Introduction to Heritage Tourism

Table of contents

In Northern Ireland heritage tourism attractions can be classified in many different ways. These include manmade but not built to attract tourists attractions, manmade and purpose built to attract tourists attractions, natural attractions and can also be applied to special events. It is hoped that this seminar will help people to gain a wider understanding and appreciation of heritage tourism and the efforts of the bodies who do so much excellent work in order to protect and preserve Northern Ireland’s rich heritage attractions.

Manmade but not built to attract tourist heritage attractions include the Walls of Derry which were built in 1613 to protect the inhabitants from hostile enemies. They fulfilled their purpose during the siege by the Jacobites and defended the city for more than a hundred days until the siege ended. Another example of a heritage attraction is St Columb’s Cathedral, built in 1633 and was the first cathedral in the British Isles to be built after . Today, like the Walls, they are the city’s most popular tourist attraction and receive hundreds of tourists a year .However the Cathedral is still used to worship in. The Walls are owned by the Honourable The Irish Society but are looked after by the Environment and Heritage Service.

Manmade and purpose built to attract tourist attractions include the Tower Museum, which was built in 1992, which has displays on the early history of Derry, the Siege and the role it played during World War Two. Another example of this is the Ulster American Folk Park in Tyrone which was primarily built as an educational facility. It was built in the late 1970’s to celebrate the United States’ bicentenary in 1976. It is owned by MAGNI (National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland) which looks after all the museums and parks in its care.

Natural attractions include the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim which was formed sixty five million years ago by the cooling of magma into its unique hexagonal shapes. It is perhaps the legend of Finn MacCool forming the Causeway that is perhaps more interesting than the actual formation. It is also the only World Heritage Site in Ireland having been made so in 1986.

Special heritage attractions include the Halloween festival and the Maiden City Festival in Derry. The Maiden City festival was first held in 1997 and has had an extremely successful run each subsequent year. It embraces both sides of the community and has helped both sides to gain a better understanding of the others culture. The Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival has had perhaps an even more successful run. It won the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s “Event of the Year” Award in 2002. To tie in with the festivities are ghost tours around the city and story telling in the Tower Museum.

The National Trust

The National Trust was established in 1895 by Robert Hunter, Octavia Hill and Hardwicke Rawnsley to “guard” the threatened coastlines, countryside and historic buildings of the United Kingdom. They had been concerned with the unrestrained development and industrialisation of the Victorian Era. Since 1884 Hunter had been calling for the establishment of an organization to “administer its property with a view to the protection of the public interests in open spaces.”

In over a hundred years it has become the largest independent conservation body in the world and now owns more than two hundred historic buildings , more than six hundred thousand acres of countryside and more than five hundred miles of coastline. Its main aim is, and always has been, to “maintain and care for the coast, countryside and historic buildings on behalf of the nation”.

In Northern Ireland the Trust owns almost fifty different properties spread around the country .These include Mount Stewart in County Down which is one of the Trust’s more popular properties in Northern Ireland. The property not only includes some of the most magnificent gardens in Northern Ireland but also objects of historical significance. The dining room features the actual chairs that were used by the delegates in the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The house also contains priceless paintings which were collected by members of the family over several centuries.

The Dining Room Mount Stewart

Another popular property is Florencecourt in County Fermanagh. It was previously the home of the Enniskillen family and was given to the National Trust by the fifth Earl of Enniskillen in 1953. It is also of natural importance as on its grounds is the first Yew Tree was planted here in 1767. The land around the house is owned by the Forest Service which purchased the land from the sixth Earl of Enniskillen in 1975.

Florence Court, County Fermanagh

In County Antrim the Trust owns the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It was primarily used as a way for fishermen to Carrick-a-Rede Island. Over one hundred thousand tourists visit the bridge every year. It is also an excellent place to view porpoises, dolphins and basking .

Carrick- a-Rede Rope Bridge

The Giant’s Causeway is the most popular heritage attraction in Northern Ireland and is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ireland. More than five hundred thousand tourists a year visit the area from around the world. Over sixty million years old it was formed by lava flowing into the sea and gradually cooling and hardening. In 2002 the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway opened more than fifty years after its predecessor the Giants Causeway, Portrush and Bush Valley Tramway closed. The line runs from the Giant’s Causeway to Bushmills. The Causeway is also an important area for wildlife including peregrine falcons and a rare species of bird known as chough. The Causeway is the last known area in Northern Ireland for these birds to inhabit.

The Giant’s Causeway

The Trust also owns and manages the Mourne Mountains specifically Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh. Slieve Donard is Northern Ireland’s highest mountain standing at a majestic 850 metres. The Trust has only owned these two mountains since 1991 and, since it is a charity, it had to use its own money to buy them. It managed to raise enough money through a fundraising campaign and bought over a thousand acres. The Mournes have an abundance of wildlife including ravens, hares and rare dragonflies.

Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh

The Trust also owns and cares for sites that belong to Northern Ireland’s industrial heritage such as Patterson’s Spade Mill in County Antrim. It operated from 1919 to 1990 and was purchased by the Trust in 1992. It is the last working water-powered spade mill in the British Isles. The spades are still available for purchase at around twenty pounds.

The Environment and Heritage Service

The Environment and Heritage Service is the largest department in the Department of the Environment with more than five hundred personnel. It advises and implements the Government’s policy on the environment in Northern Ireland. Their main aim is “to protect and conserve the natural and built environment and to promote it’s appreciation for the benefit of present and future generations.”

One of the areas the EHS cares for includes Scrabo Tower and Country Park in County Down. It was built in 1857 in memory of the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry (who also owned Mount Stewart) and can be seen for miles around. There is also a disused mine where the famous Scrabo Rock was extracted and exported to other areas of the United Kingdom.

The EHS also cares for Roe Valley Country Park in County Antrim. It is home to a wide variety of wildlife including foxes, badgers and otters. The park is also a popular place for recreation including salmon and trout fishing, canoeing , orienteering and riverside and woodland walks.

They also look after Dunluce Castle in County Antrim which was built in the late 16th century. The incident in 1639 in which the kitchen fell into the sea is what the Castle is most renowned for.


Greenpeace had it’s beginnings in 1971 when several people protested at the USA detonating underground nuclear bombs in a area used by rare otters near Alaska. It has grown in the last thirty years and has over 2.8 million supporters around the world. It operates in more than forty countries and has its headquarters in Amsterdam.

Greenpeace’s latest triumph has been in putting pressure on the World Heritage Committee to add Lake Baikal (the largest fresh water lake in the world) and the Volcanoes of Kamchatka in Russia to the list of World Heritage sites. More than twelve million hectares will now be preserved. Greenpeace also successfully put pressure on the WHC to declare the Komi Virgin Forests in the Urals a World Heritage Site.

The Wildlife Trust

It is the United Kingdom’s largest conservation charity devoted to wildlife. No member of the trust is paid as all of its members volunteer to help the Trust. The Trust cares for more than two thousand nature reserves. There were four hundred thousand voluntary members of the Trust in 2002 and the member is still growing. Membership costs �24 a year for one person and �36 per annum for a family membership. They have 47 local trusts and a trust for children known as the Wildlife Watch who work together to protect wildlife in different areas from cities to the countryside especially in national and country parks. The local trust in Northern Ireland is the Ulster Wildlife Trust and was founded in 1978. In Northern Ireland there are more than 2000 members of the Trust. Their main aim is to “help people recognise that a healthy environment, rich in wildlife and managed on sustainable principles, is essential for continued human existence.”


The World Wide Fund for Nature’s main aims are to protect and conserve endangered species and to address global threats to wildlife. However it only works to protect animals in the wild and has “no experience or expertise to deal with issues relating to . Whereas the larger organisation works on international issues relating to animals the UK organisation work to look after the countries wild animals. It can be involved in many matters affecting wildlife such as challenging the government on the destruction of the countryside. It also puts forward the effects of tourism in wildlife. Unlike other heritage organisations it owns no property and therefore has more money to spend.

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