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5 Must Do’s in Northern Ireland

by Roberto
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Some people who visit our little island don’t realize that
we actually share the island with another country!  Part of the northern area of Ireland is a
country called Northern Ireland and is part of the United Kingdom.  They have a different government, a different
currency, and a verrrry different accent!

I’ve been on a few trips to “the north” over the years and
have compiled a short list of MUST see places when you visit.  Many of these you can do on a guided tour or
even rent a car and do them at your own pace!

1. GIANTS CAUSEWAY 

The Irish LOVE their stories, and the Giant’s Causeway is one of my favourites.  Legend has it that an Irish giant (named Finn MacCool – the coolest name ever) challenged a Scottish giant to a duel and built the Giant’s Causeway as a way to get to one another.  There are similar columns that can be seen in Scotland.

If you visit Northern Ireland, you HAVE to go to the Giants Causeway.  It falls onto many lists of the greatest natural wonders of the world, which is a well-deserved accomplishment.

The Causeway was formed by a lava flow millions of years ago which cooled and cracked into hexagonal shapes.  The park is free to visit and is definitely worth it!

2. CARRICK-A-REDE ROPE BRIDGE 

This is a little bridge that connects two cliffs that is about 2 ft wide and can only carry about 10 people.  This is one of the coolest, and scariest (for those of you afraid of makeshift bridges at very high heights) man-made attractions on the island.  You have beautiful views of the water below, and on a sunny day, the water is as blue as you’d find in more tropical climates.

If you do want to visit, I highly recommend going as part of a guided tour, because they book slots for the group in advance.  If you go on your own, be prepared for a long wait (I don’t know how long because I’ve never chanced it on my own).

3. BELFAST BLACK TAXI TOUR

This is one of the most authentic guided tours I have ever been on while traveling.  If you don’t know, some of the more recent Irish history consists of the division caused by differences in religion across the whole country, but also within Belfast, Northern Ireland itself.  These black taxi tours are guided by real locals who grew up while the city was divided.  Their stories are the real deal, making every tour is different depending on your tour guide and their own personal experiences growing up in a divided city.

If you plan to do items 1-3, I highly recommend a day tour from Dublin! I’ve done a day tour a few times and they are a great way to hit these top three spots in one day!

4. TORR HEAD 

Torr Head is one of those places that just doesn’t feel real and feels totally “Irish”.  You definitely have to have a car to get here, and probably a small one, that can get up big hills.  The drive to this place is beautiful and you’ll even see a few Irish sheep and cows on your way.  Once you get there, you won’t regret it.  Torr head has an old abandoned building at the top of the cliff (I only wish they’d turn it into a café or something!).  Plus, it has amazing 360 views of the ocean below.  I probably could have spent all day here, but there are no facilities, and girl had to go… so we spent about 30 minutes there, took about 30,000 pictures, and got back on the road.

5. MUSSENDEN TEMPLE 

The Mussenden Temple and its grounds is a very unique and beautiful tourist attraction.  The grounds are surrounded by a stone wall and contain the temple and the Downhill Castle.  The temple is situated on the edge of a cliff and looks down onto the Downhill Strand (a beach you can see for miles).  At one point in history, a horse and carriage could fit between the temple and the cliff, but the cliff has eroded, and the temple has had undergone a stabilization project.  The temple is beautiful against the backdrop of the cliff and beach below.  It would be a wonderful place to get married (which you can actually do!).

EXTRA CREDIT – GAME OF THRONES SPOTS!

For those of you Game of Thrones fans, you may also want to check out these two (I know nothing about the significance of these locations in the show, but I’m sure your friends Siri or Google can tell you!):

DUNLUCE CASTLE

These are castle ruins also situated on the edge of a cliff and are a bit fenced off for safety due to the eroding cliff around it.  On many of the guided bus tours, you will only stop on the highway and take pictures from afar, but if you are a mega fan and want to tour the castle, you will need to drive on your own to get the time there.

DARK HEDGES

This seems to be another one of those popular spots for Game of Thrones fans.  It is essentially a pretty road with big trees that create a tunnel like feeling when walking through.  Because of the increase in tourism here, you are no longer able to drive down the road, only walk.  Personally, I thought there were way too many people here which caused me to enjoy it a bit less, but I also have never seen the show (I know, I’m not normal), so it didn’t mean as much to me.  I’d suggest driving and going earlier in the morning before all of the tour buses get there to get more space to yourself (and probably better pictures).

Most of these things you can actually just do on a bus tour from Dublin (either a general Northern Ireland bus tour, or a Game of Thrones tour).  I recommend the tour company Wild Rover.  I’ve been on LOADS of their tours and they are always well run and a great value for money. Then, you can try to fit in my favorite attractions when you get back to Dublin, or try our a day trip near Dublin on your own!

Let me know your favourite sites and attractions in Northern
Ireland!!

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