The roar of traditional folk music and wealth of fascinating museums mean Northern Ireland is brimming with history just waiting to be experienced. The country's beautiful landscape also brings together lapping seas, peaceful beaches, boundless hills, and towering mountains for an adventure unlike any other.
Looking for some of the best landscapes in the UK? Or perhaps you want to while away the hours by hitting the links? There's such a range of things to do in Northern Ireland we created our list of top attractions, activities and days out so you don't miss anything.
Places to Visit
The largest city in Northern Ireland, Belfast is home to both the historic site of Bangor Castle and luxury shopping at Victoria Square and CastleCourt. You can even mix a trip back in time with the chance to grab a bargain by visiting St George's Market. Built in 1896, and one of Belfast's oldest attractions, people flock from far and wide to grab the finest fresh produce, crafts, and antiques on offer. Discover hidden cultural gems with a guided tour around Belfast's streets before getting up close and personal with art and science through interactive exhibits at Ulster Museum. Belfast Castle Estate and Cave Hill sit just outside the city, meaning a day trip can easily become a weekend stay!
Also known as Londonderry, Derry sits in the north-west corner of Northern Ireland and is famed for its city walls that stretch a mile long. Built in the 17th Century, they protected settlers from English and Scottish forces and now provide stunning views as they wind around the Renaissance-style streets. Take the opportunity to learn about the history of The Troubles, the Battle of the Bogside, and Bloody Sunday at the Museum of Free Derry before marvelling at the stained-glass windows of the Guildhall. Derry also comes alive at night with Latin American and jazz music heard in bars, and clubs throughout the city, all serving great local beers.
One of the finest seaside resorts in the country, Bangor makes for a great day out in Northern Ireland thanks to its beautiful sandy beaches and breath-taking marina. Crawfordsburn Country Park is the perfect spot for a family picnic, a relaxing stroll through meadows, and even a spectacular jog, as a 5K running trail weaves through the woodlands and down past the coast. Get a taste of military history at Grey Point Fort, which houses memorabilia from both the First and Second World War. You can even follow in the footsteps of Bangor's ancient saints and learn about Christianity's development across Europe by trekking along the Bangor Christian Heritage trail.
Only a quick drive north of Belfast, Antrim is a delightful town in the heart of County Antrim filled with heritage trails for you to enjoy. Learn about the fascinating myths and legends behind the area's famous sites, such as the Carngraney Tomb, built thousands of years ago. For a more leisurely stroll, two stunningly-kept destinations can be found at Richardson's Walled Garden and Antrim Castle Gardens, the latter of which is also home to Clotworthy House. Hosting exhibitions and classes throughout the year, it's the perfect chance to learn about the local wildlife. Bowling greens, golf courses, and rivers ready for both canoeing and fishing make Antrim a great blend of exciting activities and homely relaxation.
One of television's biggest hits, Game of Thrones, has excited fans from all over the world and brought them to Northern Ireland to see its many filming locations. Take in a guided tour of the coast of Dorne and beaches of Dragonstone by Portstewart before moving east to see the Stormlands and Slaver's Bay. When you're ready for a rest, be on the lookout for the ten amazingly crafted wooden doors that represent episodes from the show's sixth season. Hung in restaurants and bars across the country, these doors were carved from felled trees from the Dark Hedges, which was used to film scenes on the Kingsroad!
See Giant's Causeway
Without a doubt, one of the highlights of any trip to Northern Ireland is setting your sights on the magnificent Giant's Causeway. The result of an ancient volcanic eruption, the site is home to around 40,000 interlocking columns of basalt rock that gradually descend below the surface of the sea. Bring your camera and gaze at one of nature's most majestic sites - the sun setting amid the sea air and the sound of roaring waves. The site is also a mere three miles north of the town of Bushmills, best known as the home of the Old Bushmills Distillery. Perfect for an afternoon tipple, Bushmills has been the capital of whiskey brewing since 1784, with thousands of people visiting every year to taste the authentic Irish blends.
Once the largest ship in the world, the RMS Titanic was a marvel of man-made engineering. Designed as the height of luxury for some of the wealthiest people in the world, it also carried hundreds of migrants from around Europe. Its sinking in 1912 was a historic disaster that shocked the world. Let the Titanic Belfast museum take you back in time to experience the true legend of the Titanic, with recreations of its magnificent rooms and the colossal plans for the ship on display. Then learn about the other 'Olympic' class ships that were built in the world-famous Harland & Wolff shipyard and board the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world - the SS Nomadic.
Days Out and Activities in Northern Ireland
Journey Through Irish Music History
The rich history of Irish music can be felt no matter where you stay. The Belfast Music Exhibition and Tour explore the history of Northern Ireland's most famous acts, including Van Morrison and The Undertones, as well as unearthing fascinating facts along the way. For example, Led Zeppelin first performed 'Stairway to Heaven' live at Belfast's Ulster Hall in 1971! Newcastle, Ballycastle and Derry are all home to music festivals and artisan markets where you can hear jazz and big band music play throughout the summer months. And, of course, pubs and bars across the country spring to life with the sound of traditional Irish music performed by local acts, or sometimes the locals themselves!
Take to the Greens
If you're a fan of golf, Northern Ireland gives you a great opportunity to hit the links on some of the best courses in the world. To the north lies Royal Portrush, while Royal County Down sits in the south - both are must-see courses with beautiful architecture making for a relaxing round as you enjoy the surrounding countryside. There are courses to be found across the country for players of all levels, from large golf centres in Belfast and Lisburn to driving ranges and smaller putting greens. Kids can even get in on the fun with a trip to one of the many crazy golf sites and family fun centres in Newtownards and Antrim.
Enjoy Sandy Beaches
West Strand, Ballintoy Harbour, Castlerock and Rathlin Island are just some of the sights to see when you tour Ireland's golden beaches. They're the perfect chance to start your day with a tranquil morning walk or even spend an entire day with the family, kite flying and seeking out wildlife in rock pools. There's over 200km of coastline for you to see, and a range of charming seaside towns to enjoy. Once you're finished exploring the sand, relax with a meal in a local café or pub and be sure to look out for their specials - the local cuisine is simply divine!
My Perfect Stay
I have a real soft spot for Northern Ireland ever since my first trip across the channel when I was a boy. There is something incredibly special about the whole place that always starts with a journey, whether you choose to jump on a plane or sail across by ferry, you’ll be sure to be in for a real treat when you take your first steps on the emerald isle.
I really love the great outdoors, and Northern Ireland is the most perfect place for me, with its magnificent landscapes, glistening Loughs and dramatic coastline, you really will be spoilt for choice as you indulge yourself in a thrilling Irish adventure!
My favourite place has got to be Portrush in Co.Antrium, commonly known to locals as the jewel in Northern Ireland’s crown, with its very own fishing harbour, traditional Irish pubs and restaurants and its golden beach, it definitely has everything you need for that perfect day out whatever time of year you choose to visit! For me, I have a real soft spot for local cuisine and the best place I think to eat and drink would have to be at the ‘Mermaid Kitchen and Bar’ that overlooks the picturesque harbour, this the perfect place to try the ‘catch-of-the-day’ or (my favourite) sampling a pint or two of the famous Irish stout that is, Guinness!
A trip to the area would not be complete without a visit to the World renowned attractions dotted along its spectacular coastline including the incredible Giants Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Old Bushmills Distillery and the thrilling Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The choice is yours.