Isn't it interesting how some of the most beautiful countries are those with all the troubles.
Northern Ireland is one of these countries that has come out strong. However, there is a huge amount of character in this part of the world.
It seems hard to imagine that one quarter of the population was lost due to immigration, forced at the time of the great famine. A huge amount of the Irish folk died during these hard times. This especially relates to when the potato crops failed to harvest. Other crops such as wheat were available, but too expensive for the poorer community to buy. Over one million people ended up dying from diseases caused by this famine.
If you look further along the way into the history of Northern Ireland, you will find that during the next 100 years, large numbers of people emigrated abroad.
Unfortunately, hatred among men escalated dramatically, with the rise of the IRA and the conflict in Northern Ireland. I'm wondering what was going through loyalist, Bobby Sand's mind a few days before he starved to death. This took place on a hunger strike lasting 66 days. This particular campaign that was being fought for the rights so that political prisoners would be recognized. Unfortunately, this ended badly for him including 10 other men.
For starters, Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, is an exciting and vibrant city, which is always looking forward to new prospects. Architectural and cultural highlights, such as the City Hall, which can be seen as a landmark and the Linen Hall Library are both reminders of the Victorian era. The Crown Liquor Saloon dates back to 1885 making it the oldest in Ireland.
The city is so easy to get around for the simple fact that it is so compact. During the troubles, there was a heavily militarized presence in the city center due to terrorism. This is almost non- existent at this point in time and it is completely safe in the area.
I had been living and working in Dublin for 8 months and before I flew home, I decided to explore Northern Ireland, the place I had heard so much about.
I haven't heard of anyone returning from Ireland without commenting on the warm and hospitable nation of the city and surrounding areas. One could have a beautiful country, sights you stand in awe of, but this is empty if you are made to feel unwelcome. The Irish go the extra mile. Some would even say people from Northern Ireland are even more friendly compared with their friends further down South.
Walking up the Main Road of London Derry with my backpack, I was approached by a policeman, offering to walk with me, saying it was getting dark and cheerfully chatting about life just like an Irishman. Just one example of the friendly, hospitable nature of the people.
Waiting for the bus in various Northern Ireland counties, such as county Antrim, for example is a peaceful experience. The only place to sit is in the tall, green grass, next to the winding country lane. Behind you is a fence with a couple of cows munching on the grass. Here there is no sign that any troubles ever existed ... just beauty.
Bus drivers are among the best in these parts, meandering their way alongside the craggy, limestone cliffs, past the blue waters of Potrush Whiterocks beach, which is always packed out with holidaymakers in the Summer months.
Map of Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland, UK
Giant’s Causeway is one of the main attractions. This is yet another spectacle where there was once a volcanic eruption. The lava formed massive 37,000 polygonal columns of Basalt, including those submerged underneath the water.
Just next to Antrim is county Tyrone, which happens to be the largest county in Northern Ireland. Some of the early Christian remains can still be seen around Lough Erne. This was an important route, displaying churches and monasteries along the way. Pilgramages also passed along this area.
As the bus manouvers itself towards Derry, we are reminded of the conflict and troubles. The Bloody Sunday Memorial remains is intense. This is where 13 civilians were gunned down while on a march through the streets of Derry. Nobody has been brought to trial for the shootings. Walls of buildings are represented with elaborate murals displaying striking themes to give some history of the city.
Most of the murals are in black and white, which gives a historic theme and creates a huge impression. It is something you won't forget in a hurry. Isn't it amazing the effect art can have on our emotions. Talking about the past is a healthy part of the restoration process in this beautiful place.
A Couple of Things to Do in Northern Ireland
If you are in Dublin, or even in the United Kingdom, this is one place you can't miss out on. To make your trip easier, here are a couple of things to keep you occupied:
- Fall Road Republican Murals - these murals took off in support of the hunger strikes in 1981. This is something not to be missed when you are in Belfast. You will see some of the faces of the strikers, including Bobby Sands.
- There are also walking tours where you will learn about some of the history of the area. There are more murals in these parts as well. The Sunday Bloody Sunday Memorial is located here. 13 people were shot dead by the British Army here.
- Get yourself a bus ticket where you can hop on and hop off. Bus drivers are super friendly and they know where they are going, unlike driving yourself. Simply buy a ticket for a weekend or a week. Buses are affordable as well.
- If you have the legs for it, cycle over the cliffs, past Potrush where you will be amazed by the stretch of beauty that you are surrounded by. Sandy beaches and chalk cliffs are part of the package here.
- Back in Belfast, you will also be absorbed by Arts and culture, so this is something to soak in. Museums are well worth a visit, as is the main university and you may even be able to catch a musical or two. There is always a special event happening, so check the calendar out.
- Don't forget about the friendliest pubs you will ever find, with live Irish music. This is the best kind of entertainment after a whole day of exploring the countryside.