One of the finest routes is the coastal road between Larne and Cushendall
Things To Do
Whether you wish to try a local pint or sip an orange juice, visit The Crown Liquor Saloon, the most famous pub in Belfast. Now owned by the National Trust, the atmospheric building is unique with an incredibly ornate exterior and no less an interior of brightly coloured Victorian tiling, carvings, glass and period gas lighting. Settle in one of the cosy snugs and admire the highly decorative carved ceilings and mosaic work.
Visit Bushmills Irish Whiskey, Ireland’s oldest working distillery. There are guided tours around the distillery, where you can see the traditional copper potstills, have tutored whiskey tastings and there’s a specialist whiskey shop.
Explore Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles. A good starting point is the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre where you can find out about the lake’s international importance for wildlife, take walks and trails through the National Nature Reserve, or enjoy a boat trip around the lake.
Take the train from Derry-Londonderry to Coleraine and experience what is considered one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world. The 45-minute journey begins in the sixth century walled city before sweeping along the edge of Lough Foyle and the beach of Benone Strand. The final leg of the journey is alongside the beautiful River Bann.
For a hard-hitting look at the British/Irish conflict, take an award-winning Black Cab Tour of Belfast. A political sightseeing tour, you’ll gain an insight into Belfast during The Troubles, seeing famous hotspots and associated murals.
When To Visit
St Patrick’s Day, of course, is celebrated throughout Ireland in the week leading up to 17 March, but particularly in Downpatrick, the town named after the patron saint. In addition to general revelry, you’ll find pilgrimages, concerts and historical talks.
Armagh celebrates the Brian Boru Festival in April, when the High King of Ireland won victory over the Vikings at Clontarf in 1014, ending Danish power in Ireland.
The City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival is held every May with big name stars in the world of music, while the Mourne International Walking Festival offers spectacular scenery around the Mourne Mountains near Newcastle, County Down, every June. Cushendall, County Antrim, enjoys the Heart of the Glens Festival for nine days during August, with music, sports and fun for all the family.
And if you happen to be in Belfast during January, take advantage of the annual Out to Lunch Festival. There are three weeks of theatre, music and comedy all served within the lunch hour – with lunch of course!
Care should be taken when visiting certain areas within Belfast on or around the 12 July, when the Orange Order marches take place.
Visitors travelling from south west and southern England may find it easier to use ferry routes to the Republic of Ireland and use the M1 motorway to Northern Ireland, a two-hour drive. Stena Line has sailings between Fishguard and Rosslare, Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire, and Holyhead and Dublin. Irish Ferries operates between Holyhead and Dublin as well as between Pembroke and Rosslare.
Being a part of the UK, passports are not required when travelling to Northern Ireland. It is advisable, however, to have passports to hand along with all vehicle documents in the unlikely event of being stopped by the police.