9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Northern Ireland

Abandoned by Northern Ireland for years, Northern Ireland has made a comeback after the Good Friday Agreement (1998), a power-sharing contract that aims to promote peace. Since then Ulster (as Northern Ireland is also known) has recovered both economically and culturally and is one of the world’s most visited destinations. Most recently, Northern Ireland’s role as the filming location for Game of Thrones has brought another wave of tourists. For those in the know, even in the bad times, this corner of Ireland has always been high on the sightseeing agenda. Legendary natural attractions, such as the mystical Giant’s Causewayjoin newer arrivals such as Belfast Titanic, as top things to do. The power-sharing government has invested massively in making Ulster attractive to visitors. There is fantastic shopping, world-class dining, remarkable history and culture, excellent golf and a vibrant music scene. These add up to many places in Northern Ireland for families, couples and solo travellers, all of whom are assured of a warm and friendly welcome.

If you are visiting from the Republic of Ireland, remember that you are crossing the border into a separate sovereign country. Here you need £’s Sterling, not the Euro as used in the South.

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1 De Giant’s Causeway

De Giant’s Causeway

Famous the world over for its columns of stratified basalt, the Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland’s only one UNESCO world heritage. These polygonal natural features were created by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. Today they are the main focus of a designated Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty. Three distinct periods of volcanic action produced the lower, middle, and upper basalts. The Middle Basalt rock forms the famous amphitheatres of columns in the shape of hexagons. That’s the science, but legend has it that it was carved by the mighty giant Finn McCool who left his old home to cross the waters in Scotland with his enemy Benandonner. Several names testify to this captivating myth, The Giant’s Boot, The Wishing Chair, The Camel, The Giant’s Granny and The Organ high on the cliffs. Weather permitting, you can even see Scotland in the distance.

Adres: Causeway Road, Bushmills, Antrim

2 De Causeway Coast en Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle

Of course, most visitors’ first stop along this scenic coast is the World Heritage Site Giant’s Causeway. However, the surrounding coastline is beautiful and should not be bypassed. Many delights await, including the beautiful beaches, dunes and rolling waves Portrush (where there is a world class golf course) and Portstewart. If you’re feeling brave enough, either one is perfect for an invigorating dip. An easy ten minute drive west, through the picturesque village of Bushmills, transports you to the ruined Middle Ages Dunluce Castle. It is impossible to miss, sheer rocks on the edge of the cliff, the kitchen that was thrown into the waves under the terrible night many centuries ago. The only survivor apparently was the kitchen boy who was sitting on the windowsill and had to be rescued. An easterly drive from the Giant’s Causeway of around 15 minutes brings you to another of Ulster’s must-sees, the vertiginous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, near the pretty coastal town of Ballintoy. This is not something for the faint hearted. The vertiginous bridge connects to a small island where the fisherman is said to catch salmon. Entry, if you dare, is free.

3 De Titanic Belfast

De Titanic Belfast
De Titanic Belfast

A striking landmark, this star-shaped building representing the White Star Line logo traces Belfast’s maritime history and honors the story of the Titanic. Belfast was once the shipbuilding powerhouse of the British Empire, a fact not to be missed in this part of the city. There are nine interactive exhibits on this site where the infamously disastrous ocean liner Titanic was built. Enjoy a guided tour of the slipway and dry dock and visit the SS Nomadic. There is also a restaurant, cafe and gift shop. This is truly a world class tourist attraction.

Adres: 1 Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast

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4 The Glens of Antrim

The Glens of Antrim
The Glens of Antrim

It’s not just the North Antrim coastline that’s starting to beg. Inland are the nine Glens of Antrim, each exuding its own charm. Drive from Ballycastle to Larne along the A2 coast road and serene lakes, tumbling waterfalls, forest trails and rolling hills await. Glenariff, the ‘Queen of the Glens’, is the most famous of the nine. Along the way you will see the Glendun Bridge, an outstanding example of innovative design and construction. Ballypatrick Forest Park has a ten kilometer loop ride around Carneighaneigh mountain which is mostly scenic.

The small seaside town of Portrushon the border of County Londonderry, is home to the Royal Portrush Golf Club and one of the world’s most challenging links golf courses, the Dunluce Links.

5 Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle

About a 20-minute drive from Belfast is the large town and port of Carrickfergus, home to the imposing Carrickfergus Castle. One of the best-preserved medieval buildings in Ireland, this Norman castle has kept its enemies out of sight for eight centuries. Perched high on the coast and dominating the town, the fortress is still intact and the recreated banquet hall is a special treat, especially for children. You can pick up a guide at the visitor center and explore the interior and battlements at your leisure. In the area it is Andrew Jackson Centerthe redesigned ancestral home of the 7th president of the US.

Adres: Carrickfergus Castle, Marine Highway, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim

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6 Ards Peninsula

Ards Peninsula rovingI / photo modified
Ards Peninsula rovingI / photo modified

South of Bangor, on the Donaghadee, begins the 32 kilometer long picturesque Ards Peninsula. From Donaghadee a road runs along the coast of the Irish Sea to Ballywalter with its beautiful beach, Ballyhalbert and finally Cloughy where it turns inland to Portaferry. Serene 18th century Mount Stewart House and Gardens is well worth a stop to admire and is only a ten minute drive or so from Ballywalter. On the west coast of the Strangford Lough is the place of Killyleaghmet Hilltop Castle overlooking the city. On a good day you can see the famous Morne mountains glistening in the distance. Portaferry is on the southern tip of the peninsula where there is a ferry connection to Strangford. Either, or take the drive, which skirts the shores of the peninsula’s west coast Strangford Lough.

7 The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

About a 15 minute drive from Belfast city center brings you to this ‘living’ museum designed to showcase Ulster life over 100 years ago. There are rebuilt workers’ cottages, working farms, country schools and village shops as they once were, as well as a 170-acre park to explore. Visitor guides demonstrate traditional crafts around the various sites. You can clamber on steam locomotives and explore the Transport Museum with its impressive collections of electric trams, fire trucks, motorcycles, beautiful old-timers and horse-drawn carriages. A visit here is a day in itself.

Adres: Cultra, Holywood

8 Londonderry (Derry)

Londonderry (Derry)
Londonderry (Derry)

Northern Ireland’s second city, Londonderry or Derry, as it is more commonly known locally, lies where the River Foyle flows into the sea auk of the same name. The city is deprived of part of its natural hinterland Donegal by the division of Ireland, yet an important port and industrial center with a traditional textile industry, chemical and mechanical engineering installations and ceramic factories. With its attractive surroundings, it is a popular tourist center and a good base for excursions in the Peninsula Inishowen and Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. The town itself has an almost completely preserved circuit of medieval walls and a number of interesting old buildings.

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Accommodation: Where to Stay in Londonderry

Londonderry Map - Attractions
Londonderry Map – Attractions

9 Lough Erne

Lough Erne
Lough Erne

Two connected lakes make up Lough Erne, in County Fermanagh, a favorite for fishing, kayaking or exploring on a day cruise. Castles and manors dot the shores and the islands are a major attraction. A Round tower from the 12th century dominates the ruined Augustinian priory of Devenish Island, and mysterious carved stone figures on White Island and Boa Island, the Celts were between AD 400 and 800. The 39-mile Shannon Erne Waterway connects Lough Erne to the River Shannon in Ireland.

10 More destinations to see near Northern Ireland

Once you’ve seen the highlights of Northern Ireland, you may want to sail into the Republic of Ireland and explore its capital, Dublin. Or you can consider the available ferry options from Belfast. Two ferry routes connect Northern Ireland to Scotland, one from Belfast and the other from Larne, each approximately a two-hour journey. Ferries also depart from Belfast to Liverpool, in England, and ferries run twice a week to the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, midway between England and Ireland.

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