Affordable and fun guiding throughout Northern Ireland

Guided walking tours of Armagh


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


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.


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!


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

14007 Titanic Belfast

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.


Bushmills Whiskey Distillery


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.

Have you got Irish Roots in Ulster?  Ever remember your grandmother or grandfather talk about their parents life?  Those who emigrated from this small island of Ireland to step into what was relatively the unknown.  Leaving the quiet of the countryside of Ireland and stepping into the noise of large foreign cities - daunting?  Eventually settling in regions similarly to what they left behind?  They were brave people - you should be proud to a part of that family.

As I travel around this old province of Ulster I am constantly reminded of those who left these shores and took the long risky journey to the "new world".  I see the remains of mud wall cottages mostly now incorporated into a modern farmyard but not always.  Many are roofless, walls tumbling down, chimneys gone and often the only standing thing is a lone tree at the gable wall!  Sometimes the old rambling rose bush still blooms and high banks escort a tree lined lane to this home. In the name of progress these old homesteads are fast disappearing and evidence of what was once a family home only remains in the naming of the large field now!

Townlands have disappeared from our postal addresses and small national rural schools are closed.

Why not come over and walk the land of your ancestors and celebrate their bravery among those of us who are the custodians of the land today.  We'd love to meet you, hear about your country and give you a hearty Irish welcome home.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day 


It's the Eve of St Patrick's Day and I have been busy preparing some traditional Irish food ready to enjoy before and perhaps late into the night after St Patrick's Festival in Armagh City tomorrow.

My Guinness Bread always goes down well served with Irish blue cheese.  Homemade soda farls are a must for any good traditional Irish breakfast.  

Enjoy St Patrick's Day all however and wherever you choose to spend it.



Researching the birthplace of AE Russell today in Lurgan, County Armagh. Born in 1867 and moved to Dublin when he was eleven.

Visited the spot where his family home once stood close to the Brownlow Castle - the architecture of which is said to have been an inspiration for some of his writings.  The nearby Model School with its lofty red brick tower which he attended is still in use today.  

His main subject, however, was mysticism.  Russell was one of the major writers in the Irish Literary Renaissance.


Well most of the snow has gone and signs of spring are appearing around our countryside.  Took this picture just this week and the vibrant yellow flower is opening up all around the countryside now.  We locals live with it and don't give it much thought but visitors always comment on it.   There are many Celtic traditions associated with it.

Gorse is often associated with love and fertility.  It was for this reason that a spring of gorse was traditionally added to a bride's bouquet and gorse torches were ritually burnt around livestock to protect against sterility.  However one should never give gorse flowers to another as a gift for it is unlucky for both the giver and receiver.  

By tradition when gorse is out in bloom, kissing is also out of season!

Enjoyed a private walking tour around Cathedral Quarters, Belfast last week - in the sunshine! Big Jim Larkin's sculpture was of great interest to the visitor.  This bronze statue by the  Belfast artist Anto Brennan stands in Donegall Street Place, close to Waring Street where Larkin led the Belfast dockers' strike of 1907.

The Belfast Dock strike or Belfast lockout took place in Belfast from 26 April to 28 August 1907.  The dockers both Portestand and Catholic, had gone on strike after their demand for union recognition was refused. They were soon joined by carters, shipyard workers, sailors, firemen, boilermakers, coal heavers, transport workers and women from the city's largest tobacco factory Gallaghers.

Although largely unsuccessful the dock strike led to the establishment of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union.

Finally the winds and snow of the winter lifted and the winter sun shone through so out I went off to the hills and mountains close to my home.  What a day!

Come with me on a stress free easy hike around the hills and mountains of County Down.  I don't do hard hikes.............

Did you know that St Valentine is laid to rest in Dublin?

John Sprat was an Irish Carmelite that was known for his abilities as a preacher and dedicated work with the destitute in the city of Dublin.  While visiting Rome, his fame had apparently preceded him, and he became hot on the Jesuit circuit, giving sermons and receiving tokens of esteem from his peers.

One of the more impressive tokens he was gifted were the remains of Saint Valentine by Pope Gregory XV1.

Today the shirne is popular with couples who come to pray for St Valentine to watch over their lives together and to celebrate the feast day of February 14th which includes the Blessings of the Rings for those about to marry.  This shrine is today in Whitefriar Street Church Dublin.

So what does this particular collection of St Valentine relics contain?  According to an inscription on a gold plate attached to the casket -

This shrine contains the sacred body of Saint Valentinus the Martyr, together with a small vessel tinged with his blood.


Oh what sweet memories.  Every good Irish home made pancakes for tea; the main meal on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday - beginning of Lent.  

I have big memories of a smoke filled kitchen with the pan on the range and the pancakes more or less flying from the pan to the table!  With nine mouths to feed it was just like a production line.

All decorated up with lots of butter and fancy syrups etc! 

Delicious but what a mess, melted butter all over your hands and sugar all over the table but lots of laughter around the table.

A thoroughly memorable family meal.

Enjoy your pancakes today BUT keep it simple!

It's February 2018 and I'm looking out the window at the winter sunshine and frost on the rolling hills around my farm here in County Armagh.  I'm planning to wrap up warm and take a walk out and check out what is happening in the countryside now that as my mother used to say "the days are on the turn".  Snowdrops have appeared and daffodils are not far behind.  The heather is also on its way into colour.

Are you visiting Ireland this year?  Are you planning to visit the North of the Island?  Do you want to see the vast rural countryside rarely mentioned in promotional materials?  Meet the locals in their village shops and enjoy a chat at a local farmer's mart?  Maybe you simply just want a drive into the countryside to enjoy the landscape, step inside a traditional local pub and taste the traditional food of Northern Ireland - potatoes, vegetables and meat, all washed down with a glass of local cider or beer and of course there's soda bread?

You know in your heart of hearts just what you want to see when you visit this rural island of Ireland.  Don't be put off with the thoughts of how to travel into the countryside we can arrange that all for you.  We may even get you a job on the farm!

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to witness the real life of Ireland in 2018.  Will be waiting to hear from you soon...........




Contact Us

Barbara Ferguson
Accredited Blue Badge Tourist Guide
Northern Ireland Guided Tours
41 Coolmillish Road
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


The Professional Association for Blue Badge Tourist Guides Throughout Britain

Approved Tourist Guides of Ireland

Institute of Tourist Guiding