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Affordable and fun guiding throughout Northern Ireland

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All over the countryside of Ireland today the hedgerows are colouring up with that beautiful yellow flower. In the North we call it WHIN, in County Cork they call it FURZE and city folk call it GORSE.

Like a lot of the hedgerow of Ireland WHIN has its links with the ancient Celtic folklore. It is said to be the symbol of the sun god Lugh, as it carries a spark of sun all year. It symbolises Joy.

Dear All

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“To a Mouse” is a well loved poem by Scotland’s favourite son Robert Burns 1785. Burns was ploughing in the fields and accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest, which it needed to survive the winter. In fact, Burns’s brother claimed that the poet composed the poem while still holding his plough.

The lengthy poem describes Burn’s affection and sadness for the mouse at the destruction of her nest however in verse seven we read the above quote:

But Mouse, you are not alone, 
In proving foresight may be vain;
The Best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For a promised joy!

Above is just me Barbara, Tourist Guide for Guided Tours Ireland and Armagh Guided Tours working through the present day situation regarding coronavirus.

Plans and bookings for your 2020 trip to Northern Ireland will probably not now take place however with a little bit of tweaking here and there there is no reason why your trip cannot be enjoyed in 2021………..maybe bigger and better!

For me it is eerily quiet here with no email enquiries only email cancellations. I have accepted it now and occupy my time on the farm with the new lambs. Glad to have this distraction and to enjoy nature at work.

I would however encourage you all to look on around the corner or over the horizon and plan for 2021. Don’t be shy about asking for help with a specific route through Ireland, hotels/Bed & Breakfast or indeed some extra interests you may wish to enjoy. Like me you will certainly have plenty of time to brain storm and interact with your travel friends over the internet.

Researching and planning with you for that 2020 trip to Ireland has been rewarding however the meeting up is the icing on the cake so keep on planning with 2021 in mind.

In the meantime keep safe, be strong and keep dreaming of Ireland!

"Keeping my distance" at the Cloughmore Stone (The Big Stone) on the sloops of Slieve Martin, Rostrevor this am.

Did you know that Patrick chose Armagh to be the centre of the Christian church in Ireland?  Today Armagh City boast two proud cathedrals both called St Patrick’s Cathedrals.  The oldest being St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral from where the Primate of All Ireland has his seat.  The second Cathedral St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral built after Catholic Emancipation for which  the foundation stone was laid on St Patrick’s day 1840. Here also is the seat of the Primate of All Ireland of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.

OK so you really want to see, eat, drink and share our true culture? Step away from the big cities of industry and commerce and out into the heartland of Northern Ireland.

How many visitors to Ireland make Powerscourt Gardens and Hotel County Wicklow one of their top must see attractions?

Dig deep into the history of this amazing Manor House at Powerscourt and discover The Wingfield Family holders of the title Viscount Powerscourt. They were one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Ireland. Their estates in Dublin, TYRONE, Wexford and Wicklow totalled over 60,000 acres.

While I too visit the Powerscourt Gardens and enjoy the grandeur of the historical Manor House - Powerscourt Hotel it’s that link with the quiet village of Benburb, County Tyrone that interests me.

Of course I am interested, not only am I a Tourist Guide for Northern Ireland, I live just 30 minutes away from Benburb!

The first supreme champion in the sport of coursing was Lord Lurgan’s (Charles Brownlow) greyhound.

Master McGrath who won the Waterloo Cup on three occasions 1868, 1869 and 1871.

The dog became a household name in Britain and such was his fame that Queen Victoria commanded his appearance at Windsor Castle.

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Stories of people being waylaid by the faery folk to places where time passes differently are common in Celtic mythology, and the hawthorn was one of, if not the most likely tree to be inhabited or protected by the Wee Folk!

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The largest agricultural show...

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Guided walking tours of Armagh

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Visit GoT sites with Guided Tours Ireland

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Well known as Biddy Barbara your local long standing Tour Guide will take you on a trip of a lifetime.

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Just 40 minutes from Belfast set in the heart of the Orchard County sits the pretty village of Richhill and nearby Sleepy Valley. Travel through the rolling hills planted with rows and rows of apple trees. small family farms, traditional rural buildings and a very colourful historical past. A history that was to shape the lifestyle of Northern Ireland to this day.

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The main street of the village has its local grocery shop, village hall, church and right in the square the family run Groucho's Pub.

Living off the land today is a big part of life in this small county of Armagh.

What about a quick skip around Belfast followed by a trip out into the working countryside?

OK yes you would like to see Belfast today and learn all about The Troubles, its history and see it's famous landmarks. Well a one hour tour around Belfast with me as your on board Tourist Guide will give you all that.

A step away from the City will reveal a bigger picture of life in rural Northern Ireland today. Into our villages, around our farms, and experience our love of tea, homemade bread and cakes. Now that's what I call seeing the countryside!

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Big strong hardy farmers never talk about fairies but many still have fairy trees in the middle of their fields and prefer to drive around them rather than upset the fairies!

Why not step out around the long twisty lanes in rural Ulster and discover life here well away from the noisy City. Hang on a field gate and admire the structure of our small family farms passed down from generation to generation.

Listen to the local dialect and allow the farmers to ask all about you and why you are here!

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Northern Ireland is a small country with such a diverse range of landscapes and lifestyles that when you're visiting you just have to see it all! Local Blue Badge Guide Barbara Ferguson shares the history, culture, folklore and ‘must see' things to do on a visit to Northern Ireland.

“When you first set foot in Northern Ireland it will probably be at Belfast International Airport, George Best Airport or maybe Belfast Port or nearby Larne Port. Whichever it is, you will be in, or nearby, the capital City of Belfast. Not a bad place to start your tour.

City of Belfast by night

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Discover Belfast through its four quarters :

1  Titanic Quarter – Birthplace of Titanic
The Titanic Quarter is a short walk from the City Centre and an ideal place to catch good panoramic views of the city. Look up into Belfast Cave Hill and check out the outline of the sleeping giant or as the locals call it, ‘Napoleon's Nose', also said to be Swift's inspiration for Gullivers Travels.

Visit the world's largest Titanic Visitor Experience and follow the story of the build of the Titanic. The locals will remind you that “she was all right when she left here!”

Stroll on from the docks and away on “Down Cyprus Avenue”,  Van Morrison ‘s birthplace. Carry on around the corner and you'll discover the C S Lewis Narnia Square (close to the author's birthplace).

Queen's University, Belfast

2   Queen's Quarter – University. Botanic Gardens and Ulster Museum
Step inside the 19th century Lanyon Building at Queens University and follow in the footsteps of alumni and Nobel winner Seamus Heaney . Next door are the small but relaxing Botanic Gardens. Meet the Egyptian mummy and spot the dinosaurs in the extensive modern Ulster Museum also here in the gardens.

3   Cathedral Quarter – Old Belfast
This is a lively spot day and night with old cobbled streets leading to quirky pubs, cafes, music and restaurants. Pick up a bottle of Irish Whiskey in The Friend at Hand off licence and mini-museum . Not an easy decision as there are over 300 whiskies to choose from! All sitting in the shadow of St Annes Anglican Cathedral .

4   Gaeltacht Quarter – Murals, linen and history of “The Troubles”
In the Gaeltacht Quarter you'll find Wall Murals, Peace Walls, Linen, folklore and culture, all highlighting the story of “The Troubles” in Belfast. Discover how two communities live in streets parallel to each other, yet streets apart in identity. Follow the murals of both communities, memorial gardens, language and lifestyle.

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City Hall, Belfast

How often have you heard or indeed said this?

Well we use it regularly but does the visitor know what we mean? I doubt it! I get the "come on" bit but what about the "or that".

This is just one of the many local phrases used regularly here in Northern Ireland.

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What's on your Wish List for this new year?

  • walk, talk and enjoy good food and entertainment?

  • step on board luxury travel coach and take in the views, history & tall tales along the way.

  • be part of the buzz of one of our lively capital cities. Stay city centre and allow the day to spill over into an evening visit to the theatre, cinema, leisure centre or enjoy a drink & fine food in places where the locals like to stop.

  • step off the beaten track and into the small villages, towns and hamlets. Listen to some storytelling, traditional music and enjoy the craic. Mind you be prepared for some "getting to know you" questions from the locals.

Enjoy the hospitality of a rural Bed & Breakfast - maybe even on a working farm!

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It's entertaining and interesting to read and watch all the programmes and press on "food and drinks for the Christmas Season". I enjoy this but in the end I revert to what I do and enjoy best - traditional; probably because that is what I find my tourists are continually searching for.

Just cooked an Armagh Bramley Apple tart with cloves added and the kitchen smells "a lot like Christmas". Next step will be to make my sweet mince using an old recipe handed down for generations and once again the Armagh Bramley Apple AND Cider will be a big part of the ingredients.

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Spring in National Trust Property Mountstewart, Co Down on the shores of Portaferry County Down.

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Bushmills Whiskey Distillery

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I had an interesting genealogy site tour with a lovely lady from America this week in search of her family roots in County Fermanagh.  Her research took us to a beautiful little church on the shores of Lower Lough Erne called Slavin Parish Church or to give it its correct name "Chapel of Ease".

Thanks to a local parishioner Florence we had the privilege of stepping inside this small 19th century church and looking over the original registers listing her 19th century relations.  This certainly was something special - thanks Florence.

Always on the lookout for local history books produced by locals I spotted a book for sale "The Slavin Poetry".  Not only does this book contain some beautiful poetry and pictures of the people involved in the church both past and present but it also highlights the life of a certain lady called KATHERINE CECILIA ELLIOTT.

Katherine, poet and the first organist in Slavin Parish Church was born in London in 1850, daughter of Architect Robert Williams Armstrong who was involved in setting up the famous Belleek Pottery in collaboration with Dublin businessman David McBirney and local landlord John Caldwell Bloomfield.

She received her early education in Castle Caldwell and later she attended Boarding Schools in France and Germany.  Returning to Bellecck she fell in love with James Elliott, a local farmer.  They were married in 1873 and set up hgme on a farm at Gortnalee.

A talented musician she became deeply involved in Slavin Parish Church and trained up a very accomplished ladies choir.

Katherine died in 1910 and she requested to be buried near the church door, where she might hear the choir sing on Sundays.

There, she lies in the churchyard where today a simple headstone marks her grave.

You could not miss this little churchyard as it sits on the roadside as you travel the A46 from Enniskillen to Belleek.  It is just before the turnoff for Rosscor Viaduct.

Contact Us

Barbara Ferguson
Accredited Blue Badge Tourist Guide
Northern Ireland Guided Tours
41 Coolmillish Road
Markethill
Co. Armagh
BT60 1SH
Northern Ireland

For your answer to an experienced & fun guided tour of Northern Ireland - Barbara is here to help

+44 (0) 28 3755 1119

+44 (0) 7740 511 442

Email: info@guidedtoursireland.com

The Professional Association for Blue Badge Tourist Guides Throughout Britain

Approved Tourist Guides of Ireland

Institute of Tourist Guiding