Use these locations as a launch pad to discover the bustling and culturally diverse capital city of Belfast
'Just up the road'. That's the first thing you need to understand about Northern Ireland.
But despite its closeness, it's still a world away for those who want a holiday that's exciting, enchanting, different and culturally adventurous.
And it all begins in the province's capital, Belfast.
Before you undertake the challenge of exploring this land of drama and history on our doorstep, call into St George's Market on a Sunday morning to get the flavour of the melting pot of cultures that the North has become as you might have been looking the other way.
Middle East cuisine vies with the purveyors of the traditional gut busting Ulster fry in a Victorian era market building in the city centre and it's all accompanied by some of the best live music you will hear anywhere. This is the new Belfast, open, friendly, welcoming and nourishing.
From St George's Market you're within the flight of a flaming arrow of the main location of the filming of Game of Thrones, and the launching slip of the Titanic, and some of Belfast's most iconic historic sights.
Don't worry about making a choice – it's possible to see everything and fit in some shopping while you're at it!
Drama and scale
The Titanic Centre in Belfast's docks is a real experience. A striking architectural marvel to rival Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum, you enter and become immersed in the story of the iconic sea-liner and its times.
To say that it is a riveting experience and worthy of its ranking as one of the world's best tourist attractions is an understatement. Outside the centre is the slipway and here is where you get a real sense of the drama and the scale of the ship – the seats on the slipway are placed exactly where they would be on the upper deck of the Titanic.
Less than five minutes walk from here is the Titanic Painting Hall, now repurposed as the sound stage for the epic Game of Thrones drama and a popular shrine for fans of the just concluded eight-season saga.
Local history, local music
A short distance up the road is Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, an Irish language cultural centre which incorporates the name of a Presbyterian Irish language enthusiast and a Catholic scholar and Cardinal in its title. Here is an ideal place to take a break and enjoy some live traditional music.
An ideal location in which to headquarter yourself for the first couple of days is the Dunadry Hotel, a very welcoming and tranquil hostelry nestled on the banks of the Six Mile River.
Outside Belfast and on the coast road to the Giant's Causeway, a World Heritage Site and the location of an epic battle between Fionn Mac Cumhall and Scottish giant Benadonner. The canny Fionn was disguised as a baby by his wife, Oonagh, and the Scot when he crossed over the specially built causeway fled in fright when he saw the size of the baby and concluded that its father must have been massive.
Rest and replenish
Alternatively, in Carnlough in the Glens of Antrim you will find the Londonderry Arms, a haven from which you can explore many legendary locations, including Dunluce Castle, which was used as the House of Greyjoy, lords of the Iron Islands in Game of Thrones. Here you will be able to rest and replenish after your day's adventures in comfort.
Journey westwards from there to Fermanagh, home of the Marble Arch Caves, a cave system which will take you into a world of stalactites and stalagmites and other geological wonders.
In Enniskillen, where Samuel Beckett once taught and now the home of a festival in honour of the writer of classics such as Waiting for Godot, you will find castles and markets and a reminder of the north's more recent history of conflict at the Cenotaph erected in honour of those who died in global wars.
On the banks of Lough Erne, in a mansion reminiscent of a bygone era, you will discover the Manor House Country Hotel. Here in luxurious surroundings you can relax in the many facilities of the leisure centre or take an afternoon voyage on the Lady of the Lake pleasure cruiser before you take on the next leg of your journey.
Laid-back and welcoming
The walls of Derry were never breached in history and you will realise why as you walk along the ramparts and get a sense of this medieval fortress city. The people of this city are extraordinarily friendly and welcoming as you will discover in some of the city's bars.
Be it the top class traditional music of Peadar O'Donnell's bar or the more laid back vibe of Sandino's, you will get a real taste for the city's culture and don't forget to taste the local ales in the Walled City Brewery.
As you head back to Belfast along the spectacular coast road, avail of the opportunity to slip off the beaten track to the Brown Trout Golf and Country Inn which, as its name suggests, is ideal for the golf enthusiast but also just for that getting away from it all weekend break.
After such a whirlwind tour of the north, your appetite will be well and truly whetted for a return visit. Before you leave you should spend an evening in the iconic Sunflower Bar which is just behind the Central Library on Royal Avenue.
Here, you'll hear brilliant jazz and folk music and taste more local brews, savour the best pizza you will enjoy anywhere and meet some of Belfast's real characters.
To be honest, the North is a place you will find difficult to leave – and if you do, you will be back.