Ireland and Northern Ireland are truly one of the most amazing places I have ever been to. I have visited Ireland several times in the past, but I have always dreamed of visiting Northern Ireland. In 2019 I finally got a chance to visit this beautiful part of the United Kingdom.
Every year I go on a “girls trip” with my mum. It is such a nice tradition and we have been doing it for the past 6 years (Paris, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Romania, Ireland + Northern Ireland, Italy.. 2021- hopefully Georgia?).
The only problem with our trip to Northern Ireland: we both have a driving licence but don’t drive very often (well.. actually never). So that would be a huge risk for us. So I did an online research about places I want to see and found a best package tour for us from Paddy Wagon. I know this travel agency well, I had been on a few trips with them before, so it was a great choice!
In 99% of the cases we don’t book tours, we just travel with local transport etc. But this time we had a limited time and really wanted to see Northern Ireland, so why not?
- If you travel from the Republic of Ireland don’t forget your passport
- Northern Ireland has a different currency (Pounds) than Ireland (Euro)
- Don’t forget to bring a raincoat! Trust me, you will thank me later 🙂
Northern Ireland is situated at the northernmost tip of the island of Ireland. It belongs to the United Kingdom and its only neighbour is the Republic of Ireland. In the recent past Northern Ireland hadn’t been the safest place to visit and the situation used to be quite unstable due to the ethnic-nationalist conflict that had lasted for about 30 years.
Let’s leave the past behind and let’s see how Northern Ireland welcomes tourists with open arms today (let’s pretend for a moment that covid doesn’t exist). The popular series Game of Thrones, which was filmed in many locations, also contributed to its immense popularity.
WHERE TO FIND THE IRON THRONE ?
In the town of Ballintoy, in the Fullerton Arms restaurant, you will find that legendary Iron Throne – so I also enjoyed a moment of fame and became the QUEEN (haha just kidding).
1. DARK HEDGES
Our first stop was one of the most famous Game of Thrones filming location called “Dark Hedges”.
This beech alley is situated between the villages of Armoy and Stranocum and attracts visitors from all over the world. The trees were planted there in 1775 by the Stuart family. Originally there were about 150 trees – today only half of them remains. According to several Irish experts, they are at the end of their existence because they are approximately 250 years old (the usual life span of these trees).
I am grateful that I had a chance to visit this place.. but I won’t lie to you. I saw a lot of instagram photos.. and photos on the internet generally, but now I know that most of them are photoshopped and the reality is very different. And also be prepare that this place gets really crowded.
2. CARRICK A REDE ROPE BRIDGE
I was sooo looking forward to visit this place! And at the same time hoping that the weather would be good. During strong winds or rain is the bridge closed because it is dangerous to walk on it.
The Carrick and Rede Rope Bridge is located near the picturesque town of Ballintoy in Larrybane Bay. The first bridge was built here more than 250 years ago to make it easier for fishermen to catch salmon.. but there is no need to be worried – the current version of the bridge is I guess from around 2008 – completely safe.
After your arrival to the car park, you it is a short hike with amazing views (about 20 minutes) to the bridge. You can also go to one of the viewpoints, from which there is a wonderful view of the rope bridge. I am sure you will see a self-defibrillator on the way.. at first I was like wtf ? .. but after crossing the bridge I fully understood :-D.
There usually is a big queue if you want to cross the bridge. But it was ok during our visit – We had to wait only around 8 minutes. The number of people who can cross the bridge is limited of course for safety reasons.
The bridge measures approximately 20 meters in length and I guarantee you that you will enjoy every meter of it! I was really proud of myself that I was able to cross it – I am incredibly scared of heights. Imagine the feeling of adrenaline, when just light breeze starts to lean against the bridge and there is about 30 meters below you. You have to concentrate on every step. This bridge leads to a small island of Carrick.. and you actually have to cross it again to get back.
You can buy for (1 GBP) a certificate that you have crossed the bridge near the entrance. I have a similar one from Norway and Finland, so I didn’t hesitate for a second.
3. GIANT’S CAUSEWAY
Another stop on our Northern Ireland adventure was the Giant’s Causeway – probably the most visited place in all of Northern Ireland. I was a bit skeptical about how many people would be there … and I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised.
The journey starts in the visitor center, where you will receive a super clever device with a very nicely recorded self guided tour. The walk along Cow’s Bay is full of wonderful views and shortly after you will finally reach the Giant’s Causeway.
There is a really nice legend/ story about this place. Two Giants Fin Mccool and Bennandonner are the reasons why Giant’s Causeway exists. The whole story is nicely explained HERE.
OK now for real, the sidewalk was created by volcanic activity 60 million years ago. It consists of approximately 40,000 basalt columns, which gradually disappear into the sea. The largest of them is called the “Giant’s Organ” and measures 12 meters in height.
There are also several hiking trails around Giant’s Causeway with beautiful views – for example, the Sheep Trail. If you are too lazy to climb back to the visitor center, you can also use a small pick-up bus, which (I suspect) will take you back up for a fee (we walked).
4. DUNLUCE CASTLE
Near the Giant’s Causeway you can visit the ruins of Dunluce Castle from the 15th century. The castle was abandoned for many centuries and a part of the castle collapsed along with the cliff into the sea.
We did not visit the castle, but at least we saw it from a short distance. The castle has a mysterious atmosphere and attracts filmmakers and artists from around the world. Our favorite series was also filmed here – Game of Thrones, in which Dunluce Catle was presented as the seat of the Greyjoys.
Before we said goodbye to Northern Ireland, it managed to say goodbye to us properly (and in Irish)! The last stop for us was the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland – Belfast. In which we experienced one of the biggest rains of our lives – a raincoat in your backpack is a necessity! We had a raincoat and we were soaking wet 😀
Belfast is closely associated with TITANIC, the ship was actually built there. You can visit the huge Titanic Museum in Belfast. At least we managed to check out the city center and the building of beautiful town hall. I would love to return to Belfast one day.
Have you been to the Northern Ireland? Are these places on your bucket list? Let us know in the comments below.
Last Updated on March 6, 2021 by Míša