How To Spend A Weekend In Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland is a country that has a mixture of everything. Belfast, the capital city that's famous for being the birthplace of the Titanic, has plenty of museums and restaurants to keep any city lover busy. Also, if you fancy getting outdoors and into the fresh air, Northern Ireland definitely isn't short of rugged and dramatic coastlines to explore. 

Northern Ireland shares its border with the Republic of Ireland, but since the 1920s has been part of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately the country experienced decades of violence between the late 1960s and 1998 known as 'The Troubles'. This was where conflicts arose between 'Unionists', people who wanted to stay within the United Kingdom, and 'Nationalists', people who wanted a united Ireland. In the late 1990s, the Good Friday Agreement was made. This agreement concluded that Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom, unless a majority in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland vote otherwise. 

Having visited the Republic of Ireland more times than I can count, a few months ago I decided it was about time I visited Northern Ireland as well. I made the most out of a weekend by catching an early morning flight on a Saturday, and returning home late on the Sunday night. Of course we didn't manage to see all that Northern Ireland has to offer in the space of two days, but I'm really happy with what managed to squeeze in. We decided to spend one day exploring Belfast, and the second day outside of the city driving along the coast.  

Here's how we spent a weekend in Northern Ireland:

Day 1: Exploring Belfast
After a short flight from London we headed straight to the Titanic Belfast Museum. After learning about the history of the Titanic and endlessly watching the movie on repeat as a young teenager, this museum was at the top of my to-do list. The building is a beautiful piece of architecture, and each of the exhibits are really interesting and engaging as well. 

After grabbing some lunch at the cafe inside the museum, we opted to go on a City Sightseeing Tour. If you're short on time, these tour buses are brilliant at allowing you to see the main attractions whilst learning a brief history of the area at the same time.

In the afternoon we headed over to the Crumlin Road Gaol. Here visitors can take a guided tour of the gaol. The guide will lead you through all of the different rooms, including the holding cells, whilst telling stories of what used to take place in the prison. We had a really charismatic guide who told us stories of prisoners trying to escape, and answered all of our questions. The whole experience was really interesting and a great insight into the troubled past of Northern Ireland. The tour lasts just over an hour and costs £9 for an adult.

Other places that are definitely worth checking out are:

  • Stormont House: the main parliament building in Belfast
  • The Peace Walls: Throughout Belfast, there are still 'peace walls' that separate Catholic (mostly Nationalists) and Protestant (mostly Unionists) areas. During The Troubles they were built to minimise violence. However, today they are also a popular spot for tourists as many of the walls have famous murals painted on them. Falls Road is one of the most famous spots.
  • Belfast City Hall & Donegall Square

Where To Stay & Eat:
We stayed in a small, family run Bed & Breakfast called Maranatha House. It's located slightly on the outskirts of the city, but is still only a 30 minute walk to the central square and a range of restaurants. For dinner and a few drinks we headed to the Crown Liquor Saloon. It's one of the most well known pubs in restaurants because of its unique character and traditional decor.

Day 2: The Causeway Coast
For our second day in Northern Ireland we headed out of Belfast and towards the coast for a mini road trip. Our first stop was at the Dark Hedges, the filming location for The Kings Road in Game of Thrones. After this we then drove to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, a bridge once used by salmon fisherman. Today it's a popular tourist attract and visitors can pay £7 to walk across the bridge to the island.

After grabbing a quick bite to eat we headed to Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area is the result of a volcanic eruption that formed hexagonal columns that link together forming stepping stones. It's a really impressive sight - you almost can't believe it's real! We then continued along the coast and checked out Dunluce Castle, and finally finishing off at Benone Beach.

You Might Like: Driving Along The Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

Our weekend in Northern Ireland then came to end. We dropped the hire car back at Belfast airport, and flew back home!

Other Weekend City Breaks: Edinburgh, Berlin, Rome, Warsaw


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