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Northern Ireland Travel Guide

Not to be confused with the Republic of Ireland to the south, Northern Ireland occupies the northeasternmost corner of the Emerald Isle and is a part of the United Kingdom. Despite this, Northern Ireland maintains its traditional Irish customs and promises breathtaking medieval cities and landmarks blended with a surreal natural landscape of mythological proportions.

Titanic Museum is one of Northern Ireland's biggest tourist attractions

While Belfast tends to get most of the international attention thanks to its historical buildings and modern cultural attractions, Northern Ireland’s enigmatic beauty can be found throughout the country’s surrounding counties at landmarks that have inspired countless tales of adventure.

From the most exciting attractions to the best areas to stay, this Northern Ireland Travel Guide will explore everything you need to plan the perfect trip to this breathtaking corner of the Emerald Isle.

Facts & Information

  • Size – 14,130 km sq.
  • Population – 1.9 million
  • Official Language – English & Irish(Gaelic)
  • Major Airports – Belfast International Airport
  • Time Zone – Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in winter; British Summer Time (BST) in summer
  • Currency – Pound Sterling (£)

Northern Ireland Destinations

  • Belfast – The political and cultural centre, the country’s capital city is a must-visit and blends cultural nightlife with a historic setting and attractions
  • Causeway Coast – Home to scenic landscapes and abundant wildlife, the Causeway Coast and Glens region is perfect for outdoor adventures and nature hikes.
  • Derry-Londonderry – The only intact walled city on the island of Ireland and a great destination for cultural museums and festivals.
  • County Down – Stretching from Belfast Lough to the Mourne Mountains, County Down consists of beautiful beaches, castles, forest parks, and charming villages.
  • County Armagh – Historical landmarks and welcoming locals make County Armagh one of the best destinations for immersing in modern Irish culture.
The North coast of Northern Ireland boosts incredible scenery

Things To Do in Northern Ireland

  • Go on a Hike – Embark on a mountain trek through the Mourne Mountains or engage in a more leisurely stroll along the Causeway Coast.
  • Tour a castle – Explore medieval history at over 40 castles scattered throughout the country, including the dramatic Dunluce Castle and Carrickfergus Castle.
  • Visit an Irish pub – Visiting a local pub is a quintessential experience when visiting Northern Ireland. Sit back and enjoy the lively music while sipping an Irish whiskey or beer.
  • Enjoy a scenic road trip – Northern Ireland’s coastal roads are breathtaking. For some of the most striking views, drive along the shores of North Antrim and the Giant’s Causeway.
  • Explore the city – Take some time to tour North Ireland’s capital city. Go on a pub crawl, shop at St. George’s Market, and explore local history and art at the Ulster Museum.

Where to Stay in Northern Ireland

  • Belfast – The best area to stay in for first-time visitors
  • Derry/Londonderry – The best area to stay in for history and culture.
  • Portrush – The best area to stay in for coastal locations and seaside resorts.
  • Newcastle – The best area to stay in for outdoor attractions and hiking trails.
  • Enniskillen – The best area to stay in for a relaxing small-town setting.

Northern Ireland Tourist Attractions

  • Titanic Belfast – Explore the place where the world’s most famous ship was built at the most prominent Titanic museum on the planet.
  • Giants Causeway – Marvel at unique rock formations that have blessed the northern coast for millions of years.
  • Derry Walls – Stroll the medieval ramparts of the last remaining walled city on the island of Ireland.
  • Tollymore Forest Park –Hike through the gardens, stone bridges, and historical landmarks of a 1,500-acre park tucked between the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea.
  • Dunluce Castle – Tour Northern Ireland’s most photogenic castle ruins as they overlook the Causeway Coast and Skerries Islands.

Northern Ireland Cities

  • Belfast – Modern capital city with historical landmarks, museums, and luxury hotels.
  • Londonderry/Derry – The last walled city in Ireland.
  • Newry – Small border city with quaint shopping centres and cultural museums.
  • Bangor – A smaller city near Belfast with a more traditional cultural atmosphere.
  • Lisburn – A busy city with beautiful shopping centres and convenient access to Belfast.
  • Armagh –  The religious centre of Northern Ireland with beautiful churches and a rich cultural heritage.

Best Time to Visit

  • Summer (June to August) – With the weather conditions at their finest, the summer is the best time to visit for hiking and outdoor activities. However, this is also the peak season in Northern Ireland, and it can often become crowded around cities and major tourist attractions.
  • Spring (March to May) – With blossoming flowers and budding trees, spring is a beautiful time to visit Northern Ireland to escape summer crowds. Try to plan your trip for March 17 to partake in the St Patrick’s Day celebrations and parades.
  • Fall (September to November) – The fall shoulder season is another great time to explore Northern Ireland with fewer crowds while the changing colours only add to the breathtaking splendour of the country’s natural landscapes.
  • Winter (December to January) – While the days are shorter and colder, winter can still be a great time to visit Northern Ireland. During the winter season, the country sees fewer tourists and rewards unique opportunities, including the chance of seeing the northern lights.
Harland & Wolff are an iconic image of Northern Ireland

Getting Here & Around

  • Airports – Most international tourists arrive in Northern Ireland through Belfast International Airport (BFS). Other international airports include George Best Belfast City Airport (BHD) and the City of Derry Airport (LDY).
  • Ferries – Visitors can also reach Northern Ireland via daily ferries from both Scotland and England. The major ferry lines embark from Cairnryan and Campbelltown in Scotland and Liverpool in England.
  • Trains – There are daily trains connecting Belfast to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. The journey takes about 2.5 hours to complete, with stops in Louth, Dundalk, Newry, and Portadown.
  • Driving – The most convenient way to get around Northern Ireland is to rent a car, allowing you to explore areas inaccessible through public transportation.
  • Taxis – While taxis can be a great way to get around the city quickly, they can become a costly expenditure for extended trips.
  • Public Transportation – While trains in Northern Ireland are limited, the bus network is excellent and can get you to most places in the country on a budget.
  • Rideshare – Unlike the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland does allow rideshare apps such as Uber, but these are largely only available in Belfast.
  • Biking – Biking can be an exciting way to get around Northern Ireland. However, hilly roads can quickly become tiresome for inexperienced cyclists.
  • Walking – Northern Ireland was made to be walked. Most cities, towns, and even the countryside can easily be explored on foot.

Travel Tips & Advice

  • Rent a car – Northern Ireland has some beautiful road trips. While you can take a bus tour of popular attractions, nothing gives you the freedom quite like renting a car.
  • Drive on the left – In Ireland, they drive on the left side of the road. This can take some getting used to, depending on where you are travelling from.
  • Explore beyond Belfast – While Belfast is beautiful, you should take some time to explore beyond the capital city, particularly the North Antrim Coast and other outlying counties.
  • Prepare for the weather – Weather in Northern Ireland can be unpredictable. You should be prepared for sudden changes and always pack extract layers, even during the summer months.
Duke of York is an iconic bar in Belfast

What to Pack

  • Layers – Pack in layers to adjust for sudden temperature changes throughout the day.
  • Waterproof clothing – It tends to rain a lot in Northern Ireland.
  • Hiking Shoes – Ireland was made for walking. Do your feet a favour and pack comfortable shoes.
  • Umbrella – Again, Northern Ireland tends to experience lots of rainfall. It may be a good idea to pack a small travel umbrella.
  • Camera – Northern Ireland is full of beautiful sites. Be sure to pack a camera so you have something to show your friends back home.

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