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Northern Ireland Tour


St.. Patrick, Grave, Memorial Church, Down Cathedral, and Downpatrick

Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol, Titanic Museum, and Titanic Victims Memorial

Antrium, Costal Landscapes, Giant's Causeway, and Dunluce Castle

Derry, Walled City, Cannons, and Peace Bridge

Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.

Down Cathedral in Downpatrick.

Tours

We use the best tour operators to book tours to Ireland including escorted tours, hosted tours, and independent tours with hotels or beds and breakfasts. Contact us to book your travel. We book travel worldwide. Check out our Special Promotions.

Ireland

We were on a tour of Ireland by motor coach on an escorted tour with CIE Tours. We first toured Northern Ireland, the details are here, then the West Coastal Region of the Republic of Ireland, and finally the East Coastal Region of the Republic of Ireland. Click on each webpage for details. Contact us for more information.

St. Patrick

We headed north on the motor coach from Dublin to Northern Ireland, part of Great Britain and separate from the Republic of Ireland. We crossed into Northern Ireland on the southeast corner of the country and were headed to Downpatrick to learn about St. Patrick. In his early years he lived in Britain where he was captured by Irish pirates when he was about 16 years old. He was taken as a slave to Ireland where he took care of animals. After six years he escaped and went back to his home in Britain. He became a cleric and returned to northern and western Ireland. It is thought that he was active there as a missionary during the last half of the fifth century. He is credited with founding Christianity in Ireland. He also served as a bishop. He is now revered as the patron saint of Ireland, in both Northern and the Republic of Ireland. It is thought that he died on the 17th March, which is known as St. Patrick's Day. His burial site is in the cemetery at Downpatrick, marked by a large boulder shown in the picture below. The grave is near Down Cathedral, which is shown in the picture at the top of this page. The church is considered to be a place of pilgrimage and prayer for all people.

St. Patrick's burial site in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.

St. Patrick's burial site in Downpatrick.

St. Patrick's Memorial Church

Saul, St. Patrick's Memorial Church with Sunny and Rebecca in Northern Ireland.

Saul, St. Patrick's Memorial Church with Sunny and Rebecca.

Saul is a townland located two miles east of Downpatrick. It is said that when St. Patrick arrived by boat in Ireland he landed in Saul. The local chieftan was soon converted to Christianity by St. Patrick, and he gave St. Patrick a barn where he could hold church services. This was the first church in Ireland. The St. Patrick's Memorial Church, shown above, was built in 1932 to commemorate St. Patrick's first church, and is thought to be located on the same spot as the barn-church.

Belfast

Crumlin Road Gaol

Crumlin Road Gaol (prison) in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Crumlin Road Gaol (prison).

Construction on he Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast began in 1843 and was finished in 1845 when the prison opened. It remained open for 150 years closing in 1996. It was rated as one of the most advanced prisons of it day. The prisoners included men, women, and in the early years children that were guilty of such offenses as stealing food and clothing. Marriages, births, and deaths occurred in the prison. Among the prisoners were murderers and suffragettes. It also housed political prisoners on both sides of the Northern Ireland conflict that started in the late 1960s. The conflict dealt with whether Northern Ireland should leave Great Britain and join with the rest of Ireland to be one sovereign state or stay as part of Great Britain.

Beach scene walking between resorts.

Crumlin Road Gaol (prison) prisoner tunnel to Courthouse.

The unionists/loyalists, who were mostly Protestants, wanted to remain part of Great Britain. Instead, the Irish nationalists/republicans, who were mostly Catholics, preferred leaving Great Britain and joining a united Ireland. More than 3,500 people were killed in the conflict. Although the violence was mostly in Northern Ireland it also occurred in the Republic of Ireland, England, and mainland Europe. On 24 November 1991 the Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombed the unionists wing of the prison. Two volunteers were killed. The conflict finally ended with an agreement in 1998.

The Crumlin Road Gaol and the Crumlin Road Courtouse are connected by an underground tunnel. The tunnel, seen above, was used to move prisoners between the two buildings.

Crumlin Road Gaol (prison) cells in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Crumlin Road Gaol (prison) cells.

The cells in the prison measured 12 by 7 feet (3..7 by 2.1 meters). The number of cells was between 500 and 550. The original intention was to have prisoners in separate cells so there could be no communication between them. However, especially in the 1970s, as many as three prisoners were place in a cell. Over the years the prison held more than 25,000 prisoners. Despite the tight security of the prison a few prisoners did escape with the first recorded escape in 1866. The above picture shows the way to some cells.

Crumlin Road Gaol (prison) hangman in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Crumlin Road Gaol (prison) hangman.

When it opened there was no gallows within the prison. Until 1901 executions were conducted outside the prison and could be viewed by the public. Then an execution chamber for hangings was built within the prison. It is seen above. Our guide, "the hangman," is standing on the trapdoor, which is made of glass. Where the condemned man will drop is clearly seen. Prior to the execution the condemned prisoners were moved to a special cell close to the execution chamber. Through the years eighteen prisoners were executed, with the last execution carried out in 1961.

Titanic Museum

Large model of the RMS Titanic ship in the Titanic museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Large model of the RMS Titanic ship in the Titanic museum in Belfast.

The famous RMS Titanic was built in Belfast, and it sunk in the great depths of the ocean on its first voyage on 15 April 1912. To learn about its construction and fatal voyage visit the Titanic museum in Belfast. The museum has nine interactive galleries, special effects, and displays of some of the original ship artefacts. A large scale model of the ship is shown above. You can tour the shipyards and check out the only remaining White Star Line vessel, the SS Nomadic.

Memorial to Titanic Victims

Memorial to the Titanic victums in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Memorial to the Titanic victims.

In central Belfast there is a memorial to the victims of the sunken Titanic. It is located in Donegail Square on the grounds of Belfast City Hall and is pictured above. We saw this on a walking tour of Belfast. The female statute represents death. She is holding a wreath over a drowned sailor that is held above the water by two mermaids. The figures. carved from marble, are 12 feet (3.7 meters) high. The total structure is 22 feet (6.7 meters) tall and was dedicated in June 1920. It is surrounded by the memorial garden, which is on two levels.

A plaque containing the many names of the Titanic victums in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

A plaque containing the many names of the Titanic victims in Belfast.

The upper level memory garden includes five bronze plaques supported by a base that is 30 feet (9 meters) wide. On the plaques in alphabetical order are the names of the 1,512 victims of the Titanic sinking. That includes passengers and crew. This memorial is shown above.

CIE Tours Motor Coach

Below is pictured the CIE Tours motor coach that we used to travel around the island.

        Hanging chrysalises at Butterfly Gardens.

CIE Tours motor coach.

Coastal Landscapes

Chrysalis with butterfly at Butterfly Gardens.

Coastal landscape near Ballycastle.

From Belfast to Dunluce Castle is an area called Antrim. It is a very attractive coastal region. There are a number of small coastal villages where you can stop and walk around and enjoy food and drink. We walked around the villages of Camlough and Ballycastle. Here you also find Lake Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Ireland and Britain. Near the coast is the Glens of Antrim, where there are vertical cliffs that were carved by glaciers. Some of the gorgeous landscapes are seen in the "Games of Thrones." A costal landscape is shown above. The Atlantic waves are popular with surfers.

A flower that is widely seen throughout the countryside in Northern Ireland.

A flower that is widely seen throughout the countryside.

The yellow flowers shown above are numerous in the countryside. Unfortunately, they are displacing native plants, which is not a good thing.

Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway hexangonal columns in Northern Ireland.

Giant's Causeway hexagonal columns.

The impressive Giant's Causeway is a major attraction to visit in Northern Ireland. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are 40,000 or so basalt columns that extend from land down and into the Irish Sea where they disappear from view. We know from science that the columns were created by millions of years of volcanic and geological activity some 60,000 years ago. There is also the mythical legend that they were created by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill to use as stepping stones to Scotland. Most of the columns are pillars with a hexagonal shape. The tallest of the columns are 29 feet (12 meters) high. They are shown in the pictures above and below.

Another view of Giant's Causeway hexangonal columns in Northern Ireland.

Another view of Giant's Causeway hexagonal columns.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle ruins in Northern Ireland.

Dunluce Castle ruins.

The Dunluce Castle, shown above, is found on the north coast in County Antrium. It is a medieval castle, now in ruins, built on a basalt rock outcrop with very steep sides. It dates from the 13th century. Since the battle of the Boyne in 1690 the castle has deteriorated and materials were taken and used in other buildings.

Derry

Walled City

   Defensive wall in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Defensive wall in Derry.

Known as Derry, it is the second largest city in Northern Ireland. But its official name is Londonderry. King James I granted a charter for the city in 1613. However, there are references to a monastery in the 6th century, making Derry one of the oldest places in Ireland where people have lived continuously. The city walls were built in 1613-1619. The circumference of the walls is about 1 mile (1.6 Km). Despite several sieges the walls were never breached. Derry is the only completely walled city left in Ireland. A wall, shown above, includes numerous cannons, one of which is seen below. We saw the walls on a walking tour of Derry.

Cannon on defensive wall in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Cannon on defensive wall in Derry.

Peace Bridge

Peace Bridge in Derry. Northern Ireland.

Peace Bridge in Derry.

A cycle and foot bridge in Derry is called the Peace Bridge. It has been in use since 25 June 2011. It is 771 feet (235 meters) long and crosses the Foyle river. One reason for the bridge was to improve relations between the unionist in the Waterside area and the nationalist in the Cityside area by bringing them closer together. The two groups had opposed each other in the conflict as to whether Northern Ireland should remain part of Great Britain. Hence the name Peace Bridge.

From Derry we headed south into the Republic of Ireland to explore the western coastal region.

Ireland

We were on a tour of Ireland by motor coach on an escorted tour with CIE Tours. We first toured Northern Ireland, the details are here, then the West Coastal Region of the Republic of Ireland, and finally the East Coastal Region of the Republic of Ireland. Click on each webpage for details. Contact us for more information.


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