Northern Ireland might be relatively small, but it’s brimming with things to do. Getting out and about is easy, and you can get to most places from the capital within two hours. Culture Trip rounds up the best days out you can have.
It’s a well-known fact that much of HBO’s Game of Thrones was filmed in Northern Ireland. You can visit locations up and down the country, but Winterfell Castle is a bespoke visitor’s centre in the grounds used to create the home of the Stark family. It’s just an hour’s drive south of Belfast, and you can explore the location, see props and parts of the set and generally immerse yourself in all things Thrones.
The journey here is as important as the destination: the Sperrins is a stretch of uplands with scenic views and miles of green, and the drive here from Belfast has been called one of the best scenic drives in the world, despite only taking an hour or so. Once here, there are trails for hikers of all levels of ability, from short rambles to full circular routes of the glacier-carved landscape.
The Gobbins is a great day trip if you want amazing coastal views and don’t mind having the bejesus scared out of you. This cliffside walk, in Larne, 50 minutes by car north of Belfast, is like no other. Your guide will take you along a bridgeway built by an Edwardian engineer, and you’ll see caves, pass through tunnels and encounter wildlife along the way. Oh, and don’t look down – the crashing waves below might be a distraction.
Lough Neagh is the largest lake in Northern Ireland, and by area the largest in the entire British Isles. It is surrounded by forest parks and historic towns to visit and the east bank is less than half an hour by car from Belfast (it’s an hour’s drive to reach the west). There are numerous spots around the lake where you can take a boat tour, or go sailing, kayaking and fishing.
The crown jewel of Northern Ireland’s attractions, Giant’s Causeway is a geological marvel – a formation of basalt columns that form an otherworldly honeycomb pattern running out to sea that simply needs to be seen to be believed. It takes an hour to reach the Causeway from Belfast, where you’ll find a visitor’s centre offering tours and a nearby pub when you’re done rambling.
Dunluce Castle has stood on the shores of Northern Ireland for more than 500 years. It’s in a somewhat weathered state now, but you can still explore the ruins. It takes an hour to get here from Belfast, and it’s conveniently close to Giant’s Causeway. Guided tours are offered around the huge coastal structure, and a local café provides further incentive to stick around.