Northern Ireland

ireland shoreline cliffs

Sadly, most Amer­i­cans skip North­ern Ire­land when plan­ning a trip to the Old Sod. With so much to do and see in the south, it’s hard to find time in the itinerary.

When you con­sider all that the North has to offer, maybe it is best con­sid­ered a trip of its own. Unless your ances­tors are from the North it might not be your first trip to Ire­land but cer­tainly a sec­ond or third. Com­bine the North with some time spent in Done­gal and you will have at least a week of things to do.

Let’s start with what is dif­fer­ent about North­ern Ire­land. First and fore­most is money. In NI it is the British pound. In the south, the Euro. Beyond that, not much is dif­fer­ent. Yes there are more Protes­tants than Catholics but that is a sub­ject to avoid in most parts of the world. Other than that the peo­ple are just as wel­com­ing and engag­ing as their neigh­bors to the south and the peo­ple are my num­ber one rea­son for going any­where in Ire­land. They sell a lot of the “Black Stuff’ in the north as well.

So what can you do while vaca­tion­ing in NI? Hike in the Mourne Moun­tains. Visit the Titanic Exhibit in Belfast. Fish, rent a boat or just relax on one of the many lakes in Fer­managh. Along the North Coast of Antrim you can swim, surf or fish or enjoy some of the many activ­i­ties noted below.

Not enough? You can hike or bike along the Coastal Cause­way. While doing so you can enjoy sev­eral sea­side vil­lages and towns. Explore the Glens of Antrim. Near Armagh you can visit sev­eral sights chron­i­cling the life of the fabled St. Patrick.

I have barely men­tioned Belfast, known for its vibrant music scene, is quickly becom­ing one of the “cool” cities of Europe. Or Lon­don­derry which was des­ig­nated a City of Cul­ture in 2013. Or Done­gal if you have time.

Safety is a con­cern that clients raise when I bring up North­ern Ire­land. When talk­ing about the island of Ire­land, safety is one of the most com­pelling rea­sons to con­sider a vaca­tion on the Old Sod. It is no dif­fer­ent today in the North. “The Trou­bles” of the 1970’s are long in the past. At their height the mur­der rate in NI per hun­dred thou­sand peaked at 31.9. I live in Mary­land. In 2012, the mur­der rate was 34.9 in Bal­ti­more and 13.9 per hun­dred thou­sand in Wash­ing­ton DC.

Nation­ally the US mur­der rate is around 4.9 per hun­dred thou­sand com­pared to 2.8 in North­ern Ire­land. There are prob­a­bly some poor neigh­bor­hoods in Belfast that you should avoid and some sub­jects that you might not want to bring up. Just like when you are trav­el­ing to Wash­ing­ton DC and Bal­ti­more. In other words be smart and then don’t worry about it.

North­ern Ire­land has plenty to offer the US trav­eler. United fly’s directly to Belfast from Newark so a trip as short as a long week­end is fea­si­ble. When con­sid­er­ing a trip to Ire­land, make sure that you give North­ern Ire­land a look when plan­ning your itinerary.

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