An essential list of memorable moments in Northern Ireland
Craving a once-in-a-lifetime experience to share with your family? How about an incredible adventure to rave about with friends? Then look no further than the rare and wild land of Northern Ireland for a holiday full of unforgettable memories.
To help you on your way, we’ve compiled an essential must-visit list, packed with both the iconic spots that have made Northern Ireland famous, and the hidden gems that make jaws drop when recounted to friends. Every single one will leave you wanting to return to our welcoming shores.
View the world atop the Giants Causeway
No trip to Northern Ireland is complete without a trip to this one-of-a-kind UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Antrim coast. One of the great natural wonders of the world, standing on the stunning hexagonal rock formation and looking out to see across to the Scottish Isles is a moment you’ll never forget.
Visit one of the finest walled cities in Europe
People come to Derry~Londonderry for many reasons. The Peace Bridge, the insane Halloween celebrations, the excellent sushi (yes, really), the murals and even because they are Derry Girl fans. But what really amazes visitors when they arrive is the city itself – the walls to be precise. Built in the 1600s, they still stand today, a blueprint of the settlement that has existed on the spot for hundreds of years. Take the wall walk and you’ll understand why those before you have travelled the world to see them.
Step aboard the Titanic
It’s possibly the most famous ship in history – but how much do you know about the Titanic’s past before its fateful first voyage? Titanic Belfast – the museum dedicated to the subject – will take you on a different kind of adventure, rolling back the years to reveal the boat’s life from a sketch on a Harland & Wolff drawing board to its terrible sinking. Through this immersive tour, you’ll experience sights and sounds of the docks and witness the watery depths where the boat finally settled.
Experience a meeting of history and astronomy
Head to County Tyrone for a very special view of the night sky. Here you’ll find the OM Dark Sky Park – one of just 78 internationally accredited dark sky sites on the planet. The winter months are actually the best time to visit, as the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades are all at their most visible right now.
And if you visit by day you can first venture along the 3.4km solar walk from the Bronze Age Beaghmore Stone Circles – which some believe to be an early observatory – to OM to get a real feeling of how people have been gathering here to experience this amazing view for thousands of years.
Walk the hair-raising Gobbins coastal walk
Northern Ireland has many amazing epic cliff walks, but none is as perilous or as exhilarating as the Gobbins. Built through and around the cliff face, the 5km-long path takes brave souls across three bridges and above the waves and round the east Antrim coast at Islandmagee. Passing pods of dolphins are part of the attraction, as are the views unlike anything else you’ll see.
Commission your own piece of Game of Thrones jewellery
The world has been obsessed with Game of Thrones since it first graced our screens a decade ago. Shot on location across Northern Ireland, the country’s breath-taking terrain has doubled as Winterfell (Castle Ward), the Iron Islands (Ballintoy) and the King’s Road (the Dark Hedges) among others. Imagine not only visiting these stunning sites, and the Game of Thrones Studio Tour (which is opening on February 4, 2022), but also commissioning your very own piece of bespoke jewellery by Steensons. These are the people who designed and crafted many of the iconic pieces in the series from Cersei’s crown to Sansa’s deadly necklace. Now that’s something to brag to your friends about.
Eat fresh prawns straight from the sea at Portavogie
Every September, people flock to the County Down fishing port of Portavogie for one reason – its annual Seafood Festival. From oyster competitions to freshly cooked scampi, there are lots to tickle the tastebuds, but the star attraction is always the local prawns. But you don’t have to visit in September to enjoy the local delicacy. Many of the local restaurants such as The New Quays have them on the menu, so you can enjoy them straight from the ocean to your plate.
Climb the Stairway to Heaven
Fermanagh’s famous Stairway to Heaven – or the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail to give it its proper name – has to be seen to be believed. Stretching across the delicate ecosystem of the Northern Irish boglands, the path climbs upwards to the peak of Cuilcagh Mountain, delivering 360-degree views of the surrounding counties. No wonder it earned its ethereal nickname.
Elope to the North Coast
Northern Ireland is a land of castles and sweeping vistas. No wonder then that a number of wedding photographers – such Epic Love’s Rob Dight – actually specialise in elopements here. No matter where in the world you’re travelling from, they can connect you with everyone from celebrants to florists to ensure that your Northern Irish wedding is one to tell future generations about.
Ascend the highest peak in Northern Ireland
The star of the Mourne Mountains, Slieve Donard attracts tourists from all over the world to climb to its 850m summit. Towering over the seaside town of Newcastle in County Down, the Glen River Path is considered the most accessible and takes adventurers through thick forests and beside bubbling streams, before emerging out onto grassy slopes that take you along the Mourne Wall to the top. As well as the stunning views, there’s an extra treat at the top – a cairn believed to date from 3000BC and thought to be the highest known passage tomb in the UK. Be careful when you venture close though, local folklore identifies it as an entrance to another world.
Meet the swimming cows of Crom Castle
There are many reasons to visit the beautiful Crom Castle in County Fermanagh, the red squirrels, the deer, the apple orchard, the views across Lough Erne, but our favourite is the swimming cows that live there. Twice a year, they make their journey across 100m of open water to the island of Inishfendra to graze – helping with the biodiversity and the care of the local pastures. And believe it or not, records suggest that the cattle have been making this journey since the 1800s. Now that’s a tradition worth witnessing.
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