Although it’s a small country, Northern Ireland
certainly isn’t lacking in things to see and do. From stunning coastal landscapes and cosy rural villages to underground caverns and even a crisp factory, here’s our pick of the best sights to see on your Northern Irish journey.
Opened in 2012 for the centenary of the ship’s sinking, the Titanic Museum is a striking building in the middle of Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. With nine different exhibitions covering Belfast’s shipyard boom, the construction of the ship by Harland and Wolff, and its untimely demise, the Titanic Museum is absolutely one of Northern Ireland’s most impressive buildings.
Titanic Museum, 1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9076 6386
The Giant’s Causeway
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and national nature reserve, this breathtaking and alien landscape is absolutely a must-see and one of Northern Ireland’s most enduring destinations. Legend has it that the giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill built the Giant’s Causeway as a bridge between Ireland and Scotland. The nearby Visitor’s Centre goes into detail about this legend while also explaining the true history of the stones.
Giant’s Causeway, 44 Causeway Rd, Bushmills, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 2073 1855
First opened in 1929, the Ulster Museum is an exercise in juxtaposition. The original building received a Brutalist extension in 1972, and the contrasts continue inside. The museum’s various levels house exhibitions on The Troubles, natural sciences, and ancient history, all leading up to the art gallery on the top floor. Exhibits rotate regularly, so this attraction rewards repeat visitors.
Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9044 0000
Situated on the shores of Strangford Lough, Exploris is Northern Ireland’s only aquarium. Recently refurbished, the centre retains its original aquarium and seal preservation effort, but it also gained a reptile room that not only houses a handful of new and scaly residents but also allows visitors to view the centre’s fish and otter population via a platform.
Exploris, The Rope Walk, Castle St, Portaferry, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 4272 8062
Perched on a cliff near Castlerock, Mussenden Temple was originally constructed as the Earl-Bishop of Derry’s library. The grounds surrounding the temple and the nearby manor house are open to the public year-round, but the temple itself is only open on certain days. The ocean views alone make Mussenden a must-see.
Mussenden Temple, Seacoast Rd, Coleraine, Northern Ireland, UK
Ulster American Folk Park
Ulster American Folk Park
With over 30 working exhibit houses, the Ulster American Folk Park, an open-air museum, tells the story of Irish emigration through a walking tour with costumed guides. The experience features two sections, Old World and New World, with a full-sized replica of an immigrant ship to bridge the gap, and also includes displays of traditional crafts, such as blacksmithing, embroidery, and bread-making.
Ulster American Folk Park, Castletown, Omagh, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 8224 3292
Crumlin Road Gaol
Former occupants of this now-closed prison include Éamon de Valera and Bobby Sands, both instrumental figures in Irish politics. When Crumlin Road Gaol opened in 1846, it was a state-of-the-art facility, and these high standards have carried through to the visitor’s centre. Guided tours take around an hour, with a possible pit stop at Cuffs Restaurant to end your stay.
Crumlin Road Gaol, 53-55 Crumlin Rd, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9074 1500
The Peace Bridge
Constructed to literally bridge the gap between the unionist Waterside and nationalist Cityside areas, the Peace Bridge is the newest of Derry’s three bridges. At over 200 feet (61 metres) long, it’s not only an impressive feat of engineering and design but also acts as a stage for some of the city’s events, including New Year’s celebrations and even Radio 1’s Big Weekend.
The Peace Bridge, Derry, Northern Ireland, UK
Derry City Walls
Derry’s walls are centuries old, and Derry itself is one of the most well-maintained walled cities in Europe. The path along the top of the walls is about a mile (1.6 kilometres) long, forming a walkway around the inner city. Views of the area are excellent, and the cannons placed at strategic points cannot help but remind walkers of the many sieges throughout the city’s history.
City Walls, Bishop St, Derry, Northern Ireland, UK
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
This attraction is made up of two museums. The Folk Museum focuses on traditional rural ways of life, while the Transport Museum is concerned with vehicular transport of all kinds. Like the Ulster American Folk Park, the Folk Museum contains several replica buildings designed to showcase an older way of living. The Transport Museum houses planes, trains, and automobiles of all sorts, including a permanent Titanic exhibition.
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra, 153 Bangor Rd, Holywood, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9042 8428
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
This short bridge, 100 feet (30.4 metres) above the ocean and rocks below, spans the gap between the mainland and the tiny island of Carrickarede. Don’t worry; it’s perfectly safe! Hundreds of thousands of people head there each year to visit the island. Crossing costs a small fee, but it’s more than worth it for the thrill and the views from the other side.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, 119a Whitepark Rd, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, UK
The Old Bushmills Distillery
The oldest working distillery in Ireland, The Old Bushmills Distillery is both a functioning distillery and a visitor’s centre detailing the area’s history of whiskey. A walking tour through the distillery will showcase the copper pot stills used in the production of Ireland’s only triple-distilled single malt whiskey. Tasting events are also available for anyone looking for a more ‘hands on’ approach.
The Old Bushmills Distillery, 2 Distillery Rd, Bushmills, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 2073 3218
St George’s Market
St George’s is a large indoor market just outside Belfast City Centre. Open from Friday to Sunday, a different choice of stalls is set up depending on the day. Fridays are the Variety Market, with fresh fruit and vegetables standing alongside antiques dealers, booksellers, and clothes stalls. On Saturdays, food and crafts take centre stage, with live music to entertain visitors and stallholders alike. Sunday is a mixture of the two days, with the musicians returning, and a special emphasis placed on local artisanal products.
St George’s Market, 12-20 East Bridge Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9043 5704
Cuilcagh Way Boardwalk
Cuilcagh Boardwalk is a 1.6-kilometre (one mile) stretch of raised platform over scenic bogland, situated on a stretch of the Cuilcagh Way walking path. The boardwalk was constructed to protect the blanket bog habitat underfoot, and the trail extends up Cuilcagh Mountain itself and ends at the summit of the mountain, coming to a stop at an ancient Bronze Age cairn and offering exceptional views of Loch Erne and the surrounding countryside.
Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, UK
The 5 W’s of this title stand for Who, What, Where, When, and Why, the important questions science asks. W5 is an Interactive Discovery Centre focused on engagingly exploring science. They pride themselves on getting visitors of all ages involved, with permanent exhibits and an ever-changing variety of temporary exhibitions and events.
W5, The Odyssey, 2 Queens Quay, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9046 7700
Seamus Heaney HomePlace
Seamus Heaney HomePlace
HomePlace is dedicated to the memory of Seamus Heaney, Northern Ireland’s most famous literary export. Located in his hometown of Bellaghy, it is an interactive exhibition made up of hundreds of artefacts and photographs, chronicling the poet’s childhood and career through to his death in 2013. The centre hosts regular literary events, so check the calendar to see if there is anything to catch in the 191-seat Helicon.
HomePlace, 45 Main St, Bellaghy, Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 7938 7444
HMS Caroline saw combat in World War One, and following that, she docked in Belfast to serve as headquarters for the Royal Naval Reserve. Now, the ship acts as a museum where visitors can see the innards of a war vehicle as well as learn about semaphore and other wartime skills. Faithful recreations of the Captain’s Quarters, Mess, and Wash are sure to delight history buffs.
HMS Caroline, Alexandra Dock, Queens Rd, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9045 4484