Belfast & Northern Ireland

These two Georgian village gems offer an altogether more sedate ambience a world away from Lisburn city. Lying just south of Lisburn, as the name suggests, Royal Hillsborough is about as upmarket as you can get with its designer shops, gastro pubs, quaint cafes and Castle fit for a queen.

Royal Hillsborough got its name from Sir Arthur Hill who built the village Fort in 1650. Later the Earls of Hillsborough became the Marquises of Downshire - a moniker adopted by a well-known local pub. The 'Royal' prefix was added in 2021, the centenary year of the founding of Northern Ireland. Beside the Fort is a beautiful lake set in a forest park that offers a great setting for a bracing winter stroll... don't forget to bring bread for the ducks.

Aside from the Fort and Hillsborough Castle, the village's other stand-out architectural masterpieces are the 18th Century Courthouse - now home to the Tourist Information Centre - and St. Malachy's Parish Church with its soaring spire and sweeping approach. Other places to enjoy a pint and classy pub meal are The Hillside, The Plough Inn and The Parson's Nose.

Moira village, eight miles west of Lisburn city, is as famous for its award winning sausages as it is its Georgian architecture. People come from far and wide to buy McCartney's bespoke bangers... join the queue and fill your boots (not literally). The Main Street is the place to head for shopping, dining and imbibing opportunities, with Pretty Mary's, The Still House and Wine & Brine restaurant heading the culinary field. Several ladies fashion boutiques and home interiors shops positively implore you to part with your dosh.

Steeped in history, Moira is the site of Ireland's oldest battle, and home to Ireland's oldest surviving railway station. It was also the location of Europe's first botanic gardens, not surprising when you consider the village's proud reputation for its award-winning floral displays. Winter may be the ideal time for a hot toddy by the pub fire, but come the summer, Moira is a kaleidoscopic splendour.


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