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Exploring Ulster OverviewUnique opportunity to visit this lovely part of Ireland in an unforgettable manner. Stay first in Belfast and then in a marvellous private castle on Lough Erne. Remarkable levels of private access. Wonderful scenery throughout. Unhurried pace suited to those who enjoy tranquillity
Quis Separabit: Exploring Ulster
Tour Lecturer; Tom Duncan, co-Founder of CICERONI Travel
QUIS SEPARABIT, “who shall separate” taken from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, was chosen as the motto of the newly founded (and now dormant) Order of St Patrick in 1783, and more recently as the motto of several Irish regiments, not least the Irish Guards. It was chosen to demonstrate the many connections which link together the entwined histories of Britain and Ireland.
Thus, as we remember the sacrifices of those who fell in the ‘Great War’ (including the many Irish) this motto seems an appropriate choice to introduce a tour which will seek to explore these links, seen against not only the magical scenery of this remarkable part of the island of Ireland, but also through its cultural heritage – an ideal avenue of exploration and discovery.
By virtue of its geography, with endless lakes and small hill ranges, and the temperamental nature of the original Celtic settlers, Ulster was, it seems, ‘a place apart’ from early times. While the Normans made headway in the east of the province, western Ulster remained unconquered. All changed with the ‘Plantation of Ulster’ initiated by James I (and VI) when long established links with Scotland were reinforced by the arrival of large numbers of new settlers. The consequent dynamic of Ulster’s economic, political and cultural development has created reverberations which to the outside eye may seem impenetrable, even intractable. Yet, its history is remarkable, one which we shall explore via its literature, architecture, art and horticulture.
We begin in Belfast, the ideal base from which to explore the east of the province. It grew from simple origins as a ‘Plantation’ settlement into what became a thriving port. When the original Scottish, English and Manx settlers were joined by Huguenots from France who introduced linen weaving, its fortunes were transformed. By the nineteenth century Belfast’s prosperity strengthened via shipbuilding and allied trades, reflected in its fine public buildings. The city’s more recent transformation since the end of ‘The Troubles’ is reflected in the development of the old Harland and Wolff docks area, centred on the justly popular ‘Titanic’ exhibition, which we shall visit. Within easy reach of Belfast we shall visit a series of remarkable houses and gardens, some of them privately. Castle Ward is literally divided in two down the middle, one part Classical, the other ‘Gothick’. Glenarm Castle is the seat of the Earls of Antrim and is full of historic interest. Hillsborough is the official residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Mount Stewart House and Gardens are truly outstanding and we shall spend a day there.
We then continue to the heart of ‘Lakeland’ Ulster, near Enniskillen, when we stay on Upper Lough Erne. Nearby we shall visit both mid Georgian Florence Court and James Wyatt’s Neo-classical masterpiece, Castle Coole. We shall also visit privately Baronscourt, the seat of the Dukes of Abercorn, one of Ireland’s finest houses where we shall be entertained to lunch.
We spend three nights in Belfast at the 4* Fitzwilliam Hotel situated in the city centre and four nights near Enniskillen at Belle Isle Castle, a private country house set in wonderful lakeside parkland, a serene environment.