Northern Ireland occupies the northern third of the island of Ireland. Compared to its brother to the south – the Irish Republic – its tourist potential is far underused. Northern Ireland offers a rugged range of mountains, a massive expanse of green country side, and a surreal landscape along the coast that ends in the geological wonder known as Giant’s Causeway.
The Causeway is a colossal assembly of 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns formed 60 million years ago by a volcanic eruption. Irish mythology says a giant named Finn MacCool built the causeway as a passageway to Scotland. To further explore the folk culture of Northern Ireland, one can mingle with the locals at any number of lively festivals. The Bard of Armagh Festival of Humorous Verse pits aspiring purveyors of pontification against each other in a competition that draws sell-out crowds. Street buskers and horse dealers attract thousands to Ballycastle’s Oul' Lammas Fair, which is Northern Ireland’s oldest traditional market fair. For a big city taste of Northern Ireland, a trip to Belfast or Derry fulfills the urbanite’s desires. Belfast is home to one third of Northern Ireland’s populace, and its Victorian buildings flaunt doorways topped with sculpted figures.