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The Province of Ulster


Giants Causeway basalt rocks, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Europe
Günter Grüner/Getty Images

The Geography of Ulster:

Ulster, or in Irish Cúige Uladh, encompasses the North of Ireland. The counties of Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone make up this ancient province. Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan are part of the Republic of Ireland. Major towns are Bangor, Belfast, Craigavon, Derry and Lisburn. The rivers Bann, Erne, Foyle and Lagan flow through Ulster. The highest point within the 8,546 square miles of the province is Slieve Donard (2,790 feet). The population is steadily growing and currently estimated at over two million. Around 80% of these live in Northern Ireland.

The History of Ulster:

The name "Ulster" derives from the Irish tribe of the ulaidh and the Norse word stadir ("homestaed"), the name being in use both for the province (correct) and to describe Northern Ireland (incorrect). Ulster was one of the earliest centers of culture in Ireland, this is reflected in the number of monuments and artifacts found here. With plantations of Protestant settlers starting around the 16th century Ulster itself became the center of sectarian tension and violence. Today Ulster is recovering on both sides of the border, with the six Northern Irish counties still polarized into two distinct fractions.

Ulster's Epic Past:

The importance of Ulster's historical and cultural role is also reflected in mythology and literature, the táin bó cúailnge ("The Cattle Raid of Cooley") forming the epic centerpiece of the "Ulster Cycle".

What to do in Ulster:

Ulster has the northernmost of the top ten sights of Ireland - the splendid Giant's Causeway. This is supplemented by a host of local attractions mainly in Northern Ireland. Tourism is definitely on the rise, the false picture of Northern Ireland as a dangerous place being replaced by an appreciation of the varied beauty of Ulster.

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