There is plenty of clean, green fun to be had in Northern Ireland. Here are just a few of Northern Ireland’s green attractions.
1. Visit the Exploris Aquarium and Seal Sanctuary in Portaferry where you can see marine wildlife up close while developing an appreciation of nature and understanding of conservation issues. The aquarium includes a purpose built facility for the rescue, rehabilitation and release of orphaned and injured seal pups. If you’re lucky, you may be able to see this process in action.
2. Head to Fermanagh to enjoy an eco break or activity in the Greenbox. The Greenbox is an eco tourism destination which offers a range of activities and breaks which meet high standards of environmental practice. From the ‘Xtreme Eco Adventure Challenge’ which involves trail running, mountain biking and kayaking, to a more leisurely painting and yoga break, all activities and breaks are designed with low environmental impacts in mind and encourage proactive nature conservation.
You can visit the environmentally conscious Share Holiday Village where 99% of electricity and 90% of heat is derived from renewable resources. The activity centre is located on the shores of Upper Lough Erne and is a member of the Greenbox. On site there are three wind turbines, four photovoltaic modules, four solar water heating modules and four wood pellet burning stoves. The Share Centre also boasts the largest reed bed water purification system in Northern Ireland.
3. Follow the Silent Valley Nature Trail. This trail could be described as the Mournes AONB in miniature, offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy the natural environment of heathland habitats, observe up close a traditional Mourne dry stone wall, encounter remnants of cut granite echoing the days of quarrying in the Mournes and the feats of engineering that were the valley dams.
4. After an invigorating walk in the Mournes unwind and rejuvenate in the SOAK bathhouse. This unique facility at the foot of the Slieve Donard uses sustainably harvested local seaweed and fresh sea water for hot seaweed baths which promise to detoxify and enrich the skin with vitamins.
5. After a day on the beach, visit the National Trust Visitor Centre at Portstewart Strand to see up close a building based on the principles of sustainable design and with the impacts of climate change in mind. Meeting the highest environmental standards, the new facilities are designed to maximise energy from natural light. The structure has been made using cedar panels from renewable sources and includes a grass roof designed to blend in with the landscape. The facility, which is built on sand, is demountable, so it can be relocated with minimal impact. As a result, its usable life will be longer than normal.
6. Sign up for a one day or weekend cooking course at the Belle Isle School of Cookery in Fermanagh and learn to cook using the freshest local produce. The cookery school operates a 75% organic and local produce policy, thereby reducing food miles and supporting Northern Ireland farmers and small businesses. Containers have also been built for organic waste from the cookery school which is re-used for compost in the gardens. The Belle Isle estate has recently been awarded the prestigious EU Flower award for sustainable management.
7. Take on the Strangford Lough cycle route. This 82 mile circular route guides you in and around a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The trail travels through a variety of scenic landscapes and offers breathtaking Irish Sea coastal views. On a clear day both Scotland and the Isle of Man are visible.
8. Visit the Rathlin Island RSPB nature reserve. Before you even step ashore, the wildlife is evident with the ferry crossing presenting many opportunities to spot auks, gannets and gulls with even a chance of porpoises or dolphins. Although visiting the reserve is free, donations help the RSPB continue their work on the island.