The Best Day Trips in Northern Ireland

Visitors are spoilt for choice when looking for the ideal day trip in Northern Ireland
Visitors are spoilt for choice when looking for the ideal day trip in Northern Ireland | © Stephen Emerson / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Callum Davies
30 July 2020

Though it may be small, Northern Ireland is packed with culture, beautiful scenery, and all sorts of places to see and explore. From castles to mountains, visitors really are spoilt for choice when looking for the ideal day out. Here are Culture Trip’s top six recommended day trips in Northern Ireland.

Mourne Mountains

Natural Feature
Map View
The Mourne Mountains, County Down, Northern Ireland. South over the Trassey Valley and Tollymore Forest Park to Slieve Bearnagh
© David Lyons / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the highest points anywhere on the island of Ireland, the Mourne Mountains are a joy for casual and experienced walkers alike. Setting off from the town of Kilkeel (70 minutes by car from Belfast) offers plenty of different routes. Among the best is Slieve Donard, the highest mountain in Northern Ireland. A bit of a challenge, yes, but the rewards for those who reach the 850-metre (2,789-foot) summit make it well worth it.

Carrick-a-Rede Bridge and Kinbane Castle

Bridge, Building
Map View
Courtesy of Tourism NI
Why stick to just one activity when you can merge two into the same day? Near the town of Ballycastle, just over an hour from Belfast, sit two of the country’s most interesting historical sites. Carrick-a-Rede is an ancient rope bridge that takes you to a tiny island, for a thrilling (but entirely safe) experience. Then, just a few miles away, go and explore the ruins of Kinbane Castle for even more coastal history.

Marble Arch Caves

Natural Feature
Map View
Not to be confused with the Marble Arch tube station in London, the Marble Arch Caves are an underground network of rivers and lakes. They became a Geopark in 2001, and since then, guides have been taking visitors on boat tours through the winding tunnels. There are plenty of nearby walking routes too, and although it takes almost two hours to drive there from Belfast (similar for Derry-Londonderry), it’s well worth the trip.

The Old Bushmills Distillery

Distillery
Map View
Old Bushmills Distillery
Courtesy of Tourism NI
While Scotland might get more brand recognition when it comes to whiskey, Northern Ireland isn’t far behind. Bushmills is a household name and also has claim to the oldest working distillery on the planet. Located near Portrush, about an hour north of Belfast, the distillery lets you see the 400-year-old handcrafting process in action – and try some whiskey straight out of the cask.

Navan Fort

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View

For some really ancient history, Navan Fort is a great destination. It was the royal seat of the King of Ulster, with history dating back almost 6,000 years. Now, there is a visitor’s centre with reconstructed houses, ancient artefacts and even an archaeology experience for kids. If you’re a bit less interested in that, the woodlands routes around the area are to die for. Navan Fort is just an hour west of Belfast.

Ulster American Folk Park

Museum, Park
Map View
United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Tyrone county, Ulster American Folk Park, smith
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
The story of Irish emigration to America comes to life at this vast open-air museum in Couonty Tyrone, just 45 minutes south of Derry-Londonderry. The 30 different exhibit buildings demonstrate the work done by Irish emigrants who travelled to America in the 18th and 19th centuries. You can even look around a full-sized replica of one of the ships that took them across, and staff members demonstrate things like wax candle-making. It’s also worth noting that many of the buildings are 100% authentic, painstakingly dismantled and taken from the States back to Ireland.
These recommendations were updated on July 30, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.