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The Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland – A Local’s Guide

Best places to visit in Northern Ireland

There are many beautiful places to visit in Northern Ireland. The whole of Ireland is a beauty actually and has a lot to offer visitors.

Since I grew up in the North of Ireland, I thought it would be good to list the best places to visit in Northern Ireland.

These locations are great for any type of traveler. Whether you are a backpacker, are traveling as a couple, a family or are looking for a fun trip with friends!

If you’ve got limited time in Northern Ireland (1 week to 10 days), then make these spots your “must-see” destinations.

The Best Places to Visit & Things to Do in Northern Ireland

1. Discover The Antrim Coast

Places to visit in Northern Ireland: The Antrim Coast

The Antrim coast is one of the most scenic places in Northern Ireland, and in all of Ireland if you ask me. Not only that, but it’s filled with amazing spots to visit.

My favorite stops along the coast include the famous Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle, and the Bushmills Distillery. Each of these locations offers something unique and beautiful.

The Giant’s Causeway is famous for the legendary and mythical giant Finn McCool. Legend has it he built the Giant’s Causeway as stepping-stones to Scotland, so as not to get his feet wet. But you’ll need to visit yourself to learn more about the story and witness the 40,000 massive black basalt columns rising from the sea.

Note: The Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, which definitely makes it one of the must-visit places in Northern Ireland!

The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge is picturesque and not for the faint-hearted. Not many can cross the bridge when it’s super windy, so the question is, are you brave enough?

Northern Ireland must-visit places: Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

Not far from the rope bridge is the majestic Dunluce Castle which offers sweeping views of the coast as it towers above.

Lastly, the Irish are well known for their brilliant whiskey and the North is home to the Old Bushmills Distillery which is worth a visit if you’re a whiskey fan. You can take a tour or simply visit the souvenir shop to buy yourself a bottle of whiskey.

It’s possible to see all these locations via an organized tour from Belfast city, but I personally think the best way to explore the Antrim coast is via road trip.

Rent a car from the airport and get ready to see the stunning coast of Northern Ireland. Rates are competitive and the roads in Ireland are safe.

2. Explore The Capital City: Belfast

woman standing in the middle of a street in Belfast

Belfast is the bustling capital of Northern Ireland and it’s a city with charm, a unique history and so much more.

I actually think it’s one of the best cities in Europe. It’s fairly priced, easy to get around and there is so much to see and do.

The music scene in Belfast is thriving and you’ll never fail to find live music at one of the hundreds of bars in the city.

The summer months of Belfast also bring a host of festivals to the area, including Belsonic and Féile an Phobail, amongst many others.

Titanic Quarter is home to quirky restaurants and bars, and of course, the famous Titanic museum is located there.

The Titanic was built in Belfast and the interactive museum is perfect for lovers of both the history of the ship and the actual movie. They built a replica of the famous staircase from the movie, and on a Sunday you can have afternoon tea here (it books up quickly though).

For those interested in the history of Northern Ireland, you can take organized tours around the city to see the painted murals on the walls, and the peace wall that once divided the whole country.

3. Visit The Coastal Town of Newcastle

Newcastle: one of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland

Newcastle is a coastal town located in County Down. It’s a perfect seaside escape with charm and the beautiful Mourne Mountains as its backdrop.

You can hike up the Mourne Mountains or if it’s warm, you can find waterfalls and pools within the mountain areas to relax at.

The seaside itself is lined with amusements, a delicious range of restaurants, authentic sweet shops, boutique stores, and much more. There are even two outdoor swimming pools with slides (which is a rarity in Northern Ireland).

One of the best golf courses in all of Northern Ireland is located in Newcastle. And if you’re not quite a pro then you can try your hand at crazy golf. You can swim in the sea (if you can brace the chill) or discover the stunning sand dunes at Murlough Beach.

Newcastle has a unique charm, and you’ll probably find yourself wanting to return as soon as possible.

4. Get Lost In The Largest Permanent Hedge Maze in Europe

Just a short 15-minute drive from the coastal town of Newcastle, Castlewellan is a quaint town with traditional countryside charm.

The town is home to beautiful botanical gardens housed in a large forest, complete with stunning lakes, a wonderful castle and the Peace Maze.

The Peace Maze is one of the world’s largest permanent hedge mazes. It represents the path to a peaceful future for Northern Ireland.

The maze consists of 6,000 yew trees and it’s really fun to discover. Once you reach the top, you get to ring a victory bell! It’s also free to enter, making it one of my top recommendations for free things to do in Northern Ireland.

Castlewellan Forest Park is a place you could relax for hours with a picnic, or even a BBQ and you can camp in the park too if you wish.

5. Scout Out Game Of Thrones Filming Locations

Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland: Dark Hedges

Thanks to the success of Game Of Thrones, Northern Ireland has firmly been put on the map for awesome GOT filming locations.

There are lots of themed tours that will take you to the top spots throughout Northern Ireland, but you can also just rent a car and discover them yourself.

These are my top 3 GOT filming locations in Northern Ireland:

1. Castle Ward: The home of Winterfell Castle

If you want to visit the famous home of the Starks of Winterfell, then take a trip to Castle Ward.

The castle itself is beautiful without Game of Thrones, but now you can take a full Winterfell tour, learn archery where Bran did and even dress up in traditional Stark costume.

2. TollyMore Forest Park: The Haunted Forest

This is actually located in Newcastle, which I mentioned earlier as one of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland.

This is where the White Walkers began their march onto the realm of men, where Ramsay Bolton hunted Theon, and where the Starks found their direwolves (including the famous Ghost!).

3. The Dark Hedges: The road to King’s Landing

Although it only made an appearance a few times in the show, the Dark Hedges is probably the most photographed site in Northern Ireland related to Game Of Thrones. This is because it is very picturesque and you can see why it made the final cut.

Tip: Go super early to avoid the crowds from tour buses!

There are countless other locations around Northern Ireland (more than 25!) that were used for filming, so a car is the best way to discover them all on a Game of Thrones road trip.

Getting Around Northern Ireland

Things to see in Northern Ireland: Belfast Castle

All the places to visit I’ve mentioned above can be seen via organized tours or bus rides.

However, I think renting a car is the best decision. It gives you far more freedom and since public transport can be a little on the slow (and delayed) side, you’ll get to see much more with the time you have.

Either way, make sure not to miss these beautiful places to visit in Northern Ireland!

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Whilst you wander you’ll find new castles, lakes, and stunning mountain ranges with almost no one around. Northern Ireland is a truly wonderful place with lots to offer.

I’m sure you’ll find yourself wanting to return as soon as possible!

Also Read:

Map of the Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

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Must-visit places and things to do in Northern Ireland

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Author: Cazzy Magennis
Cazzy Magennis is one half of Dream Big, Travel Far, the travel blog dedicated to couple backpackers and type 1 diabetics. She helps inspire absolutely everyone to travel the world, whether you have a chronic illness or not. They have been to over 58 countries so far, with an aim to visit every country in the world.

14 Places To Visit In Northern Ireland

Over the years, Northern Ireland has slowly emerged as a fascinating tourist destination. That’s with the help of the new Titanic Museum, and being featured as a setting in the hit fantasy series, Game of Thrones.

Northern Ireland is a small country and it’s part of the United Kingdom. Still, it is never lacking in things to see and do.

A lot of its attractions are pretty extraordinary, too.

From charming medieval towns to lake islands, stunning castles and dramatic coastal landscapes— these are some of the places to visit in Northern Ireland.

Things you’ll find in this article

14 Places To Visit In Northern Ireland

1. Giant’s Causeway, Co. Antrim

Giant’s Causeway Belfast

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Exquisite, dramatic, awe-inspiring. It’s easy to run out of ways to describe the Giant’s Causeway, but one will always find more reasons to go back.

Comprised of 40,000 polygonal basalt rock columns, this stunning natural wonder stretches along the coastline like giant stepping stones. These were created by a volcanic eruption that took place 60 million years ago.

These layered basalts are known around the world and are the prime focus of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Giant’s Causeway is also the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland.

2. Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

Causeway Coastal Route

The Causeway Coastal route is easily one of the most scenic drives in Ireland.

This is essentially the surrounding coastline to the Giant’s Causeway, an extraordinary experience that you shouldn’t miss. The drive only takes ten minutes, but you can always slow down as you take in the sights.

The stunning beaches, the sand dunes, the rolling waves as you pass Portrush and Portstewart. This drive is stunning any time of the day, but it’s best to do it at sunset as the sights are particularly breathtaking.

3. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Co. Antrim

Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge Northern Ireland

If you’re in for an adventure that also lets you enjoy the stunning views, cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

Found in County Antrim, this rope bridge links the mainland to the island of Carrickarede. The bridge spans 66 feet and about 98 feet above the rocks below.

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is mainly a tourist attraction and not an official means to get to and from an island.

It’s quite a thrilling adventure to cross it and a must experience when in Northern Ireland. It is also one of the best day trips from Belfast.

4. Dunluce Castle, Co. Antrim

Dunluce Castle in Ireland

Located in the North Antrim Coast is the brooding and dramatic Dunluce Castle. It is situated close to a headland and used to be the headquarter of the McDonnell clan.

This medieval castle maybe mostly ruins but at least we know now that a village used to surround the castle. This village was destroyed by fire in 1641. Dunluce Castle was featured in ‘Game of Thrones’ as the castle of Greyjoy.

5. The Glens of Antrim, Northern Ireland

glens of antrim

The North Antrim may have some stunning otherworldly sights, but its nine glens are not to be upstaged.

These are among the most breathtaking places you’ll ever see. These nine glens even exude a unique individual charm that you simply lust to spend time here when you visit.

A great way to see the glens is by driving along the main A2 coastal road, where you get to enjoy a closer look at the lakes, waterfalls, rolling hills and forest trails.

6. The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland

dark hedges northern ireland

The Dark Hedges is undoubtedly one of the most photographed and truly iconic sights in Northern Ireland. This natural attraction was featured in a few episodes the hit fantasy TV series ‘Game of Thrones as the road to King’s landing.

The best time to go here is in the morning, preferably before eight in the morning to avoid the crowds.

Aside from being a popular photography subject and tourist attraction, the Dark Hedges is also now a favorite location for wedding photographs.

7. Mussenden Temple, Co. Derry

Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne

The beautiful and dramatic location of Mussenden Temple made it an ideal setting for a rather horrifying scene in ‘Game of Thrones’.

Perched 120 feet high on a rugged clifftop, the temple overlooks the Atlantic as well as the Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point. The views from here are spectacular, a definite must-visit when in Northern Ireland.

8. Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Derry City Walls - things to do in londonderry

Londonderry or simply Derry is the second city in Northern Ireland. It is located where the River Foyle opens out into the sea-lough of the same name.

Derry is known to have brilliantly preserved medieval walls as well as some interesting old buildings. It is now an important port and industrial center. Its main industries include textiles and ceramics.

The town’s gorgeous surroundings also make it an ideal base to explore the Inishowen Peninsula and Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. Both places are known to be ideal sights for chasing the northern lights

9. Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast in Northern Ireland

Exploring Belfast is a definite must when in Northern Ireland.

There’s just a lot to see and do here — from the Titanic Museum and HMS Caroline to a hike up a castle on a hill.

Other places that should be in your Belfast itinerary are the Belfast Cathedral, the Belfast City Hall, the Botanical Gardens and the Crumlin Road Gaol,

10. Titanic Museum

titanic belfast

This place is in Belfast but deserves a separate post. One should definitely devote ample time to visiting this stunning museum. It opened in 2012 during the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic, but the building is already an iconic Belfast landmark.

Located in the middle of the Titanic Quarter, the museum features extensive displays and collections on everything Titanic. They’re all interactive, too.

A visit here is a great way to learn more about this intriguing part of Northern Ireland’s history.

11. Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle Northern Ireland

The imposing Carrickfergus Castle is one of the best-preserved medieval structures in Ireland.

Constructed over eight hundred years ago, it has been a witness and a target during war, conflict, and revolutions. It is nestled near the shore and still mostly intact.

The facade of the church set against its interesting location is already a treat in itself. Its namesake town is also a lovely place to explore.

12. Newcastle, Northern Ireland

Murlough Beach County Down

The charming town of Newcastle in County Down is a perfect seaside escape. The water may be colder than usual but the pristine beach is worth a leisurely stroll.

Or you can check out the incredible sand dunes at Murlough Beach. The seafront is lined with quaint shops and restaurants that serve up delicious local and international cuisine.

Newcastle also has the beautiful Mourne Mountains, which is a relatively manageable hike. This small town is also known to have the best golf course in all of Northern Ireland.

Get in for a few swings, or if you know nothing about golf, try the crazy version instead.

13. Lough Erne, Northern Ireland

Lower Lough Erne

Lough Erne might as well be a living museum. Comprised of two connected lakes and islands, this part of County Fermanagh is a must-see.

See the castles and manor houses spread along the shore. See the 12th century round tower in one of the islands. Or how about some Celtic art?

Head on to White Island and Boa Island and see the carved stone figures done over a thousand years ago.

14. The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Ulster Museum Belfast

The Ulster Museum is easily accessible within a fifteen-minute drive from Belfast city center. This is a living museum that showcases the fascinating Ulster life more than 100 tears ago. Being here is like being sent back in a bygone era.

You get to walk around a village, explore a parkland or even get on steam locomotives. This place is an amazing glimpse at a life that we only read about in books.

Seeing them up close is a Northern Ireland experience that one shouldn’t pass up.

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What To Wear: If you want some ideas on what to pack for Ireland, check out this packing list guide for Ireland.

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Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. But despite living in several countries, my love for Ireland remains the same. A country that had been a part of my life since I was 14 because of my love for Irish music and bands. Ireland Travel Guides was born because of this passion and hopefully, in some little ways, this website will be able to help you on your next trip to Ireland.

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland - Carrick a Rede Causeway Coast

There are so many amazing places to visit in Northern Ireland! Epic coastal road trips, cute seaside towns, scenic countryside villages, and rolling mountain ranges… there is simply so much to discover.

Plus there are eight Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB’s) to choose from, so when it comes to stunning landscapes and wildlife you’re spoilt for choice.

Then there are the historic towns and cities, the rich history, and lively local legends. Expect a warm and welcoming culture, with great food and boundless hospitality.

There are so many reasons to plan a visit to Northern Ireland. And there’s so much to see and do when you get there!

With so many amazing places to visit on your trip to Northern Ireland, the only difficulty is knowing where to choose. So I asked some amazing bloggers and locals to recommend their favourite spots. Get ready to discover the very best of Northern Ireland…

Map of Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

19 Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

One of the most famous places to visit in all of Northern Ireland is the iconic Giant’s Causeway.

The star attraction of the Causeway Coast, the Giant’s Causeway is a MUST! It’s made up of around 40,000 basalt columns, strangely polygonal in shape. These columns interlock perfectly to form a pavement. So it’s easy to see why local legends suggest they were shaped by hand.

There’s a brilliant legend behind the Giant’s Causeway’s creation. According to tradition, the Causeway was built as stepping stones by the giant Fionn mac Cumhail (also called Finn McCool) in order to pick a fight with the Scottish giant Benandonner. Although science says that the world-famous interlocking basalt columns were created by an ancient volcanic eruption… so who knows what to believe?!

Belfast – Capital of Northern Ireland

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Places to Visit in Northern Ireland - Belfast Titanic Museum

As the capital city, Belfast can’t be missed on a trip to Northern Ireland. You’ll be spoiled for choice with things to do – from culture to history to food and drink.

Visit Titanic Belfast to discover the tale of the tragic ship in the city where it was built. Enjoy stunning architecture like Belfast City Hall and Queen’s University, before retreating to the quiet of the Botanic Gardens.

No visit to Belfast would be complete without learning about the Troubles. This is the name of the multi-decade conflict between (Catholic) Nationalists and (Protestant) Unionists in Northern Ireland. To gain a deeper understanding of the city’s very recent history, visit the murals around Falls Road and Shankill Road, and the Peace Wall, on a black taxi tour or a walking tour (some are run by former political prisoners).

Recommended Tours: Political Murals, Street Art, and Peace Gate – walking tour from £18pp. Belfast Taxi Mural Tour – from £60 per group.

For a nightcap, there are some excellent places to drink around Belfast. Try to grab a booth at the Crown Liquor Saloon, one of the most ornate pubs in the city, or bar-hop down Commercial Court in the Cathedral Quarter.

Belfast is an excellent and underrated city break, and definitely one of the top destinations in Northern Ireland.

Downhill Demesne & Mussenden Temple, Londonderry

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Mussenden Temple Northern Ireland

Situated on the edge of a 120-foot cliff that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, Mussenden Temple is one of the most spectacular places to visit on the entire island of Ireland.

This picturesque temple was built in 1785 and sits in the grounds of Downhill Demesne. You can enjoy walking through the ruins of the old Bishop’s house before walking down to the cliff edge where Mussenden Temple dramatically sits.

From the temple, you get magnificent views in all directions. To the West, you will see Downhill beach directly below you and you can see all the way over to County Donegal. Look East and you will see Castlerock beach – and beyond that, the seaside town of Portstewart.

This is a great place to explore with lots of walking trails offering views over the beautiful and rugged coastline of Northern Ireland’s north coast.

The Dark Hedges, County Antrim

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Dark Hedges Northern Ireland

The Dark Hedges needs no introduction for any Games of Thrones fans. This mystical ‘tunnel’ of trees is also worth a visit if you have never watched the show.

It might have been the TV series that made it famous, but the avenue of trees was planted in the 18th Century when the Stuart family wanted an imposing approach to their new mansion, Gracehill House.

According to local legend, a ghost called The Grey Lady lives in the hedges. On dark nights she can be seen walking the road or moving from tree to tree. The ghost is believed to be the spirit of one of the Stuarts’ daughters, or maybe a housemaid who died mysteriously.

After featuring in Game of Thrones, the Dark Hedges has become a popular tourist attraction – so try to visit early or late in the day to avoid the tour groups.

Ards Peninsula, County Down

Sunrise over Scrabo Tower Ards Peninsula

Although less than half an hour from Belfast, the Ards Peninsula is somewhat less known than the more famous Causeway Coast. However, it’s easily one of the most amazing places to visit in Northern Ireland.

Separating Strangford Lough from the Irish Sea, the Ards Peninsula boasts miles of stunning coastline dotted with quaint villages. Don’t miss the colourful fishing village of Portaferry, the historic ruins of Grey Abbey, or the whitewashed cottages of the historic National-Trust-owned Kearney village.

For the best views of the Peninsula, head to Scrabo Tower and Country Park. Perched on top of Scrabo Hill, the tower is also one of the best-known landmarks in Northern Ireland. From the top of the hill, you’ll get exceptional views of both Strangford Lough and the whole of North Down.

Boa Island, Fermanagh

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19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

In Lough Erne Fermanagh sit several beautiful islands including Boa, Lusty Beg, Lusty More, Devenish and White Island. On Boa Island lies a mystery that has yet to be deciphered… the mystery of the Janus head.

You can see this enigmatic figure in the Caldragh Cemetery which is off the B82 road to Boa Island. No tour buses go to Boa Island so you will need to rent a car.

This mysterious cemetery is said to be one of the “thin places”. Within it stand two curious figures that pre-date Christianity.

The larger stone is called the two-headed Janus. One side is female and the other male. To the side of Janus stands a smaller figure. This is known as “the Lustyman” because it was found on the nearby island Lusty More. However, historians have theorized that it represents the “divine hag” or Boa and is a female figure.

The islands of Lough Erne are a superb off the beaten path destination in Northern Ireland and so beautiful you may not want to leave!

Bangor, County Down

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Bangor Northern Ireland

The scenic seaside town of Bangor, Northern Ireland is found just 30-minutes down the train lines from Belfast City Centre, on what is known as Northern Ireland’s “Gold Coast” due to its sandy beaches and high property prices.

Bangor also marks the start of the famous “North Down Coastal Path”, which connects the more scenic spots of this stretch. The main draw to the town would be the fancy marina and seaside attractions, including Pickie Fun Park, a sprawling pier, as well as various central beaches.

But there is more to the town than its shiny seafront, with a rich cultural backdrop centred around Bangor Castle where there are an onsite museum and Victorian walled garden. Then there’s Bangor Abbey which is a significant heritage site for Europe’s Christian beginnings.

Ballintoy & Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim

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Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge Northern Ireland

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was originally built in 1755 by local fishermen. It is a rope bridge between two cliffs that are over 100ft above the Atlantic Ocean. Today, it’s managed by a National Trust and includes beautiful walks along cliffs overlooking the ocean.

From the carpark, you walk one mile along a fairly level path that gently undulates with the terrain. This part is wheelchair and stroller friendly. After a mile, you reach fairly steep stairs that take you down to the entrance to the bridge. Only those who are physically fit should descend as it is quite a climb back up!

At the bridge, you wait your turn to cross and walk, at your own pace, over the bridge. Directly below you are waves harshly hitting the rocks. Although it feels precarious and dangerous, you are completely surrounded by rope. You might slip, but you will not fall into the ocean. Once across, you can explore the little island at your leisure and return across the bridge when you’ve had enough.

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Londonderry, County Londonderry

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19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Londonderry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland. For many years the name of the city was disputed between Londonderry and Derry, depending on the political affinities of the residents.

Whilst the official name of the city is “Londonderry”, the younger generations have adopted the term “Legenderry”, which couldn’t be more suitable, as there are some pretty amazing things to do in Londonderry!

A very peaceful city today, Londonderry has a very troubled recent history. One of the best ways to learn about its past is by taking a free city tour or go on a guided walk of the city walls. The murals in Bogside remind visitors of the Troubles and the 1972 Bloody Sunday.

In 2011, the Peace Bridge was inaugurated. The bridge is shaped as an “S”, symbolising a handshake between the two sides of the river Foyle. Thousands of people attended the weekend-long party, attended by the First Ministers of Ireland and Northern Ireland as well.

Lough Neagh

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19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Just 20 miles west of Belfast lies the biggest lake in the entire British Isles, and arguably one of its most beautiful too. With many things to do in Northern Ireland, visiting Lough Neagh is definitely a must. It spans over 151 square miles and is a huge source of fresh water for the area.

This is also home to the iconic eels of Lough Neagh, who travel from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean to mature before returning to the Sargasso Sea. There are plenty of eel fisheries here exporting their eels around the globe. It’s even said that these eels have been eaten since the Bronze Age!

Birdwatching is another thing that Lough Neagh is known for, as there are a huge variety of birds all in the surrounding shores and boglands, all through the summers and winters.

Bushmills & Bushmills Distillery, County Antrim

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Northern Ireland Food Tour

Hot Toddy at the Bushmills Distillery

Giants Causeway is one of the top attractions in the world, but savvy travellers will also explore the nearby quaint village of Bushmills. Highlights include Bushmills Distillery, The Bushmills Inn, Finn MacCool’s Public House, and plenty of Northern Ireland charm.

Allow two hours to tour Old Bushmills Distillery, the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery. Book tour reservation slots in advance if you can, as you may have to wait a bit if you book onsite. Either way, spend idle time sampling products, shopping for gifts, or, when the wait exceeds an hour, explore Bushmills village.

The Bushmills Inn is one of the best places to stay in Northern Ireland. The building traces its history to the 1600’s, and they have received many awards for the best hotel in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Ancient Dunwick Castle is only 2.5 miles away, while the Dundarave Estate is a classic Irish garden estate between Bushmills and Giants Causeway.

Cushendun, County Antrim

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Cushenden Northern Ireland

The village of Cushenden, located in the Antrim coast’s heart about 30 minutes from the Giant’s Causeway, is an AONB – An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Centuries ago, Cushenden was used as a harbour for people travelling between Scotland and Ireland. This element and the Cushendun caves’ presence made this village famous as a Game of Thrones shooting location.

Taking a look at the caves hardly takes a few minutes. However, the coast’s hiking trail is very picturesque and is one of the must-do things in Cushendun. This isn’t the only walking path, though; there are many that pass through the village and harbour as well.

If this makes you tired and hungry, try to grab some pub food at Mary McBride’s, one of Ireland’s smallest bars.

For people who love spotting wildlife, red squirrels – which were once thought to be extinct – can be found in Cushendun near Cregagh Wood, making for another peaceful walk.

Portrush & White Rocks Beach, County Antrim

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19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Portrush is a bustling seaside town on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. There are plenty of things to do in Portrush, such as the chance to go surfing, fishing and take boat trips, or enjoy the spectacular beaches on both sides of the town.

Portrush is also a great place for golfers and was host to the 2019 Open Championship. The golf course runs along the coast and has wonderful sea views. It’s also not far from the Bushmills whiskey distillery and the Giant’s Causeway.

The beaches are the main draw of Portrush though, in particular East Strand Beach which stretches for two miles to the east of Portrush, ending with White Rocks Beach where you can explore the caverns and arches formed in the limestone cliffs.

From there, you can continue along the coastal path to the ruins of Dunluce Castle, medieval ruins and Game of Thrones filming location.

Rathlin Island, County Antrim

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19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

The remote beauty of Rathlin Island makes this gem off the northern coast a must-visit destination.

Take the ferry from Ballycastle to the scenic working harbour of Rathlin Island. Visit the nearby Boat House museum for fascinating local stories. You can also watch the seals play from the beach.

Next, walk, rent a bike, or take the Puffin Bus to travel the 4.5 miles to the Sea Bird Center. Huge colonies of puffins, guillemot, kittiwakes, razorbills, and fulmars breed and raise their young here. Volunteer guides provide information about this incredible viewing of the largest nesting seabird colony in Northern Ireland.

The island has three lighthouses, with the West Lighthouse being the most unique. This upside-down lighthouse is built directly into the cliff. You descend down to see the red light at the base of the lighthouse. The cliffside views and history make it worth a visit.

Cliffs of Magho & Lower Lough Erne, Fermanagh

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Formed by a deep glacial trough, Lower Lough Erne is one of the most impressive natural landscapes in Northern Ireland, and one of the best places to visit in the country!

Stretching for 20 miles from Enniskillen to Rosscor, the lake is dotted with over 40 islands and surrounded by woodlands and wildlife-rich grasslands. It’s also a birdwatcher’s paradise: home to dozens of resident and migrating species.

The Cliffs of Magho are a 9km-long limestone escarpment along the southwestern edge of the lake. At their highest, the cliffs are around 300m, so the views from the top are incredible. Look out across the scattered islands of Lough Erne to the Blue Stack Mountains of County Donegal!

Kilkeel & Mourne Mountains, County Down

Mourne Mountains Newry Northern Ireland

In the south of County Down, Kilkeel is the southernmost town in Northern Ireland. It’s also the main fishing port on the Down coast, known for its authentic working harbour and incredible seafood.

Kilkeel is also the ideal setting off point for exploring the nearby Mourne Mountains AONB. The area is made up of fifteen peaks, including the tallest mountain in Northern Ireland: Slieve Donard at 850m.

The mountains sweep down to meet the sea on the Down Coast, so you get the best of both worlds within the AONB. Dramatic coastline with some stunning beaches and a vast array of sea life – including dolphins, seals, otters and porpoises. As well as mountainous upland areas full of stunning snow-capped peaks and majestic woodland.

The Sperrins AONB, Londonderry and Tyrone

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

The Sperrins is a mountain range that stretches across the country, straddling the counties of Tyrone and Londonderry. The area was designated an AONB in 2008 and is made up of some incredible landscapes – so it’s well worth exploring.

In between the dramatic mountains, you can find sparkling lakes, narrow glens and deep valleys. It’s also one of the least visited areas in the country! So this is the perfect place to get off the beaten path. Plan a road trip or get your hiking boots on and hit the trails!

Cuilcagh Boardwalk & Marble Arch Caves, Fermanagh

Cuilcagh Boardwalk Northern Ireland

Last – but absolutely not least – we have the famous Cuilcagh Boardwalk, as well as the nearby Marble Arch Caves. These two-star attractions of County Fermanagh are among the best places to visit in Northern Ireland.

Also known as the “Stairway to Heaven”, The Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail is a 4mile (6km) linear trail across one of the biggest expanses of blanket bog in the country and up Cuilcagh Mountain. The trail is made up of wooden boardwalks and staircases in order to avoid the bog, so it’s ideal for walkers of all abilities. Although some may wish to skip the final, very steep, ascent up the mountain!

Nearby, the Marble Arch Caves are another must-visit if you’re in the area. These natural limestone caves are one of the finest show caves in Europe, full of twisting passageways, lofty chambers, and stunning rock formations – as well as underground rivers and even waterfalls.

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