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The new and old Northern Ireland

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries making up the United Kingdom. It's in the north-east of the island of Ireland, sharing a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west.

Its troubled recent past has given way to great optimism, and Northern Ireland is well and truly back on the tourism list.

Ben Dark visited Belfast, the capital, and found it to be a thriving city and centre of industry, the arts, higher education and business. It has undergone expansion and regeneration and its architectural style ranges from Edwardian and Victorian to modern.

Belfast Black Taxi

Ben took a tour in a famous Belfast Black Taxi. Local guides tailor tours to suit individual visitors' interests. Travellers could take a tour from the city centre, to the shipyards, the elegant university quarter and museum district.

You may want to visit the now-quiet trouble spots. There are painstakingly painted murals of Loyalist Shankhill Road and the Republican Falls Road. They have very different and definite messages. You will also see the Peace Line which was designed to keep the two communities apart.

The tour ends with a big bowl of Irish stew and a pint of Guinness.

The Antrim Coast

The stunningly beautiful Antrim Coast begins in the city of Newry in County Down and heads north-east through the fishing towns of Warrenpoint, Rostrevor and Kilkeel.

The coastal village of Ballygally has some beautiful beaches and is home to Ballygally Castle. It is the only 17th-century building still used as a residence in Northern Ireland, and is reputed to be one of the province's most haunted.

The Giant's Causeway, often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world, was declared Ireland's first World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1986. It extends 4.8km along the coast and has 40,000 polygonal basalt columns, side-by-side, some more than a metre tall.


One of Northern Ireland's most loved attractions, Carrick-a-Rede has unrivalled scenery. Fishermen made a rope bridge over a chasm 20m deep and 20m wide. It's a real challenge for visitors.


Often called the Maiden City, Derry is on the west bank of the River Foyle. It is one of Ireland's longest continuously inhabited places, and one of few remaining walled cities in Europe.

The earliest historical references date to the sixth century when a monastery was founded there by St Columba, but people had been living there for thousands of years previously.

Today's Derry preserves a 17th-century layout of four main streets radiating from the Diamond to four gateways — Bishop's Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Shipquay Gate and Butcher's Gate. In the porch is an inscription: "If stones could speake then London's prayse should sound Who built this church and cittie from the grounde."


Ireland's oldest city, Armagh has a rich historical and cultural legacy making it one of the country's most important locations. Its archaeology reflects more than 6500 years of history. The ancient cathedral city is known as the City of Saint Patrick and the Ecclesiastical Capital of Ireland where St Patrick chose the ancient hilltop to build his first stone church in 445 AD.

Irish road bowling

Primarily centred in Armagh and Cork, the ancient sport is played in four person teams. They hurl an 800g iron and steel cannonball, the size of a tennis ball, along a country road course, up to 4km long. The person with the fewest throws to traverse the distance wins the contest! People place bets, and those who have money on a player follow them around the course giving advice.

Related: Ireland family history


Travelling around Northern Ireland.


Belfast Black Taxi 90-minute tours start at around $17 per person for one or two passengers and $42 per person for up to six.

Prices correct at September 16, 2010.

For further information

Hertz Australia
Ph: 133 039

Belfast Black Taxi Tours
Ph: +44 28 9064 2264

Giant's Causeway
44a Causeway Road
County Antrim BT57 8SU
Northern Ireland
Ph: +44 28 2073 1582
Fax:+44 28 2073 2963

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
119a Whitepark Road
County Antrim BT54 6LS
Northern Ireland
Ph: +44 28 2076 9839

Visit Britain
Ph: 1300 858 589

Visas: Visas are not required for Australians entering the UK for tourism for stays of less than six months. If you wish to work, you must obtain the appropriate two-year visa in advance.

Electricity: 220V with a three-point plug.

Time zone: GMT.

Currency: The British pound sterling.

International dialling code: +44.

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