Northern Ireland Top 5
Northern Ireland, my home country, has a slightly depressing past. It is a country I completely failed to appreciate or admire in my time living there.
It wasnt until a short trip back as a tourist when I realised how much my home country actually has to offer. A country rich in culture albeit conflicting. Depressing stuff aside Northern Ireland is a truly amazing country; even more so from a tourist perspective. To me it makes the perfect fly and drive country with short distances, easy roads and many best bits hidden between attractions. World-renowned scenery, landscapes, local life and culture. On my return to Northern Ireland with Fanfan by my side (October 2022) we take in my Top 10 Northern Ireland Attractions. I (now) love my wee country.
1. Best City in Northern Ireland Belfast City
Without a doubt Belfast. A city easy to navigate, a central hub for transport and the ideal vantage point for exploring Northern Ireland. On a world scale however it is tiny so dont hold up much time for exploring. Belfast (for most) could be covered in a day or two. The Belfast Bus Tour in the morning and Belfast bars at night. In April we join the Belfast Bus Tour. It was ok. It didnt quite compare to Rome the previous week (snigger). As expected the tour focuses on the country’s troubled past and current struggles to keep them there. Most tours work as a figure 8; split into 2 halves. The first half covers central Belfast and the peace line; murals and conflict areas. The second half pushes further to the Titanic Quarter, Parliament Buildings (Stormont) and returns through more conflict areas. My personal interest on this trip was the rejuvenated city. I was skeptical of it but it does exist. Mostly riverside by the Lagan where you are welcomed by the Beacon of Hope and other bright new signs to the city.
2. Best Coastline in Northern Ireland Causeway Coast
Sandy beaches, cliff edge castles and a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Causeway Coast is home to many of Northern Irelands iconic landscapes and attractions. It is also well covered by Tour Buses leaving Belfast so is easily accessible. The obvious attraction here the volcanic basalt columns of the Giants Causeway the Unesco World Heritage site. Other attractions on the typical Tour Bus itinerary are Cushendall Villages, Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and my personal favourite Bushmills Distillery. If travelling independently to Bushmills Distillery dont drink and drive guaranteed to be pinched leaving the car park.
3. Best Mountains in Northern Ireland Mourne Mountains
In April we trek through snow covered mountains; a rare sight at any time of year in Northern Ireland. Amazing scenery. We take on my preferred trek from a quieter entrance leading to the Hares Gap (Trassey Track) located a short drive from Newcastle. Not such an easy starting point for visitors however. For tourists the easier entry point to the Mourne Mountains is theseaside town of Newcastle. From Newcastle treks leave to Slieve Donard Northern Irelands highest peak and a number of less strenuous danders. Quick fact, Belfast born C.S Lewis was inspired by the Mourne Mountain when writing the Chronicles of Narnia.
4. Best Forest Park in Northern Ireland Tollymore Forest Park
Perfect for the adventurous with walking trails, rapid rivers and a whole lot of trees and wildlife. Found at the foot of the Mourne Mountains the two attractions are best visited on the same itinerary. Make a weekend of it. For the less adventurous there are parks, gardens, picnic and camping areas located next to the main entrance at Tollymore Forest Park. The entrance is found at Bryansford Village located a short drive (or bus) from Newcastle.
5. Best Island in Northern Ireland Rathlin Island
My first ever trip to Rathlin Island was in April. I am clueless to why. This island is a must for a visit to Northern Ireland. A little tricky to reach but well worth the effort. Countless bird colonies, unique island life, rugged coastal views, scenic walks, cute seals and a local bar for the boozy. As a bit of a bird nerd I was excited to meet the Rathlin puffins. No luck I am afraid. For puffins the summer months are best. Either way the panoramic coastal views, rugged cliffs and thousands of nesting Kittiwakes fail to disappoint. Kittiwakes nest just meters from the viewing platform. For travel to Rathlin Island take the Rathlin Ferry from Ballycastle Ferry Terminal. The island is found 40 minutes from the Causeway Coast.