Northern Ireland is jam-packed with attractions – from the majestic Mourne Mountains and Sperrins, an area of outstanding natural beauty, to Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in Ireland and the UK, and Lough Erne, the Bann, Foyle, Blackwater and Lagan rivers, wild Rathlin Island off Antrim’s coast, and, of course, its bustling old cities Belfast and Londonderry.
The Causeway Coastal Route is justifiably famous. It covers 129km (80 miles) of coastline across two counties, beginning in Belfast and ending in Londonderry. Highlights include the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle, Glenariff Forest Park and White Rocks Beach.
The region is composed of six of the nine counties of the Irish province of Ulster. Fermanagh, Antrim, Tyrone, Londonderry, Armagh and Down are the six, partitioned in 1920, and subject to decades of conflict that ended (or started to end) with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
Outside these six, the other three counties of the historic province of Ulster in the Republic of Ireland are Monaghan, Cavan, and Donegal.
Quite possibly, Northern Ireland’s greatest attraction is its people, who, like their Southern Irish neighbours, are friendly and hospitable, with a passion for the “craic”.
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Northern Ireland – the six counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone on the north east side of Ireland – has a temperate maritime climate, like the rest of the country. It is influenced by the Gulf Stream which makes Ireland warmer than it should be given its latitude. The summers are warm and the winters are mild. Rain, however, is never far away, and the north of the country gets more snow than the republic during the winter.
The summer months of July and August generally enjoy the best weather. This is festival season so Northern Ireland flights and accommodation are in high demand.
There is no off-peak season, per se. The cities of Londonderry and Belfast have become popular city-break destinations year-round. Northern Ireland’s winters are mild with very little snow.
The province is so small that it is not necessary to take Northern Ireland flights to get around. There are efficient public transport (bus and train) links. Many visitors from the UK bring their cars on the ferries that ply the seas between Ireland and the UK. Major rental-car companies are represented at the region’s airports.