There was a comment made on Twitter a few days ago in response to the wonderful Secret Britain TV programme on our wee country. The comment was that we need to market ourselves better – a comment with which I wholeheartedly agree. Since coming back this side of the Irish Sea I’ve been surprised by how underdeveloped the tourism industry is. In comparison, one of our favourite spots in the Lake District is Tarn Hows – it’s miles from anywhere, up at the top of a mountain (as Tarns, by definition are), and yet there is still a car park and ‘facilities’. Every village and coastal town worth visiting in England has coffee shops and parking and facilities. Often you have to pay for parking, but the ability to travel knowing you have somewhere to park and somewhere to eat makes it worthwhile.
What is at the same time the beauty of and the frustration of Northern Ireland’s many wonderful locations is that we don’t do tourism very well. I love the fact that I can visit an unspoilt cover, or a huge beach (such as Murlough above) and not have to pay for parking or be overwhelmed by other tourists. I hate the fact that large areas are inaccessible (how much of Lough Neagh can you get to?) and most are underdeveloped.
As an avid consumer of our coast and countryside I would love to see it consumed my more of our local population and visited by more UK visitors as well as those from beyond our isles. What would be nicer than to have car parks with cafes and helpful staff at all our major attractions?
But before we get to that we need to let people know what we have got! We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the British Isles, but we don’t let people know. I for one believe that in this case at least, pictures speak louder than words. So, the picture above is just another encouragement to discover Northern Ireland for yourself.