant because both sides are represented.

Since Belfast and Northern Ireland are part of the United Kingdom, there is a long history of English-Irish conflicts over ownership, culminating in the 1922 partitioning of Ireland. The Parliament Buildings at Stormont, in Belfast, were built in 1932 to house the Northern Ireland Assembly. Tours are open to the public.

Belfast has also been known as a producer of linen since the 1820s. Good linen is easily found in stores around Belfast for beautiful, easy to carry gifts. Belfast has survived and prospered, and welcomes the world.