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The Province of Ulster

The People | Climate | Economy | History

Munster | Leinster | Connaught

The name is derived from a combination of 'Ulaid' "A northern tribe"
And Old Norse 'stadr' "place" or "territory".


Ulster is one of the four provinces of Ireland. It has a total area 21,532 sq km (8,313 sq mi) and consists of 9 of the 32 counties that make up the whole island of Ireland. These county's are Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan. Belfast is the largest city in Ulster.


Counties in Ulster (Northern Ireland)

Name Irish Equivalent County Town Area km2 Area Sq M
Antrim Aontroim Belfast 2844 1098
Armagh Árd Mhacha Armagh 1254 484
Down Dún Downpatrick 2448 945
Fermanagh Fir Manach Enniskillen 1691 653
Londonderry Doire Derry 2074 801
Tyrone Tir Eoghain Omagh 3155 1218

Counties in Ulster (Southern Ireland)
Name Irish Equivalent County Town Area
Area Sq M
Cavan Cabhán Cavan 1891 730
Donegal Dún na nGall Lifford 4841 1865
Monaghan Muineacháin Monaghan 1291 498

The People.

The diverse ethnic mix of the people of Ulster is a result the unfolding chapters of history, this of course applies to all of the island. The Celtic invasion of Ireland some time around 600 BC is sometimes portrayed as the arrival of a vast armada, disembarking thousands of warriors and settlers, intent on eliminating or subduing the native population. It seems more likely they came in small family or tribal groups, carving out a life for themselves in a land who's population was such that competition for living space was still in the future. Modern DNA sampling seems to disprove the theory of a vast influx of people from central Europe.

The coming of Christianity led inevitably to the demise of the Celtic pagan way of like, their ceremonies, festivals and hallowed sites, were woven almost seamlessly into the fabric of the belief the newcomers brought with them. Many of the tribal leaders and provincial kings astutely took a piece of this action, so to speak, by granting land to, or financing the building of monastic sites or placing family members in the monasteries. Within two generations of the arrival of St Patrick we see several monasteries under the direct control of grandsons of tribal leaders. This fusing of religion and power politics is cited by some as the base cause of Irelands religious strife, although it has been exacerbated in the intervening years by countless other events.

Much of the population of Ulster are of English, Scottish descent, resulting from the plantations which took place from the early 16th century onwards. Some are of older Irish or Anglo Norman stock. Most people tend to think and vote along tribal lines, a situation which is exacerbated by the education system in Northern Ireland which is segregated by religion affiliation. In recent years some integrated schools have been opened, hopefully in the fullness of time these may contribute to a more cohesive and tolerant society.

The majority of the people are Protestants in Northern Ireland, the proportion of Protestants is something below two-thirds. The dominant Protestant group is the Presbyterians. other groups include the Church of Ireland and Methodists. Most of the remainder of Ulster's people are Roman Catholics. In Ulster counties within the republic, about nine out of ten people are Roman Catholics.

English is the only everyday language used in Northern Ireland. However, Irish is taught in some schools there. In the republic counties of Ulster, the western part of Donegal has an extensive Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region) with a population of 26,000.



Linen and shipbuilding were once important, both have largely disappeared, Most of the province's industry is concentrated in eastern Ulster. Now, its industries include the manufacture of aircraft components, food and drink processing, various types of engineering, and the production of electronics equipment, furniture, measuring and optical instruments, textiles, and tiles, many of the manufacturing industries find it increasingly difficult to compete with goods produced in the far east.

In southern and western Ulster, half the industry is in Donegal, which is famous for tweeds and carpets. Monaghan produces clothing, furniture, and processed foods. Cavan also produces processed foods, at Kingscourt there is a large factory producing insulated cladding for industrial buildings.

Farmers in Ulster grow barley, oats, and potatoes. Pigs, poultry, cattle and sheep are the most important livestock. Monaghan is Ireland's main center for poultry rearing. Killybegs, in Donegal, with Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie in County Down are the main fishing ports, some of the smaller ports have a few inshore boats fishing for crabs and lobster, often combining this with chartering for fishing trips or diving.

Ulster's chief ports, Belfast and Larne, have passenger and freight links with several ports in England and Scotland and with Holyhead in Wales. Warrenpoint in county Down together with Dundalk, Droheda and Grenore in County Louth operate as freight ports. Aldergrove airport in county Antrim has flights to both Europe and the United States while Belfast city airport operates internal flights to the United Kingdom and Europe. Ulster has a good road transport system which is continually being improved. Rail transport within both Northern Ireland and the rest of Ulster is much reduced from former times. The main lines being from Belfast to Dublin via Newry, Belfast to Bangor, and Belfast to Londonderry via Antrim, Ballymena and Coleraine. See The History of Irish Railways.



Ulster is bounded on the east and northeast by the Irish Sea and the North Channel, on the west and north by the Atlantic, and on the south by the provinces of Connacht to the west and Leinster to the south. The maximum distances are 174 kilometers (108 mi) from north to south, and 214 kilometers (133 mi) from west to east.

In the northeast of Ulster lies the Antrim plateau, which is largely basalt (cooled volcanic lava) on these uplands are the Glens of Antrim running northeastward to the sea. On the north coast of Antrim is the series of extraordinary basalt columns known as the Giant's Causeway. The coastline of Antrim and Londonderry consists of mountains with basalt and limestone cliffs, this limestone was until quite recently quarried and exported. Irelands only salt mine is located at Carrickfergus County Antrim. Limestone underlies much of Fermanagh. Donegal has a rugged, mountainous northern part and a less rugged southern area with long beaches. The Sperrin Mountains straddle the border between Londonderry and Tyrone. In southern Down are the Mourne Mountains, a striking range of granite peaks. The highest point in the Mourne Mountains is Slieve Donard rising to 848 meters (2794 ft) there are ten other mountains in the range over 609 meters (2,000 ft)

Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Ireland and the UK, it lies in a depression in the Antrim plateau. The River Bann rises in the Mourne's and, passing through Lough Neagh, flows north to Coleraine on the Antrim coast. Other rivers flowing into the lough are the Blackwater and the Main. The River Foyle flows northeast from Lifford, in Donegal, into Lough Foyle at Londonderry, the river and lough form the boundary between the counties of Donegal and Londonderry. The River Erne rises in Lough Gowna county Cavan and drains much of Cavan, Fermanagh and southwestern Ulster. Two lakes, Upper Lough Erne and Lower Lough Erne, are on this river. The Erne discharges into the Atlantic in Donegal bay. The River Lagan, on which Belfast stands, rises on Slieve Croob a mountain in the Dromara hills in mid county Down. On the east coast of the province, Strangford Lough, a sea inlet with many small islands, separates the Ards Peninsula from the rest of Down.

The Climate.

Rainfall in Ulster averages 810 milliliters (32 inches) a year. In the west, it can reach above 2,000 millimeters, (78 inches) but eastern Ulster is one of the driest places in Britain and Ireland. Average daily temperatures range between 4 °C in January and 14.5 °C in July.



People settled in present day Ulster in prehistoric times, in early Christian times Ulster was the centre of the Uladh a tribe from which the present name Ulster id derived.In the AD 300's, Niall of the Nine Hostages is said to have carved out a kingdom in western Ulster. Niall's descendants, the O'Neill's, and another clan called the O'Donnell's, became the most important families in the Ulster region. The Scots originally came from Ulster, and St. Patrick, St. Finian, and St. Columbanus were all associated with the province.

The Vikings began raiding Ulster in the late 700's. The Norman conquest of Ireland began in 1177 the Normans built castles at Carrickfergus, Downpatrick, and Dundrum. By the mid 1500's England was in conflict with Spain, and perhaps fearful that the Spain with Irish help would use Ireland a a base from which to attack England, renewed her efforts to subjugate

Ulster resisted the English conquest of Ireland, but in 1603, Hugh O'Neill, the leader of the Irish in Ulster, finally gave up the struggle. The government of King James I began the plantation (colonization) of Ulster in 1610. In 1641, the Catholics of Ireland rebelled, this rebellion was brutally suppressed by Oliver Cromwell. The accession of Catholic King James II's to the throne of England in 1685 gave new hopes of Catholic emancipation. However James was deposed three years later, and decided to try to use Ireland as a stepping stone back to his English throne. He brought an army from France, and unsuccessfully besieged Derry. On July 12, 1690, James II unsuccessfully fought the Battle of the Boyne, after which he left Ireland. A year later at Aughrim in County Galway a battle was fought which finally crushed the Jacobite cause. The date is still marked annually by Protestant parades in Northern Ireland.

Ulster officially became part of the United Kingdom in 1801 with the Act of Union. In 1921, the six counties of eastern Ulster opted to remain within the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland. The rest of Ulster became part of an independent Irish state. (See also the history of Ireland)