Ireland is the second largest part of the British Isles lying in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Great Britain. The island of Ireland is politically divided into two parts: Northern Ireland (Ulster), which forms part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, capital Belfast, and the Republic of Ireland – a separate state named Eire in Irish; its capital is Dublin.

Northern Ireland (Ulster), part of the United Kingdom, is often characterized as Atlantic Europe. Northern Ireland is sometimes referred to as Ulster, although it includes only six of the nine counties which made up that historic Irish province.

Belfast City Hall

Northern Ireland has an area of 14,139 sq km and has a population of about 1.6 million. It occupies only one sixth of the island of Ireland. Six of the counties of Ulster: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Tyron and Londonderry or Derry, formed the country. These traditional counties are no longer used for local government purposes; instead there are 26 districts of Northern Ireland. The majority of people are descendants of Scots and English settlers who crossed to the north-east of Ireland, mainly in the 17th century.

Northern Ireland is surrounded by sea to the north and east and by the Republican counties to the west and to the south. The Antrim Coast (to the east) is a remarkable stretch of the country. Its geographical composition goes back 300 million years.

The Antrim Coast

The west coast of Northern Ireland is characterized by steep cliffs and hundreds of small islands torn from the mainland mass by the powerful forces of the Atlantic Ocean. Several large bays cut into the coast. Bay Foyle and Belfast Bay provide excellent harbours for Londonderry and Belfast.

Lake Neath (Lough Neagh) is the largest lake in the United Kingdom. It is about 29 km long and about 18 km wide. It has an area of about 390 sq km. The rivers of Ireland are short but deep. The largest of them is the river Shannon.

Lough Neagh

There are low hills and peaks of rocks in the northwest, while the norhteast part of the island is a plateau. The Mourne Mountains are in the southeast. The highest point is Slieve Donald (848 m).

One of the most famous sights of Northern Ireland (Ulster) is the Giant’s Causeway, the eerie geometric pillars, which is an area of 40,000 tightly packed basalt columns resulting from a volcanic activity 60 million years ago  that runs from the cliffs into the sea. The tallest of them are 13 m high.

The Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway can be named the eighth wonder of the world. The legend says that it was built by giant Finn McCool, who fell in love with a lady giant from one of the Scottish islands. He wanted to take her to Ulster and tried to build a kind of bridge which was never finished.

The outstanding feature of the Irish weather is its changeability. Extremely high or low temperatures are unknown. The Irish sea has some warming influence in winter. The rainfall over most of the island is not as great as it sometimes supposed to be. Ireland is considered drier than Wales or Scotland. There is an old Irish saying that Ireland must be the cleanest place in the world, because God washed it every day.

Ireland is also called the Emerald Isle because of its beautiful geen fields. It is not very cold in Ireland because it is the first European country to meet waters of the Gulf Stream.

The capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast. Although the official language is English, most of people speak Gaelic. It is their historic mother tongue and it is taught in most schools as the first language.

The influence of Irish Gaelic is also found in the names of people and surnames which often begin with ‘O’ meaning ‘from the family of’ (O’Brien, O’Neil), ‘Fitz’ meaning ‘the son of’ (Fitzgerald).


Answer the questions

  1. What larger country is Northern Ireland (Ulster) part of?
  2. How is Northern Ireland often called?
  3. How do people in Ireland call their country?
  4. What is the capital of Northern Ireland?
  5. What is the population of Northern Ireland and where does it mostly live?
  6. What languages are spoken in Northern Ireland?
  7. What is the most famous sight of Ireland? What do you know about it?
  8. Why is Northern Ireland a unique region within the UK?
  9. What is the weather of Northern Ireland like?

The Dark Hedges is an avenue of beech trees along Bregagh Road in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. In about 1775 James Stuart built a new house, named Gracehill House after his wife Grace Lynd. Over 150 beech trees were planted along the entrance road to the estate, to create an imposing approach. Of the 150 trees originally planted by the Stuart family, about 90 remained by 2016. The Dark Hedges were used as a filming location for the “King’s Road” in the television series Game of Thrones. 

Finish the sentences

  1. The island of Ireland is divided …
  2. The nickname of Ireland is …
  3. Northern Ireland is divided into …
  4. Northern Ireland is considered …
  5. The official language is …, but …