I went to Northern Ireland early in August for a Bank holiday weekend here in Ireland. Last time I went to Northern Ireland was four years ago but I went by train and then took the hop on-hop off bus to get around the main landmarks of the city. But this time, I wanted to do a proper road trip and go to the most scenic places Northern Ireland could offer me during this weekend.
I went there with a fellow traveler @My.infinity.wanders also based in Dublin, Ireland. So after couple days planning our roads, we finally hit the road. Here is our itinerary below if wish to visit some of the spots we have been to.
Dublin to Belfast
One thing I love about Ireland is how tiny it is when you want to travel somewhere. The time to travel from Dublin to Belfast is only about 2 hours using the motorway. We left Dublin after lunch and arrived mid-afternoon in Belfast. After checking in at our hotel in the Titanic District we decided to go browse the city.
Browsing the streets of Belfast will show you that this city has a lot to tell historically. From the historic buildings to the street art, this city went through a lot and displays its History and Cultural heritage at every street corner.
If you got the opportunity to visit it, do not miss out. This is definitely a unique and worthy experience.
Glenariff Forest Park
Northern Ireland is a gem for all nature lovers! Only located an hour drive away from Belfast, Glenariff forest park is definitely a spot to add on your to do list. With many treks to walk on, it is the perfect location for a day out in the nature.
The view on the valley is incredible and the waterfall at the end of the waterfall trail is worth chasing. The park has many wooden footpaths that give a lot of charm and fits perfectly with the nature.
After spending the whole morning exploring this forest and taking amazing shots, we headed to Ballycastle to refuel the batteries and get some lunch.
This town was located halfway to our next destination, so we decided to stop there to grab some lunch. What I love in Ireland are their pubs. The food is affordable and you honestly get it for your money. The portions are HUGE! We stopped by this restaurant called The Cellar Restaurant, had an amazing lunch and as expected could not finish our portions how big they were!So we kindly asked for a take away!
If you stop by Ballycastle one day, I recommend this restaurant, you won't be disappointed.
I did not know this place before but I am glad we found it. Located barely 10 minutes drive away from Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Kinbane castle ruins are a fantastic landmark to visit with breathtaking views. But be ready for a good cardio as the steps to get there are not an easy walk! Hence, the reason you won't find so many tourists there either. Did I mention that the views are spectacular!
This is the most famous rope bridge in Northern Ireland. It links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede. The bridge spans 20 metres and is 30 metres above the rock. I am not a big fan of being in a situation at high altitude to be honest. So it was a challenge to cross it. But I did it.
To be honest, it was not a wow moment to visit it and I consider it a tourist trap. First you will need to pay about 7 pounds. And because of the number of visitors daily, access to the rope bridge is by timed allocation. There are some steep steps to go down to the bridge and you can find that view anywhere along the shore. What's only good is the story behind the fisherman building the bridge.
The Giant's Causeway
I already went there four years ago. It is something to do also as it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, but seeing it once is more than enough in my opinion. If you go, try to take the guided tour which will provide you with the History of the place and how it formed following a series of volcanic eruptions. That's mostly what interested me then because I studied Sciences when I was in high school and we often talked about the Giant's Causeway natural erosion phenomena.
Otherwise, on the downside be ready to pay at the visitor's centre 10,50 pounds per adult, you can save 1,50 pound if booked online! Then, there is a shuttle to get you down the hill to the Causeway which charges you a fare both ways and get full very quickly. So, be ready for a little hike and bring some good comfortable shoes. And once on location, expect to have many tourists on your photos!
As I said seeing it once was more than enough. This is a prime destination for tourists, so don't be surprised if it gets busy.
The Dark Hedges
Are you a fan of game of thrones? Then You may recognise this place from the TV show. This is the famous dark hedges. It looks as amazing for real as on this photo. this is definitely worth to stop by once you visit northern Ireland!
This has also become a tourist destination following the success of the TV show, there are now tour guide to browse the different shooting location of the show in Northern Ireland. We did it four years ago with a small tour company and was a blast as people did not know the show yet, so the shooting locations were not crowded at all and our guide knew exactly the time when to go to avoid all big tourist buses! I would not imagine how it is today.
Hence the reason, we kept this as our last stop and went there in the evening around 7-8pm when we knew it would not be so busy. We did not get the space to ourselves but almost! And we also managed to get some great shots.
Night out in Belfast
After spending the full day outdoor in the rain, we just wanted a relaxed evening. I spotted a speakeasy downtown that had some character. So after dinner we went for couple drinks. The place is called Rita's - Beer and Cocktail Club. There is a limited selection of draught beers but the cocktail list is really good. Very nice and chic decor, friendly staff, great atmosphere and only a 30+ crowd which is enjoyable sometimes. Perfect spot for a chill evening.
Let me introduce you to the Mourne Mountains. Located only an hour drive away South from Belfast! This place is incredible! You have to see it with your own eyes!
What you can see is a broken road with some parts that got submerged by the water of this lake. Getting there was not easy as I had to walk through deep mud under the rain with my camera gears for nearly half an hour. I was soaked from head to toe and almost lost my shoes walking through the mud! (Great idea @My.infinity.wanders...) But I was stubborn enough to make it through to make that shot!(the struggle is real!😅)
Yes, if you would know all the behind the scenes stories to get some of my shots you will think I am crazy!haha It was definitely worth it though as I soon as I reached the end of the road, it stopped raining and the sky cleared out. Perfect timing to capture this moment!
After spending couple hours in the mountains, it was time to head back to Dublin. This weekend was a great getaway and we managed to see a lot of things. Which is why I love taking road trips. You have that freedom to do what you want whenever you want. You have that freedom to explore as you wish. Considering how beautiful the nature is in this country, this is the perfect way to explore it. But, it took me at least a day or two to recover from it, spending a full weekend outdoor is exhausting! haha #theoldmantalking
What about you? Have you ever been to Northern Ireland? What would you recommend to see and do?