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Aran Inspired

Gartan Lough and Saint Columba's Cross

This large attractive lake, one of three in the centre of Donegal, is famous for being the birthplace of St. Columba. The area around Gartan Lough also encompasses some of the most beautiful mountain country in Ireland.

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Ards Forest Park

Ards Forest Park is a large, publicly-accessible area of parklands located on the northern coastline of County Donegal. Near the town of Dunfanaghy, the park encompasses perhaps the widest variety of landscapes of any of Ireland’s many forest parks. The park stretches to 118,00 acres (480 hectares) -- more than one hundred thousand football fields.

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Westport

Westport is an appealing Georgian style town, arranged in wide, tree lined avenues by the architect James Wyatt in the 1770’s on behalf of the Browne family, who settled in County Mayo from Sussex. Established in conjunction with the estate at Westport House, the town began as a trading centre for slate, yarn and cloth, and beer, but failed to follow the trend to industrialization in the mid 1800s. Its population went into serious decline during the Famine years. In the 1950s, the visitor trade and new industry breathed new life into the town, where attractive Malls sit along the Carrowbeg River.

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Lough Neagh

Lough Neagh is the largest lake of fresh water in the islands of the UK/Ireland. The waterway is an integral part of the area's economic development, providing income for the locals and recreational opportunities for visitors. The Lough Neagh Discovery Centre schedules guided tours and nature walks, as well as bird watching sessions. It features an excellent café and craft shops that sell creations of local artists. The Lough Neagh Discovery Centre is located on Oxford Island, which is really a peninsula, on the southern shore.

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The Mourne Mountains

This small but striking mountain range is a central part of the culture of unspoiled outdoor beauty that exists in County Down. Clustered in the southeast part of Northern Ireland, the Mourne mountain area is filled with lakes, streams, hiking trails, pristine woodlands and spectacular views of the ocean below. The tallest of the Mourne peaks is Slieve Donard, which rises to 2796 feet and offers a brilliant view of Strangford Lough and the Isle of Man off the coast.

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Tollymore Forest Park

The first state forest to be granted Forest Park status in Northern Ireland, Tollymore Forest Park celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005. This attractive park features the whimsical designs of Thomas Wright (1711-1786). It contains caves, bridges, and grottoes, some natural and some man made. The Gothic gate near the entrance was part of the original estate owned by Lord Clanbrassil. The forest is full of traditional growth as well as exotic surprises such as the monkey-puzzle tree, huge redwoods and unusual pines. White Star Lines, builder of the Titanic, regularly used oak wood from Tollymore to erect their ocean liners. The arboretum at Tollymore features the oldest tree in any Irish arboretum, the Clanabrassilian, dating back to around 1750.

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Strangford Lough

Extending along much of the eastern coast of County Down, Strangford Lough, one of Ireland's largest lakes, is long and shallow. Much of the waterway is greatly affected by the tidal cycles, with large exposed sand flats that can be seen in low tide and then flood with water when the high tide comes in. The southern entrance to the sea is called the Narrows, and the strong tidal currents are concentrated there. Two low and two high tides in every 24 hour period flow over the large rock pinnacles on its floor, creating turbulence and whirlpools. The rest of Strangford Lough represents a diverse collection of seaside environments, from salt marshes to sandy and rocky coastlines and many islands that dot the region of the western shore. The water is generally salt, except for the areas where the Comber and Quoile Rivers enter the Lough.

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Lower Lough Erne

The Lough Erne vicinity is filled with panoramic views, surrounded by wooded hillsides. The entire waterway is nearly 50 miles long, and its still, clear waters make it a paradise for boaters and fishermen. The area is steeped in history, as early settlers came here to enjoy the safety and tranquility of Lough Erne’s many inlets and the thick forests of its shores. Island castles dot the landscape, evidence of a strong population during the plantation period of Irish history. Today, Lough Erne is widely recognized across Europe as a peaceful, clean and uncrowded waterway. Boaters and anglers as well as those who just enjoy observing the beauty of nature frequently visit it.

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Ballinamore/Ballyconnell Canal

Building on the canal began in 1845, with the intended dual purpose of a famine relief project and a navigation and drainage necessity. The canal joins the Shannon and Erne Rivers at Leitrim Village and Aghalane. The original locks were completed in 1852. The market house conducted canal business in Ballinamore. The canal underwent restoration from 1991-1994 and the locks are now modern and automatically operated. It is considered one of the finest waterways in Europe and is located in an area of considerable natural beauty.

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Longford Town

This quaint and picturesque little town in the Irish Midlands is the County Town of Longford and the centre of commerce for the surrounding area. It also serves as a base for visitors who come to enjoy the relaxing and invigorating attractions of the midlands region. Longford Town, like so many other Irish towns and villages, had its beginnings as a monastic settlement. The community here was built by a follower of St. Patrick. The name Longford comes from the Irish word for “Long Fort”, or Stronghold, and in its early days, Longford Town was indeed a stronghold. Its first castle was owned by the O’Farrell clan, major participants in the early history of the area. The original Dominican Friary that represented the first settlement here is no longer visible.

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