From castles to natural wonders, here are the top 26 things to do in Northern Ireland in your lifetime.
Going to Ireland is not complete without a trip up north to Northern Ireland.
This part of the Emerald Isle is magical, and it offers tons of amazing things to do for such a small area.
Here’s our 26 things you need to do and places you need to see in Northern Ireland… The Northern Irish Bucket List!
1. Visit Northern Ireland’s most famous icon, Giant’s Causeway, Co. Antrim
The Giant’s Causeway is proof that Mother Nature provides the most dramatic tourist attractions.
The natural wonder is comprised of around 40,000 polygonal basalt rock columns, formed by the ancient volcanic landscape and stretching along the coastline like a series of gigantic stepping stones.
A Giants Causeway Day Trip from Belfast is one of the country’s most popular excursions, with visitors taking the unique opportunity to walk one of nature’s most peculiar pathways.
2. Visit Northern Ireland’s most famous castle, Dunluce Castle, Co. Antrim
Dunluce Castle is located dramatically close to a headland that plunges straight into the sea, along the North Antrim coast, and was the headquarters of the MacDonnell Clan.
There is archaeological evidence of a village that surrounded the castle which was destroyed by fire in 1641.
The site has also witnessed the sinking of a colony ship that broke up on the rocks off Islay in 1857 with the loss of 240 lives.
3. Mussenden Temple, Co. Derry
Mussenden Temple is located in the beautiful surroundings of Downhill Demesne near Castlerock in County Derry.
It perches dramatically on a 120 ft cliff top, high above the Atlantic Ocean on the north-western coast of Northern Ireland, offering spectacular views westwards over Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point and County Donegal and to the east Castlerock beach towards Portstewart, Portrush and Fair Head.
4. See the amazing Glens of Antrim, Co. Antrim
The Glens of Antrim, known locally as simply The Glens, is a region of County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It comprises nine glens (valleys), that radiate from the Antrim Plateau to the coast.
The Glens are an area of outstanding natural beauty and are a major tourist attraction in north Antrim. The main towns and villages in the Glens are Ballycastle, Cushendun, Cushendall, Waterfoot, Carnlough and Glenarm.
The inhabitants of the glens are descended mainly from native Irish, Ulster Scots and Hebridean Scots. The Glens are mentioned in the song “Ireland’s Call”.
5. Cross the most famous bridge in Northern Ireland, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Co. Antrim
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Co. Antrim. It is a famous rope bridge near Ballintoy. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede.
It spans 20 metres (66 ft) and is 30 metres (98 ft) above the rocks below.
The bridge is mainly a tourist attraction and is owned and maintained by the National Trust. In 2009 it had 247,000 visitors. The bridge is open all year round (subject to weather) and people may cross it for a fee.
6. Explore the Home of Bushmills, Co. Antrim
Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made at Ireland’s oldest working distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
The Bushmills Brand Experience encompasses guided tours around a working distillery with all the associated sights and smells, tutored whiskey tastings, a specialist whiskey shop and a well-stocked gift shop with exclusive Bushmills merchandise.
There is also a restaurant serving lunches and Bushmills inspired treats throughout the day. The Distillery Tour Centre is open 7 days a week.
7. Visit the fantastic Rathlin Island
Amidst the rugged landscape of this isolated island, you can let your mind wander and discover a tranquillity and beauty that is so unexpected.
The ferry to Rathlin Island travels just six miles across the “Sea of Moyle”. This island is six miles long, one mile wide, “L” shaped and home to a small population of around seventy people.
8. See where the most famous shipwreck was born
You can’t escape the influence that this ship has had on the city. In 2012, during the centenary of the loss of this famous vessel to an iceberg in the North Atlantic, the brand new Titanic Belfast centre opened to the public.
The stunning design of the venue is meant to remind you of two ships being built side-by-side in the Harland & Wolff shipyards, and the building contains a fantastic series of interactive displays on Belfast’s industrial heritage – as well as, of course, the history of Titanic herself from inception right up to exploring the seabed and finding the wreck.
You can see recreations of cabins on board, learn fascinating facts about the vessel and even enjoy afternoon champagne teas in a recreation of the famous grand staircase from the ship.
It’s a romantic, intriguing and gripping exhibition which is well worth the admission fee. Allow at least half a day to explore.
10. The City Walls, Co. Derry
No. 1 attraction on Trip Advisor to Date. Scenic/ Historic Walking Area. Customers View: “We were very moved by the way our guide was implacably neutral in his description of the causes of the troubles and we left having our views changed for good.
This is a complicated part of the world and our guide brought it to life for us. He was very articulate, had a great sense of humour and answered our questions in an intelligent manner. This tour is a must.”
11. Do a traditional Irish pub crawl in Belfast
Explore the best spots Belfast has to offer in one night by going to all the main pubs in the city centre. Click here for the list
12. Go to a Belfast Giant’s Game in the Odyssey Arena
Belfast’s home Ice Hockey team is the Belfast Giant’s. They play their home games at the Odyssey Arena.
Ticket prices are not expensive, you can usually get a ticket for about £10. It’s loads of fun and they usually have competitions and give out free Subway and Pizza during the breaks!
13. Explore the famous Belfast City Hall
Take a tour around the beautifully decorated interior and learn about its history or walk in the gardens to discover the Titanic memorial and artwork and statues linked to everyone from Queen Victoria to President Clinton.
If you are ready for a cuppa, there’s even a café, the Bobbin Coffee Shop.
14.Visit the Northern Irish Assembly
Go explore the home of the Northern Irish Assembly. A place of history, change and now peace. Free tours are offered here which are excellent.
However, the Northern Irish Assembly has a history of deadlock and collapse so your chances of seeing a politican here could be slim!
15. Visit the historic Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle in Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, on the northern shore of Belfast Lough.
Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland.
It was strategically useful, with 3/4 of the castle perimeter surrounded by water (although in modern times only 1/3 is surrounded by water due to land reclamation).
Today it is maintained by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency as a state care historic monument.
16. Visit one of the world’s most scenic places, The Dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges is one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland and a popular attraction for tourists from across the world.
It has been painted by hundreds of visiting artists and is a favourite location for wedding photographs.
17. Drive along the amazing Causeway Coastal Route
The Causeway Coastal route, one of the greatest drives on earth. The three designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are a testament to the beauty of the area.
The Causeway Coast, the Causeway Coast and Glens which includes Rathlin, Northern Ireland’s only inhabited off-shore island and Binevenagh with it’s dramatic cliffs.
The ever-changing tapestry of scenery and colours, set against a dramatic coastal backdrop will take your breath away – making it the perfect place for a leisurely tour.
18.Visit Northern Ireland’s most beautiful waterfall
Glenoe Waterfall, Co. Antrim. A beautiful waterfall nestling in the glens of Antrim.
A short stroll from the charming village of Glenoe, steps and paths wind around a small glen with one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Ireland.
19. Go to the summit of Northern Ireland’s tallest mountains
The Mourne Mountains are a granite mountain range in County Down. It includes the highest mountains in Northern Ireland and the province of Ulster. The highest of these is Slieve Donard at 850 metres (2,790 ft).
The Mournes is an area of outstanding natural beauty and has been proposed as the first national park in Northern Ireland. The area is partly owned by the National Trust and sees a large number of visitors every year.
20. Visit the grave of St. Patrick, Co. Down
Down Cathedral is a Church of Ireland cathedral. It stands on the site of a Benedictine Monastery, built in 1183. Saint Patrick’s remains are buried in the graveyard.
Magnificent stain glass windows, box pews and beautiful organ case enhances this interesting building.
21. Silent Valley and Ben Crom, Co. Down
An easy family walk in landscaped parkland with a spectacular mountain backdrop. There is a restaurant and information close to the dam wall.
The walk is steep in places. Walkers can walk another 3 miles up to Ben Crom reservoir and return (another 3 miles) on the same route back to Silent Valley reservoir.
A regular bus service operates in the summer season to Ben Crom.
22. Beaghmore Stone Circles, Co. Tyrone
Discovered during peat cutting in the 1940s the site at Beaghmore consists of 7 stone circles. All of the rings are associated with cairns and a stone row runs towards these cairns.
It is possible that Neolithic occupation and cultivation preceded the erection of burial cairns and ceremonial circles and alignments: some irregular lines and heaps of boulders resembling field-fences or field-clearance may predate the ritual structures.
At some stage peat started to form over the site, and it may conceivably be that the cairns and rows were erected in a futile propitiatory attempt to restore fertility to the soil by attracting back the fading sun.
23. Enniskillen Castle, Co. Fermanagh
Enniskillen Castle, situated beside the River Erne in County Fermanagh, was built almost 600 years ago by the ruling Gaelic Maguires. Guarding one of the few passes into Ulster, it has been strategically important throughout its history.
Today, the historic site houses two museums, Fermanagh County Museum and The Inniskillings Museum.
24. Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh
Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh. Lough Erne or Loch Erne is the name of two connected lakes in County Fermanagh. It is the second-biggest lake system in Ulster, and the fourth biggest in Ireland.
The lakes are widened sections of the River Erne, which flows north and then curves west into the Atlantic. The smaller southern lake is called the Upper Lough (as it is further up the river) or South Lough.
The bigger northern lake is called the Lower Lough or North Lough. The town of Enniskillen lies on the short stretch of river between the lakes. The lake has 154 islands along with many coves and inlets.
When windy, navigation on Lower Lough Erne, running for 26 miles almost to the Atlantic, can be something of a challenge with waves of open-sea dimensions. Shallow Upper Lough Erne, spreading southeast of Enniskillen for about 12 miles, is a maze of islands. The River Erne is 100 km long and drains an area of about 4,350 km².
25. See the Peace walls, Belfast
These massive walls separate two communities in Belfast. Most of the walls were built during the turbulent period called “The Troubles” when sectarian riots were common.
Now Belfast is a changed city with only minor trouble but the walls still remain.
A very interesting spectacle and a must for the bucket list!
26. Experience the Northwest 200, Co. Derry
The North West 200 is a motorcycle race meeting held each May along the north coast of Ireland.
The course is a street circuit, made up of public roads running between the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush (the Triangle) is one of the fastest in the world, with speeds in excess of 200 mph (320 km/h).
In practice for the 2012 event Martin Jessopp was clocked at 208 mph (335 km/h). It is one of around fifteen events run on public roads between April and October throughout the island of Ireland.
It is the largest annual sporting event in Ireland, with the race weekend attracting over 150,000 visitors from all over the world.