Northern Ireland consists of 6 counties, each offering a distinct identity comprising incredible natural beauty as well as fascinating history that reflects an often turbulent past.
To the north-east is County Antrim, offering a diversity of natural and historical attractions, especially its spectacular coastline as well as its collection of enchanting glens and moorland where ruined castles are encountered regularly. But perhaps the most intriguing feature is the bizarrely formed basalt columns of the mythical Giant's Causeway. The south of the County is dominated by Northern Ireland's capital city, Belfast, a thriving modern town with many historical and architectural attractions. The nearby Norman town of Carrickfergus, however, will have you competing for time.
To the south is the 'orchard' County Armagh which provides a unique introduction to the Irish countryside with its winding rivers and ancient woodlands, crumbling strongholds, elegant manor houses and clusters of hidden hamlets dotted among tumbling hillsides. The County town of Armagh is the most venerated of Irish cities, being the spiritual capital of Ireland for 1500 years and the seat of both Protestant and Catholic archbishops.
East of Armagh is County Down whose beauty lies in its coastal route where the breathtaking peaks of the Mourne Mountains increasingly dominate the panorama. It is to the south and east of the County that most of its attractions lie. Here, the natural beauty of the rural aspect is evident everywhere - woodland and rivers, mountains and coastline and Strangford Lough. It is also the country of St Patrick who landed at Ringbane, AD432
Moving northwards one arrives in County Londonderry which is often referred to as the 'picturesque' County, and not without good reason. From the coastline in the north, where Magilligan Strand provides Ireland's longest beach, to the fascinating Roe Valley Country Park in the west, across to the vastness and beauty of Lough Neagh in the east and southward to the rolling forests and river glens that melt into the mists of the mysterious Sperrin Mountains, County Londonderry is a visual delight. The charming and historic city of Londonderry sits proudly at the foot of Lough Foyle, immediately before the border with the Republic. Compact and vibrant behind its 17th century walls, it remains an ancient city with a modern outlook.
To the south-west lies the 'lakeland' county of County Fermanagh which is defined by its two interconnected sections of Lough Erne, the larger Lower Lough Erne and the Upper Lough Erne to the south with forested hills serving as a backdrop. The historical county town of Enniskillen makes the ideal base from which to explore both town and region.
County Tyrone to the north is the least commercial part of Northern Ireland, ideal for those who enjoy seclusion. It is here that Ireland's history unraveled amidst the court of the O'Neills and their difficult relations with the English.
The principal scenic attractions of County Tyrone are found in the wild and desolate Sperrin Mountains to the north. Tyrone also has no shortage of archaeological remains, stone circles and cairns, both prehistoric and Celtic, the most remarkable being the Beaghmore Stone Circles in the southwest of the Sperrins.
Northern Ireland has been long neglected as a tourist destination for one reason or another. But with the Troubles a thing of the past its beauty and mystery are now open for the visitor who is not likely to be disappointed.