A Weekend Away: Places to Visit in Northern Ireland
Are you looking for a quick weekend trip that's within the UK but promises adventure and a sense of escapism? Then Northern Ireland is your answer! This incredible place, located in the province of Ulster that’s just a stone's throw across the Irish Sea, is the ideal location for an invigorating break! With so many attractions, Northern Ireland is a must-visit for people of all ages. Whether you're looking for mountain hikes, incredible scenery, rich history and culture, or the Game of Thrones' film sets, we bet you're going to fall in love with this beautiful corner of the world! Before jetting off to this picture-perfect place, however, there's a couple of things to consider. Firstly, don't forget the climes of where you're heading – Ireland is known for it's wind and rain, so you better pack your best windbreaker! Secondly, plan your trip. With so much to discover, narrowing down your itinerary can be tricky – especially if you've only got 48 hours to play with! So, let us offer you a little guidance... Read on and discover our top travel tips for a wonderful weekend in Northern Ireland.
Is Belfast worth visiting?
No visit to Northern Ireland is complete without a night or two in the heart of Belfast; this buzzing capital city is certainly worth a visit! A vibrant and lively place, it's an urban centre with so much to offer and is the perfect starting point for exploring the country. Steeped in history and culture, you will find enjoyable activities here for adventurers of all ages. If we were to recommend one 'must-visit' place in this dynamic city, it would have to be Titanic Belfast. Located at the historic site where the world-famous passenger liner was built, this award-winning experience tells the story of the RMS Titanic, from her ground-breaking conception right through to her tragic maiden voyage. Housed in an iconic building that’s conveniently located in the centre of town, the Titanic Belfast tour will take a few hours to complete. Since it’ll keep you on your feet, the occasion will definitely require some supportive walking shoes!
If you want to take in the capital in its entirety, then the perfect place to appreciate the beauty of Belfast City is from the peak of Cave Hill. This famous landmark, with an imposing outline visible throughout the city, acquired its name from the five caves located on the sides of its cliffs. You will find many archaeological and historical features here, one being Belfast Castle. The trek up this basalt hill is not the easiest of climbs, but it's well worth the effort for the panoramic views of the city you'll find once you reach the top.
What are some fun, family-friendly activities in Northern Ireland?
Northern Ireland is a treasure trove of things to do, for people of all ages. If you're bringing the kids with you on your few days away, a great activity that the whole family can enjoy is exploring the country’s forest parks. While the northern coast is lined with beautiful sandy beaches, inland you'll find thousands of hectares of dense forest. A visit to a forest park is a great way to explore hidden lakes, ancient ruins and undiscovered paths. One of the best places for this is Slieve Gullion Forest Park in County Armagh. Trek through 2000 years of legend and history to the summit of Armagh's highest peak, where you'll be greeted with incredible views across the Ring of Gullion. Afterwards, you can reward the kids for their uphill exertions by heading to the Adventure Playground or the Children's Story Trail.
If you're confident that everyone in the family can handle the waves, then why not allot some time to taking in some of Northern Ireland's stunning coastline from the sea! A boat trip along the Causeway Coast is a great way to explore some of the wildlife and scenic sights that Northern Ireland has to offer. There are lots of excursions and tours available that allow you to appreciate the country's golden beaches, rugged cliff tops, dramatic mountains and craggy peaks from a totally different angle. So, whether you want to encounter some marine life, enjoy bird watching or discover some familiar Game of Thrones locations, jump aboard – you'll be sure to keep everyone happy!
There are so many things to witness in this beautiful part of the world, so what are the top landmarks that you must see?
The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland's first official UNESCO World Heritage site, is likely one of the first landmarks that comes to mind when you think about this corner of Ireland. Located in County Antrim, these 40,000 basalt stone columns left behind by volcanic eruptions along the North Coast many years ago create a beautiful, dramatic landscape. They're home to a wealth of history and legend, namely that of the Irish giant, Finn McCool. This geological wonder should definitely be on your list of top places to visit during your trip!
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is another must-visit, and it's not far from the Giant's Causeway. A rickety bridge between the mainland's cliff edge and Carrick Island, suspended 30 metres across the raging sea and razor-sharp rocks, this is not one for the faint hearted (in particular those with a fear of heights)! But, if you make it across, you can expect impressive views of the Irish coast and even Scotland!
For any Game of Thrones fans out there, a trip to Northern Ireland wouldn't be complete without visiting some of the series' filming locations dotted across the country. The Dark Hedges (Kingsroad in GoT) is an avenue consisting of 150 magnificent beech trees, all lining Bregagh Road. We definitely recommend setting off on a stroll and stopping for a photo opportunity along this dramatic tunnel of trees.
With so many major tourist attractions in Northern Ireland, what are some hidden gems you haven't seen yet?
If you're looking to avoid large groups of tourists and want something a little more off the beaten track, why not explore Glenariff Forest Park in County Antrim. Spanning over 1,000 hectares and known as the 'Queen of the Glens', it is one of the nine Antrim Glens of Northern Ireland. If you decide to take a trip here, you'll find rocky gorges and magnificent waterfalls which give life to lush flora and teeming fauna. Alternatively, you could take in the breathtaking views at the peak of the Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk in County Fermanagh. Nicknamed the Stairway to Heaven, this boardwalk meanders through one of the vastest areas of blanket blog (a type of peatland found in only a few areas of the world) in Northern Ireland. If you make it to the top, you'll get to appreciate the mesmerising views of the surrounding lowlands.
What can you do in Northern Ireland on a sunny day and what is the best part of this beautiful country to travel around?
A sunny day in Northern Ireland always calls for a trip to the beach, so why not make a visit to Portstewart Strand! This two-mile long stretch of white sand beach wraps along the Northern Ireland coastline. One of the country's most beautiful and scenic beaches, it is definitely one of the best places to visit on a dry day! What's more, you can enjoy surfing, swimming and even horse riding here! That being said, if you want to pick just one particular area of Northern Ireland to spend your weekend getaway, then we would have to say that the Antrim Coast is the best places to spend a magical 48 hours. This incredible location is home to many of the places we have already mentioned (like Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and the Giant's Causeway), but there are so many other incredible places to see here, like Dunluce Castle, Ballintoy Harbour and the sheer beauty of Rathlin Island.
Look ahead and plan your visit now
It’s safe to say that there is no end of things to see and do in this small but magnificent part of the globe. So, pack your raincoats, your fleeces and your hiking boots, and book a trip to Northern Ireland! With its many beautiful landscapes, rugged coastline and rich history, this country really is a must-see that should absolutely be on your list of places to visit this year.