Ireland's northern and border regions provide some splendid scenery and are populated by some of the country's friendliest people. If you've hired a car and intend to travel in the border regions however, pay attention to these two important items:
Speed measurements differ on either side of the border. In the Republic, speed limits are given in kilometres, while in the North of Ireland, the speed limits signs still use miles. In Ireland, speedometers on cars manufactured after February '05 tend to display kilometres in large figures, with miles shown in smaller figures inside them.
The currency in the Republic of Ireland is the Euro, while in the North it is Sterling (UK money). However outlets near the border, including petrol stations, tend to accept both currencies for a small fee or mark-up on the exchange rate.
County Donegal has a landscape, and a way of life, all of its own. Natives often joke that it is "neither north nor south", a quip that describes not only its geographical position but also its cultural separateness.
The county's supreme appeal lies in its natural beauty; Donegal boasts an ever-undulating landscape that includes windswept peninsulas, the highest sea cliffs in Europe and twelve blue-flag beaches.
Attractions of note include St. Columcille's Tory Island (off Donegal's northern coast); Glencolumcille - folk village and museum in the county's Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) region; Rossnowlagh and Portsallson beaches; and the Barnes Mor Mountain Gap (on the Letterkenny to Donegal route).
Marble Arch Caves
The Marble Arch Cave complex at Florencecourt, Co. Fermanagh are considered to be among the most visitor-friendly caves in Europe. Visitors can explore a fascinating underworld of rivers, waterfalls, stalagmites and stalactites, winding passages and lofty chambers.
The water in this karst limestone area has gradually permeated the rock to create its various fissures, streams and caves. Guided Tours are available.
Yeats Country is the general name given to the Sligo/Leitrim region, but particularly those areas that are known to have inspired the poet W.B. Yeats. Indeed, Yeats is buried at Drumcliffe Church, Co. Sligo, at the foot of the majestic Benbulben, one of one of Ireland's most distinctive mountain peaks.
A few miles east, in Co. Leitrim, Glencar Waterfall is a beautiful and romantic waterfall. With a small drop of only about 50 feet, the pretty waterfall is mentioned in the famous Yeats poem "The Stolen Child." The waterfall is particularly impressive after a rainfall, and few others in Ireland are as scenic and enchanting.
Other scenic attractions in the Sligo region mentioned by Yeats are Rosses Point, a charming blue-flag beach where faeries "foot it all the night", Hazelwood on Lough Gill with its silvery Half Moon Bay, and Knocknarae, a small mountain overlooking Sligo Bay, topped by a stone cairn that, legend has it, marks the grave of Celtic warrior Queen Maeve.
The Giant's Causeway
While, admittedly, around an hour's drive north of the border, the Giant's Causeway is still well worth a visit, as it is one of the island's best-known and most visually impressive attractions. Located on the coast in Co. Antrim, a few miles east of Portrush, the Causeway is a spectacular geological formation consisting of around 40,000 black, polygonal basalt columns that protrude from the sea. Leading outward from high cliffs, the tops of the columns form stepping stones that gradually disappear under the sea. Geological studies of the Giant's Causeway suggest that the rock formation was caused by volcanic activity during the Tertiary period, around 50-60 million years ago. Legend has it, however, that a mythical Irish giant threw the rocks into the sea to create a path to Scotland - hence the name. The Giant's Causeway is today a protected heritage site and Northern Ireland's top visitor attraction. trip in Ireland!
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