Counties Derry & Antrim
Northern Ireland's spectacular north coast is a giant geology classroom. The patient workmanship of the ocean has laid bare the black basalt and white chalk that underlie much of County Antrim, and dissected the rocks into a scenic extravaganza of sea stacks, pinnacles, cliffs and caves.
Northern Ireland's second-largest city continues to flourish as an artistic and cultural hub. Derry's city centre was given a striking makeover for its year as the UK City of Culture 2013, with the new Peace Bridge, Ebrington Square, and the redevelopment of the waterfront and Guildhall area making the most of the city's splendid riverside setting.
The ancient landscape of Fermanagh is shaped by ice and water, with rugged hills rising above quilted plains of half-drowned drumlins and shimmering, reed-fringed lakes. A glance at the map shows the county is around one-third water - as the locals will tell you, the lakes are in Fermanagh for six months of the year; for the other six, Fermanagh is in the lakes.
The lively little cathedral city of Armagh (Ard Macha) has been an important religious centre since the 5th century, and remains the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, the seat of both the Anglican and Roman Catholic archbishops of Armagh, and Primates of All Ireland. Their two cathedrals, both named for St Patrick, stare at each other from their respective hilltops.
On the stretch of shore locally known as the 'Gold Coast' (due to its wealthy residents, not its weather), this Victorian seaside resort town first flourished when the Belfast–Bangor train line was built in the late 19th century. In recent years, Bangor has enjoyed a renaissance as an out-of-town base for city commuters.
Belfast to Bangor
The coastal region stretching east from Belfast to Bangor and beyond is commuter territory for the capital, and home to many of the North's wealthiest citizens – it's known locally as the 'Gold Coast'. The attractive North Down Coastal Path follows the shore from Holywood train station to Bangor Marina (15km), and continues east to Orlock Point.