While it may be a small region, what Northern Ireland lacks in size it certainly makes up for in, well, everything else. Home to a dramatic coast, medieval castles, green landscapes, Celtic structures, friendly people, and varied history, Northern Ireland has a ton to discover and experience.
My recent trip to Northern Ireland showed me a lot of what the region has to offer. From the best in culture, nature and history, these are the top ten things to do in Northern Ireland!
Top 10 Things To Do in Northern Ireland
Explore Giant’s Causeway
Legend has it that when Irish Giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) picked a fight with Scottish Giant Benandonner, he built a path of around 40,000 stepping-stones that led him all the way from the coast of Northern Ireland to Scotland. When Benandonner saw this, he ripped up the path and left behind what is now Giant’s Causeway.
Of course, if you’re more scientifically inclined, then you’ll be keen to note that Giant’s Causeway consists of interlocking basalt columns created about 60 million years ago by a volcanic fissure eruption. The site is located on the North Coast in County Antrim, and there’s nothing like hanging out on the columns and watching the sea dampen the rocks below. This is also a top photography spot, so be sure to bring your camera!
Walk on Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Used for over 200 years by fisherman who relied on Carrick-A-Rede Island as being one of the best salmon fishing spots in the area, the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge spans about 20 meters and links the mainland to the island.
Not only will crossing this bridge give you a rush of adrenaline as you look down to see the sea crashing into the rocks 30 meters below, but you’ll get some unreal views of Scotland and Rathlin Island when you’re on the island as well.
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Take a Helicopter Tour
For a truly unique way to see Northern Ireland, I definitely recommend taking a helicopter tour with Cutting Edge Helicopters. With many different tours to choose from including a Giant’s Causeway Spectacular Tour, a Mussenden Temple Experience, and a LegenDerry adventure, taking a tour will simultaneously give you a history lesson and some can’t-be-beat views.
Visit Titanic Belfast
Whether or not you’re a connoisseur of all things Titanic, a visit to the Titanic Belfast museum is an absolute must-do during your visit to Belfast. Not only does this museum have great interactive exhibits on the Titanic itself, it has exhibits honoring Belfast’s maritime heritage and early 20th-century boomtown status.
The museum is built on the site of what used to be the Harland & Wolff shipyard, where the RMS Titanic was constructed.
Tour Old Bushmills Distillery
Touted as being Ireland’s oldest licensed distillery, The Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim makes the iconic Bushmills Irish Whiskey, and was one of the first distilleries to make both single malts and blended whiskeys in the world.
Whether you’re keen on a distillery tour or a tasting experience, the Old Bushmills Distillery simply can’t be missed. Oh, and if you get a chance, definitely try out some of their whiskey jelly – it’s so unique and delicious!
Visit Dunluce Castle
Nestled on the high coastal cliffs of County Antrim since around 1500, Dunluce Castle is now a gorgeous, iconic ruin with a dramatic history. Without getting into too many of the specifics, the castle changed familial hands many times before the corner of it collapsed into the sea, and afterwards fell into disrepair.
Have a Pint in Belfast
For a quintessential Irish experience, grabbing a pint at one of the many pubs in Belfast is an absolute must. Belfast is a town filled to the brim with traditional pubs, all of which will be proud to serve you either a Guinness or the Belfast equivalent – a Yardsman Double Stout.
While you’re on the hunt for the perfect pub, take yourself on a bit of a self-guided street art tour. Belfast is home to some really great street art; many pieces with cultural and political references.
Take a Game of Thrones Tour
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan in Ireland, there’s no better way to see all the Westeros sites and get the insider stories than by taking a Game of Thrones Tour with Giant Tours Ireland.
On the tour, you’ll visit The Stormlands (Larrybane Quarry), Dragonstone Cliffs (Fair Head, Ballycastle), Lordsport Harbour and Pyke (Ballintoy Harbour), The Kingsroad (The Dark Hedges), and so much more.
Climb to the Top of Cave Hill
Not only is a climb to the top of Cave Hill a great way to get unparalleled views of Belfast, but it’s also awesome for exploring the five caves located on the cliffs, checking out Belfast Castle, and discovering interesting archaeological sites. The hill is located in Cave Hill Country Park, which also features a playground for kids.
While it is a moderate to challenging route, the hike is totally worth it for the vantage points along the way.
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Visit the Titanic Quarter
Right on the waterfront in Belfast, the Titanic Quarter features film studios, historical landmarks, an entertainment district and, of course, Titanic Belfast.
While in the Titanic Quarter, you can take a tour via Segway, boat, or foot, check out the HMS Caroline, or visit Titanic’s Dock and Pump House.
Where to Stay in Northern Ireland
The Bullitt Hotel
Located right in Belfast’s city centre, The Bullitt Hotel has 74 modernly-styled, simple rooms. Plus, if you like to eat breakfast on the go, they offer daily Grub to Go bags filled with yogurt, granola, and fruit.
At The Beach B&B
If you’re into gorgeous sea views and stretches of sandy beach, then the luxurious At The Beach B&B in Portstewart is for you. This cute B&B has bright, open-concept rooms that will make you feel right at home. Oh, and make sure to try out their breakfast — it tends to feature a lot of fresh seafood options!
Located right near the Old Bushmills Distillery and Giant’s Causeway in the town of Bushmills, Bushmills Inn is a luxury retreat that was originally a Coaching Inn as early as the 1600’s. The 41 individually styled-rooms feature traditional luxury with a cozy, modernized flair, and the property even features a cinema.
Slieve Donard Resort and Spa
The gold standard of Irish luxury, the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa in Newcastle is an award winning property that is perched on six acres of immaculate private grounds. The hotel features 180 traditionally decorated rooms, spa facilities, and is in close proximity to one of the best golf courses in the country.