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Belfast
 
Belfast’s history and present centres on industry and politics … and talking and singing about both. The safe haven of Belfast Lough was the key to its growth, first as a port for trade and then as a manufactory and especially a builder of ships and aircraft. At one time the city held the largest linen works, tobacco factory, ropeworks and shipyard in the world. Politics have always bubbled whether related to religion or Irish independence. ‘The Troubles’ of the 20th century saw the nadir but peace seems to be well-established now and the city uses its history and culture to provide a rich backdrop for visitors. The dock area is being lavishly redeveloped as the ‘Titanic’ quarter, ‘old’ Belfast is best seen in hostelries such as McHugh’s and Bittles Bar, whilst the literary and music heritage has never weakened.
 
Northern Ireland
 
Just remember that when you get to the north of Northern Ireland, if you go further north you’re in the south (Eire). Now you know you’re talking Ireland. ‘The Six Counties’ as the province is sometimes known, contain some of the loveliest coast in the British Isles (Antrim), tremendous golf courses such as Portrush (but take your waterproofs), an historic walled city (Derry aka Londonderry), the thriving industrial city of Belfast (that launched the Titanic, built the first flying-boats, and is now re-inventing itself as a modern IT and electronics centre). There are beautiful lakes to cruise (Fermanagh), you can actually see where the Mourne Mountains sweep down to the sea, and you can tread in legendary Finn McCool’s footsteps on the Giant’s Causeway (and venture over a nearby narrow Rope Bridge to Carrick Island if you’re as brave as him). But for all the wonderful sights, for many visitors the outstanding memory is of the warmth and friendliness of the people and probably a couple of hours of great conversation, ‘the craic’, in a warm pub, with people whom you only met when you walked in.
 

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