Ten Must See Places In Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has seen an increase in tourism driven largely by “Game of Thrones” popularity. But did you know there are many other sites to visit in Northern Ireland from the megalithic to coastal views that rival the Atlantic way?
Here is our list of ten must see places to visit in Northern Ireland
Belfast City is worth at least a day to visit and two popular attractions are Titanic Belfast, as well as a Black Cab Tour.
The great ocean liner Titanic was built right here in Belfast at the Harland and Wolff shipyards. See original artifacts, learn about the design and construction of the ship, experience full-scale reconstructions, see the dry docks, and stand at the very spot where the great liner was built. This award-winning exhibition is a must-see for any visit to Belfast and offers activities for everyone in the family.
While a peaceful town today, Belfast was the site of much of the sectarian fighting during the period known as The Troubles which ended with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and disarmament of the paramilitaries in 2005. Spend a couple of hours on a Black Cab tour of the sectarian neighborhoods and listen to stories from those who lived through this turbulent time in Ireland’s recent past. Explore Falls Road and Shankhill Road, view the murals and Peace Wall, and conclude with your thoughtful observations on both sides of the conflict which still divides the island of Ireland today.
Gobbins Cliff Walk
Are you ready for the taste of salt spray and a 2.5-hour trek along the cliffs by the Irish Sea? While not for the faint of heart and a reasonable degree of fitness is required, The Gobbins Coastal Walk delivers a guided experience along the cliff face and through caves and crashing seas. Protective headgear is provided although be sure to wear shoes with adequate ankle support as well as clothes suitable for the environment.
A true, natural wonder, the Giant’s Causeway is one of the most spectacular arrangement of basalt columns you will find anywhere on earth. While free to visit, if planning to arrive by car and parking, there is a fee to park which also includes access to the visitor center and audio guide. Climb among the basalt columns as you immerse yourself in the legends of Fionn mac Cumhaill. There are many scenic backdrops here and the site makes a perfect spot for getting that family photo for Christmas cards. If you have more time, take the five-mile guided walk along the cliffs.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Along the north Antrim coast and once used by salmon fishermen, linking the mainland with the small island of Carraig a' Rede, this rope bridge will get your adrenaline pumping should you choose to cross. On days with decent visibility, you can even catch glimpses of Scotland from here. Access is controlled and it is best to book in advance since the site is popular and only limited numbers of person are allowed to cross each day by timed entry.
Have you heard of the castle where the kitchen fell into the sea? The story is true, and you can visit Dunluce Castle to see for yourself. This amazing ruin is perched high atop the cliffs of County Antrim and offers amazing views and photo opportunities. Originally built by the MacQuillan family in the early 1500’s, the castle was later the seat of the Earls of Antrim in the 1600’s and once had a small town around it.
Derry City Walls
The city of Derry is a fine example of a European walled city. Built in the 1600’s it is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland. Walk along the ramparts, through the well-preserved gates, and encounter living history performers as you immerse yourself in this charming city that hearkens back to the Renaissance
Are you a fan of Irish whiskey? Even for those who care not to imbibe, a tour of the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world at Old Bushmill’s makes our list and is sure to make yours. Learn about the 400-year tradition passed on from generation to generation of distillers at the only distillery in Ireland that both distills and bottles their whiskey onsite. If you are looking for a great souvenir to take home, the 12-year distillery reserve, only available at location can be personalized for your collection. We also like the 21-year whiskey which is worth every penny!
St. Patrick Center
No matter where you come from, almost everyone has heard of Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick since his feast day is celebrated all over the world each March. No trip to Northern Ireland would be complete without a visit to the Saint Patrick Center where can explore the life and legacy of Ireland’s icon. After visiting the exhibits, stop by St. Patrick’s grave in the graveyard of Down Cathedral.
Navan Fort at Eamain Macha
Are you ready to blend legend with reality? Visit the ancient royal seat of Ulster at Eamain Macha and Navan Fort in County Armagh. Learn how the people lived daily lives over 2000 years ago as you immerse yourself in the Ulster Cycle of Irish tales and the hero Cu Chulainn and the Knights of the Red Hand.
Museum of Free Derry
Ireland’s civil rights movement which ultimately escalated into the Troubles had roots here in Derry during 1968. Of all the violence and atrocities from that turbulent period, one of the most violent was Bloody Sunday on 30 January 1972 which left 13 people dead (later 14) at the hands for Britain’s Parachute Regiment. The Museum of Free Derry is in the bogside nearby the iconic Free Derry Corner, and tells the story of how the working-class communities stood up to oppression. The museum offers a thoughtful story of the past, but also within the context of the present and future.
We’ll have to save the “Game of Thrones” sites for another post but must include the Dark Hedges to cap off our list of must-see places in Northern Ireland. Vehicle traffic is no longer permitted to protect the ancient beech trees from further damage and if arriving by car, parking is available at the nearby Hedges Hotel for a fee.