Northern Ireland – Stretching from the Mourne Mountains, up the Glens of Antrim, to the Giants Causeway, and across to the walled city of Derry, lies the northeastern land of Ireland. Northern Ireland has an ancient history filled with myths and legends. This one of the most beautiful parts of the island to visit.
Prior to the 12th Century, the northeast of Ireland was inhabited by the Celts, and the chieftains ruled the land. Later, they converted to Christianity. When the Anglo-Normans invaded, life changed drastically. Eventually English and Scots Protestants, who took over the land, in what was called the Ulster Plantation, supplanted the indigenous Irish.
Partitioned from the Republic of Ireland in 1921, Northern Ireland is still under English rule, in some categories. Since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998, a First Minster, Deputy First Minster and a cross community Ministerial Council have some governing responsibility. Those categories include agriculture and rural development, culture, arts and leisure, education, employment, enterprise, trade and investment, environment, health, social services and public safety, and regional and social development. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is still responsible to the United Kingdom Cabinet in matters of policing, security policy, prisons, criminal, justice, international relations, taxation, national insurance, regulation of financial services, and the regulation of telecommunications and broadcasting.
There are a variety of sites and attractions, preserved by the National Trust of Northern Ireland which are of splendid beauty or historical interests throughout the North. The roads are in excellent condition and all parts of NI are within one-hour drive of airports and seaports. There are many outdoor activities to enjoy; the rivers are full of fish, there are championship and links golf courses, equestrian centres, walking, hiking, and cruising on the marvelous waterways.
United States and Canadian citizens are still required to have a passport for travel in Northern Ireland and a driver’s license for car rental. Medical insurance from your own country is advisable, as you will have to pay for any medical services rendered. There are import restrictions on meat products and food items. Do not bring any with you. The Value Added Tax (VAT) is 17 ½ % and levied on most items. Some stores are part of the Retail Export Scheme that allow you to reclaim your VAT. Your passport is required to complete the Tax-Free Shopping form. The voltage in NI is 250V, 50AC. The climate ranges from a low of 34 degrees Fahrenheit in January to a high of 65 degrees Fahrenheit in August. The sunniest months are May and June and the driest months are March to June. Bring rain gear with you, and make sure to have a warm sweater or jacket, and comfortable shoes. Northern Ireland’s currency is still the British pound (sterling) divided into one hundred pence. Currency is in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pound notes. Coins are the value of 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p and 1p. Northern Ireland does not participate in the Euro at this time.
The heritage towns are not designated in Northern Ireland. However, noted below, are towns and cities of particular interest. Most of the larger towns offer a heritage or interpretive centre.