Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom and is variously described as a country, territory, province, or region. It’s located on the island of Ireland at its northeast end and shares a border to the west and south with the Republic of Ireland.
Northern Ireland may be small but what it lacks in space it makes up for in character. Its people are a warm, welcoming, innovative, and adventurous bunch, and they absolutely love welcoming visitors to their country.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, this area will delight and fascinate you as well. Various locations in Northern Ireland popped up on the show including Winterfell Castle, Kingsroad, and Riverrun.
For those more urban-inclined, cities like Belfast and Derry are sure to sate your thirst. They’re famous for their bars and nightlife as well as some stellar annual events including the Belsonic Music Festival, Stendhal Festival, and the Belfast International Arts Festival.
Whether you’re a nature buff or a city slicker, you’ll find something for you in Northern Ireland. To that end, we wanted to show you some of the highlights on this road trip itinerary. From Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway, to Derry, to the Sperrins, here’s a great way to experience Northern Ireland.
The capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast sits at the mouth of the River Lagan and the western end of the Belfast Lough, giving it the ideal location for the shipbuilding industry that made the city world-renowned. Many great ships were built in the city including the Titanic in 1911-1912.
These days, the city sees an influx of tourists every year. In 2011, this inspired the council to designate a number of cultural quarters:
The Cathedral Quarter is the city’s premier cultural hub and is named for St Anne’s Cathedral. The Gaeltacht Quarter in west Belfast is renowned for its promotion of the Irish language. In south Belfast, the Queen’s Quarter hosts the biggest student population in the city. Finally, the Titanic Quarter promises to be one of the largest waterfront developments in all of Europe.
The population of Belfast is split between its Protestant and Catholic residents. These two culturally distinct communities contribute a lot to the city’s culture.
Victoria Square Dome
The Victoria Square Dome is a must-see for a 360-degree view of the city. Entrance is free.
The cultural hub of the city, the Cathedral Quarter is great for those who want to experience the city’s excellent bars and restaurants.
This amazing landmark is 400 feet above sea level, giving visitors amazing views of the city and Belfast Lough. The estate also contains mixed woodland and beautifully landscaped gardens.
Montgomery Street Car Park
Just 4 minutes from the city hall, this car park can’t be beaten on location.
The Tannery Car Park
A great location just off the highway. If you book online you’ll get great rates.
CastleCourt Car Park
This multi-story car park is excellently located, clean, and modern.
The Ginger Bistro
A relaxed, light bistro with local artwork offering modern Anglo-European fare.
Hope Street Restaurant Belfast
This traditional Irish restaurant offers BYO.
A chic, modern dining room in a former 1760s iron foundry. It serves classic European fare and has daily specials.
Dundonald Touring Caravan Park
Located in the leafy suburbs of Castlereagh, Dundonald Touring Park is located just five miles from Belfast. Rates depend on your days of travel.
Six Mile Water Caravan Park
The park’s central location makes it an ideal base for touring Belfast. Rates depend on your date of travel.
Dunroamin Caravan Park
Set a way out of Belfast on Northern Ireland’s awesome Ards Peninsula, this RV park is a great way to explore the city of Belfast. You have to call the site for current rates.
Legend tells of a giant named Finn McCool. When another giant threatened Ireland, Finn responded by tearing great chunks out of the Antrim coastline and tossing them into the sea. The newly-created pathway – the Giant’s Causeway – paved a road across the sea for Finn to reach his nemesis in Scottland.
This ends up being a bad idea, as Finn’s enemy is far bigger than he realized. To save himself, Finn retreats to Ireland and is disguised as a baby by his quick-witted wife. When Finn’s nemesis arrives he mistakes Finn for Finn’s own child. Thinking if the child is so big, Finn must be massive, Finn’s nemesis rushes back the way he’d come, tearing away as much of the Giant’s Causeway as he can in his haste.
Thus the Giant’s Causeway was created.
While there is a scientific explanation for the natural wonder that is the Giant’s Causeway, it’s nowhere near as fun. These days, the area retains a sense of myth and wonder that have to be seen to be believed.
Belfast to Giant's Causeway
Hike the Causeway Coast
The best way to get to the Giant’s Causeway and see the sights as you go is to hike along the Causeway Coast.
One of Ireland’s most revered whiskey distilleries, Bushmill’s Distillery is just a stone’s throw from the Giant’s Causeway.
This mystical castle is perched dramatically on the edge of a cliff overlooking the North Channel.
Visitor Centre Car Park
You must book a tour with the visitor center to park here but once you do it’s free.
Causeway Coast Way Car Park
A small car park where allocation is first come first served so you’re best to get in early.
A wonderful campground with great scenery and modern amenities. Pricing depends on your date of travel.
Beer, wine, spirits, coffee, and traditional Irish fare make for a great dining experience.
The Giant's Barn
A great restaurant with excellent service serving traditional Irish fare.
The Smugglers Inn
A nautical-themed hotel with some of the best views of the area as well as an extensive menu.
Ballyness Caravan Park
A fully-featured campground with all the amenities you might need. Prices depend on your date of travel.
Bush Caravan Park
A peaceful caravan park with plenty of amenities and great views. Pricing depends on your date of travel.
Derry, also known as Londonderry, is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland. It’s famous for its ancient intact city walls which hem the old city. The one-mile stretch of city walling is renowned as one of the greatest examples of a walled city in all of Europe.
Though it’s smaller than Belfast, Derry is nonetheless rich in culture and history, possessing bucketloads of charm to boot. In 2013 is was named the first UK City of Culture – a title that it takes to with gusto.
Derry has a tumultuous history but that seems to have simply fortified the city’s culture. Today, the city is known for its great food scene, excellent sights, and world-class historical attractions.
Giant’s Causeway to Derry
Walls of Derry
Walk along the ramparts to view the natural surroundings from the gun embrasures and check out the Inner City, which still has its Renaissance grid layout. Visiting the walls is free but there are many great paid tours.
This beautiful structure is a great example of neo-Gothic and Tudor Revival architecture. Entrance is free.
An emotional reminder of Derry’s hard past, the Bogside Murals are 12 large-scale murals in the Bogside neighborhood.
Foyle Road Car Park
A clean, secure, open-air car park in a great location.
Bishop Street Car Park
A functional, easy-to-use car park with plenty of spaces.
Strand Road Car Park
Located a little out of the city center, this car park is clean and well-kept.
Badgers Bar and Restaurant
A warm, cozy restaurant serving traditional Irish fare in great portions.
Walled City Brewery
Great eclectic food with some of the best beer in town.
Link 47 Bar & Restaurant
This rock-themed restaurant serves some great dishes that suit the decor.
Golden Sands Caravan Parks
Well-maintained facilities with plenty of space for the kids to play. Prices depend on your date of travel.
Great family park in an awesome location close to everything. Prices depend on your date of travel.
Hillfoot Caravan And Camping
A small caravan park that’s impeccably kept up. Prices start from £20.00 per night.
The Sperrins is one of the biggest upland areas in Northern Ireland. The mountain range stretches north towards Limavady and from Strabane eastwards to Slieve Gallion in Desertmartin.
The Sperrins are an official Dark Sky area, meaning that the absence of artificial light makes them one of the best places in the world to stargaze. This has led to the introduction of a dedicated star-watching center that brings everything there is to know about the stars to life.
Whether you enjoy a gentle (or challenging) hike, want to sit back and look at the stars, or wish to bird-watch, you’ll find something to occupy your time in this beautiful natural wilderness.
Derry to Sperrins
OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory
This dedicated star-watching center features holographic displays, virtual reality headsets, sky maps, and its own stargazing telescope. Admission is free but there are paid guided tours.
This 12.8-mile hike is one of the best to take in the wonder of the area.
Gortin Glen Forest Park
Just north of Omagh, this park has a number of vista parks where you can pull in and enjoy the awesome Sperrins scenery.
Parking in Sperrins
There are a number of areas to pull your car off the road and enjoy the Sperrins.
Great food and fantastic service all while enjoying some of the best views in the area.
The Coach Inn
A great place to grab a bite and a pint before or after you get back to nature.
The Cheeky Fox
Amazing decor and great service with some of the best food in the area.
Shepherds Rest Pub, Camping & Caravan Park
A great place to stay to explore the area with a nice traditional pub on site. Pricing depends on your date of travel.
The Meadows Camping Field
A wonderful family-run campsite with an excellent location for exploring the area. Prices depend on your date of travel.
Belfast Pick-up center