As an adventure enthusiast, I am always looking for an excuse to explore a new place. Lucky for me, I met my boyfriend, Corey at the end of 2020 who comes with the added perk of being Irish (how exotic!). In 2021 Corey invited me over to visit his hometown on the Causeway Coast and of course, I jumped at the chance to discover a new place. I had never been to Northern Ireland before, but I was blown away by its charm and beauty. So here I am, two mini-breaks later and incredibly smitten with both the Causeway Coast and my Irish fella too!
Northern Ireland has so much to offer, and I’m confident that anyone who visits the rugged sea cliffs, the postcard perfect beaches and the rolling green hills will fall just as much in love with this little island as I did. To help you on your road to Northern Ireland discovery, I have created this list of my top 10 recommendations for your trip!
Travel on one of the most scenic train routes in Northern Ireland
Coleraine to Londonderry / Derry is a 45-minute journey by train along the dramatic scenery of the Causeway Coast. Enjoy the spectacular views wiz by from the comfort of your carriage as you press your nose against the window to take in that stunning Irish landscape . Tickets cost around £15 return for an adult fare and it’s by far the best way to get to the city.
Top Tip – When in Londonderry take the Martin McCrossan Walking Tour for a fun, fact-filled wander around the city.
Start the day with an Ulster fry
As a born and bred Ulsterman, Corey was insistent on introducing me to the joys of potato bread, and I have to say I’m sold! The Ulster fry is like a full English but bigger and is certainly not for the faint-hearted (The Irish don’t mess around when it comes to breakfast!). But, if you want something to set you up for a big day of exploring, the Ulster fry will see you right.
Take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean
Northern Ireland’s white sand beaches and crystal-clear Atlantic waters provide a tempting combination if you’re inclined to take a dip. On a hot day, the ocean is incredibly refreshing, it’s also a great location to learn to surf. Be warned though, in cooler months it can be, as the locals put it, “a bit fresh” which translates to absolutely bloody freezing! If you’re not brave enough for a full dunk, have paddle instead.
Top Tip – Portstewart Strand is a fantastic white sand beach owned by the National Trust and an ideal place to take a dip. You can drive straight onto the beach which is great for storing all your stuff within easy access (and retreating rapidly to the car to crank up the heating after your plunge!).
See the Cows at White Park Bay
One of my absolute favourite memories of Northern Ireland was seeing a herd of cows wandering around on one of the most stunning beaches I’ve encountered in the UK. It’s a surreal, yet fantastic sight to behold and makes for some amazing pictures.
Unfortunately, the cows aren’t always there, but even without them it’s a beautiful beach to explore.
Watch the sunset at Portstewart Promenade
The moment I fell in love with the Causeway Coast was watching the sunset over the ocean at Portstewart Promenade one summer evening. To date, it’s one of the most memorable sunsets I’ve seen and certainly a top recommendation for anyone visiting the Causeway Coast.
Top Tip – If you’re visiting Portstewart in the summer months, hop on the Ferris wheel on the promenade to get a fantastic bird’s eye view of the sunset.
Not quite ready for your Northern Irish trip yet? No worries, pin this post for later!
Explore Downhill Demesne
This is a fantastic free way to spend the day with something to suit all tastes. First take a trek amongst the beautiful, secret-garden-esque botanicals of the Bishop’s trail, it truly feels like a jungle at times with hidden gems to find along the way. This route will take you up to admire the rugged beauty of the coastal cliffs and around to the Mussenden Temple sat keeping watch over Downhill beach below. Next, wander along to the ruins of the once opulent Downhill House and appreciate the years the crumbling walls have seen. Finally, head down to the beach for a walk in the surf. Dolphins are often spotted here so keep your eyes peeled!
Step on the Giant’s Causeway
What can I say? There’s a reason people travel to Northern Ireland just to see this impressive UNESCO site. The Giant’s Causeway is both an impressive and mystical sight to behold, in fact it can be hard to believe that this unique, hexagonal assembly of rocks is a product of nature. It is definitely worth the hype and you can get some spectacular photos to commemorate your trip.
Top Tip – A lot of people don’t know that the Giant’s Causeway is free to visit but the National Trust parking and visitors centre are not. The most convenient carpark by the visitor centre is National Park owned and very pricey, however, if you don’t mind a bit of a walk, you can usually find free or much cheaper parking a little further up or down the road.
Drink a pint of Guinness
I mean, have you even been to Northern Ireland if you don’t have at least one pint of Guinness on your trip? There’s nowhere else this hearty stout tastes greater than at its source so make a toast to your good health and get a pint down you!
Discover the Game of Thrones hot spots at Ballintoy Harbour
One of my favourite stops on the Causeway Coastal Route was beautiful Ballintoy Harbour. Made famous by its feature in Game of Thrones, Ballintoy Harbour is a sleepy little settlement with stunning seaside views, impressive, explorable caves and impeccably well-behaved seagulls (unlike the thuggish gulls we’re used to on the west coast who will fight you for your fish and chips!). It’s a fantastic little stop off for a leg stretch and a bite to eat while roadtripping the Causeway, and one I urge you not to miss!
Wander the ruins of Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle is an impressive fortress sat dramatically on the edge of a cliff on the Causeway coast. The views from the castle are magnificent and it’s a great place for all the history nerds to stop off and soak in some stories from the past. Many Northern Irish wedding photographers love to shoot newly weds here and when you see the romantic ruinous backdrop, it’s easy to see why.
So, there you have my top 10 tick list for adventuring in Northern Ireland! In truth, I found it incredibly hard to narrow down this list to 10 things alone! Keep your eyes peeled for more top tips on places to visit along the Causeway Coast, the ultimate coastal road trip route!
As always, I welcome any top tips, questions, conversations or comments so drop me a message to say hi and share your adventure stories!