There are many amazing 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
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?
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
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. 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 quick).
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 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 representing 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
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 which 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
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 awesome places to visit in Northern Ireland!
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!
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Map of the Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland
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