Northern Ireland – 10 things you must do
Northern Ireland… quite simply a place of natural stunning beauty! With lush grass covered cliffs, rolling down onto white sand beaches and crystal clear water, you will be left totally amazed by the diversity of this beautiful coastline.
Overview, cost & time-length
Usually when travelling, the sites you pick to see are a good 1-2 hours away from one another, not with Northern Ireland. You’ll find yourself only needing to drive 15-20 minutes before the next photo spot, and each stop is so different from the last!
Derelict castles, huge sand dunes, horse trekking, stunning coastlines… if this is your thing, then Northern Ireland is definitely a place for your bucket list.
We took a 4 night, 5 day trip there, this was the perfect amount of time for us. You could do it in a shorter amount of time by rushing a bit more, or you could take longer & completely chill. We were very fortunate with the weather & would recommend planning this trip during the summer time to really make the most of it. Price wise, it’s fairly standard, not too expensive & not cheap. For 4 days you’ll need around £300-£400 for a couple, including site-seeing. We chose an AirBnB cottage for our accommodation, right by Giants Causeway! There are a surprising amount of AirBnBs along the coastline, this would always be our preference.
To our surprise, a divide is still very much present between Northern & Southern Ireland, mainly created by the large imposing fence running across part of the border. We’d recommend taking some time in Belfast to learn more about the history of this conflict & see it with your own eyes, particularly the wall of art that brings to life stories of division & tension. Shay has family in Northern Ireland, luckily we were shown around a beautiful monastery & chuch – Clonard Monastery. Shay’s great Uncle, once a priest in Africa had countless fascinating stories to tell of the battles he had experienced at the height of the North & South divide. If you would like to visit the monestry let us know if you´d like any more details!
Our top 10 spots
At the end of our 5 day trip, we compiled a list of our top 10 favourite places to share with you. If you’d like to know anymore about them just get in touch. Enjoy your trip!
1. Game of Thrones’ Dark Hedges – This tree lined road, popularly know as Kingsroad from the scene in GOT, may seem touristy though the visit is well worth it! We got up early & arrived there around 8am, avoiding tourists & allowing us to see the road in all its beauty. The picture speaks for itself on how unique this road is…
2. Huge sand dune at Portrush beach – A lovely beach to walk along, particularly at sunset. It stretches a long way & is fairly empty, no better feeling on a beach than having it to yourself! Our favourite part here is the giant sand dune… you can’t miss it! A race up the dune is good fun & when you reach the top it’s a perfect spot to watch the sun go down.
3. Giants Causeway – The most well known spot in Northern Ireland, the entrance is not what you would expect! Given its popularity, here you will find the most tourists, it can be tricky to avoid them as tours run early till late. Though…. we have a secret tip from the locals… get in touch with us to find out more!! Despite the tourists, you have to visit! The unique geometric rock structure is fascinating, there are also plenty of walks around the site. Give yourself at least half a day here with chill time afterwards – you’ll be walking for a good 2-3 hours.
4. Whitepark Bay beach – A beach we will always remember! By far this was our favourite beach along the coast line, vast, white sand, crystal clear water, hidden down a side road with only a few people wondering along the shore. It’s a beach where special memories are made.
5. Game of thrones locations – Aside from the Causeway, Game of Thrones has majorly lifted the profile of Northern Ireland. So many locations from the series were filmed here and it’s clear to see why. Now, you can go as hardcore as you want, taking a specialist Game of Thrones tour, or just driving yourself to each spot & exploring. Either way, it’s a must do… Game of Thrones fan or not! Each location is simply beautiful & the tourist board have achieved a great balance of making sure it doesn’t feel commercialised. You wouldn’t actually know you were in a GOT spot for the majority!
6. Sunset at the derelict Dunluce Castle – This castle is right near the sand dune at Portrush beach, if you are coming from Giants Causeway you will drive past it on your way. We decided to watch the sunset here & it seemed like this was also a popular thing to do with the locals. A very special evening and the derelict castle gives it a touch of magic.
7. Horse trek near the North Coast– Only Iban had ridden a horse recently, my last time was about 15 years ago! So whether you are experienced or not, this is a really memorable thing to do & Shean Horse Farm caters for all levels, making you feel very relaxed. You can chose private or group treks, treks in the hills or across the beach, we would really recommend making time in your trip to do this.
8. Carrick-a-rede rope bridge – This is the place I would say was the most beautiful of all! A 20 minute walk to the rope bridge connecting Carrickarede Island to mainland. Back in the day this island was used by fisherman to catch salmon. The old fisherman’s cottage is still standing right on the cliff top. The rope bridge is great fun to cross & gives you a stunning view across the coast line. The best part is reaching the island, walking up the hill & to the right, then turning around & staring in amazement at the view. Lush green cliff’s, dropping down into the sea, with 5 or more caves along the shore, this has to be one of the most naturally beautiful places we have visited in the world. Like something straight from Planet Earth… enjoy!
9. Guiness pub in Ballintoy – quite simply, Central Wine Bar is where you will find the best Guiness in Northern Ireland… we tried a few! Suprisingly, the Irish culture Shay associates with & has grown up around seems much more present in Southern Ireland – live music, crowded pubs, Guiness flowing. It does exist in Northern Ireland, though not in abundance. Still, no Guiness ever compares to that of the one in Ireland!
10. Castle Rock beach & Mussenden Temple – Another stunning beach you can drive to & stroll along. Mussenden temple is located on the cliff tops, previously a Bishops library. The temple, mixed with the black granite rock & green cliffs gives an almost Jurassic Park feel to the surroundings. Well worth a visit on a chill day.
One lesson learnt here… you can drive along the beach & find a spot to park. This seems like a really cool thing to do & I was buzzing! Off I went & about 30 metres in, the car started slowing down… “Something’s not going right” I said to Iban. Then… we were stuck in the sand! Iban was so embarrassed as everyone was watching, we chose to abandon the car to make it look like an intentional parking spot & dealt with the situation later! A few people had to help get us out, though in the end we made it! I make myself feel better about the situation by remembering I was not the only one! About 5 people had done the same thing & some cars had got into a much worse state! So if you do this, just choose wisely which car you do it in! A 4×4 is best!
We absolutely loved it here and will definitely be coming back! What do you think of Northern Ireland, are there any other must see places here / have you found anywhere with similar scenery? Commet below, we´d love to share our experiences!
Shay & Iban 👬