Heading from Dublin to Belfast, or vice versa? Here are our five favourite things to see on the drive between the two capital cities.
A trip to the Emerald Isle wouldn’t be complete without visiting Dublin (the Republic of Ireland’s capital) and Belfast (Northern Ireland’s capital), but you might want to break up your journey between the two cities. The route can seem like a tedious journey, but what most people don’t know is that there are actually a lot of epic stops along the way.
Depending on how much you want to see, you could spend anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days making your way between the capital cities. There’s something for everyone: shopping, viewpoints, history, ice cream by the sea, and so much more.
5. Swords – for a historic castle and great food
After you leave Dublin, one of the first towns you will come across is Swords. This quaint little town is about ten miles north of the Republic of Ireland’s capital city, so it acts as a perfect first stop to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat.
While you’re here, you can even take in the town’s history by visiting Sword’s Castle, (a restored medieval castle right in the centre of town), St Colmcille’s Holy Well, a 10th-century round tower and a 14th-century Norman tower.
If history isn’t your thing, Swords is still a great place to stop for something to eat, as the main street offers a lot of great cafes and bars including the Gourmet Food Parlour and the Old Schoolhouse Bar and Restaurant.
If you fancy a bit of shopping, you can head to the Pavillions Shopping Centre, which hosts a lot of great high street stores.
Location: Swords, Co. Dublin, Ireland
4. Newgrange Passage Tomb, Meath – for a prehistoric wonder
A little further north, you’ll find the Newgrange Passage Tomb. This prehistoric monument located eight kilometers west of Drogheda is one of the most popular stops on the road from Dublin to Belfast.
The passage tomb was built in the Neolithic period, around 3200 BC, making it even older than the Egyptian Pyramids, so this is a definite must-see if you’re interested in history!
As if that wasn’t already interesting enough, a brand new €4.5m immersive visitor experience recently opened atBrú Na Bóinne, the entry point for Newgrange. The experience takes visitors along an interactive path following the story of the construction of the passage tomb around 3,200 BC.
Location: Newgrange, Donore, Co. Meath, Ireland
3. Carlingford – for a scenic town with fantastic seafood
The stunning town of Carlingford sits right on the border between the north and south of Ireland. From here you can take in the stunning views of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains, or stroll through the town centre, which is filled with brightly painted buildings.
The history fanatics can check out the 12th-century King John’s Castle, which overlooks the harbour, or Taaffe’s Castle, a 16th-century tower house.
If you’re a seafood fan, Carlingford is the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat, as its location on the Carlingford Lough means the local restaurants always serve a wide range of delicious seafood dishes. There are plenty to choose from including PJ O’Hares, Kingfisher Bistro, Fitzpatrick’s Bar and Restaurant, and many more.
Location: Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland
2. Mourne Mountains – for outstanding natural beauty
Just north of the border, the other side of Carlingford Lough, you’ll find the Mourne Mountains. Known as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where the mountains sweep down to the sea, this is one stop you can’t miss on your drive from Dublin to Belfast.
You can take in the scenery by taking a drive through the mountains, or if you fancy a longer stay, you could spend the night in the seaside town of Newcastle and hike up Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard, in the morning.
Some of the must-see spots throughout the Mournes include Silent Valley reservoir, Tollymore Forest Park, and the Mourne Wall.
Location: Mourne Mountains, Newry, BT34 5XL
1. Hillsborough – for a castle, gardens, and more
For your final stop on your drive from Dublin to Belfast, we highly recommend checking out Hillsborough. The historic village is the perfect stop to take a walk around and check out the Georgian architecture.
While you’re here, you can visit Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, the official royal residence in Northern Ireland. You can wander around the 100 acres of beautiful gardens developed from the 1760s onward, and take a tour of the castle’s state rooms, which have been visited by a number of people including the Dalai Lama, the Crown Prince of Japan, Princess Diana, Hillary Clinton, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The village is also home to a number of Michelin Star restaurants, including the Plough Inn and the Parson’s Nose, so it’s the perfect place to stop for a delicious meal before arriving in Belfast.
Location: Hillsborough, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
By Sian McQuillan