Northern Ireland is one incredible place to explore whilst travelling around Ireland and the UK. With all its valleys, rugged coastlines, beautiful castles and cities, there are so many amazing and best places in Northern Ireland to visit.
Now, I might be a little bit biased (my grandparents are from Northern Ireland) but there’s just so many incredible places to explore. What’s more, it’s not just those physical landscapes and places that make Northern Ireland so special. It’s the people! Now, again, I know I’m probably biased but you’ll find some of the friendliest people here.
Honestly, it makes travelling around the island such a treat.
This is why I wanted to share a few of my favourite and best places in Northern Ireland you should think of visiting. Some of based in the cities, others a little further afield. Whatever the case, I’m almost certain you’ll find a few spots to add on your trip around the country.
Take a look below at some of the best places in Nothern Ireland to visit.
1.) See Giant’s Causeway
For me, visiting a new place is always about finding something unique to the area. And you know what, that’s what Giant’s Causeway is for Northern Ireland.
With over 40,000 columns, this UNESCO World Heritage Site formed millions of years ago from some sort of volcanic eruption. I’m not going to even attempt to describe how… my geology is patchy at best.
That being said, I do know about the legend of the giants (in Ireland and Scotland) that were challenged to fight. In order for this duel to take place, the giants created a causeway over the ocean (to Scotland)… so the legend goes. Still, to this day, you can see similar columns at Fingal’s Cave in Scotland. Apparently, it’s part of the same lava flow… though, the Giants will tell you different!
Oh, and remember, it’s free to visit Giant’s Causeway but you will need to pay if you want to explore the Visitor Centre (Which, I’d personally avoid). To access the causeway for free, follow through the archway at the side of the visitor’s centre, or if you’re not worried about heights, explore it via the cliffs by going over the roof of the centre itself.
Whatever way you go, trust me when I say it’s one of the best places in Northern Ireland to visit.
2.) Explore Belfast
Belfast is the capital city and one of the best places in Northern Ireland to visit for a city break.
Once you’re here, visit the Titanic Belfast which has over nine galleries showcasing everything about the Titanic. Head to the HMS Caroline, the Belfast Cathedral, the Crumlin Road Gaol, and indulge in some amazing food at restaurants like Ox, James Street South, The Muddlers Club, and Howard Street.
If you’ve got time, take a stroll to see Belfast City Hall and Belfast Castle, too.
Finally, if you’re spending a few days in the city, pop out to see Stormont (a few miles from the city centre) that’s well worth seeing.
3.) See The Dark Hedges
Around a 50-minute drive from Belfast, the Dark Hedges has become one of the most popular and best places in Northern Ireland to visit. Planted almost 300 years ago, the beech trees were chosen as an imposing entrance to Gracehill House (which it certainly does).
Made even more famous from appearing in Game of Thrones, the Dark Hedges is a gorgeous little stopping point to see before exploring more of the north coast. Just be aware that crowds can gather at peak times. This means it’s often best to go earlier in the morning and avoiding holidays or weekends.
4.) Find the Glens of Antrim
For one of the best places in Northern Ireland to experience for nature, make sure drive through the stunning Glens of Antrim. There are nine in total and each has its own charming and unique character that is incredible to explore.
Once here, make sure to explore Glenariff with its rugged beauty and waterfalls is known as the “Queen of the Glens”. Visit the beaches of Glenarm, Ballygally, Cushendall, and Carnlough. Oh, and stop over at Slemish Mountain which is a beaut.
If you’re here in August, visit Cushendall for the “Heart of the Glens” music festival that’s pretty fun, too.
5.) See Carrickfergus Castle
Honestly, Northern Ireland is full of some pretty stunning castles, with Carrickfergus Castle being no different.
Considered one of the best preserved medieval castles in Ireland, it’s a great place to explore for a few hours after leaving Belfast and a pretty easy place to wander around for a stop off in the area.
6.) Visit Old Bushmills Distillery
You can’t go to Northern Ireland and not try some Irish whiskey!
Head to the oldest working distillery on the river banks in the quaint village of Bushmills. They have been handcrafting small batches of whiskey for over 400 years (yep, you read that correctly). The distillery is older than some countries!
Pop over for a tour and a little taster too! Just make sure to have a designated driver with you. No one likes a drink-driver.
7.) Explore Kinbane Castle
Around 8-miles from Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Kinbane Castle (and Kinbane Head) is a stunning area to include on your trip around Northern Ireland.
Once here, make sure to explore the area, and make sure to bring some sturdy shoes… the trek down and back up can be tough. If you struggle with steps or don’t fancy around 140-steps down, then it might be best to see Kinbane Castle from afar.
Whatever you choose, it’s one of the more ‘hidden’ spots and best places in Northern Ireland to explore.
8.) Discover Dunluce Castle
Around a 60-minutes drive from Belfast, Dunluce Castle is one of the best places in Northern Ireland to visit if you love castles. Perched right over from Portrush, it’s one beautiful castle that’s history goes back centuries.
Now, don’t worry if you don’t drive, you can easily get here by taking the train to Portrush and hopping on a bus or taxi to the castle area itself.
Oh, and if you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will probably recognize Dunluce Castle as the House of Greyjoy Castle?
9.) Enjoy Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is a journey in itself. Travel back in time and see what life was like centuries ago in this one-of-a-kind spot.
Explore historic cottages, schools, farmhouses, shops, churches, and more, all like they were back in the day. Whilst wandering around, you’ll spot over 500 original artefacts, check out the steam locomotives, horse-drawn carriages, boats, electric trams, fire-engines and amazing vintage cars in the Transport Museum.
10.) Hike the Cliffs of Magho & Lower Lough Erne
Perched on the opposite end of Northern Ireland (from Belfast), the Cliffs of Magho and Lower Lough Erne is one of the best places in Northern Ireland for views across the countryside.
Once here, make sure to explore go on a forest drive through the area or head out on foot on a cliff walk. The whole area is stunning and it’s just so peaceful.
11.) Stroll through Bangor
Not to be confused with Bangor in Wales, Bangor in Northern Ireland is pretty close to Belfast and pretty easy to visit.
Once here, stroll through the Bangor Castle Walled Garden, chill at the Crawfordsburn Country Park, check out the Old Customs House, the Clandeboye, and enjoy taking a ramble to the marina. It’s the perfect place for a peaceful getaway from the city. Oh, and if you fancy a hike up the coast, join the Blackhead Path that’s around 5-8 miles from Bangor itself.
For a lovely place to stay, check into the Old Inn Crawfordsburn, which is around 2-miles from the centre.
12.) Explore Derry
Derry (also called Londonderry) may not be as popular as Belfast but add it to your list for its history, architecture, stunning skyline, and hip festivals. It really is one of the best places in Northern Ireland to visit if you want an authentic slice of Northern Irish life.
Once you’re here, check out the 17th Century walls, the 12 Bogside Murals on Rossville St., the Guildhall, the Tower Museum, the Museum of Free Derry, and The Peace Bridge which is easily the most beautiful bridge in Northern Ireland.
Oh, and don’t forget to pop into Browns Bonds Hill that makes some of the best grub in Derry.
13.) Find Downhill Demesne
There is no dearth of stunning views in Northern Ireland and the spectacular Downhill Demesne is proof of this for sure!
Now, Downhill Demesne is an 18th Century mansion that was built by Earl Bishop and the open grounds include gardens, woodlands, and “Hezlett House”, one of the oldest thatched cottages in this region.
The grounds are perfect for a picnic and the views from Mussenden Temple which is perched right on the cliff edge is out of this world. It’s quite easy to pair up a visit to Downhill Demesne whilst you’re at Dunluce Castle, so plan your trip to include both.
14.) Walk Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Cross Northern Ireland’s most famous rope bridge, the Carrick-a-Rede which is close to Ballintoy in County Antrim. It connects the mainland to the small island of Carrickarede and is 20 metres wide and 30 metres above the rocks (enough to make you gulp).
Apparently, there have been bridges crossing to the island for centuries, way back when local fisherman used to look for salmon nearby. Open all year round (as long as weather permits).
Plus, if you’re interested in volcanoes, Carrickarede island is said to be one of the very best volcanic plugs in all the country.
15.) Explore Kilkeel & Mourne Mountains
If small towns are what you’re after, head to Kilkeel in County Down for a little explore and bite to eat. With ancient ruins, winding streets, terraced shops and more, Kilkeel is a charming town that you can’t help but fall in love with. Once you’re here, make sure to gorge at Cunningham’s Kitchen (they make some of the best burgers in the area).
Afterwards, pop over to the Mourne Mountains which is one of the highest mountain ranges in the country. It’s easily up there as one of the best places in Northern Ireland to visit, especially if you love hiking (to spots like Slieve Donard).
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