With its postcard-perfect green pastures, sites of historical significance, fun festivals, cultural events, cool cities and superb food and drink scene, Northern Ireland has a lot to offer. So, to help you plan your trip, here’s our recommended bucket list of what to see in Northern Ireland in each of the different counties.
The Giant’s Causeway- Co. Antrim
The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited tourist site in Northern Ireland. The unique landscape of volcanic formations is a sight to behold as 40,000 interconnected polygonal basalt columns spill over into the dramatic Atlantic Ocean.
Legend has it that the Irish giant, Finn MacCool, created the causeway to reach the Scottish giant, Benandonner.
Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge – Co. Antrim
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge connects the sea cliffs to Carrick-a-Rede Island. It has been in existence for over 350 years and was first erected by fisherman. On the tiny island, you’ll find just one lone building, a fisherman’s cottage but there’s loads of interesting flora and fauna and because of this and its particular geology, Carrick-a-Rede Island is designated an area of special scientific interest.
The rope bridge is suspended 30 metres (100 feet) above the sea and wobbles as you walk across. But that just adds to the sense of adventure. No, honest, it does. When you cross, make sure you make time to walk around the island and admire the spectacular views.
Dark Hedges – Co. Antrim
The Dark Hedges is a beautiful avenue of intertwining beech trees that were first planted in the eighteenth century. They are a very popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland thanks to their appearance in Game of Thrones (as the King’s Road and the place where Arya Stark escapes from King’s Landing).
The Dark Hedges is also a pilgrimage spot for motorbike fans thanks to their association with the “Armoy Armada” and Armoy road races.
The Gobbins Cliff Walk – Co. Antrim
The Gobbins is a collection of breathtaking cliffs at Islandmagee on the east Antrim coast. The Cliff Walk is a hair-raising path that winds its way around the cliffs, past caves and through a tunnel. The tunnel is a replica of a bridge originally built over 100 years ago and it spans 20 metres and hangs directly over the sea. The Gobbins Cliff Walk takes about 2.5 hours to complete and can only be done with a guide. But it really is worth it as it is one of the most dramatic cliff-walks in Europe.
Old Bushmills Distillery – Co. Antrim
In 1608, Sir Thomas Phillips, the founder of Bushmills, was awarded a royal license to distil whiskey by King James I. This makes Bushmills the oldest licensed distillery in the world.
A tour of the Bushmills Distillery will tell you all about the history of the company and the area and show you how the triple-distilled whiskey is made. You’ll also get to taste the whiskey. If you want to learn more about the range of whiskies, you can also arrange a private tasting session.
Armagh Planetarium – Co. Armagh
The Armagh Planetarium is located in the lovely landscaped grounds of the Armagh Astropark alongside the Armagh Observatory. Here you can learn all about astronomy and take workshops on rocket building, meteorite impacts, space robots and solar viewing. You can also peep through Ireland’s largest public telescope. There is also a very cool shop with lots of scientific and educational gifts.
Derry Walls – Co. Derry
The City of Derry is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of a Walled City in Europe. The city walls were built between 1613 and 1618 as a means of defence. To make the most of your walk, you can hire a guide to tell you all about the city’s history and heritage. Dotted along the walls are 24 restored cannons including Roaring Meg, most famous cannon on Derry’s historic walls. This is located on the Double Bastion on the south-west corner.
Peace Maze – Co. Down
The Peace Maze in Castlewellan is the second-largest permanent hedge maze in the world. The maze is made from 6,000 yew trees and covers 2.7 acres (11,000 square meters). It was created to commemorate the peace process and efforts in Northern Ireland over the past century. In fact, the trees were planted by people from all over Northern Ireland. In the centre of the maze, you’ll find the Peace Bell and you ring this to let people know that you have solved the maze.
Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail – Co. Fermanagh
The ‘Stairway to Heaven’ at Cuilcagh Boardwalk (Legnabrocky Trail) is a 7.4km walk that meanders through rare blanket bog. The wooden boardwalk, which protects the fragile landscape, steadily rises to the face of Cuilcagh Mountain. Once you reach the top, you’ll be able to see Lough Atona, which is a glacial lake created during the last Ice Age around 13,000 years ago. Make sure you have your camera with you as the sweeping views from the top are wonderful.
Gortin Glen Forest Park – Co. Tyrone
Gortin Glen Forest Park is a gateway to the spectacular Sperrin Mountains. The forest drive is about 5 miles long and has marvellous views and plenty of places to pull in and stop to admire the views. However, there are also plenty of way-marked trails for those who want to explore more of the forest on foot. This gives you a better opportunity to get up close and personal with the forest’s flora and fauna and to enjoy being out in nature and fresh air. You can also mountain bike or horse ride through the area and there are camping and bbq facilities so you can really make the most of your time here or stay even longer.
Giant’s Causeway Tour from Dublin
If you want to tick some of these places off your Northern Ireland bucket list, our day tour from Dublin to the Giant’s Causeway also takes in the brilliant city of Belfast and the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge via the dramatic and wild Antrim coastline.
Game of Thrones Tour from Dublin
Our Game of Thrones tour from Dublin takes you to the Giant’s Causeway as well as The Dark Hedges.
Bespoke Northern Ireland Tours from Dublin
We can also create a bespoke Northern Ireland itinerary for you so that you can see more of this beautiful country at your own pace. Just contact us and we will help you plan a fully customizable tour.