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Northern Ireland county named friendliest place in UK

By Cate McCurry

Published 16/05/2016

Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh
Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh

It's already known for its stunning scenery and now it has been named the friendliest place in the whole of the UK.

Beautiful  County Fermanagh came top in a survey to find the UK's most neighbourly places.

It showed Northern Ireland is friendlier than anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales, with Fermanagh topping the list of counties ahead of Armagh and Antrim.

First Minister Arlene Foster, who hails from Co Fermanagh, said she was not surprised.

"It's not the first time that Fermanagh people have been described as the friendliest people in the country," she said. "I'm not sure what factors contribute to making Fermanagh people so friendly, but the scenery and the rural way of life must surely be key ingredients.

"Since being elected as First Minister I have been encouraging people everywhere to be proud of Northern Ireland.

"I want to help create an environment where every young person is as proud of Northern Ireland as I am. It's not a surprise this survey is now recognising us for our hospitality. I am delighted with the news."

All of Northern Ireland's counties made the top 10 friendliest spots across the UK - with the province dominating the top six.

The findings emerged after a study by the Big Lottery's Big Lunch, which aims to bring communities together and reduce loneliness and isolation. Now in its eighth year, The Big Lunch is an idea from the Eden Project, made possible by the Big Lottery Fund. It aims to get as many people as possible to have lunch with their neighbours in a simple act of community, friendship and fun.

Last year there were hundreds of Big Lunches across Northern Ireland, with tens of thousands of people taking part.

As many as 240,000 people in Northern Ireland have participated in a Big Lunch over the last five years.

Larger Big Lunches include one that starts and ends the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival in Ballycastle, and an annual gathering in the grounds of Castle Upton in Templepatrick.

Belfast Friendship Club, a forum to bring people of different backgrounds together, organised a Big Lunch alongside City Church, in the south of the city, and Common Grounds Cafe in June last year.

It's not the first time Co Fermanagh has been recognised for its friendly nature - last year the Lakeland county was named the happiest place to live in the UK.

A study by the Office for National Statistics found people living in Fermanagh and Omagh rated themselves the happiest on a scale of zero to 10.

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