Northern Ireland is a destination that offers a little bit of everything. From stunning seascapes to historic cities, there’s so much to see and do that you’ll need to be organized to make the most of your trip. The Causeway Coastal Route is a popular itinerary that takes in volcanic landmarks like the UNESCO-listed Giant’s Causeway, as well as epic beaches, glens, cliffs, and castles. Fans of Game of Thrones will love Northern Ireland’s status as a go-to filming location for outdoor scenes at Winterfell and the Iron Islands. Castle Ward alone has been used several times, and puts on an annual Game of Thrones Festival in September. History buffs will appreciate the 17th-century walls that encase Derry, where real-life sieges took place, and the array of stately homes like Mount Stewart and Castle Coole that testify to the wealth of Northern Ireland’s landed gentry. Join us as we explore the best things to do in this incredible destination.
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1. Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is a must-see destination in Northern Ireland that attracts visitors from all over the world. This natural wonder is made up of approximately 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns that are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The unique and distinct shape of the columns is a fascinating sight that has been shaped by centuries of geological activity. Visitors can take a guided tour of the site to learn more about the area’s geology and folklore, and to explore the rich history and myths surrounding the Causeway. Alternatively, you can simply take a leisurely stroll along the cliff path to take in the stunning views of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Scottish coast, and the rugged countryside of Northern Ireland. The Giant’s Causeway is a magical place that offers visitors an unforgettable experience, and is definitely worth a visit on any trip to Northern Ireland.
2. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a thrilling and unique attraction in Northern Ireland that is not for the faint-hearted. The bridge spans a 30-meter-deep chasm and is suspended above the sea, providing an exhilarating experience for those brave enough to cross it. This historic rope bridge was originally built by fishermen in 1755 to access the rich salmon fishing grounds of the island of Carrick-a-Rede, but now it is a popular tourist attraction. As you make your way across the bridge, you’ll be able to take in breathtaking views of the stunning coastline and the surrounding cliffs. The island itself is also a great place to explore, with its rugged landscape and stunning views out to sea. You can learn about the island’s history and the traditional fishing practices that were once a way of life here. The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a must-visit destination for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike, offering an unforgettable experience that you won’t forget anytime soon.
3. Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast is an award-winning museum and one of Northern Ireland’s top attractions, providing a fascinating insight into the history of the ill-fated Titanic. The museum is located in the very place where the ship was built, and offers visitors the chance to walk through the reconstructed cabins, see authentic artifacts from the ship, and learn about the lives of those who sailed on her.
The museum’s exhibitions and interactive displays are designed to take visitors on a journey through the Titanic’s construction, launch, and tragic sinking. From the ship’s beginnings in the Harland & Wolff shipyard to its final moments in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, Titanic Belfast offers a comprehensive and moving experience that is both informative and emotional.
In addition to the main exhibition, visitors can also explore the surrounding dockyards and see where the Titanic and her sister ships were constructed. The area is steeped in history, and the museum’s staff are always on hand to provide information and answer any questions you may have.
Overall, Titanic Belfast is a world-class museum that provides a unique and engaging perspective on one of the most tragic events in maritime history. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the Titanic, maritime history, or the cultural heritage of Northern Ireland.
4. Game of Thrones Filming Locations
For the fans of the popular TV series, Game of Thrones, Northern Ireland offers an opportunity to visit some of the show’s iconic filming locations. Take a guided tour to Castle Ward, the setting of Winterfell, or the Dark Hedges that appeared as the King’s Road. Marvel at the locations where the epic battles were filmed and feel like you’re walking in the footsteps of your favorite characters.
5. Mount Stewart
The house at Mount Stewart is a perfect representation of the elegance of the landed gentry in Northern Ireland. Visitors can explore the grand rooms, which are filled with original furniture, artwork, and decorative objects that reflect the taste and wealth of the family who once lived there. The stunning gardens at Mount Stewart are not to be missed, with a variety of rare and exotic plants, flowers, and trees, including an Italian garden, sunken garden, and Shamrock garden. The grounds also offer a lake, a Temple of the Winds, and several walking paths, providing visitors with a chance to enjoy the serene environment and fresh air. Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking for a peaceful day out, Mount Stewart has something for everyone.
6. Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle is a must-visit for history buffs and castle enthusiasts alike. Located in the town of Carrickfergus, this impressive medieval castle is one of the best-preserved in Ireland. The castle dates back to the 12th century and was built by John de Courcy, a Norman knight, as a strategic stronghold for his conquests in Ulster.
Over the centuries, Carrickfergus Castle has played a significant role in Northern Ireland’s history, having been besieged and attacked by various forces, including the Scottish and Irish armies, as well as the English during the 17th-century wars of the Three Kingdoms.
Visitors can explore the castle’s various features, including the Great Tower, the curtain walls, and the gatehouse. The Great Tower houses a museum with displays on the castle’s history, and visitors can also see the collection of historic cannons on display throughout the castle.
The castle’s location at the harbor also offers stunning views of the sea, making it a great spot for a picturesque photo opportunity. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply looking for an interesting day out, a visit to Carrickfergus Castle is well worth the trip.
7. The Glens of Antrim
The Glens of Antrim are a true gem in Northern Ireland’s natural landscape. Each of the nine glens has its own unique character, from the rugged and wild Glenariff to the tranquil and secluded Glenaan. Visitors can take a scenic drive along the winding roads that traverse the glens, offering stunning views of the coastline and the surrounding countryside. Along the way, stop at quaint villages to explore local crafts and culture or take a hike in the lush forests to discover hidden waterfalls and wildlife. For those seeking adventure, the glens offer ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and fishing. Whatever your interests, the Glens of Antrim are not to be missed on a trip to Northern Ireland.
8. Castlewellan Peace Maze
The Castlewellan Peace Maze is a unique attraction in Northern Ireland that offers visitors the opportunity to experience a massive hedge maze with a significant message. The maze is a symbol of hope for a peaceful future in Northern Ireland and was designed as a collaborative effort between a renowned landscape designer, Beverly Lear, and nearly 4,000 school children. The project began in 1998, and it took two years to plan and plant the maze, which officially opened in 2001.
The maze comprises of 6,000 yew trees, and its size is impressive, covering 2.7 acres (11,000 square meters) with a hedge length of over 2 miles (3,550 meters) and a path length of 3,147 meters. Visitors can attempt to solve the maze, which leads to a peace bell at the center of the labyrinth. The maze’s path can be challenging, but the reward of reaching the peace bell is well worth the effort.
9. Ulster Museum
The Ulster Museum, located in Belfast, is a charming and diverse collection of artifacts from various fields such as archaeology, fine art, applied art, ethnography, and natural history. Situated in the northwestern corner of the Botanic Gardens, the museum underwent a significant renovation a decade ago. With its broad range of exhibits, visitors can marvel at a variety of historical treasures such as a collection of polished Neolithic axes, the Egyptian mummy Takabuti, and the Kildare Toilet Service from the 1720s, comprising 28 pieces of gilt silver like small caskets and perfume bottles. Make sure not to miss the Girona Salamander recovered from a Spanish Armada shipwreck, a cross-section of the Seymchan meteorite, the skeleton of an Edmontosaurus dinosaur, Bronze Age gold jewelry, and works by the renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly.
10. Marble Arch Caves
The Marble Arch Caves in County Fermanagh are among the top showcaves in Europe. Made of limestone, this underground cave system stretches over 11.5 kilometers and goes as deep as 94 meters. It is the longest cave system in Northern Ireland and the most spectacular karst formation in Great Britain. The cave is full of winding tunnels, soaring chambers, underground rivers, and cascading waterfalls that make for a thrilling subterranean experience. As you explore the caves, you’ll see impressive stalactites and calcite formations hanging from the ceiling and pointed out by knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides. The tour lasts for 75 minutes, and the trail is 1.5 kilometers long. The Marble Arch Caves are one of the more than 50 sites that make up a UNESCO Global Geopark, covering a large area of County Fermanagh and County Cavan. The Geopark encompasses many beautiful natural sites, including wetlands, waterfalls, forests, and scenic viewpoints.
In conclusion, Northern Ireland is a land of incredible natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. From the rugged coastline to the stunning glens and the rolling hills, there is no shortage of places to explore and experience. With its fascinating historical landmarks, world-renowned museums, and breathtaking scenery, Northern Ireland is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking adventure and inspiration. Whether you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, a lover of nature, or a history buff, Northern Ireland has something to offer everyone. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey to this incredible part of the world.