Giant's Causeway, Co Antrim
Giant's Causeway, Co Antrim
The dramatic Giant's Causeway is found in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the rugged north Antrim coastline. Its unique hexagonal basalt formations at the base of the towering cliffs are millions of years old. Legend has it that they once formed part of a rocky causeway built by the giant Finn McCool, so that he could cross the sea to Scotland to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner. Others say that McCool constructed the causeway to bring back a female giant who lived on the island of Staffa.
By car: take the A2 to Bushmills, then the B146 and follow signs; journey time approximately one hour.
The Ulster History Park, Co Tyrone
Trace the history of settlement in Ireland from when the first people arrived, nearly 10,000 years ago, through to the 17th century. Set on 35 acres in the scenic foothills of the Sperrin Mountains, the Ulster History Park features full-scale models of the houses that were built there over the centuries. Other monuments of note include huts, megalithic tombs, a stone circle, an artificial island settlement, a round tower and a corn mill.
By car: take the A5 to Omagh and follow signs; journey time approximately 50 minutes.
Bellaghy Bawn, Co Londonderry
Situated in the village of Bellaghy, Bellaghy Bawn (or castle) was built by the Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Londonderry in the 18th century. Now carefully restored, the castle features an exhibition in tribute to Seamus Heaney, the Nobel Prize-winning poet, who was born in the village. A large collection of Heaney's work is housed in the library, along with a fine collection of other verse by contemporary Irish poets.
By car: take the A6, then the A54 and follow signs; journey time approximately 45 minutes.
Lough Neagh, Co Antrim
Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles, covering 153 sq miles (400 sq km), making it a must for anglers. Salmon, pollan, perch, bream, roach and eels are among the species to be found in the six rivers flowing into the lough and the lakes that surround it.
By car: take the A6 and follow signs; journey time approximately one hour.
Glenveagh Castle and National Park, Co Donegal
The park is the star attraction of Donegal. At the centre of it all is the stunning 19th-century Glenveagh Castle, which is surrounded by beautiful gardens that contrast sharply with the vast, 40,873 acres of rugged mountains, lakes, glens and woodland of the national park. Europe's largest population of red deer is found here, along with Northern Ireland's only wild eagles. There are plenty of well-signed walking and nature trails throughout the park, an excellent visitors' centre and tea room.
By car: take the N13 to Letterkenny, then the N56, which takes you through the park; journey time approximately 50 minutes.
Old Bushmills Distillery, Co Antrim
Bushmills' claim to fame is that it is the world's oldest whiskey distillery. Its first licence was granted in April 1608 by King James I, and the techniques employed there today have changed little since. Take a tour of the distillery and find out about the secret water and the triple distillation process that gives the spirit its distinctive taste, before sampling a little of the product for yourself.
By car: take the A2 to Coleraine and then the B17 to Bushmills; journey time approximately one hour.
By Ian McCurrach
www.ryanair.com) offers flights from London Stansted to Londonderry from £9 single. The Tower Hotel (028 7137 1000;
www.towerhotelgroup.com) offers b&b accommodation from £70 for a double room. Europcar (0870-607 5000;
www.europcar.co.uk) offers weekend car hire in Londonderry from £70. For information, contact Tourism Ireland (0800 039 7000;