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Reasons to visit Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland arrived late on the tourist trail, but it's catching up fast. Now it's become the go-to destination for people "in the know".

60 million years ago the slow cooling of lava in a volcano created the thousands of hexagonal basalt columns that make up the Giant's Causeway. Then a few centuries ago, the legend of Finn McCool gave us an altogether more fanciful version of the origin of this, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland. Having gazed in wonder at the amazing power of nature to create strange things though, visitors will find a lot more to admire on the Causeway Coast. Every step along the way is spectacular, and that epithet certainly fits the medieval ruin of Dunluce Castle. For those with a good head for heights, a walk across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge will make them the envy of those less brave.

At the heart of a visit to Belfast is the site where the Titanic (surely the world's most famous shipwreck) was built. Nine interactive exhibitions will tell you all you need to know about this massive powerhouse of shipbuilding in the age of steam. There's also the grand Belfast City Hall, and it would be ashame to missout on an Irish pub-crawl through the city centre.

Inland, Northern Ireland is blessed with wall-to-wall scenery from the nine Glens of Antrim to the Mountains of Mourne. Lough Neagh is the largest lake in Ireland while Strangford Lough (back to the coast) is a glorious centre of wildlife diversity as well as the site of an important tidal power programme where the waters of the lough race through Strangford Narrows.