Northern Ireland: a little piece of land that is officially part of the United Kingdom, while being geographically situated on the island of Ireland. No wonder it confuses people! It took a while before tourists ventured here after the conflicts of the ‘70’s-‘80’s, aka “The Troubles”. But with those times far behind us, Northern Ireland is now ready to show the world what it has to offer!
Here are 10 unique and cool things to do in Northern Ireland:
1/ Swing on the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
On the north coast, a 20m long rope bridge links the mainland to a tiny island across. Traditionally fishermen built bridges to the island to check on their salmon nets. It is no longer used by fishermen nowadays and has been turned into a tourist attraction. The bridge swings 30m above the rocks and on a windy day, it can be quite tricky to cross!
2/ Admire a Unesco World Heritage site
The Giant’s Causeway is probably Northern Ireland’s number one tourist attraction. It’s the highlight of the Causeway Coastal Route. Basalt polygonal columns are flanked by the wild Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding cliffs give you the opportunity to enjoy the best panorama on the North Coast! There are about 40.000 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea, due to volcanic activity about 50 million years ago. But according to the legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant!
3/ Follow into the footsteps of Jon Snow
Did you know that a lot of the Game of Thrones series was filmed in Northern Ireland? The indoor scenes were filmed inside the Titanic Studios in Belfast, but that’s not all! On a Game of Thrones locations tour, you’ll be able to spot the place where Melissandra gave birth to the shadow baby, the scene where Ned Stark beheaded the deserter of the Night Watch and even have a go at archery in Winterfell!
4/ Walk on 17th century city walls
Derry or Londonderry has played a massive role in the history of Northern Ireland. It is one of the finest examples of Walled Cities in Europe. The walls were built in the 17th century as a defence. Nowadays a walkway on top of these walls lead you around the inner city. From cannons to panoramic views: you are guaranteed an interesting afternoon!
5/ Follow into the footsteps of Saint Patrick
A lot of places in Ireland are associated with Saint Patrick, but the majority of them are in Northern Ireland. The Saint Patrick’s trail will take you from his very first church to his grave. Don’t miss the Saint Patrick’s museum in Downpatrick and learn all about the patron saint of Ireland!
6/ Learn about Belfast’s troubled past
Belfast has long been synonym to conflict and sectarianism. The Peace Wall that divides a part of the Catholic and Protestant community and the numerous politically-inspired walls bear witness to its tragic past. Take a “black taxi tour” where the driver will function as your guide and point out the history and the delicate nature of this place.
7/ Visit the world’s largest Titanic Experience
Did you know Titanic was built in Belfast? Explore the shipyard, walk the decks, travel to the depths of the ocean and uncover the legend of Titanic in the city where it all began! And don’t blame Belfast! It was fine when it left there!
8/ Visit the Marble Arch Caves
The caves have only been opened to the public in 1985. They are home to lofty chambers and cave formations, which you can explore on foot and by boat gliding through huge caverns along a subterranean river. They are part of a Geopark with nature reserves, viewpoints and historical sites. Ideal for a day outdoors!
9/ Explore the largest lake in the British Isles
Lough Neagh is about 30km long and 15 km wide. It is home to islands and peninsulas, to birdlife and local flora. Steeped in mythology and folklore, there is plenty to do in the surrounding areas. How about walking or cycling along the shores? Or maybe you are more into canoeing or boat trips? You can even go karting or learn survival skills!
10/ Come for the craic!
“Craic” is one of those wonderful Irish words that are hard to translate. It basically means having a good time, not always accompanied by alcohol, but very often so. Head for one of the many pubs in Belfast and discover what “the craic” is all about!
Have you been to Northern Ireland? What attraction do you find the most appealing?