This is pretty embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t know Ireland and Northern Ireland were 2 separate entities. I know, I know, you can vote me off the island now.
Ireland is actually the republic of Ireland, its own country, and Northern Ireland is part of the UK, even though they are connected. I was pretty surprised as we were driving up north, and I quickly found out that I was actually crossing country borders.
While I only got to experience Northern Ireland for a few hours, I felt that it was a wonderful day trip that has some pretty awesome highlights. The most northern tip of Northern Ireland is about a 3 hour drive from Dublin, so make sure to plan your day accordingly!
Here’s a quick guide on spending a day in Northern Ireland:
Belfast is one of the more notable towns in Northern Ireland, and a great place to stop if you’re coming from Dublin. (It’s about an hour and a half north of Dublin, which is about halfway to the coast.) We didn’t really have time to explore much, but we did have a delicious breakfast at Maggie Mays. (It was also very inexpensive; great value! — Cash only though, so make sure to have UK pounds, not those euros from Dublin!)
We also stopped in Belfast for dinner, and we ended up in what seemed to be the center of the city. The night life was poppin, and every gorgeous restaurant we went to was full, and “no there’s no waiting list.” Pretty annoying when you’re starving, but the popular, ritzy dinner scene also piqued my interested. Belfast, I’ll be back!
The Peace Wall:
Primarily located in Belfast, The Peace Wall is a huge chunk of history that I was pretty fascinated to learn about. During the time of Northern Ireland’s troubles (1969), The Peace Wall was built to separate conflicting religious communities. It was a time of great chaos and destruction with many lives lost, and multiple barriers have been put up since.
The walls now have been decorated with street art and are one of the most popular tourist spots in Belfast; they even have cab tours of the numerous walls! We drove and stopped by quickly due to our schedule, but I would love to take a tour in the future and truly delve into the city’s dark history.
About 30 minutes away from the two main attractions below (and 2 hours from Dublin), Dark Hedges is a famous, man-made tree tunnel that made it’s debut on Game of Thrones. It’s definitely a cool spot to check out on the way to the coast, and photographer’s will love it’s eerie appeal.
This was supposed to be the gem of Northern Ireland for me, and one of the things I was looking most forward to on this trip. Unfortunately I didn’t plan our day well enough because we reached this spot well after sunset, and I couldn’t really see the stone columns without looking through a camera lens. I’m am happy though to have finally checked it off the bucket list! (Jarden did amazing on the pictures, it was pitch black and they came out great!)
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge:
If you have time after all of the above, I would stop at this location as well. Quite popular for tourists, a 15 minute walk will take you to this short rope bridge that hangs over the rough ocean waters below. While I would have preferred to see Giant’s Causeway in the daylight instead of this, it could be a cool stop if you leave early enough in the day.
The bridge itself closes early and they charge admission, so make sure to call and check the hours if you plan a visit. When we went they were already closed so the gate to the bridge itself was locked, but you could still walk on the path leading up to the bridge for free.
Any other spots in Northern Ireland I should know about?