Who better to guide you in Northern Ireland than Derry Girls“Sister Michael? This is not a rhetorical question, as there is a much better guide. Siobhán McSweeney, the woman best known for playing Sister Michael, was born and raised in County Cork before moving to London to study acting.

It is her own discovery of Northern Ireland, and the links she establishes with the land of her ancestors and her birth that make each episode of Explore Northern Ireland unmissable viewing.

There is no shortage of historical documentaries or feature stories about Northern Ireland depicting it as a place of war, terrorism and danger. There is also no shortage of travel documentaries that depict an Ireland of pubs, greenery and cheerful accents. McSweeney manages over four episodes to reveal the spirit of Northern Ireland through its landscapes and people, while maintaining an irreverent and mischievous vibe. She is, after all, a Derry Girl.

Explore Northern Ireland achieved what many glossy travel shows and dark documentaries fail to do: convey a place and people that exist nownot as symbols of a country’s past or examples of headlines, but as refreshing human beings.

Last year, McSweeney confessed to The Times that she had struggled with crisis after crisis. Indeed, only a few months after this interview, she broke her leg and had to withdraw from the accommodation. The Great Pottery Challenge. As an asthmatic, she had also spent much of the pandemic protecting herself from exposure. These struggles and her determined, curious and resilient nature make her extremely magnetic as a guide.

In her usual funny way, McSweeney reveals to viewers that she got a call asking her to go on a series of trips. His answer ?

“Am I going to the Maldives? Am I going to the Bahamas? Am I going to the Seychelles? No, Siobhán McSweeney, you’re going to Northern Ireland.

before her Derry Girls role in 2018, she was a foreigner to Northern Ireland. As we follow, we see her taking on the duties of a rowing coxswain, descending underground in a geopark, climbing ancient mountains and leaping into icy ocean waters, kayaking ( imperfectly), having an obviously brilliant time. There is no woman we would rather live with vicariously.

“What surprised me the most, I think, was for such a small geographical area how diverse all the places were,” McSweeney told Channel 4 News. This incredible diversity is in the spotlight: from the city of Belfast to the beautiful sunny beaches and the spectacular mountains.

“I was really confused and hurt by how people I knew who were smart, educated and really interested in the world had huge black spots when it came to Northern Ireland and Ireland in general, and by extension, their own story,” she says. .

Before you shyly look away at this point, let me admit it, too. I’ve read all of Adrian McKinty’s detective novels in which there are constant checks for car bombs and vile battles between Catholics and Protestants. My idea of ​​Northern Ireland was that of a grey, drizzly urban center surrounded by bare rural land and austere farmers.

Whether you connect because you are a Derry Girls fan, or because you know and love Ireland, or because, like me, you’ve never been to Northern Ireland and want the ultimate funny, reverent and irrepressibly funny host in one of the places the most wonderfully majestic in the world, this series is for you.

Look at it from the top down, rather than diving in, because it makes sense to experience Northern Ireland alongside McSweeney, as his unseen accomplice. The second episode, where she reveals the breathtaking Morne Mountains, is a highlight, as is Lough Erne in episode three.

While exploring Northern Ireland – or anywhere – with the stern and, frankly, creepy Sister Michael isn’t an appealing prospect, Siobhan McSweeney does the job as a tour guide. If she takes on the rest of the world, count on us for that too. As the Irish proverb says, “Let the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm on your face; the rains fall gently on your fields…”

And may Siobhan McSweeney always be your travel guide.

Four-part series Explore Northern Ireland premieres at 8:30 p.m., Saturday, March 5 on SBS. Episodes air weekly.

Double episodes of Derry Girls airs from 9:25 p.m. Monday nights on SBS VICELAND. Limited episodes air, but not for long, on SBS On Demand.