The virus thwarted our plans not once, not twice. Originally, we planned to fly to Budapest, after Hungary was closed, it was supposed to be Italy, and we ended up in… Northern Ireland. It even turned out well, because usually, having 3 days off, we go somewhere abroad, and the more distant corners of Ireland simply elude us. Initially, we wanted to visit Donegal, but in the end we spent the whole 3 and a half days in Northern Ireland and we don’t regret it! We wanted to share with you what to see in Northern Ireland!
Belfast – What to see in Northern Ireland
This wasn’t our first time in Belfast so we didn’t pay much attention to the city itself and only spent half a day there. This was enough for us to eat and drink in some great places, and to visit some of the most important tourist attractions on foot, Belfast does not take too much time. We noticed the resemblance to Brussels, Belfast is also a city that does not overly impress, but catches the eye with a great combination of old and modern architecture.
One of our favourite places is the St. George’s Market where you can buy products and eat something warm. Belfast is a city of murals, both historical, related to “The Troubles”, as well as modern. Finding them around town is great fun. The history of Belfast is truly fascinating and although it is not our favourite city, we believe that it cannot be missed. And about Belfast itself, sooner or later there will be a separate post!
The Gobbins – What to see in Northern Ireland?
The Gobbins is a 5km path along the cliff. You cannot go there on your own, the trip costs £ 20 per person and takes 2-3 hours. Why so long? The leading guide stops often and tells about the history of this place, which is extremely interesting! It can be said that engineer Berkeley Deane Wiseta also started modern tourism in Northern Ireland. It all started with the Dublin – Kingston railroad, which, after expansion, attracted people to these areas.
Berkeley had the idea to build a cliff route where the working class could enjoy spending their free time by the sea. The original The Gobbins path was opened in 1902, the path was closed in 1954. Several dozen years after its closure, it was renovated in 2012 and was reopened to the public in 2015. Before entering the path, you must undergo health and safety training, trekking shoes are mandatory (you can rent on site), and you also get a helmet.
In our opinion, the path and the whole trip were not as physically difficult as we were presented with. Even if you do not have the condition of Usain Bolt, you can safely go there! Bit exaggerated.
Glenariff Forest Park – What to see in Northern Ireland?
We went to this place mainly to see Glenariff Falls, and we felt in love! Forests in Ireland are not particularly popular and forests with nice paths for walking and trekking are something special. We do not know whether you have to pay for admission or parking in the high season, because there was no living soul there after the season. The path leading to the waterfalls is a 3 km long loop with a low level of difficulty. Great place to walk and the views along the way are really beautiful! Next time we will go back to do the ‘Scenic Trail’ which is 8 kilometres.
Torr Head – What to see in Northern Ireland?
Torr Head is one of the places that has gained popularity thanks to Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get to the headland, because … another film was shot there. However, from what we have seen, we can say that the place is picturesque enough, but the place you will read below probably surpasses the views of Torr Head, and is very close!
Fair Head – What to see in Northern Ireland?
Fair Head is an amazing place! Do not be afraid of the road that leads there, at the end there are parking lots on private properties, which are paid, but probably not guarded by anyone (money is thrown into the piggy bank). We can start the trek from the parking lot, and there are several routes to choose from, so you can spend the whole day there!
We only went to the nearest peak, because we didn’t have time to do any of the loops. The views from Fair Head are truly amazing, the cliffs, greenery and the ocean make an electrifying impression! There are also two lakes on Fair Head which some routes lead around.
The Dark Hedges – What to see in Northern Ireland?
Another famous spot from Game of Thrones is Dark Hedges, an extremely picturesque avenue of beech trees. Crossing the avenue by car is prohibited. The official entrance is from the Gracehill House Golf Course, leave your car there, pay £ 2 for parking and off you go. If you enter from the other side, after a few dozen meters there is a bay where you can park for free, but in high season it can be crowded there, and it is semi legal. We recommend to be there for sunrise / early morning because of the great light for photos and less people.
Carrick-e-Rede Rope Bridge What to see in Northern Ireland?
Picturesquely situated, connecting the mainland with a small island, the Carrick-e-Rede rope bridge is one of the main attractions of Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, during our stay it was closed due to a virus and we only admired it from the parking lot nearby. It is worth going there in nice weather. Tickets can normally be booked here.
Ballintoy Harbor – What to see in Northern Ireland?
One of the places that turned out to be beautiful, we didn’t know much about it and we were close to taking it off the list. Ballintoy is gorgeous! The sea crashes against the rocks there, you can go for a walk and the views will only get better. Turning left towards Elephant Rock, which is an rock with a shape of an elephant, will get you the best landscape – small, hidden beaches, rocks rising from the water, hills, caves. The best time to go there is the sunset, the golden light and the mist created from the blown sea water create a truly romantic atmosphere!
Giant’s Causeway – What to see in Northern Ireland?
The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Northern Ireland. Nothing to be surprised about, tightly arranged, hexagonal basalt columns create an extremely interesting sight. There is not much you can write about this place – you have to see it and that’s it! The entrance is free, we don’t know about the parking lot at the visitors centre, because we were there after it was closed.
Dunluce Castle – What to see in Northern Ireland?
The picturesque ruins of Dunluce Castle make a really big impression. The place is close to the road and it’s really hard to miss!
Mussenden Temple – What to see in Northern Ireland?
The Mussenden Temple is a temple that was built in 1785 in the picturesque surroundings of Downhill Desmene. The temple was part of the estate of Frederick Augustus Hervey, who was Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristol (as they say – they know how to splash the cash). Built right on the edge of the cliff with beach unfolding below makes it truly breath-taking setting. The closest to the temple is from the Lions Gate car park, admission is £ 6.5.
Bineveanagh – What to see in Northern Ireland?
Another place that we almost gave up on, but it turned out to be simply fantastic. Getting to Bineveanagh is not easy, you drive on a gravel road and we didn’t really know until the end if you could ride it at all. At the end there is a parking lot and a lake, and then it only gets better … We headed towards the hill, where we saw a lot of people and the view that appeared in front of us was just WoW! It turned out that on the other side of the hill there is an edge and amazing views, Mount Bineveanagh towers over the slopes of a lowland plain, and in the distance you can see the sea. Parking in this place is free, and you probably won’t meet tourists there.
Northern Ireland – where to sleep?
Belfast – a great accommodation base, Belfast will be perfect for everyone who wants to be in the city and have a place to go out in the evening.
Ballycastle – a small seaside town with a beach promenade. It is located less than 15 minutes’ drive from the Dark Hedges and a stone’s throw from Fairy Head and Torr Head. There are several pubs and bars in the village, so there is no boredom in the evening.
Portrush – a seaside resort, or rather a resort. A good base for Dunluce Castle and Giant’s Causeway.
Portsteward – another pleasant seaside resort with a long promenade along the sea. It’s hard to find an ordinary grocery there, and the number of ice cream parlours and good pubs can make you dizzy!
Northern Ireland – How much time to spend?
We had 3.5 days and we managed to see a lot, but this time we didn’t rush that much. We ran out of time in Derry/Londonderry and spent only half a day in Belfast. If you want to see all of Northern Ireland, not just the coast like us, you will need around 7 days. It’s worth spending one day on Belfast, Derry/Londonderry is half a day, and on top of the coast, the mountains in County Down are extremely interesting. In short – there is a lot to do! However, if you do not have that much time, 2-5 days will allow you to see a bit and arouse your appetite for more.
Northern Ireland – How to visit?
We will always insist that the best and most convenient way to travel in Ireland is by car. Having your own car or renting a car, you will be able to get to all places, and trust us – public communication reaches only a few of them. If you do not have a car or you do not want to rent a car – we recommend checking the offer of organized tours available in Dublin or Belfast.
You will get to larger towns by train or public buses, but you will not get to places where nature makes the greatest impression. When renting a car in the Republic of Ireland, remember to report your trip to Northern Ireland at the rental company (and vice versa with NI to ROI) – crossing the border requires additional insurance and is often additionally payable.
If you have more time during your trip to Ireland and you can afford to see something outside of Northern Ireland, we highly recommend spending at least two days in County Donegal, and also do quick stop in Sligo!