From ancient towers and off-grid bothies to historic townhouses and sprawling country estates – every night can be special in ‘Norn Iron’.
It would be a mistake to only see Northern Ireland, the holiday destination, as the home of Giant’s Causeway and Game of Thrones locations. Both are excellent reasons to visit, but there are also rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, rocky coves and dramatic mountains – as well as great food, bars, cafes and famous hospitality. Whether you hole up in Belfast for a week or spend your time on the road, you’ll find good people and good times. The only real question is where to stay in Northern Ireland? Here are a few ideas for those who like to lay their head somewhere a little different.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
No trip to Northern Ireland would be complete without a night or two in the capital. For a funky boutique hotel in a great spot, head to this townhouse turned hotel in which each unique room pays homage to the great and the good of the country. The four-storey building is full of eclectic furniture, artwork and spectacular bits of salvaged railings and floors, with 13 rooms named after local personalities such as Van Morrison and CS Lewis. The hotel sits in the heart of south Belfast with the Lyric Theatre, No Alibis bookshop, Botanic Gardens and Ulster Museum on the doorstep.
If you like sleeping in a bubble you might be the kind of person who’d also enjoy kipping in a tipi. With traditional Native American design, this soaring 18ft (5.5m) glamping experience offers the chance to live out one of your childhood fantasies. Sleep on cosy sheepskins, roast marshmallows on the firepit and wake up surrounded by glorious green. It’s not all low-octane fun though, with the chance to go riding, cycling, go-karting, abseiling or mountain biking on the doorstep. Nearby you’ve also got Markethill, with independent shops and eateries galore, and Gosford Forest Park, a favourite with walkers and mountain bikers. If the tipi life doesn’t do it for you, fear not, the site also offers a shepherd’s hut, Gypsy caravan or log cabin.
A few caveats to mention before you book this one. You can’t reach it by land, so you have to be an experienced canoeist (or have an expert guide with you) to get here, as the closest access point is on the North Coast Sea Kayak Trail at Dunseverick Harbour. There’s no mains water or electricity, although there’s a stream that flows through the site – but don’t drink out of that because sheep drink from it – so water is very limited. You should bring your own cooking equipment, firewood, loo roll and pretty much everything else you might want or need. Oh and there’s no bedlinen or mattresses. However. Eight people can stay here, on the breathtaking Causeway Coast, and if you do pluck up the courage (and pack wisely), it’ll be the undoubted highlight of your trip. Terrifying and alluring at the same time.
After a night or two off-grid with your canoe you’ll be on the lookout for some serious luxury. Roe Park Resort, which sits on 155 acres (63ha) of scenic parkland, is the country-house estate for you. Head straight to the Elemis spa, where you’ll find a pool, spa bath and sauna, plus a delightful menu of treatments. There’s a terrific golf course, great restaurants and, if you’re part of a larger group, there’s the option of staying in one of the traditional country house lodges. For a decadent denouement, it doesn’t get better than this.
Start planning your adventure in Ireland today.
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