The Perfect 7 Days Northern Ireland Road Trip Itinerary

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Coastlines fashioned by warring giants. Historic shipyards. Political uprisings. The King within the North (sure, that is a Game of Thrones reference). These issues and extra are all tied to Northern Ireland and make it an enchanting place to go to.

But too many individuals go to Northern Ireland fleetingly, possibly dedicating a day or two to Belfast and Giant’s Causeway as a part of an extended journey within the neighboring Republic of Ireland. This is a disgrace, as Northern Ireland really deserves a visit all its personal – or, on the very least, greater than only a day or two.

If you are interested by planning a visit simply to deal with Northern Ireland, then this itinerary is for you! It hits up all of the highlights in Northern Ireland in a single week, from the historical past in Belfast and Derry to the beautiful Causeway Coast to even an opulent spa resort if that is your factor.

Belfast view from the Observatory Bar
Belfast views
Amanda and Elliot at Giant's Causeway
Amanda and Elliot at Giant’s Causeway

Feel free to make use of this Northern Ireland itinerary that can assist you plan your personal journey!

ONE NOTE: Northern Ireland shares an island with the Republic of Ireland, although Northern Ireland continues to be politically part of the United Kingdom. For the needs of this submit, I’m going by the present political borders when it comes to what’s “in” Northern Ireland, and in addition referring to it as Northern Ireland!

The greatest time to go to Northern Ireland

Like many of the remainder of the UK and Ireland, the summer time months are normally considered the “best” time to go to. From May-September, you may have extra of an opportunity of experiencing some sunny days – although you may nonetheless undoubtedly need to pack a raincoat, too!

I’ve visited totally different elements of Northern Ireland a number of instances, all in the summertime or early fall, and I’d agree that May-September is one of the best time to go. (The explicit highway journey I’m basing this itinerary on was in September, and you may see in my pictures what the climate was like!)

Amanda in a yellow raincoat beside a large rock at Kinbane Castle
No matter once you go to, you may desire a good raincoat!

Where to begin your Northern Ireland highway journey

This explicit itinerary is greatest carried out by automotive. I understand driving within the UK can appear intimidating to some, however you actually do get used to driving on the left faster than you’d suppose. (And for my American readers, you do not want any particular permits to drive in Northern Ireland; your US driver’s license works.)

You *can* journey round Northern Ireland through public transport, however you may have a lot extra freedom to go to all of the spots I’m suggesting with your personal set of wheels.

Need to lease a automotive in Northern Ireland? I like to make use of Auto Europe to match costs. Search for a rental automotive right here. (I’d counsel a small-ish automotive to make driving simpler!)

As for the place to begin, this highway journey itinerary begins and ends in Belfast. You might, nevertheless, additionally begin your journey in Dublin (which is only a 2-hour drive from Belfast), or finish in Galway. Meaning sure, you’ll be able to completely mix this highway journey with a highway journey within the Republic of Ireland. If you may have greater than only a week, I’d undoubtedly suggest it!

1 week Northern Ireland highway journey itinerary

Dark Hedges row of trees in Northern Ireland
Let’s go discover Northern Ireland!

This itinerary relies on a number of journeys (and one highway journey) I’ve personally taken to Northern Ireland. I’m suggesting you dedicate every week to this journey with a view to really savor it and never rush an excessive amount of – however I’ll offer you some options on the finish for how one can shorten this up a bit if it’s worthwhile to!

Highlights of this Northern Ireland itinerary embody:

  • Learning concerning the historical past of Belfast
  • Driving scenic routes
  • Exploring castles and chateau ruins
  • Crossing the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
  • Visiting the UNESCO-recognized Giant’s Causeway
  • Touring a distillery
  • Staying at a spa resort
  • Walking historical metropolis partitions in Derry/Londonderry
  • And extra!

Day 1: Explore Belfast

Highlights of in the present day embody: A political Black Taxi Tour, visiting Crumlin Road Gaol, seeing Belfast City Hall within the metropolis heart, and exploring the Cathedral Quarter.

The Spire of Hope atop St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast
The Spire of Hope atop St. Anne’s Cathedral

Belfast is the capital metropolis of Northern Ireland, being house to simply below 300,000 folks. Its trendy historical past dates again to the early 1600s, and it rose to prominence by the 1700s due to its linen business and shipbuilding yards (a bit of ship known as Titanic was constructed right here… possibly you have heard of it).

Belfast was severely broken by air raids throughout World War II, and skilled a decline in economic system and inhabitants after the battle because it struggled with demand for its major industries, adopted by many years of political unrest.

Today, nevertheless, the town is bouncing again due to issues like tourism and the movie business. Belfast nonetheless feels tough across the edges in elements, nevertheless it’s additionally grow to be a cool European capital with good pubs, a lot of avenue artwork, and a younger inhabitants.

Morning: Black Taxi Tour

Dividing gate in Belfast
A dividing gate nonetheless standing in Belfast

Chances are if you already know something about Belfast, you already know (or at the very least have heard) about The Troubles, a interval of violent clashes and terrorist-style bombings that plagued cities throughout Northern Ireland for roughly 30 years. But in the event you’re like me, you most likely know little or no about what the truth of life in Belfast was like throughout that point – or what marks these years have left on the town.

To get a greater understanding of The Troubles, I extremely suggest happening a historic Black Taxi tour of Belfast. These excursions are supplied by licensed taxi drivers in Belfast who’ve private ties to the occasions that befell within the metropolis from 1968-1998; most of them grew up or labored in divided elements of the town.

On a tour like this, you may study concerning the numerous issues that result in the battle (a sophisticated combination of politics and faith performed a task), and listen to tales of spiritual discrimination, paramilitary teams, starvation strikes, and rather more. Each tour is barely totally different based mostly in your information and what their expertise was like in Belfast throughout these years, which I feel is fairly cool.

You is perhaps shocked to study that elements of Belfast are nonetheless divided by partitions and fences and gates. You’ll drive previous or by among the gates, and go to the biggest wall (the “Peace Wall”) that also serves as a border between a Catholic and Protestant neighborhood.

Visiting the painted Peace Wall in Belfast
Visiting the Peace Wall with our driver in Belfast

I truthfully do not suppose you’ll be able to absolutely perceive Belfast with out happening a tour like this. Learn extra about what a Black Taxi tour in Belfast is like.

(Don’t let the outline flip you off; these excursions are very secure. While you may not need to go wandering on Falls Road or Shankhill Road by yourself as a vacationer, it is secure to go on a tour like this!)

RELATED: Belfast and Its Troubles: What a Black Taxi Tour in Belfast is Like

There are a LOT of Black Taxi corporations providing excursions round Belfast. They all are very comparable, they usually all make the most of drivers who lived (and generally labored) by The Troubles. The excursions provide informative, pretty balanced excursions of each “sides” of Belfast.

Some Black Taxi tour choices to take a look at embody:

And listed here are another historic Belfast excursions that cowl the identical materials:

Bobby Sands mural in Belfast
One of the Belfast murals you may go to to study concerning the starvation strike of Bobby Sands

Late morning: Crumlin Road Gaol

To praise what you may hear and study in your Black Taxi tour, chances are you’ll need to go to the Crumlin Road Gaol subsequent. This excessive safety jail (gaol means “jail” in Irish) dates again to 1846, however grew to become most well-known for imprisoning each Republicans and Loyalists throughout The Troubles.

“The Crum,” because it’s identified colloquially, hasn’t served as a jail since 1996. Today, the positioning presents guided historic excursions, and can also be (a bit weirdly) an leisure and occasion venue. (You can purchase a ticket prematurely right here.)

Afternoon: Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall exterior with a green lawn
Belfast City Hall

Head again into the town heart within the afternoon for a little bit of wandering. One website you’ll be able to’t miss (actually, it is enormous and you will undoubtedly discover it) is Belfast City Hall. Sitting in Donegall Square, the enduring green-domed constructing is among the most iconic buildings in Belfast. It dates again to 1906, and is the town’s major civic constructing.

Visitors can take free guided excursions inside City Hall (it’s worthwhile to register on the customer exhibition/guided excursions reception), or you’ll be able to discover the monuments, memorials, and gardens outdoors by yourself, together with the Titanic Memorial Garden.

Evening: Cathedral Quarter

Just to the north of Belfast’s metropolis heart you may discover the Cathedral Quarter, a buzzy, inventive space with a few of Belfast’s greatest bars. The quarter facilities round Saint Anne’s Cathedral, a Romanesque church identified for its needlelike metal spire. This space was crammed with warehouses, however in the present day these warehouses are crammed with cafes, pubs, comedy golf equipment, and extra.

Be positive to cease by Commercial Court simply outdoors the Duke of York Pub to snap a photograph on the well-known “umbrella street” when you’re right here.

Umbrella alley outside the Duke of York pub in Belfast
Umbrella alley outdoors the Duke of York pub

If you are visiting on a weekend particularly and need to take heed to some dwell conventional music tonight, take a look at pubs just like the Duke of York, White’s Tavern, The Dirty Onion and Yardbird (they really have dwell music 7 nights every week!), and Sunflower Public House.

You can even take a look at the Belfast Traditional Music Trail, which runs guided excursions targeted on conventional Irish music. They provide a public tour on Saturday evenings, or you’ll be able to ebook a non-public tour different nights of the week.

Total driving time in the present day: Less than 20 minutes. The solely place you would possibly have to drive to in the present day is Crumlin Road Gaol; in every single place else is walkable, because the Belfast metropolis heart is pretty small.

Where to remain in Belfast (2 nights): We stayed on the The Fitzwilliam Hotel close to City Hall in Belfast, which is a superb (and but pretty reasonably priced) luxurious lodge choice. Other locations I’d suggest embody Tara Lodge, a small boutique lodge within the Queens Quarter close to Queens University, or the Ibis Belfast City Centre, which is an efficient budget-friendly choice in an excellent location.

Day 2: More Belfast

Highlights in the present day will embody the Titanic Belfast museum, the Botanic Garden and Ulster Museum, a elaborate afternoon tea, and drinks with a view.

Morning: Titanic Belfast

Titanic Belfast museum building
The hanging Titanic Belfast museum

Titanic Belfast is a museum and customer attraction devoted to the Titanic and Belfast’s shipbuilding historical past, and is among the hottest (if not THE hottest) points of interest within the metropolis.

Titanic Belfast is situated within the metropolis’s “Titanic Quarter” (think about that!), a mere 100 meters from the place Titanic’s hull was constructed and launched. The museum covers a whopping 120,000 sq. ft and contains interactive reveals, recreations of the ship’s cabins, and a complete gondola-style journey indoors.

The museum walks you thru the entire story of the Titanic, but in addition touches on Belfast’s historical past as an essential linen manufacturing metropolis earlier than it emerged as a ship constructing powerhouse. I realized quite a bit about Belfast right here!

Also included together with your Titanic Belfast ticket is an opportunity to go aboard the SS Nomadic. Moored at Hamilton Dock throughout the road from Titanic Belfast, the SS Nomadic served as tender boat to RMS Titanic, and is the final remaining White Star Line ship on this planet! The vessel has been restored to look how she did when she ferried passengers to the Titanic, so undoubtedly save time for this.

SS Nomadic tender ship in dry dock in Belfast
Visit the SS Nomadic, too

A be aware on visiting Titanic Belfast: The museum can get very busy, so be ready for crowds! I’m suggesting you go this morning (the sooner, the higher), as peak hours are normally between 11:30 a.m. and three p.m. You undoubtedly ought to ebook your (timed) ticket prematurely, and put together to spend at the very least a pair hours right here to see every part.

Early afternoon: Botanic Garden/Ulster Museum

From the Titanic Quarter, head south of the town heart to the Queens Quarter. Here you’ll be able to go to two fascinating spots close to Queen’s University.

First, Belfast’s Botanic Garden is a superb inexperienced house to go to within the metropolis. The backyard dates again to 1828, and has a beautiful glass home, a palm home crammed with tropical vegetation, a rose backyard, and many strolling trails. Best of all? The backyard is free to go to!

And because you’re there, chances are you’ll as properly additionally go to the Ulster Museum, which is situated throughout the backyard grounds. The museum has a spread of reveals overlaying artwork, historical past, and the pure sciences, and can also be free to go to.

Late afternoon: Afternoon tea

Head again into the town heart this afternoon for a spot of tea. Northern Ireland continues to be politically part of the United Kingdom, keep in mind, and the custom of afternoon tea continues to be alive and properly right here.

There are a number of locations you’ll be able to ebook for a pleasant afternoon tea, together with on the Europa Hotel, Café Parisien, the Merchant Hotel, or the Grand Central Hotel. Prices can fluctuate, however total afternoon teas in Belfast are rather more reasonably priced than what you may discover in, say, London.

Evening: Drinks at The Observatory Bar

Drinks with a view at the Observatory Bar in Belfast
Drinks with a view on the Observatory Bar

The Grand Central Hotel is among the most well-known lodges in Belfast, and its indoor rooftop bar, The Observatory Bar, is one you will not need to miss. With a lot of cozy seating areas and the perfect views of Belfast, that is the proper place to seize a night cocktail.

Day 3: Belfast to Causeway Coast

Highlights of in the present day embody an optionally available coastal stroll OR a go to to a Game of Thrones filming website, lunch at a fortress, and driving the Torr Head Scenic Route.

Causeway Coast from a drone
Causeway Coast, right here we come!

Today you may bid farewell to Belfast and begin heading north in the direction of the unimaginable Causeway Coast. The Causeway Coast encompasses the coastal (and barely inland) areas of Northern Ireland between Belfast and Derry, and is understood for its unimaginable surroundings and historic websites.

On paper, the Causeway Coast covers about 150 miles. But we’ll discover it slowly over a pair days!

Optional morning: Gobbins Walk

I’m suggesting two alternative ways you possibly can begin your day, relying in your private pursuits. The first choice is to stroll the Gobbins Cliff Path, which is situated about half an hour away from Belfast. This adventurous cliff-face stroll takes you throughout bridges and previous caves nearly at sea stage alongside the crashing coast.

The stroll is not essentially a stroll, because it’s 3 miles lengthy out-and-back, and contains the equal of fifty flights of stairs, a few of that are uneven and slim. You can also solely do that stroll as a part of a guided tour that takes 3 hours, so it isn’t a fast cease and requires some pre-planning (you’ll be able to ebook tickets right here).

Optional morning 2: Game of Thrones Studio Tour

The different choice for this morning is to go to the Game of Thrones Studio Tour roughly half an hour south of Belfast. Northern Ireland was a serious filming location for the sequence, and the studio tour permits followers to go behind the scenes in distinctive methods.

Much just like the Harry Potter Studio Tour outdoors of London, the Game of Thrones Studio Tour options units, costumes, props, and extra that had been really used within the present. Stand earlier than giants, stroll by precise units, and even sit on the Iron Throne. You’ll additionally get glimpses into the planning and visible results that went into making the sequence, and luxuriate in some immersive interactive experiences.

This is a extremely enjoyable cease for any Game of Thrones fan, and truthfully can be pleasing for any movie or TV buff. Booking your timed tickets prematurely is very advisable (you’ll be able to ebook forward right here).

Lunch: Glenarm Castle

Whether you select the Gobbins Walk or Winterfell this morning, this afternoon you can begin heading up the coast. I like to recommend stopping at Glenarm Castle for lunch. This coastal property is the ancestral (and present) house of the McDonnell household, Earls of Antrim. It’s nonetheless used as a non-public house by the Earl and Countess of Antrim, however can also be open for excursions on choose dates.

Along with touring the fortress, guests can at all times discover the 18th century Walled Garden, go to the Heritage Center to study concerning the McDonnell household, and see classic vehicles within the Coach House Museum. You can seize espresso or lunch on the Ground at Glenarm Castle, and ice cream at The Milk Parlour.

Afternoon: Cushendun Caves or Glenariff Forest Park

Views near Cushendun
Views close to Cushendun

This afternoon, there’s one other alternative you may make between exploring a reasonably wooded park with waterfalls, or some seaside caves.

Glenariff Forest Park can be the primary attainable cease, not removed from Glenarm Castle. This park is generally woodland, with some lakes and waterfalls and exquisite vibes. Park in the principle parking space and hit one of many 4 mountain climbing trails. (My choose can be the Waterfall Walk, which is lower than 2 miles and principally alongside boardwalks.)

Or, if mountain climbing would not attraction, drive a bit of additional north in the direction of the villages of Cushendall and Cushendun, each quaint little spots with cute cottages and comfortable pubs.

Stop at Cushendun to see the stunning seashore and the Cushendun Caves, a sequence of sea-carved caves that had been utilized in Game of Thrones (it was right here that Melisandre gave beginning to her shadow/demon child). The caves are free to go to and do not take terribly lengthy to stroll round.

Amanda exploring the Cushendun Caves
Exploring the Cushendun Caves

(You *would possibly* be capable of go to each Glenariff Forest Park and the Cushendun Caves, relying on the way you’re doing on time. It’s your name!)

Late afternoon: Torr Head Scenic Route

Just north of Cushendun, you’ll be able to detour off the principle highway onto the Torr Head Scenic Route (the principle highway will flip left; you must flip proper onto Torr Road).

This quick, 15-mile drive between Cushendun and Ballyvoy will not be for the faint of coronary heart (do not let the road down the center of the highway idiot you; it is barely wider than a single lane highway with frequent cliff-like drop-offs on one aspect), however it’s significantly EPIC.

Driving the Torr Head Scenic Route
Driving the Torr Head Scenic Route

You can (and will) cease at Torr Head itself, a dramatic headland with the stays of an 1800s coast guard/signaling station on prime. You can climb as much as the ruins for excellent views in all instructions. On a transparent day, you’ll be able to see Scotland throughout the water!

Also situated off the Torr Head Scenic Route, make a cease at Murlough Bay. You’ll drive down a slim gravel highway and park subsequent to some livestock pastures, after which you’ll be able to stroll alongside a gravel path to the bay itself.

This quiet, protected bay is surrounded by steep, forested hills and is normally fairly empty due to its secluded location. Some say it is one of the crucial stunning spots alongside the Causeway Coast – and I can not actually argue! You can stroll out onto the rocks and even take pleasure in a small sandy seashore at low tide.

Murlough Bay in Northern Ireland
The extremely fairly Murlough Bay

RELATED: 18 Epic Stops Along the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland

Evening: Ballycastle

From Murlough Bay, it is a quick drive to the city of Ballycastle, one of many bigger cities on the Causeway Coast (inhabitants of round 5200). Ballycastle has a stunning massive seashore (Ballycastle Strand) with views of Fair Head, a marina and seafront play park, and loads of cafe and restaurant choices.

Total driving time in the present day: Anywhere from 3 to 4 hours, relying on whether or not you do the Gobbins Walk or the Game of Thrones Studio Tour within the morning.

Where to remain in Ballycastle (1 evening): There are a lot of good choices right here, together with Ballygally Castle (which sure, is an actual fortress!), or the upscale Glass Island B&B. Nearby in Ballintoy, you possibly can additionally ebook in on the cozy Whitepark House.

Day 4: Causeway Coast

Highlights in the present day embody the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, a number of fortress ruins, a good looking seashore, and an optionally available keep at a spa resort.

We’re dedicating most of in the present day to sights alongside the northern Causeway Coast, together with one of the crucial fashionable stops in all of Northern Ireland! Because every part is pretty shut in the present day, you’ll be able to have a lazier morning in order for you and get a barely later begin.

Morning: Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

Start your day on the well-known Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, which isn’t removed from the place you are staying. The website is strictly what it is billed as: a 60-foot-long rope bridge connecting the mainland to a small island.

The bridge was first constructed about 250 years in the past and was traditionally utilized by fishermen to go over to the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede to fish for salmon. Today, it is fully a vacationer attraction managed and maintained by the National Trust in Northern Ireland.

You do should hike from the doorway space/parking zone to get to the bridge (it is about 1 kilometer or .6 miles every method), and the bridge itself is suspended nearly 100 ft above the Atlantic Ocean. Once you cross the bridge you’ll be able to stroll across the small island, however the principle attraction actually is crossing the bridge itself.

Crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

This spot will get very busy throughout the summer time months and on weekends, so it is strongly recommended that you simply ebook your ticket prematurely, or go early within the day (which is why I’m suggesting it as the very first thing in your to-do checklist in the present day). Even then, anticipate a slight wait to cross the bridge.

NOTE: If you solely need to see the bridge however not cross it, you’ll be able to really do the coastal stroll at no cost and do not want a ticket in any respect. The ticket/payment solely applies to crossing the bridge. (You’ll should pay for parking, although, in the event you simply need to do the stroll and skip the bridge.) And additionally be aware that you simply can’t see the bridge itself from the parking space; you may should do the stroll to get shut!

Late morning: Kinbane Castle hike

After the rope bridge, backtrack a bit to the east alongside the coast to go to Kinbane Castle. (Yes, it might make sense to go to Kinbane first to keep away from backtracking, however going to the rope bridge very first thing will hopefully aid you miss the worst of the crowds!)

Kinbane Castle is a small fortress break sat on a craggy limestone headland alongside the Causeway Coast. It does take a bit of effort to achieve, nevertheless it’s personally my favourite fortress break to see!

Kinbane Castle ruins on the Causeway Coast
Kinbane Castle ruins

Kinbane Castle was initially constructed by Colla MacDonnell in 1547. The fortress was largely destroyed by the English within the sixteenth century, nevertheless, and in the present day solely elements of a guard tower are nonetheless standing. But these stays are in such an epic spot!

To get to Kinbane Castle, you do should stroll down 140 steps (and naturally again up them once more). From the underside of the steps, you’ll be able to discover a rocky seashore and all elements of the headland that the fortress was perched upon. The views again towards the mainland are particularly unimaginable and properly well worth the hike.

Kinbane Castle views
Looking again from the headland

Afternoon: White Park Bay Beach

Stop in to the Carrick-A-Rede Bar and Restaurant for lunch, and maybe see Ballintoy Harbor (it was additionally utilized in Game of Thrones). And then I’d additionally suggest stopping at White Park Bay Beach.

Even although chances are you’ll not affiliate the UK and Ireland with seashores, there are lots alongside the coast! White Park Bay is a good looking arc of golden sand that stretches between two headlands. Getting all the way down to the seashore does require a little bit of a stroll by some sand dunes, however you can too get a glimpse of the entire seashore from the parking space.

The seashore is managed by the National Trust, and is a surprising spot to go to (although not an ideal spot to truly swim due to rip currents).

Afternoon: See extra fortress ruins

As you proceed alongside the coast, there are some extra fortress ruins you’ll be able to go to.

Amanda at Dunseverick Castle ruins
Dunseverick Castle ruins

The first past White Park Bay is what’s left of Dunseverick Castle. There’s been a fort or fortress on this craggy promontory since at the very least the fifth century, and it is mentioned to have been attacked by Vikings and visited at the very least as soon as by Saint Patrick. Dunseverick Castle was finally destroyed within the 1600s, and in the present day solely the shadow of a gate tower stays.

From the fortress parking space, it is attainable to stroll down into to boggy valley and climb as much as the fortress website. (Just watch out, as the bottom is spongy and the hills are steep!) You can see the tower up shut, in addition to historical low earthworks surrounding the positioning. (And that is all free!)

A bit additional alongside the coast is Dunluce Castle, the biggest break you’ll be able to go to alongside the Causeway Coast. There’s been a fortification of some sort on this rocky outcrop for greater than 1000 years, however the present fortress ruins are principally from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when Dunluce was the seat of Clan McQuillan, after which Clan MacDonnell.

Dunluce Castle ruins
Dunluce Castle ruins

You can tour the Dunluce Castle ruins and see some historic reveals inside. Just beware that it is mentioned to be haunted by a banshee!

This one does require an entrance payment, and you purchase tickets there on the fortress.

A be aware on the itinerary: Yes, you may be driving proper previous Giant’s Causeway in the present day, however that is not an omission! I’m saving that fashionable website for Day 5 so you’ll be able to spend extra time having fun with it.

Magheracross Car Park & Viewpoint

I’m satisfied that most individuals skip this spot as a result of it is marked as “Magheracross Car Park & Viewpoint” on Google Maps – and what’s thrilling about a carpark? But you actually ought to make a cease after Dunluce Castle.

Walking paths right here result in viewing platforms with views in the direction of Dunluce Castle and a group of white limestone rock formations and sea arches. The views are completely unimaginable, and it is a no-brainer to go to since you’ll be able to see every part at no cost with minimal strolling.

Magheracross Viewpoint (from a drone)
Magheracross Viewpoint (from a drone)
View from Magheracross Viewpoint
And the non-drone view from this viewpoint

Optional night: Galgorm Resort

If you are on the lookout for a little bit of luxurious in your journey to Northern Ireland, then I have to inform you about Galgorm Spa Resort simply outdoors the city of Ballymena. This resort is tucked away on 380 acres of lush parkland with the River Maine operating by it, and presents a wide range of lodging choices, a number of eating places, spa providers, and a singular out of doors “thermal village.”

Elliot and I really stayed right here for two nights throughout our journey, returning right here within the evenings to benefit from the thermal village and gin tastings contained in the resort’s “Gin Library.” You can learn extra about Galgorm right here.

We stayed in a comfy Shepherd’s Hut at Galgorm and actually cherished it.

RELATED: Galgorm Spa Resort in Northern Ireland: Everything to Know Before You Go

Outdoor spa in the Thermal Village at Galgorm
Outdoor spa within the Thermal Village at Galgorm
Galgorm Conservatory
Galgorm Conservatory

Total driving time in the present day: Anywhere between 1 hour and 1 hour 45 minutes, relying on the place you resolve to remain tonight.

Where to remain tonight: You might go for Galgorm like we did. But if that is not your fashion, then two different choices are the award-winning Bayview Hotel in Portballintrae, or The Bushmills Inn Hotel, a comfy boutique lodge in Bushmills that dates all the best way again to the 1600s.

Day 5: Giants Causeway

The major spotlight of in the present day shall be visiting Giant’s Causeway, however you may additionally get to see the Dark Hedges, tour a previous distillery, and discover a cute coastal city.

Morning: Dark Hedges

NOTE: IF you are staying at Galgorm, then it is smart to detour barely to go to the Dark Hedges within the morning, in your solution to Giant’s Causeway. If you are staying in Bushmills or Portballintrae, although, then I’d go straight to Giant’s Causeway and go to the Dark Hedges later within the day.

The Dark Hedges is a spot you have most likely seen pictures of. It’s a lane lined with large, twisted beech bushes that had been initially planted within the 1700s by the Stuart household to line the avenue main as much as their manor, Gracehill House. In the mid-2010s, although, the Dark Hedges had been made well-known due to Game of Thrones and Instagram, and the positioning grew to become a vacationer must-see.

A sunny day at the Dark Hedges
A sunny day on the Dark Hedges

The a part of Bregagh Road the bushes are planted on has been closed to vehicular visitors with a view to defend the bushes, so now it’s worthwhile to park in quite a bit in entrance of the Hedges Hotel and stroll through a wooded path to see the positioning. (And please abide by these new guidelines; parking close to the bushes is actually killing them, and no person needs your automotive ruining their pictures.)

The Dark Hedges will be crowded, however the lane continues to be fairly fairly to see. In the early morning, there’s an opportunity of a foggy, eerie scene and fewer folks.

Morning: Giant’s Causeway

Continue on to Giant’s Causeway, which has a parking zone and National Trust-run customer heart that each open at 9 a.m. Arriving as near that point (or, at the very least earlier than about 10:30 a.m.) is good if you wish to take pleasure in a quieter go to.

Amanda on top of rocks at Giant's Causeway
Want an opportunity at a shot like this? Go early!

Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of 40,000+ interlocking hexagonal basalt columns that had been fashioned throughout an historical volcanic lava move – or by the Irish big Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool), who is claimed to have constructed the Causeway with a view to attain Scotland to problem the large Benandonner. You can imagine whichever origin story you like.

The award-winning Giant’s Causeway customer heart presents a number of methods to study concerning the Causeway, together with audio excursions and guided excursions. Note although that the customer heart “experience” is ticketed, they usually suggest reserving on-line prematurely.

You do not HAVE to pay for the customer heart with a view to go to Giant’s Causeway, nevertheless the ticket contains assured parking and entry to restrooms, so it is truthfully price it. (Otherwise it’s important to park additional away and pay a £10 payment anyway.)

Giant's Causeway columns
Park nearer so you may have extra time right here!

The stones are a slight distance from the customer heart, therefore why I did not counsel you cease on Day 4 for a fast photograph cease. From the customer heart, it is about half a mile to the biggest focus of basalt columns. There are two totally different strolling trails you should utilize to achieve them; one alongside the underside of the cliff (the Blue Trail), and one cliff-top stroll (the Red Trail).

I like to recommend taking the Blue Trail downhill from the customer heart, spending as a lot time as you need exploring the stones (they’re formed completely to behave as pure steps; simply watch out if it is moist!), after which connecting to the cliff-top Red Trail through the Shepherd’s Steps.

Yes, the uphill climb is steep, nevertheless it’s quick, after which it is principally flat or downhill in your method again to the customer heart (and the views from the clifftop are superior!).

Giant's Causeway view from the Shepherd's Steps
View from the Shepherd’s Steps
Giant's Causeway view from the Red Trail
Giant’s Causeway view from the clifftop Red Trail

GOOD TO KNOW: There’s additionally a shuttle bus that runs between the customer heart and the stones through the Blue Trail that you should utilize for a number of kilos additional. This is price it for anybody with mobility points (or in the event you simply do not need to stroll a half-mile uphill on the best way again to the customer heart).

There’s a restaurant at Giant’s Causeway to have lunch at, or you possibly can head into close by Bushmills the place there are a number of pubs and fish and chips outlets to select from.

Afternoon: Old Bushmills Distillery

This afternoon is a superb time to take in some non-scenic historical past. Head to the Old Bushmills Distillery, which is the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland, with a license to make whiskey relationship again to 1608.

You can take a tour of the distillery to study all about Irish whiskey and the way Bushmills makes its triple-distilled “water of life.” Everything they make is distilled, aged, and bottled proper right here. They have three totally different excursions starting from 1-2.5 hours lengthy, and superior reserving is advisable as they do are likely to promote out.

If you have not visited a distillery earlier than, or are a fan of Bushmills, then that is undoubtedly price it. (And, truthfully, even in the event you do not drink whiskey, visiting a distillery to study concerning the historical past and craft can nonetheless be actually fascinating.)

Late afternoon: Portrush

After your distillery tour, head to the city of Portrush, one of many largest on the Causeway Coast, with a inhabitants of about 7000 folks. The city is constructed on a small peninsula, and has a lot of cafes, eating places, and pubs to select from.

You’ll additionally discover the legendary Royal Portrush Golf Club proper on the coast. The golf membership is house to the well-known Dunluce Links, mentioned to be one of the crucial difficult golf programs on this planet.

Total driving time in the present day: 1.5 hours in the event you keep 2 nights at Galgorm; in any other case it is lower than half-hour whole of driving in the present day.

Where to remain tonight: You can both do a second evening at Galgorm (you may have time once more tonight to benefit from the thermal village), or you’ll be able to keep in Portrush on the Elephant Rock Hotel or the Inn on the Coast.

Day 6: To Derry / Londonderry

Highlights in the present day embody some final glimpses of the Causeway Coast, and the historic walled metropolis of Derry.

Derry City street view
Derry City views

Today we’re bidding the Causeway Coast and its views and charming cities farewell, and heading to the second-largest metropolis in Northern Ireland.

Morning: Mussenden Temple

If you stayed in a single day in Portrush (or in the event you do not thoughts detouring barely), then I like to recommend making one final cease alongside the coast at Downhill Demesne, an 18th century property in County Londonderry that is now managed by the National Trust.

The former mansion on the property is generally destroyed, however the actual “star” right here is the Mussenden Temple, a spherical constructing perched proper on a cliff edge that was initially constructed because the property’s library. The spherical, column-covered construction was modeled after the Temple of Vesta in Rome, and is among the most-photographed buildings in Northern Ireland.

NOTE: Many National Trust websites in Northern Ireland are free to go to, however cost for parking. At Mussenden Temple, there’s paid parking at Lion’s Gate. The pay machines are cash-only, however you can too obtain the PayByPhone app earlier than your journey and pay by that in case you have a cell plan in your journey. (I’ve used this app in a number of nations!)

Afternoon: Explore Derry

Driving into Derry/Londonderry
Driving into Derry

Your closing vacation spot in the present day would be the metropolis of Derry/Londonderry. The metropolis goes by each names, and which one is used is commonly based mostly on the political or non secular leanings of the native particular person you are speaking to. (Officially talking, the town and county are known as “Londonderry,” however most locals name it Derry.)

And in the event you’re actually confused about this title debate, then it is a good factor you are going to Derry! Derry was a hotspot for battle throughout The Troubles – in reality, it is typically agreed that the Troubles kicked off in Derry, and you’ve got seemingly heard of Bloody Sunday, which additionally occurred right here.

In order to totally perceive the historical past and present-day actuality in Derry, I extremely suggest a go to to the Museum of Free Derry, in addition to a guided strolling tour by the Bogside neighborhood to find out about Bloody Sunday, and see among the well-known Bogside murals.

Bogside murals in Derry
Bogside murals in Derry

I do know I already advisable a tour targeted on The Troubles in Belfast, nevertheless it’s price studying extra about it on this a part of the nation, too. (Book a Bogside tour right here.)

Also in Derry you may need to stroll the traditional metropolis partitions, which encircle the town heart and date again to the 1600s. The Derry Walls are an iconic a part of Derry, and are nonetheless absolutely intact! The full size alongside the partitions is a few mile, so it will not take you lengthy to stroll them.

(You might additionally be part of a strolling tour with Martin McCrossan City Walking Tours, which incorporates the partitions AND a little bit of Troubles historical past. Tours price £6, and run at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. every afternoon. Booking will not be mandatory; merely present up at 11 Carlisle Road.)

Old gate in the Derry Walls
Old gate within the Derry Walls

You may additionally need to go to the neo-Gothic Guildhall constructing, and take a stroll over the Peace Bridge whereas in Derry.

Evening: Live music

If you are up for an evening out tonight, you’ll be able to’t go fallacious with catching some dwell conventional music at Peadar O’Donnell’s pub.

Day 7: County Fermanagh & Lough Erne

Highlights in the present day focus across the stunning Lough Erne.

Lough Erne
Lough Erne

If you may have this seventh day to spare, then I undoubtedly encourage you to get off the crushed path and discover part of Northern Ireland that so many individuals miss: County Fermanagh.

Morning: Explore Lough Erne

Head south from Derry to the southwest nook of Northern Ireland, the place you may finally attain Lough Erne, the second-biggest lake system in Northern Ireland. There are a number of belongings you will not need to miss alongside the southern aspect of the lake, together with:

  • Lough Navar Forest Drive – A phenomenal one-way loop drive.
  • Cliffs of Magho Viewpoint – Offering up unimaginable views of Lough Erne.
  • Blackslee Waterfall – If you are up for a hike, this 4-mile path traverses by the attractive Blackslee Forest and ends at a reasonably waterfall.
Cliffs of Magho Viewpoint at Lough Erne
Cliffs of Magho Viewpoint

Lunch: Enniskillen

At the jap finish of Lough Erne, you may discover the city of Enniskillen, which really sits on a small island separating Upper and Lower Lough Erne. The city may be very cute and has ample restaurant, cafe, and pub choices alongside Townhall St. (We had an ideal lunch at The Toastery.)

Take a while to stoll and discover city earlier than you permit; maybe store for artwork and crafts on the Buttermarket.

Town of Enniskillen
Town of Enniskillen

Afternoon: Marble Arch Caves

This afternoon, one other cool spot to go to in County Fermanagh is the Marble Arch Caves. This 7.1-mile-long limestone cave system has been developed for guests, with a 1-mile sequence of paths constructed so folks such as you and I can go to.

Guided cave excursions function each day, and it is advisable you ebook tickets prematurely. (I personally skipped this one since I’ve been to a number of caves like this earlier than, however in the event you’ve by no means been it is a distinctive expertise!)

Back to Belfast, or on to Ireland

From there, you’ll be able to both return to Belfast (2 hours), or proceed on over the border into the Republic of Ireland. From Marble Arch Caves, it is 1 hour to Sligo, roughly 2.5 hours to Dublin, and almost 3 hours to Galway.

Total driving time in the present day: From Derry to Lough Erne to Marble Arch Caves, it is about 2.5 hours of driving. Then add on the additional time to get to your subsequent vacation spot.


Only have 5 days in Northern Ireland?

Causeway Coast at Murlough Bay
Causeway Coast at Murlough Bay

If you are including Northern Ireland on to an extended Ireland highway journey, then you definitely may not have a whole week to dedicate to it. In that case, here is how I’d construction 5 days in Northern Ireland:

  • Day 1: Belfast (Black Taxi Tour, Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast City Hall, Cathedral Quarter)
  • Day 2: Belfast (Titanic Belfast museum, Botanic Garden, afternoon tea, drinks at Observatory Bar)
    • Option to swap out half a day on both Day 1 or Day 2 to drive to Winterfell if that appears like extra enjoyable to you.
  • Day 3: Causeway Coast (Glenarm Castle, Torr Head Scenic Route, Kinbane Castle hike, Carrick-a-Rede bridge, Dark Hedges, keep in Ballycastle)
  • Day 4: Causeway Coast (Giant’s Causeway, Old Bushmills Distillery, Magheracross Viewpoint, keep in Portrush)
  • Day 5: Derry (partitions stroll and Bogside tour)

Basically on this shortened itinerary, I’m reducing out staying on the Galgorm Spa Resort, suggesting fewer stops alongside the Causeway Coast, and omitting the day in County Fermanagh.

You might additional shorten this itinerary by spending simply 1 day in Belfast (it IS attainable to go to Titanic Belfast and do a Black Taxi Tour all in in the future in the event you handle your time properly). I’d not minimize something out alongside the Causeway Coast, although, as it is the spotlight of this Northern Ireland highway journey!

Causeway Coast at Giant's Causeway
I imply, significantly, you do not need to miss any of the Causeway Coast!

Want to mix Ireland and Northern Ireland?

Since you are already on the identical island, it does make sense to mix a visit to Northern Ireland with a daily Ireland highway journey.

There are a number of alternative ways you possibly can do that, relying on how a lot time you may have. Assuming you are planning to take roughly a 2-week journey, I’d suggest the 5-day model of this itinerary mixed with my 10-day Ireland highway journey itinerary.

What to pack for a Northern Ireland journey

Check out my packing information for a visit to Ireland; Northern Ireland shares the identical normal climate!

Basically, you are going to need a wide range of layers you’ll be able to placed on/take off, an excellent rain coat, and a few waterproof sneakers.


And that is it! Who’s able to plan a visit to Northern Ireland?

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