Exploring Ireland’s 32 counties: Part 1 – Ulster

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Journey across Ireland’s 32 counties

Welcome on a little journey across Ireland’s 32 counties, where history, folklore, and breathtaking landscapes intertwine. From bustling cities to picturesque countryside, Ireland’s enchanting island offers a diverse tapestry of culture, heritage, and hidden gems.

In this blog series, we’ll set out on an adventure across each of Ireland’s 4 provinces, Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht beginning with the stunning province of Ulster.

Dunluce Castle on the Antrim Coast, 1 of Ireland's 32 counties

Part 1 – Ulster

Ulster is the northernmost province of Ireland and comprises nine counties, six of which are in Northern Ireland and three in the Republic of Ireland. Ulster has an abundance of stunning natural landscapes, rich history, and vibrant cultural scene.

Lets unearth some fun facts and discover what makes each county truly unique.

The Giant's Causeway in county Antrim, Northern Ireland

Antrim

Situated in the northeast, County Antrim boasts the awe-inspiring Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Legend has it that the mythical giant Finn MacCool built this stunning natural formation. Visitors can also explore the enchanting ruins of Dunluce Castle, dramatically perched on the edge of a sweeping cliff.

Armagh

County Armagh has an impressive abundance of apple orchards which gives it the nickname the “Orchard County”. It takes its name from the Irish word Ard meaning “high place” and Macha, a goddess from Irish mythology. It also has two notable cathedrals: St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral and the Catholic St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Lake Oughter in County Cavan, one of Ulster's 9 counties and Ireland's 32 counties

Photo by Tom Archer via Tourism Ireland

Cavan

County Cavan, known as the “Lake County,” boasts an astounding 365 lakes, one for every day of the year. Lough Oughter, a hidden gem, features an ancient castle on an island and provides a tranquil escape for nature enthusiasts. The town of Cavan is also known for being the only Irish town established by a Native Irish family; the O’Reillys and not Anglo-Norman or Norse settlers.

Mural of the Derry Girls in Derry City

Derry

County Derry, also referred to as Londonderry, is steeped in history. Derry~Londonderry, the county’s vibrant capital, is one of the few remaining walled cities in Europe. The city’s Peace Bridge, spanning the River Foyle, serves as a powerful symbol of reconciliation. Explore the iconic Guildhall and delve into the city’s rich cultural heritage. The city also boasts one of the biggest Halloween Festivals in the world!

Beautiful Donegal Beach, 1 of 32 counties in Ireland

Donegal

Nestled in the northwest, County Donegal boasts rugged landscapes and pristine beaches. The Slieve League Cliffs, among the highest sea cliffs in Europe, offer breathtaking views. Spot elusive golden eagles in Glenveagh National Park and take in the splendor of Glenveagh Castle, surrounded by serene wilderness.

Cloughmore stone

Down

County Down is known for its majestic Mourne Mountains, which inspired C.S. Lewis to create the magical world of Narnia. Other highlights include the St. Patrick centre, Silent Valley Reservoir, the Castlewellan, Kilbroney, and the Tollymore Forest Parks and the picturesque harbour town of Newcastle.

A defoliated-ivy-clad Belle Isle Castle on Lough Erne during a brief respite from a fierce late winter/early spring storm.

Fermanagh

County Fermanagh is a tranquil haven of lakes, islands, and waterways. Have a go at boating and fishing on the enchanting Lough Erne or explore some of the ancient monastic sites such as Devenish Island. The Marble Arch Caves are a must-visit for adventure seekers, a mesmerizing subterranean network of limestone caves.

Monaghan

County Monaghan, or the “Drumlin County,” has many rolling drumlin hills. This picturesque landscape is ideal for leisurely walks and scenic drives. Highlights include the Castle Leslie Estate, the Rossmore Forest Park, and the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, which celebrates the life and works of the famous poet.

An Early Bronze Age cairn surrounded by a trench (partly filled with water from a recent rainfall) near a Stone Circle at the Beaghmore complex archaeological site, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

Tyrone

The county of Tyrone is a blend of rugged landscapes, industrial heritage, and ancient monuments. Highlights include the Ulster American Folk Park, the Beaghmore Stone Circles, and the Sperrin Mountains, a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.

Fort Dunree, Leophin, Dunree, Buncrana, County Donegal, Ireland

Conclusion

The province of Ulster, with its captivating counties, beckons travelers to immerse themselves in its rich history, stunning landscapes, and unique traditions. From the geological marvels of The Giant’s Causeway to the tranquil beauty of Lough Erne, each county has its own quirky facts and hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Join us on our next adventure as we continue our exploration across the remaining provinces of Ireland, revealing more insights and surprises along the way.