Northern Ireland has had a tumultuous history, rife with violence and poverty. But the Irish are nothing if not resolute, with fighting spirit like few other cultures. The area has produced brilliant musical talent, writers and poets, and sports greats—and it is an intriguing place to visit any time of year.
Oceanscapes and Golf Courses
Northern Ireland has a beautiful landscape, with mountain ranges, coastline, and rolling hills all stretching for miles. Golf courses sprawl across the dramatic shorelines; Northern Ireland has been called the “Golf Capital of the World.” Castles and fortified homes—and their ruins—dot the landscape and provide plenty of places to explore. Outdoor activities are also popular. The spectacular beaches are perfect for sightseeing, and the waters are ideal for boating or fishing.
A Tumultuous Past
Northern Ireland separated from the South in 1886, mostly because its Protestant majority feared domination by the Catholics. For almost one hundred years, Northern Ireland had a semi-autonomous government with additional representation in London. After extended violence between the Protestants and the Catholics in the 1970s, however, the United Kingdom (UK) took complete control of Northern Ireland’s government.
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) continued to lead violence-fueled movements in attempts to unify Ireland, while the Protestants counteracted their attacks with even more violence. Even British rule and the establishment of British troops in the area did not end the violence. Violent protests continued until the late ‘90s, when the Good Friday Agreement gave Protestants and Catholics shared political power, but power sharing and peace talks have still been points of contention throughout the past decade.
Author C.S. Lewis was inspired by the landscape of Northern Ireland when he created the imaginary world of Narnia. He was born and raised in Belfast, and the city has memorialized him with a sculpture based on one of the characters in his books. The life-sized bronze sculpture stands at the Holywood Road Library, which is located near his birthplace (now a private home).
The pop band Snow Patrol came out of Northern Ireland more recently. The band started as an indie rock band at the University of Dundee and has become famous in the past decade. The lead singer currently lives in Belfast, and the band is a major influence on the thriving Belfast music scene.
David Feherty is a former golfer who now works as a sports broadcaster and also hosts his own prime-time talk show on the golf channel. His wit and personality have made him quite popular, and he is the bestselling author of four books.
Crooner Van Morrison was born in East Belfast in Northern Ireland. The son of a shipyard worker, Morrison grew up listening to soul, blues and jazz. In his teenage years, he covered pop songs in a variety of Irish bands and even sang as the lead singer of a Northern Irish R&B band. He became famous with his first solo hit, “Brown Eyed Girl.”
George Best is considered one of the best soccer players of all time—at least according to the people of Northern Ireland. He played for Manchester United and the Northern Ireland national team. He was quite a celebrity and lived an extravagant lifestyle. In fact, in 2007, he was named one of the 50 most stylish men of the past 50 years.
Whether you’re a sports fan, music buff or an adventure-lover, Northern Ireland is an ideal place to visit. The history is exciting, the landscape is appealing, and opportunities for sightseeing abound. Read up on the history and culture before you visit and you will be sure to make a true connection with this beautiful country.
Sebastian Comstock is an insurance consultant and content contributor for publicliabilityinsurance.org, which provides liability cover policies for a wide range of businesses—from tradesmen to entertainers.