Giants Causeway

Northern Ireland’s Top 10 Must-See Places

Northern Ireland has recently been thrown onto the travel bucket list of people all over the world due to the incredible popularity of the HBO show ‘Game Of Thrones’. According to Tourism NI, Game of Thrones Fans account for 1 in 6 offshore visitors. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and is located on the North-Eastern corner of the island of Ireland. The rest of the island is occupied by the Republic of Ireland. 

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Northern Ireland is steeped in a long and often quite dark history dating back over 2,000 years. Home to over 40 castles, it is definitely a playground for the history enthusiast. Another major attraction is the link to the infamous ill-fated ship, The Titanic. The Titanic built in Northern Ireland now features a very informative museum in Belfast to learn more about the ship’s history. 

Unfortunately, Public transport is quite limited and so if you can drive, this will be the easiest and most affordable mode of transportation. Northern Ireland’s best weather is between June and September as for the rest of the year, it tends to be wet and cold. 

So you are planning a vacation to Northern Ireland and want to know what the Top 10 places to visit are, they are all featured on the Tripio App.

1. Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Giants Causeway

Photo by @vegoutt_gem_winchester on IG

The Giant’s Causeway is the most popular tourist destination in Northern Ireland. These remarkable geological rock formations are captivating and should be on everyone’s bucket list. Staircase-pentagon-shaped rocks formed as the lava cooled from volcanic eruptions. As you walk your way around this incredible site, you will be listening to an informative audio guide as well as learning about the legend of Finn Mccool, the Irish giant. Legend claims that Finn Mccool built the causeway to Scotland in order to face his rival, Benandonner, the Scottish giant. Add this to your itinerary and discover the mystery and beauty of the Giants Causeway for yourself.

When you arrive at the Giants Causeway, there is a modern visitor centre with facilities such as modern restrooms, a cafe, gift shop and interactive exhibitions. It is here that you will be given your audio guide headphones in your preferred language. The walk from the visitor centre to the rock formation takes about 15 minutes, is 2 miles long and quite steep. The walk down is fine but the walk back up can be tough.  If you are mobility impaired or require a wheelchair, there is a shuttle bus available that will drop you down to the site of the rock formations and take you back up. You can also choose to hike up the red soil to the top of the organ pipes(formation in the cliff-face) if you’re feeling especially adventurous.

2. Titanic Belfast and the SS. Nomadic, Northern Ireland

 Titanic Belfast

Photo by @vegoutt_gem_winchester on IG

It was in Belfast, Northern Ireland that the infamous ill-fated ship the Titanic was built. Here at the Titanic museum you can experience the story from conception to catastrophe. The museum extends over 9 multi-dimensional and interactive galleries. There is even a cable car ride that is fully wheelchair accessible. The journey you will go on spans beyond the devastating aftermath of the sinking but also onto the discovery of the wreckage. This amazing museum transports you through special effects and full-scale reconstruction of the unfortunate timeline of Titanic. 

The SS Nomadic is docked just a short walk away from the Titanic museum. Admission is included with your museum ticket. The SS Nomadic is the last remaining vessel of the White Star Line. It was famous for being a tender operator for the doomed Titanic. This boat is incredibly well preserved and offers a unique insight into what the Titanic may have looked like. This whole experience transports you back to 1912.

The Titanic Belfast also offers accommodation, a gift shop and an award-winning afternoon tea served on the very china that never made it onto Titanic.  

3. Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail – Ireland’s Stairway to Heaven

Northern Ireland Stairway to Heaven

Photo by @vegoutt_gem_winchester on IG

Ireland’s stairway to heaven, set in the picturesque Cuilcagh mountains. Altogether, the walk is 5.7 miles out-and-back and takes you 2,182 feet in elevation. Most of that ascent is on the very last section, climbing the stairs to the peak. The trail starts off at the carpark and is a fairly gradual climb on gravel road. You will pass lots of goats, sheep and horses on the way and definitely stop a few times to take photos. Then the trail narrows and turns into a wooden boardwalk that combines steeper inclines with a few steps thrown in every few dozen feet.

Towards the final section of the trail is where it becomes challenging. You will have to climb 450 near vertical steps to reach the peak. The view from the top is pretty spectacular, however, if you can’t quite make it to the top (cause I didn’t) the view is still pretty breath-taking. The trail takes about 4 hours to complete. This is definitely one for the adventure seeker and features as a Tripio intense activity on the Tripio App.

4. National Trust – Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge Walk

Northern Ireland Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

Photo by @vegoutt_gem_winchester on IG

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge on the north coast of Northern Ireland connects the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. The rope bridge is 66 feet in length and hangs 98 feet above the rocks and sea below. To get to this National Trust landmark, you have to park at the carpark and walk 0.6 miles along a gravel path that is scattered with steps. The walk to the bridge is free, however there is a fee if you would like to cross the bridge. 

Unfortunately due to the location of the bridge it is quite often subjected to gale force winds making crossing the bridge very dangerous. When you plan your trip here, it is best to plan as if you weren’t going to cross the bridge because even the slightest wind can close the bridge off. Then if it happens to be open, get your ticket then, count your lucky stars and take lots of photos. Then share those photos with us here at Tripio and we will be able to add it to our Tripio App to help create someone’s else’s custom itinerary. 

5. Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Dunluce castle

Photo by Marek Slomkowski on Unsplash

Coming in at smack bang middle of our Top 10 must see destinations in Northern Ireland is, Dunluce Castle. When you are planning your vacation to Northern Ireland, a few things come to mind I’m sure, Guinness, Leprechauns and Castles. Dunluce castle, a medieval castle situated on the very edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean on Northern Ireland’s northern coast. Extreme caution has to be taken when exploring this incredible castle because there aren’t any safety railings to stop you falling off the cliff. 

This incredible castle has certainly stood the test of time, literally, it was built in 1500 and has survived the harsh coastal Irish weather for hundreds of years.This is definitely one you want to add to your travel album so don’t forget to bring your camera. If you time your visit just right, you will get a stunning golden sunset over castle walls and cliffs.

6. The Glens of Antrim and the Glenoe Waterfall, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Gelns Of Antrim Gelnoe waterfall

Photo by @jwills87 on IG

Glenoe waterfall, nestled between the stunning Glens of Antrim. This waterfall, dubbed the most beautiful in Northern Ireland. So if that doesn’t get it onto your Top 10 must-travel-to list then you must just have something against waterfalls. The waterfall is fairly easy to access as it is located only a mile away from the carpark. 

Caution should be taken as the steps can get very slippery after it rains and unfortunately, that is when the waterfall is most spectacular, after it has rained. Glenoe stands 30 feet tall and is a true hidden gem of Northern Ireland. Most locals haven’t even seen it. While you are there, you may choose to hike the Glens of Antrim. Either way, this is a stunning natural beauty that you should definitely add to your itinerary.

7. Ulster Museum, Belfast

Northern Ireland Ulster Museum

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

The Ulster museum in Belfast houses a treasure trove of relics. They have everything from fossilized dinosaurs to ancient Egyptian artifacts and even a mummy. It even housed the nation’s favourite dinosaur for a while, Dippy. Dippy, the first Diplodocus displayed anywhere in the world.Today, the museum still houses quite the impressive collection of fossils. Along with the country’s best dinosaur fossil collection, Ulster museum offers a rich collection of art, history and natural sciences with multi-sensory galleries and interactive discovery exhibitions. If the ancient world doesn’t really float your boat, what about the fictional ancient world of ‘Game of Thrones’, maybe seeing a replica ‘willow throne’ will excite you. Whatever you do, don’t sit on it, it’s super spiky and you’re not allowed.

8. Downhill Strand Beach, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Downhill strand Beach

Photo by @hols07 on IG

Downhill Strand beach is a beautiful golden sandy beach which you can drive onto near Castlerock in Northern Ireland. This beach offers stunning views over the ocean on one side and of the overlooking Mussenden temple on the other. Mussenden temple, built in 1785 is perched on the cliff’s edge. If there’s one thing you’ve learned today apart from which destinations you want to add to your travel itinerary on the Tripio App, it’s that the Irish like to build things on the cliffs edge. Mussenden temple, a circular structure intended to be a library inspired by Roman architecture. 

The beach itself was used in the popular HBO television series ‘Game of Thrones’ as a filming location. If you know any Game of Thrones fans or you are one yourself, then I’d say that Northern Ireland is the travel destination for you.

9. Carrickfergus Castle

Northern Ireland Carrickfergus Castle

Photo by @theclashcityrocker on IG

Carrickfergus Castle, a Norman castle besieged in turn by the Scottish, Irish, English and French. Again built on an edge but at least not a cliff this time. Even though this castle has seen a lot of conflict, it remains one of the best preserved medieval castles in Northern Ireland. For the majority of this castle’s existence, it has been a symbol of military power. Thankfully these days, it stands as a museum in itself as it is so well preserved and gives us a glimpse into the past. This is the perfect location for the history enthusiast or someone who just wants to enjoy a leisurely stroll around the grounds. It is amazing how places of such violence in the past can offer such peace today. Maybe there is a lesson in that, peace wins in the end.

10. The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland The dark hedges

Photo by @vegoutt_gem_winchester on IG

The Dark Hedges is finishing off our Top 10 list strong. The dark hedges is a pathway of interlocking ancient trees planted in the 18th century. Heavily featured in that show again, Game of Thrones. You can drive down the road where the trees interlock but I recommend walking it to be able to really take it in. Also, if you walk it, you will be able to discover other little irish charms nearby like a fairy garden. 

Tours from Belfast are offered but I suggest if you can drive, hire a car and come here yourself. Plus you then have the freedom to spend as long as you want and more importantly take as many photos as you’d like. The advantage of having a car as well is that the Giant’s Causeway- our Number 1 on this Top 10 and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge our number 4 is pretty nearby so you could make a day trip of it. I hope you have enjoyed our Northern Ireland’s Top 10. 

Interested in more of Northern Ireland, check out: Game Of Thrones, Northern Ireland: Winter Is Coming!

Or venture south to the Republic of Ireland and check out: Ireland: Top 10 Free Experiences On The Emerald Isle

Or across the water to Scotland: Discover The Scottish Highlands

– Gemma Winchester, Tripio Guru

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