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19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

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Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland - Carrick a Rede Causeway Coast

There are so many amazing places to visit in Northern Ireland! Epic coastal road trips, cute seaside towns, scenic countryside villages, and rolling mountain ranges… there is simply so much to discover.

Plus there are eight Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB’s) to choose from, so when it comes to stunning landscapes and wildlife you’re spoilt for choice.

Then there are the historic towns and cities, the rich history, and lively local legends. Expect a warm and welcoming culture, with great food and boundless hospitality.

There are so many reasons to plan a visit to Northern Ireland. And there’s so much to see and do when you get there!

With so many amazing places to visit on your trip to Northern Ireland, the only difficulty is knowing where to choose. So I asked some amazing bloggers and locals to recommend their favourite spots. Get ready to discover the very best of Northern Ireland… 

Map of Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

19 Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

One of the most famous places to visit in all of Northern Ireland is the iconic Giant’s Causeway.

The star attraction of the Causeway Coast, the Giant’s Causeway is a MUST! It’s made up of around 40,000 basalt columns, strangely polygonal in shape. These columns interlock perfectly to form a pavement. So it’s easy to see why local legends suggest they were shaped by hand.

There’s a brilliant legend behind the Giant’s Causeway’s creation. According to tradition, the Causeway was built as stepping stones by the giant Fionn mac Cumhail (also called Finn McCool) in order to pick a fight with the Scottish giant Benandonner. Although science says that the world-famous interlocking basalt columns were created by an ancient volcanic eruption… so who knows what to believe?!

Recommended Tour: Giant’s Causeway Full-Day Guided Tour from Belfast – from £30pp

Belfast – Capital of Northern Ireland

Recommended by: Maja, Away with Maja

Places to Visit in Northern Ireland - Belfast Titanic Museum

As the capital city, Belfast can’t be missed on a trip to Northern Ireland. You’ll be spoiled for choice with things to do – from culture to history to food and drink.

Visit Titanic Belfast to discover the tale of the tragic ship in the city where it was built. Enjoy stunning architecture like Belfast City Hall and Queen’s University, before retreating to the quiet of the Botanic Gardens.

No visit to Belfast would be complete without learning about the Troubles. This is the name of the multi-decade conflict between (Catholic) Nationalists and (Protestant) Unionists in Northern Ireland. Take a tour of the murals to gain a deeper understanding of the city’s very recent history. You can visit the murals around Falls Road and Shankill Road – and the Peace Wall – on a black taxi tour or a walking tour. Some tours are run by former political prisoners.

Recommended Tours: Political Murals, Street Art, and Peace Gate – walking tour from £18pp. Belfast Taxi Mural Tour – from £60 per group.

For a nightcap, there are some excellent places to drink around Belfast. Try to grab a booth at the Crown Liquor Saloon, one of the most ornate pubs in the city, or bar-hop down Commercial Court in the Cathedral Quarter.

Belfast is an excellent and underrated city break, and definitely one of the top destinations in Northern Ireland.

Downhill Demesne & Mussenden Temple, Londonderry

Recommended by: Luke, Wild About BC

Mussenden Temple Northern Ireland

Situated on the edge of a 120-foot cliff that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, Mussenden Temple is one of the most spectacular places to visit on the entire island of Ireland.

This picturesque temple was built in 1785 and sits in the grounds of Downhill Demesne. You can enjoy walking through the ruins of the old Bishop’s house before walking down to the cliff edge where Mussenden Temple dramatically sits.

From the temple, you get magnificent views in all directions. To the West, you will see Downhill Beach directly below you and you can see all the way over to County Donegal. Look East and you will see Castlerock beach – and beyond that, the seaside town of Portstewart.

This is a great place to explore with lots of walking trails offering views over the beautiful and rugged coastline of Northern Ireland’s north coast.

The Dark Hedges, County Antrim

Recommended by: Kristin, Adventures with En Suite

Dark Hedges Northern Ireland

The Dark Hedges needs no introduction for any Game of Thrones fans. This mystical ‘tunnel’ of trees is also worth a visit if you have never watched the show.

It might have been the TV series that made it famous, but the avenue of trees was planted in the 18th Century when the Stuart family wanted an imposing approach to their new mansion, Gracehill House.

According to local legend, a ghost called The Grey Lady lives in the hedges. On dark nights she can be seen walking the road or moving from tree to tree. The ghost is believed to be the spirit of one of the Stuarts’ daughters, or maybe a housemaid who died mysteriously.

After featuring in Game of Thrones, the Dark Hedges has become a popular tourist attraction – so try to visit early or late in the day to avoid the tour groups.

Recommended Tour: Giants Causeway & Game of Thrones Location Tour from Belfast – from £31pp

Ards Peninsula, County Down

Sunrise over Scrabo Tower Ards Peninsula

Although less than half an hour from Belfast, the Ards Peninsula is somewhat less known than the more famous Causeway Coast. However, it’s easily one of the most amazing places to visit in Northern Ireland.

Separating Strangford Lough from the Irish Sea, the Ards Peninsula boasts miles of stunning coastline dotted with quaint villages. Don’t miss the colourful fishing village of Portaferry, the historic ruins of Grey Abbey, or the whitewashed cottages of the historic National-Trust-owned Kearney village.

For the best views of the Peninsula, head to Scrabo Tower and Country Park. Perched on top of Scrabo Hill, the tower is also one of the best-known landmarks in Northern Ireland. From the top of the hill, you’ll get exceptional views of both Strangford Lough and the whole of North Down.

Boa Island, Fermanagh

Recommended by: Faith, XYUandBEYOND

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

In Lough Erne Fermanagh sit several beautiful islands including Boa, Lusty Beg, Lusty More, Devenish and White Island. On Boa Island lies a mystery that has yet to be deciphered… the mystery of the Janus head.

You can see this enigmatic figure in the Caldragh Cemetery just off the B82 road to Boa Island. No tour buses go to Boa Island, so you’ll need to rent a car.

This mysterious cemetery is said to be one of the “thin places”. Within it stand two curious figures that pre-date Christianity.

The larger stone is called the two-headed Janus. One side is female and the other male. To the side of Janus stands a smaller figure. This is known as “the Lustyman” because it was found on the nearby island Lusty More. However, historians have theorized that it represents the “divine hag” or Boa and is a female figure.

The islands of Lough Erne are a superb off-the-beaten-path destination in Northern Ireland and so beautiful you may not want to leave! 

Bangor, County Down

Recommended by: Allan, It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor

Bangor Northern Ireland

The scenic seaside town of Bangor, Northern Ireland is found just 30 minutes down the train lines from Belfast City Centre, on what is known as Northern Ireland’s “Gold Coast” due to its sandy beaches and high property prices.

Bangor also marks the start of the famous “North Down Coastal Path”, which connects the more scenic spots of this stretch. The main draw to the town would be the fancy marina and seaside attractions, including Pickie Fun Park, a sprawling pier, as well as various central beaches.

But there is more to the town than its shiny seafront, with a rich cultural backdrop centred around Bangor Castle – home to a great onsite museum and a Victorian walled garden. Then there’s Bangor Abbey, a significant heritage site for Europe’s Christian beginnings.

Ballintoy & Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim

Recommended by: Nicole, Go Far Grow Close

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge Northern Ireland

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was originally built in 1755 by local fishermen. It is a rope bridge between two cliffs about 100ft above the Atlantic Ocean. Today, it’s managed by a National Trust and includes beautiful walks along cliffs overlooking the ocean.

From the carpark, you walk one mile along a fairly level path: this part is wheelchair and pushchair-friendly. After a mile, you reach fairly steep stairs that take you down to the entrance to the bridge. Only those who are physically fit should descend, as it’s quite a climb back up!

At the bridge, you wait your turn to cross before walking, at your own pace, over the bridge. Directly below you are waves harshly hitting the rocks. Although it feels precarious and dangerous, you’re completely surrounded by rope. You might slip, but you will not fall into the ocean. Once across, you can explore the little island at your leisure and return across the bridge when you’ve had enough. 

Recommended Tour: Giant’s Causeway and Rope Bridge Tour from Belfast – from £25pp

Londonderry, County Londonderry

Recommended by: Joanna, The World in my Pocket

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Londonderry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland. For many years the name of the city was disputed between Londonderry and Derry, depending on the political affinities of the residents.

Whilst the official name of the city is “Londonderry”, the younger generations have adopted the term “Legenderry”, which couldn’t be more suitable, as there are some pretty amazing things to do in Londonderry!

A very peaceful city today, Londonderry has a very troubled recent history. One of the best ways to learn about its past is by taking a free city tour or go on a guided walk of the city walls. The murals in Bogside remind visitors of the Troubles and the 1972 Bloody Sunday.

Recommended Tour: Bloody Sunday & Bogside Murals Walking Tour – from £25pp

In 2011, the Peace Bridge was inaugurated. The bridge is shaped as an “S”, symbolising a handshake between the two sides of the river Foyle. Thousands of people attended the weekend-long party, attended by the First Ministers of Ireland and Northern Ireland as well.   

Lough Neagh

Recommended by: Bradley, Dream Big, Travel Far

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Just 20 miles west of Belfast lies the biggest lake in the entire British Isles, and arguably one of its most beautiful too. With many things to do in Northern Ireland, visiting Lough Neagh is definitely a must. It spans over 151 square miles and is a huge source of fresh water for the area.

This is also home to the iconic eels of Lough Neagh, who travel from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean to mature before returning to the Sargasso Sea. There are plenty of eel fisheries here exporting their eels around the globe. It’s even said that these eels have been eaten since the Bronze Age!

Birdwatching is another thing that Lough Neagh is known for, as there are a huge variety of birds all in the surrounding shores and boglands, all through the summers and winters.

Bushmills & Bushmills Distillery, County Antrim

Recommended by: Charles, McCool Travel

Northern Ireland Food Tour
Hot Toddy at the Bushmills Distillery

Giants Causeway is one of the top attractions in the world, but savvy travellers will also explore the nearby quaint village of Bushmills. Highlights include Bushmills Distillery, The Bushmills Inn, Finn MacCool’s Public House, and plenty of Northern Ireland charm.

Allow two hours to tour Old Bushmills Distillery, the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery. Book tour reservation slots in advance if you can, as you may have to wait a bit if you book onsite. Either way, spend idle time sampling products, shopping for gifts, or, when the wait exceeds an hour, explore Bushmills village.

The Bushmills Inn is one of the best places to stay in Northern Ireland. The building traces its history to the 1600’s, and they have received many awards for the best hotel in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Ancient Dunwick Castle is only 2.5 miles away, while the Dundarave Estate is a classic Irish garden estate between Bushmills and Giants Causeway.

Recommended Tour: Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Whiskey Tour – from £35pp

Cushendun, County Antrim

Recommended by: Lavina, Continent Hop

Cushenden Northern Ireland

The village of Cushenden, located in the Antrim coast’s heart about 30 minutes from the Giant’s Causeway, is an AONB – An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Centuries ago, Cushenden was used as a harbour for people travelling between Scotland and Ireland. This element and the Cushendun caves’ presence made this village famous as a Game of Thrones shooting location.

Taking a look at the caves hardly takes a few minutes. However, the coast’s hiking trail is very picturesque and is one of the must-do things in Cushendun. This isn’t the only walking path, though; there are many that pass through the village and harbour as well.

If this makes you tired and hungry, try to grab some pub food at Mary McBride’s, one of Ireland’s smallest bars. 

For people who love spotting wildlife, red squirrels – which were once thought to be extinct – can be found in Cushendun near Cregagh Wood, making for another peaceful walk. 

Portrush & White Rocks Beach, County Antrim

Recommended by: Claire, Tales of a Backpacker 

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Portrush is a bustling seaside town on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. There are plenty of things to do in Portrush, such as the chance to go surfing, fishing and take boat trips, or enjoy the spectacular beaches on both sides of the town. 

Portrush is also a great place for golfers and was host to the 2019 Open Championship. The golf course runs along the coast and has wonderful sea views. It’s also not far from the Bushmills whiskey distillery and the Giant’s Causeway.

The beaches are the main draw of Portrush though, in particular East Strand Beach which stretches for two miles to the east of Portrush, ending with White Rocks Beach where you can explore the caverns and arches formed in the limestone cliffs. 

From there, you can continue along the coastal path to the ruins of Dunluce Castle, medieval ruins and Game of Thrones filming location.

Rathlin Island, County Antrim

Recommended by: Karen of Outdoor Adventure Sampler

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

The remote beauty of Rathlin Island makes this gem off the northern coast a must-visit destination.

Take the ferry from Ballycastle to the scenic working harbour of Rathlin Island. Visit the nearby Boat House museum for fascinating local stories. You can also watch the seals play from the beach.

Next, walk, rent a bike, or take the Puffin Bus to travel the 4.5 miles to the Sea Bird Center. Huge colonies of puffins, guillemot, kittiwakes, razorbills, and fulmars breed and raise their young here. Volunteer guides provide information about this incredible viewing of the largest nesting seabird colony in Northern Ireland.

The island has three lighthouses, with the West Lighthouse being the most unique. This upside-down lighthouse is built directly into the cliff. You descend down to see the red light at the base of the lighthouse. The cliffside views and history make it worth a visit.

Cliffs of Magho & Lower Lough Erne, Fermanagh

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Formed by a deep glacial trough, Lower Lough Erne is one of the most impressive natural landscapes in Northern Ireland, and one of the best places to visit in the country!

Stretching for 20 miles from Enniskillen to Rosscor, the lake is dotted with over 40 islands and surrounded by woodlands and wildlife-rich grasslands. It’s also a birdwatcher’s paradise: home to dozens of resident and migrating species.

The Cliffs of Magho are a 9km-long limestone escarpment along the southwestern edge of the lake. At their highest, the cliffs are around 300m, so the views from the top are incredible. Look out across the scattered islands of Lough Erne to the Blue Stack Mountains of County Donegal!

Kilkeel & Mourne Mountains, County Down

Mourne Mountains Newry Northern Ireland

In the south of County Down, Kilkeel is the southernmost town in Northern Ireland. It’s also the main fishing port on the Down coast, known for its authentic working harbour and incredible seafood.

Kilkeel is also the ideal setting off point for exploring the nearby Mourne Mountains AONB. The area is made up of fifteen peaks, including the tallest mountain in Northern Ireland: Slieve Donard at 850m.

The mountains sweep down to meet the sea on the Down Coast, so you get the best of both worlds within the AONB. Dramatic coastline with some stunning beaches and a vast array of sea life – including dolphins, seals, otters and porpoises. As well as mountainous upland areas full of stunning snow-capped peaks and majestic woodland.

The Sperrins AONB, Londonderry and Tyrone

19 of the Very Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

The Sperrins is a mountain range that stretches across the country, straddling the counties of Tyrone and Londonderry. The area was designated an AONB in 2008 and is made up of some incredible landscapes – so it’s well worth exploring.

In between the dramatic mountains, you can find sparkling lakes, narrow glens and deep valleys. It’s also one of the least visited areas in the country! So this is the perfect place to get off the beaten path. Plan a road trip or get your hiking boots on and hit the trails!

Cuilcagh Boardwalk & Marble Arch Caves, Fermanagh

Cuilcagh Boardwalk Northern Ireland

Last – but absolutely not least – we have the famous Cuilcagh Boardwalk, as well as the nearby Marble Arch Caves. These two-star attractions of County Fermanagh are among the best places to visit in Northern Ireland.

Also known as the “Stairway to Heaven”, The Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail is a 4mile (6km) linear trail across one of the biggest expanses of blanket bog in the country and up Cuilcagh Mountain. The trail is made up of wooden boardwalks and staircases in order to avoid the bog, so it’s ideal for walkers of all abilities. Although some may wish to skip the final, very steep, ascent up the mountain!

Nearby, the Marble Arch Caves are another must-visit if you’re in the area. These natural limestone caves are one of the finest show caves in Europe, full of twisting passageways, lofty chambers, and stunning rock formations – as well as underground rivers and even waterfalls.

Read More

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Is there anywhere you’d add to this list of places to visit in Northern Ireland? Scroll down and leave a comment!

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