The Province of Ulster is plagued by misconceptions. Many visitors view this part of Ireland to be unsafe due to the “Troubles”. The nine Ulster counties are well worth a visit. Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal are actually in the Republic of Ireland while the 6 counties, Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Derry and Tyrone are in Northern Ireland. All are well worth a visit.
Northern Ireland still tends to be represented as ‘a war-torn country’ in the media and outside Ireland the public opinion mirrors this. However, since the late 1990s reality has dramatically changed with the Good Friday Agreement, the voluntary decommissioning of arms by the Provisional IRA and Loyalist groups and the de-militarisation of the six counties life is definitely going back to normal. Travelling is as safe as in any other part of Ireland. In fact crossing from the Republic into Northern Ireland is hardly noticeable though some so-called “sectarian” violence still occasionally flares up, especially around the 12th of July – a celebration of a 1690 battle, the majority of the population just wants to get on with their lives. For the tourist this means that a visit to Northern Ireland poses no special threat.
Definite signs of Northern Ireland’s troubled past may still be encountered. You may see armed police, armoured 4x4s, police stations and military installations still largely on a tight security regime with barricades, fences and windowless walls. On the civilian side of life, normality sometimes means segregation especially in urban areas – staunchly republican and fiercely loyalist quarters can exist side by side and may be divided by so-called “Peace Lines”. A phrase used for high walls topped with barbed wire dividing the fractions. As a visitor you will inevitably see evidence of the Sectarian Divide, territorial marks left by the more enthusiastic parts of the respective communities. These range from flags to murals, even extending down to humble curb-stones – painted blue-white-red in loyalist areas, green-white-orange by their republican neighbours, while large areas of the Province appear normal enough.
THE BORDER TRAIL is a corridor of about 35 to 40 miles either side of the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland which has, since the Peace Process, become less formidable. There are no border posts and major changes are only visible in the colour of post-boxes, the currency used and the metric or imperial measurements displayed. If a post-box is red, you are charged in Pounds and the speed limit is in miles, then you are in Northern Ireland – in the Republic it would be green, Euros and kilometres.
The border runs for a total of 360 kilometres (220 miles) from Lough Foyle in the north of the island to Carlingford Lough in the north-east (on the Irish Sea). Here at BORDER TOURS we aim to suggest some places of interest and some natural and some man made attractions along the highways and byways of Ireland’s Border Counties.