Northern Ireland

From my genealogy work, it appears my Irish relatives may have come from Northern Ireland. I've found the name of one of them on a ship roster with the time frame, but no hard evidence. The person lived in Derry/Londonderry before emigrating to the U.S. so I wanted to visit Northern Ireland as well as the Republic of Ireland.

I decided on Armagh as my home base. The area was thought to have been used for pagan rituals. When Christianity spread to Ireland during the mid-400s, Saint Patrick established his principal church there. There are 2 St. Patrick cathedrals in town - one is Catholic, the other Church of Ireland. This is the Church of Ireland. Brian Boru is believed to be buried in its cemetery.

The fort of Navan is the traditional home of the kings of Ulster. It is thought that it was probably not actually a fort but a ceremonial or ritual site. It is a mound surrounded by a bank and a ditch. On the day I went, I was the only one there. I walked around the bank then climbed to the top of the mound which dates to 95 BC. It was very peaceful and had great views all around. This is one of the views from the top.

Derry is a walled city. For some reason, walled cities hold a fascination for me. It's nice to walk the walls and see all sides of the city. I also visited the Guildhall which is Derry's premier civic center. The Guildhall was built in 1912 and has gorgeous stained glass windows. The windows portray historic events and the various guilds. This is the organ in the main hall. It dates to 1914 and has 3,132 pipes. The Guildhall was bombed in 1972, after which the organ was restored and replicas of the stained glass windows installed.

I don't remember exactly where I took this - somewhere in the triangle of Derry-Armagh-Belfast. The landscape is so pretty and the roads are often empty driving through the countryside.

Belfast is not the only city with murals. This one is in Derry and is by the Bogside Artists and portrays 14 year old Annette McGavigan killed in crossfire between the British Army and the IRA. The mural is titled "The Death of Innocence."

I took the double decker tour bus around Belfast. It's touristy, but those tours are the best way to get the lay of a city. In Belfast it was especially helpful in seeing the many, many murals around the city. There is a huge Ferris wheel on the grounds of the City Hall. The wheel is 200 feet high and affords views of the city. It was scehduled to be taken down in April 2010.

This is one of the more famous murals, in honor of Bobby Sands. Sands started a hunger strike and died after 66 days of not eating. While I'm not convinced that this is the best way to fight, it did bring a lot of publicity to his cause.


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