The province of Northern Ireland was created after the partition of the island in 1921. Its six counties (plus Donegal, Monaghan, and Cavan, which became part of the Republic) were part of Ulster, one of Ireland’s four traditional kingdoms. Though densely populated and industrialized around Belfast, away from the capital region it is primarily agricultural.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Most of Belfast’s main streets (and bus routes) radiate out from Donegall Square. In its center stands the Portland stone bulk of the 1906 City Hall, with its huge central copper dome. A memorial to those who died when the Titanic sank in 1912 stands close by. Sights in and around the square include the Linen Hall Library, the Victorian Grand Opera House, and the Crown Liquor Saloon. The Belfast Cathedral, the Protestant cathedral consecrated in 1904, is remarkable for the vast mosaics added in the 1920s. Across the water, Titanic Belfast tells the story of the famous ship/
The Giant’s Causeway, with its bizarre regular columns exposed at low tide, is a favorite among visitors. About 61 million years ago, in a series of volcanic eruptions, molten lava poured from narrow fissures in the ground, filling in the valleys. The basalt lava cooled rapidly. In the process, it shrank and cracked evenly into polygonal blocks. Towards the end of the Ice Age, erosion by sea ice exposed the rocks and shaped the Causeway.
OLD BUSHMILLS DISTILLERY
the Old Bushmills plant, dating back to 1608, prides itself on being the oldest distillery in the world. The tour of the distillery, which features audio-visual displays, ends with a sampling session in the “1608 Bar,” which is housed in the former malt kilns.
ULSTER-AMERICAN FOLK PARK
The park has more than 30 historic buildings, some original, and some replicas. There are settler homesteads, a mass house, a post office, a schoolhouse, and a forge. There’s also an Ulster streetscape, a reconstructed immigrant ship, and a Pennsylvania farmstead, complete with log barn, corn crib, and smokehouse.