Northern Ireland’s Giant Spirit

Introducing the next in our series celebrating the wonderful characters that bring Northern Ireland’s Giant Spirit to life for our visitors: Donna Fox of Unearthing Macha based in County Armagh

“I’ve come to learn, it’s the sum of so many parts which makes Northern Ireland a truly unique place for visitors. It’s our landscapes, our mountains, our coastal routes, the myths and legends, our music and storytelling with the warmth and kindness of our people at the core of every aspect of life here. I have given thousands of tours down through the years and I can’t think of a single time when a visitor has had a negative thing to say about the people they meet. They are of course constantly delighted when they ask for directions and the person walks them to their destination or invites them into their home for a cup of tea. I’m a people person. I studied languages at Ulster University in Coleraine and when I graduated I worked in London for a gin company putting my language skills to good use. After that I bought a round-the-world travel ticket and went off to really get under the skin of other countries and cultures. I worked in vineyards in Australia, visited Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia and travelled right across the USA by train before spending some time in New York. But after experiencing all those places I knew I wanted to come home to Northern Ireland and Armagh. In 1996 I signed up for the Blue Badge Tour Guide course at Queen’s University which proved to be one of the most intense years of my life.”

“We had training in delivering Walking Tours and Coach Tours and I was often at Mount Stewart in County Down with external examiners giving Walking Tours or being dropped off at random places in Belfast and expected to be able to conduct a tour from there. Don’t forget this was before we became such a popular destination for tourists and some of my friends questioned my logic of becoming a tour guide. But just look at this place. You are only ever one small step away from amazing coastal views or stunning countryside and the people are just the warmest and friendliest. It’s those things combined which, for me, encapsulates ‘Embrace a Giant Spirit’. Visitors also love our accent and are amazed at how it can change even within the space of a few miles. I love language and I love people – it never fails to make me smile when a non-English speaking visitor wants me to give them a local saying such as, “the craic’s great” so they can use it in the hotel bar.”

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