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30 Best Things To Do In Northern Ireland [2019 Travel Guide]

Written by:
Bradley Williams
/
Last updated:
September 16, 2019
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Visiting the beautiful North of Ireland? Then check out our post for inspiration on all the best things to do in Northern Ireland. Get inspired today...
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Things To Do In Northern Ireland
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So you're visiting the beautiful North of Ireland! Yay. That's where I am from and grew up so it's awesome you want to explore. Below I present to you a list of the best things to do in Northern Ireland. All these activities are perfect for couples, solo travellers and families.

1. Discover the Giant’s Causeway

One of Ireland’s most famous attractions has to be Giant's Causeway.

This infamous site is truly unique in its geography and is home to a number of myths and legends.

I’ve been here twice already know, and each time it’s just as impressive.

If this is your first time visiting, I recommend paying for the headset in the visitor centre, so you can learn all about the myths and legends of Giant’s Causeway as you walk down to it.

Afterwards, rather than heading straight back up the way you came, you should follow the path onwards that then takes you all the way up the side of the cliff.

It’s a fairly steep climb but once you reach the top the views really are worth it!

Plus you can just follow the cliff walk all the way back down to the car park.

antrim coast

2. Walk across the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bride is a bridge connecting the mainland to a small rocky outcrop.

This bridge was first built 350 years ago and used by local fishermen to get across to their boats.

It’s become a famous tourist attraction and has now been made a lot safer and opened up to public use.

It stretches 100 feet above the water and is a little daunting to walk across, but very cool!

rope bridge ni

3. Visit Free Derry Corner and learn to hate the British

When visiting Ireland, it’s important that you take some time to learn about the recent history between the British and the Irish.

It is what shaped Ireland into what it is today and is the reason behind there being an Irealnd and a Northern Ireland.

Without getting too much into the nitty gritty politics of it all, Free Derry Corner is near to the site of just one of the massacres the British troops inflicted on peaceful protestors in the 1900s.

It’s called Bloody Sunday and you can read up more on it here.

Free Derry Corner is a block of wall that simply says the words “You are now entering Free Derry”.

This wall has stood now for decades, with the words being repainted over time.

All around this area, you will find murals painted on walls, depicting different events that occurred during the Troubles.

To learn even more, you can visit the Museum of Free Derry, also located in this part of town.

derry

4. Snap some cool shots of Dunluce Castle

Further on up the coast you have a stretch called the Causeway Coastal Route.

Here you will find many of the best things to see in Northern Ireland, with the first most notable being Dunluce Castle.

Despite it being one of Ireland’s least intact castles, it’s fantastically located right on the edge of the cliff, overlooking the ocean.

It is used as the basis for Castle Pyke, the Seat of House Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

It doesn’t look as dramatic and sinister as it does in the series, as CGI has played it’s fair part in bringing the ruined castle back to life.

duncluce castle

5. Stroll out to Mussenden Temple

Mussenden temple is a beautiful temple located next to a stunning coastline and beach. It was built in 1785 and it’s got an interesting history. When we visited we flew our done and it makes for some awesome shots! 

belfast
That's the temple in the background! 

6. Have family fun in Portstewart

Portstewart is definitely one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland with children. There are amusements, funfair rides, candy floss, all the best food, seaside fish and chips and so much more! When the sun shines this place gets super busy. This is one the great family days out in Northern Ireland.

7. Arrive early to the Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges is another Northern Ireland site made incredibly famous because of Game Of Thrones.

It didn’t play a large part in the series, but was shown during a couple of episodes as the road to King’s Landing.

Nowadays, the hedges get really busy during the daytime, with tour buses and all sorts.

As such, I recommend staying overnight nearby and going their first thing in the morning to capture some really cool photos.

This is exactly what we did when Cazzy paid for us to stay their during our honeymoon 2 years ago.

We stayed at The Hedges Hotel, located literally a few minutes walk from the famous hedges.

dark hedges

8. Take a long and scenic walk in Glenariff Forest park

Known as the “Queen of the Glens”, the Glenariff Forest Park is an amazing place to go for a hike and a picnic. It’s a perfect setting for a spring or summers day. There are waterfalls along the trail which are pretty and scenic. I would set aside a full day exploring this park as you’ll be tired after your walk! 

9. Head on up the Instagram-famous Cuilcagh Boardwalk

In the last couple years, it seems that the Cuilcagh Boardwalk has become one of Ireland’s most Instagrammable spots.

When researching places to visit, you’ll find plenty of people posting pictures of themselves at this wonderful spot, right on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The boardwalk is more than 1.5km in length, and to get to it you have to first walk the 5.8km track that leads up to it.

As a minimum, expect the roundtrip walk to last about 3 hours, so make sure you take plenty of snacks with you, oh, and a decent camera!

Here’s some more useful info for planning a walk there.

10. Walk around the Cathedral Quarter (Belfast)

Cathedral Quarter is the hip, happening and quirky area of Belfast. It’s a brilliant place to grab a drink and a bite to eat with friends. A great place to start your own Belfast bar crawl too! They also have an “umbrella” street which is what I would call Instagramable (is that even a word now!) It’s one little small strip of street btw, don’t expect a large area! But that adds to the charm. 

cathederal quater

11. Check out the Titanic Quarter (Belfast)

Did you know that the Titanic was built in Belfast?

Well, now you do!

Here, you will find a large museum that you can explore and check out stories from the ill-fated voyage.

In fact, the whole area around the Titanic Quarter is very modern and also includes a science park (fun even for adults).

Cazzy actually did a talk for JDRF here a couple of years ago.

Perhaps the best thing to do here if you are a fan of the movie is to have afternoon tea inside of a recreation of the Titanic’s seating area at the base of the iconic staircase.

It’s held every Sunday and you can find out more here.

12. Visit the Stormont Parliament Buildings

Despite the fact that as of writing (2019) it’s been about 2 years since the NI government has actually been active properly, this is the home of the NI government. But when it’s not used for politics, it’s a beautiful building located on a big hill and it’s a great walk for the public! Your legs will burn after this walk, but you can pop into the tea room at the top for a lovely scones and coffee as a reward! 

13. Take a walk through Tollymore Forest Park

Tollymore forest park is a great spot all year around. But in the summer it’s a great place to go camping and have a picnic or BBQ, or if you love the autumn, then you’ll love thee atmosphere around that time. 

Also, Game of Thrones scenes were shot here, maybe you’ll recognise them! 

14. Witness the views from the Mourne Mountains

The Mourne mountains are a beautiful mountain range in County Down and without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland. There are actually 4 mountains but the most popular to climb is the Slieve mountain. It will only take a couple of hours and there are actually some waterfalls located on the walk too which are pretty cool. 

The views from atop the mountain are stunning and you should definitely include this on your Northern Ireland travel itinerary. 

newcastle co down

15. Discover Winterfell at Castle Ward

Castleward is home to one of the most iconic locations in Game of Thrones, Winterfell Castle, home of the Starks. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, then you’ll definitely want to make a stop here on your things to do in Northern Ireland itinerary and you can dress up in the iconic costumes and try your hand at archery. 

If you’ve never watched the show, then don’t worry, it’s still an amazing place to visit and Cazzy actually visited long before GOT was ever filmed there. The castle itself has a rich history and the grounds around it are beautiful. 

16. Discover Carrickfergus Castle

Northern Ireland is home to some beautiful castles and this is one of them. A beautiful castle located on the Belfast Lough, this is a picturesque spot in Northern Ireland’s landscape. It’s one of the best preserved medieval structures in all of the North and it’s got a very exciting history which you can learn about on your visit. 

17. Stroll through the Hillsborough Castle & Gardens

Another beautiful castle that should make it on your things to do in Northern Ireland hotlist! Hillsborough Castle is considered one of the most beautiful, and interesting historic properties in all of Northern Ireland. Wander throughouut 100 acres of stunning gardens developed from the 1760s. 

Another great place to visit in Northern Ireland when the sun is shining. 

18. Walk along the coast at Portavogie

Seafood lovers rejoice, if you want some world class, delicious seafood then a visit to the fishing port town of Portavogie should be places on your list of thing to do in Northern Irlenad. The area is famous for it’s prawns and after your mean you can take a relaxing walk along the coast and admire the stunning views that surrond you. 

beaches in northern ireland

19. Spend some time relaxing in Strangford

Strangford is another one of the great places to visit in Northern Ireland. It’s a small village in Co down and it’s known for the beautiful Strangford Lough and as a gateway to Portaferry. It’s the home of some great castles (including Castle Ward which we mentioned above) and other ruins in the area. There are also some brilliant icecream spots here! 

20. Discover Enniskillen Castle

Enniskillen castle is located in the lively town of Enniskillen. This is a great day trip from Belfast and you could pop into the town for a bite to eat, some shopping then visit the beautiful castles which sits on the water. When we visited we just wandered around and took some pictures. You can’t tour this castle, but there is information about its history located outside. 

21. Walk in the grounds of West Wing Crom Castle

Crom Castle is another awesome spot in Northern Ireland and actually this is a privately owned castle, which makes for an interesting family history indeed. You can wander around the West Wing and learn about the history, and actually the private castle is housed in a national trust area, in which you can camp, or wander around the surroundings. 

It’s a really beautiful area! 

22. Try Guinness in a traditional Irish pub

Northern Ireland is filled with amazing bars and pubs all around the place. I suggest you should find a random one off the beaten track, order a pint of Guinness (and a packet of tayto crisps) and get chatting with the locals! 

irish pub

23. Hire a car and head off the beaten track

I think some of Northern Ireland’s best sights are the ones undiscovered and the best way to find them is to rent a car and head off on your own adventure. You’ll be surprised at the lost beaches you’ll find, the hidden castles and ruins, the locals towns and much more. Plus, the public transport system in the north isn’t that great, so having a car will enable you to experience much more. 

24. Spend the night in a castle

You probably know by now that Northern Ireland is home to some amazing castles, but did you know that you can actually stay in castles too! Imagine an evening of feeling like a king or queen in your very own castle. Well, in the North of Ireland, it’s totally possible! 

This would be a unique date night idea or if you’re celebrating an anniversary or birthday. Probably considered one of the more unique things to do in Northern Ireland. 

25. Head out for a night on the town (Belfast)

Northern Ireland is home to some great party spots, but the place that really comes to life is the capital Belfast. There are all sorts of pubs and clubs available in Belfast and you’ll always have a good night. Remember though, most clubs actually close around 2am, so compared to other countries, it’s quite an early finish! 

26. Visit the Portaferry Aquarium 

This is one of the kids, or the adults who love sea life. It’s the only aquarium in all of Northern Ireland and it’s home to a seal sanctuary. It’s a great day out and there are restaurants, shops and other things to do in the area with kids! 

27. Get lost in one of the world’s biggest peace mazes 

This is one of my favourite places to visit in all of Northern Ireland. Cazzy actually grew up quite close to this, so she’s mastered the maze, but it’s fun for newbies! The peace maze is actually a symbol of peace for Northern Ireland and it’s the world’s second largest hedge maze (it was the largest until quite recently!) 

28. Wander the Rose Gardens of Castlewellan Forest Park 

If you’ve just visited the peace maze, then stay in Castlewellan forest park and venture round to the beautiful Rose Gardens. They are located to the stunning castle that’s situated above a lake (which you can also walk around) and the rose gardens are amazing. They’re peaceful, beautiful, filled with fountains, secret walkways and just generally a serene beauty. A perfect place all year round. 

lady dixon

29. Watch an ice hockey game at the SSE Arena

The ice hockey team of the North is the “Belfast Giants”. You probably wouldn’t even think about Ice Hockey but it’s awesome fun and you can actually get tickets as cheap as £10 and during the game the run competitions amongst the audience so you can win free food and prizes! 

30. Visit the beautiful Silent valley 

This is truly one of the most beautiful places in Ireland and one of the top things to do in Northern Ireland. There are actually lots of different walks in this area all ranging in different difficulty levels. It’s a great spot to get some fresh air, have a BBQ and enjoy the nature. If you don’t fancy walking too far, you can actually get a bus in the summer seasons to the Ben Crom reservoir which is about 3 miles from Silent Valley. 

Planning what to do in Northern Ireland (Ireland): All common questions answered

When is the best time to visit Northern Ireland?

Much like Ireland as a whole, the best time to visit Northern Ireland for decent weather would be June to August.

In these months, the weather should be (mostly) calm and warm.

However, Northern Ireland is well known for its wet and windy nature so expect some days to be a little miserable.

Do be aware that many of the best things to see in Ireland will be busy as this is the peak tourist months.

That’s why many choose to discover Ireland in the shoulder months of May and September, when it isn’t as busy and you can generally get away with spending a little less on things like accommodation.

That being said, I’ve been to Northern Ireland a number of times in December and January, and it really is lovely!

Especially if it snows, and you can enjoy incredible views of the snow-covered landscape.

eating in belast

Getting around Northern Ireland

There are a number of ways of getting around Northern Ireland, which includes:

1. Driving yourself

By far the best way to see Northern Ireland is by having your own set of wheels.

We hired a campervan from Spaceships Rentals and used this to travel all over both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

I would highly recommend doing the same as you get to see so much more of the country, and can also enjoy wild camping.

Alternatively, you could pick yourself up a car, and there are a number of rental firms that operate all across the country.

Whenever we rent a car, we like to start our search with Rentalcars.com.

2. Using buses

There are bus routes across Ireland, and the are usually reliable and reasonably affordable. The main transport link is called Translink and they run buses between major towns and some trains too. You can buy day passes. 

3. Hiring a driver

If you prefer the convenience you could easily hire a driver to take you around the best spots Northern Ireland has to offer. This would be the most expensive option, but it’s certainly one of the more convenient options. 

4. Going on a tour

Tours are often regarded as one of the best ways to see sights in Northern Ireland, especially if you can’t rent your own vehicle. The problem with tours is that they will be busy and head to generic places, but if that’s all your here to see and you want to meet other people, then they’re a great option! I suggest you use Get Your Guide for your tours and if people offer you a better price in person then take it. 

Read Also: A Guide To Getting Around Ireland: Everything Explained!

How long do you need in Northern Ireland?

If you are planning a vacation to Northern Ireland, then I would typically recommend that you need at least a week to see as much of the country as possible.

This doesn’t  include any time spent travelling further south and into Ireland.

It seems like most people come to Belfast, and maybe do day trips to the Causeway Coast, but then fail to see very much more.

The Real Northern Ireland can only be discovered by getting away from the busy city of Belfast and out into the smaller villages, towns and castles dotted all around.

Where to stay in Northern Ireland?

For our Ireland roadtrip, we hired a vehicle from Spaceships Rentals. We had an amazing time with them, and you can read our in-depth review of them here.

Most nights we either wild camping or staying in campsites, but there are also some great hotels in Northern Ireland, especially cute bed and breakfasts. I recommend using the following sites to find the best deals for accommodation in Northern Ireland. 

  • Airbnb - We use this for all of our homestays in Northern Ireland
  • Booking.com - We use Booking.com for all of our hotel bookings in Northern Ireland
  • HostelWorld - Perfect for finding cheap deals on the most popular hostels in Northern Ireland
  • Couchsurfing - The best way to find locals places to stay in Northern Ireland

Can you book tours in Northern Ireland?

Yes you can!

If you need the hassle of planning a Northern Ireland itinerary, then why not book onto a tour. It can be the quickest and easiest way to make the most of your stay.

They are also a great way to meet fellow travellers and experience all of North Ireland’s amazing sites with others. 

Whenever we book tours, we always use these 2 sites:

Useful tools for planning your visit to Northern Ireland

For flights to Ireland we always recommend starting your search with Skyscanner.

We always recommend having travel insurance, and World Nomads are usually a great, affordable choice.

Spaceships Rentals offer excellent campervans and motorhomes if you want to experience #vanlife.

For car rental, you can start with RentalCars.com.

Other useful posts for planning your trip to Ireland

Below we have some other great guides we’ve written that you might find useful for your trip Northern Ireland


So there you have it! My guide to the 30 best things to do in Northern Ireland. This list should get you started and you'll discover even more on your trip to Northern Ireland. If you've got any other activities to add to the list then drop them below!

Happy travelling.

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