Northern Ireland Road Trip Itinerary: Unforgettable Adventures Await

Embarking on a Northern Ireland road trip is the perfect way to explore the captivating beauty of the British Isles. This region, steeped in rich history and culture, offers stunning landscapes, charming towns, and a plethora of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. With its unique blend of natural wonders, historical sites, and enchanting coastal views, a road trip through Northern Ireland promises an unforgettable adventure for travelers.

The Causeway Coastal Route is a popular starting point, taking travelers on a scenic journey from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry while showcasing major coastal attractions. Along the way, fans of the popular television series Game of Thrones can visit several iconic filming locations.

No matter which itinerary one chooses, a Northern Ireland road trip promises to captivate the senses and create lasting memories. As travelers journey through the miles of pristine landscapes and immerse themselves in the rich cultural tapestry, they’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the allure of this remarkable corner of the British Isles.

Northern Ireland Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Belfast

Make your first stop in Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland. Take a Black Taxi tour and explore the city’s rich history and culture. A Blue Badge qualified driver/guide will show you around areas such as the Linen Quarter, Belfast Castle and the Queen’s Quarter. Our guide Dessie was a true mine of information about the city.

Next, have lunch at the Titanic Hotel in the Titanic Quarter. Visit the Titanic Belfast museum, the birthplace of the famous ship.

From here, it’s a short walk to SS Nomadic in Hamilton Dock. The tender ship for RMS Titanic, this fully restored vessel was built in 1911. She was also in service during two world wars and as a restaurant venue in Paris.

If you have time, visit HMS Caroline in Alexandra Dock, the last surviving ship from the Battle of Jutland. Afterwards, walk through the vibrant Cathedral Quarter. If you’re visiting on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, don’t forget to stop at St. George’s Market – it’s the perfect place for some local food and shopping.

SS Nomadic at Hamilton Dock, Belfast
SS Nomadic at Hamilton Dock, Belfast

Day 2: Antrim Coast

The second day takes you along the stunning Antrim Coast. Drive along the scenic coastal road, admiring the impressive cliffs, beautiful beaches and seaside towns.

Carrickfergus Castle on Belfast Lough is one of the best preserved medieval buildings in Ireland. This Norman castle was built in 1177 by John de Courcy.

Take a stroll along Whiterocks Beach in Portrush, and explore Ballycastle Beach with its views of Rathlin Island. Wrap up your day with a visit to the iconic Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge near Ballintoy.

Day 3: Causeway Coastal Route

Continue your Northern Irish road trip through the breathtaking Causeway Coastal Route. Marvel at the geological wonder of Giant’s Causeway and explore the ruins of the medieval Dunluce Castle.

Fans of Game of Thrones can also visit several filming locations situated along this route. Stop by the pretty village of Bushmills, where the main attraction is the famous whiskey distillery.

The Causeway Coastal Route near Carrick-a-Rede
The Causeway Coastal Route near Carrick-a-Rede

Day 4: Derry and County Down

Head to the historic city of Derry on the fourth day. Walk around the ancient city walls and explore the streets lined with Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian buildings.

Later on, drive to County Down and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Mourne Mountains. The best way to see the area is to hike or bike through the trails to take in the stunning landscapes.

Day 5: Return to Belfast

On your final day, make your way back to Belfast. If time permits, visit County Armagh, also known as the Orchard of Ireland. Stop by Long Meadow Farm, a family-run orchard growing apples for three generations. Taste their delectable ciders before heading back to Belfast to complete your memorable Northern Ireland road trip.

Long Meadow Cider Farm
Long Meadow Cider Farm – courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland

Top Attractions and Activities in Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit destination on a Northern Ireland road trip. This natural wonder is comprised of over 40,000 basalt columns, formed by cooling lava more than 60 million years ago. It has created an impressive stepped landscape.

The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Experience includes an audio guide available in 11 languages, an interactive exhibition, guided tour, a gift shop and cafe and onsite parking. There’s a bus taking you right to the Giant’s Causeway for those who have mobility issues, costing £1 for a one-way ticket or £2 return.

Walking on the Giant's Causeway
Walking on the Giant’s Causeway

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is an exhilarating experience along the Causeway Coastal Route. Suspended 30 meters above the sea, this rope bridge connects the mainland to the small island of Carrick-a-Rede. It was erected by salmon fishermen more than 200 years ago.

Crossing the bridge offers breathtaking views and a bit of an adrenaline rush. Allow a couple of hours to visit this site, as it takes around 15-20 minutes to walk to the bridge itself from the car park.

You may also need to wait a few minutes to cross the bridge itself at peak times. For safety, the crossing is controlled by a guard and limited to one or two people at any time. We suggest that you book your ticket in advance to avoid disappointment at busy times.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle is a stunning medieval ruin perched on the edge of a cliff, surrounded by dramatic coastal scenery. Constructed in the 13th century, this beautiful place has a rich history dating back to the reign of both the McQuillan and MacDonnell clans. They fought fiercely for control over the castle throughout the centuries.

Located near Bushmills, Dunluce Castle attracts visitors from all over who come to marvel at its majestic setting. As well as self-guiding, there are guided tours available that offer an insightful glimpse into the castle’s past and the exciting stories that it holds.

Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle – courtesy of Nareesh Nair Photography

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

Hillsborough Castle is a stunning example of the elegant Georgian architectural style that can be found throughout Northern Ireland. Built in the 1770s by Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire, it is the official residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, as well as a royal residence.

Although it’s still used for official purposes, the castle is open for tours with an informative guide, who will take visitors through the elegant halls. This stunning castle can also be rented for corporate events, weddings and dinners.

Highlights of a tour include the State Rooms, which have hosted many historic events over the years, as well as the beautiful gardens spread over 100 acres. Highlights include Yew Tree Walk, the recently restored Walled Garden and Lady Alice’s Temple.

Just 20 minutes from Belfast, a visit to Hillsborough Castle is a must for anyone interested in Northern Ireland’s rich history and architecture.

Hillsborough Castle - a must-see on a Northern Ireland road trip itinerary
Hillsborough Castle – a must-see on a Northern Ireland road trip itinerary

Titanic Belfast

The Titanic Belfast museum is an essential stop for history enthusiasts. Located within the Titanic Quarter, this contemporary museum reveals the rich maritime history of the city and tells the story of the ill-fated Titanic, which was built in Belfast.

The museum offers a unique and engaging experience, featuring nine interactive galleries and restored shipyard installations.

The exterior of the Titanic Belfast museum
The exterior of the Titanic Belfast museum

Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges, a long avenue of twisted beech trees, is a popular destination for Game of Thrones fans, as it was featured in the popular TV series. This enchanting tree-lined road in Ballymoney creates an eerie and photogenic atmosphere, perfect for a memorable road trip stop.

This section of Bregagh Road is pedestrianized, however there is a paid parking lot a 10 minute walk away.

The Dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges

Game of Thrones Filming Locations

For fans of the hit TV show, a road trip through Northern Ireland is the perfect opportunity to visit various Game of Thrones filming locations. In addition to the Dark Hedges, spots such as Ballintoy Harbour, Loch Neagh, Tollymore Forest Park, and Downhill Beach were all used during the show’s production.

You can also take a Game of Thrones Studio Tour at Linen Mills Studio in Banbridge. Just 30 minutes from Belfast, this immersive experience gives visitors the chance to sit on the Iron Throne and see the props from the iconic TV series.

Loch Neagh was a Game of Thrones filming location
Loch Neagh was a Game of Thrones filming location

Walking Tours and Boat Trips

Northern Ireland offers a range of walking tours and boat trips to further explore its captivating landscapes. Coastal walks, such as the Causeway Coastal Path, provide stunning vistas, while guided walking tours are an opportunity to learn about the region’s history.

Boat trips offer a different perspective of the coastline, with opportunities to spot marine wildlife and explore hidden gems like The Gobbins Cliff Path.

The Gobbins Cliff Path
The Gobbins Cliff Path – courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Scenic Landscapes and Coastal Drives

Causeway Coast

The Causeway Coast, stretching 120 miles from Belfast to Lough Foyle, is a world-famous scenic driving route, showcasing some of the best landscapes and coastline in Northern Ireland. As you drive along this picturesque route, you’ll be captivated by the stunning scenery, which includes the iconic Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Along the coast, other must-see stops include the haunting outline of Dunluce Castle on a rocky Atlantic Ocean outcrop, and the thrilling Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which suspends visitors above the crashing waves below. The Causeway Coast offers more than just breathtaking landscapes; it also immerses visitors in rich history and geological wonders.

Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre
Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre

Antrim Coast

The Antrim Coast Road, a 195-mile route, is another fantastic journey to experience the charm of Northern Ireland’s coastline. This area is known for its dramatic cliffs, secluded beaches, and charming villages.

One of the highlights along the Antrim Coast Road is the quaint Glenarm Castle, with its meticulously maintained walled garden, offering a perfect spot to relax and take in the views.

While driving along the Antrim Coast, it’s hard not to be in awe of the majestic backdrop of the Mourne Mountains. These peaks are not only visually stunning but also provide ample opportunities for hiking and exploring.

As you continue your journey, be sure to stop by Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles, where visitors can enjoy leisurely boat rides or a serene walk along its shores.

The Protector of the Lough sculpture at Lough Neagh
The Protector of the Lough sculpture at Lough Neagh

Glenariff Forest Park

This 1185 hectare forest in County Antrim is a paradise for nature lovers. The park boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, featuring rolling hills, lush forests, and breathtaking waterfalls.

The visitor centre is the perfect starting point for exploring the park’s many walking trails and learning about the area’s rich heritage.

Cascades in Glenariff Forest Park
Cascades in Glenariff Forest Park – © Tourism Ireland by Stefan Schnebelt

Coast Road

The Coast Road is a shorter, yet equally scenic drive focused on Northern Ireland’s northern coastline. Winding through picturesque landscapes, this route presents an ever-changing panorama of rugged cliffs, unspoiled beaches, idyllic harbors, and charming towns.

Whether you choose to explore the Causeway Coast, Antrim Coast, or the Coast Road, each journey offers an unforgettable experience of Northern Ireland’s breathtaking landscapes and captivating coastline.

Northern Ireland Towns and Cities to Explore


Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and a great starting point for your road trip. The city is a hub of culture, history, and modern attractions.

Visit the Titanic Belfast museum to learn about the iconic ship’s history, or explore the beautiful architecture at Belfast City Hall. Don’t forget to take a stroll through the vibrant St. George’s Market, where you can find local crafts and delicious food.

Belfast Castle grounds
Belfast Castle grounds


Derry, also known as Londonderry, is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and is known for its well-preserved city walls. Walk along the walls to see stunning views of the city and delve into its rich history.

The Peace Bridge, an iconic symbol of unity between communities, and the Tower Museum that showcases the city’s past are both worth seeing.


Bushmills is a cute town in County Antrim, famous for its whiskey production. The Old Bushmills Distillery offers guided tours where you can learn about the process, as well as whiskey tastings where you can try their renowned products.

Bushmills Tour and Whisky tasting
Bushmills Tour and Whisky tasting – courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland


Ballintoy is a picturesque village along the Causeway Coastal Route. It offers stunning sea views and a charming harbor, where you can enjoy a traditional seafood lunch.

The village is also a popular destination for Game of Thrones fans, as it was used as a filming location for the Iron Islands. Close to Ballintoy, you can visit the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, an adrenaline-pumping attraction that provides breathtaking views of the coastline.

Paul crossing Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Paul crossing Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge


Armagh is a city steeped in history and considered the spiritual capital of Ireland. The city is home to two stunning cathedrals that honor St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Visit the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium for an educational and entertaining experience. The Navan Centre & Fort is a popular spot offering an interactive journey through the city’s ancient history.


While exploring these towns and cities, consider making a detour to Newcastle, a coastal resort town in County Down. Enjoy the gorgeous beaches or take a scenic walk through the Mourne Mountains, which inspired CS Lewis’ Narnia.

Ardglass Golf Course in County Down
Ardglass Golf Course in County Down – Tourism Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Accommodation Options


Northern Ireland boasts numerous hotels catering to different budgets and preferences. One upscale option in the area is Galgorm, a luxury spa and golf resort that offers exceptional amenities and services. Guests can relax in the Thermal Village overlooking a cascade, indulge in treatments at the world-class spa, play golf at a championship course, and enjoy delicious food and drink at the resort’s multiple dining venues.

The estate boasts beautiful grounds, providing ample opportunity for reflection amidst the peaceful surroundings. We stayed in a spacious shepherd’s hut, complete with a firepit and outdoor bath on the terrace. There’s also a shower room and well equipped kitchen inside the luxurious hut.

There’s a good range of dining options, including Gillies Grill, which we really enjoyed, Fratelli Ristorante, afternoon tea in the Conservatory, and Castle Kitchen + Bar at Galgorm Castle Golf Club, as well as several bars.

An outdoor bathtub at Galgorm
An outdoor bathtub at Galgorm

Another popular Northern Ireland destination is The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat. Known for its stylish, contemporary design, this boutique hotel provides outstanding accommodation and a relaxing atmosphere for guests to unwind.

Its prime location in Templepatrick ensures easy access to Belfast and County Antrim. Take a dip in the outdoor pool with its glittering mirror ball, have a relaxing spa treatment or enjoy a cocktail at the Beach Bar. Grab a bite to eat at The Rabbit restaurant, or cosy up in front of the fire in Hunter’s Bar.

Dinner at The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat in Templepatrick
Dinner at The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat in Templepatrick


Northern Ireland also offers a range of charming bed and breakfast accommodations that provide a cozy and comfortable stay. A good option is Millbrae Lodges, a charming B&B in Crumlin. Expect a hearty breakfast along with personalized, warm hospitality.

In summary, Northern Ireland offers a diverse selection of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Whether choosing a cozy B&B or a luxurious hotel, visitors can expect warm hospitality, excellent service, and easy access to the region’s stunning attractions.

Breakfast at Millbrae Lodges
Breakfast at Millbrae Lodges

Northern Ireland Food and Drink Recommendations

During your Northern Ireland road trip, you’ll want to make sure to indulge in the local flavors and dining experiences.

In County Antrim you’ll find the charming Glenarm Castle Tea Rooms. Located in the old Mushroom House, this is a great place to enjoy a selection of homemade savories and cakes. Try the award-winningShorthorn Beef from Glenarm Estate, or head to The Milk Parlour for gelato from the Shorthorn herd milk.

Another good stop for your itinerary is Harry’s Shack. This popular beachside eatery in Portstewart offers a spectacular view of the coast and serves up fresh seafood dishes like fish and chips, oysters, and crab. Their menu is seasonal and locally sourced, ensuring the freshest and most delicious ingredients.

Harry's Shack overlooks the beach in Portstewart
Harry’s Shack overlooks the beach in Portstewart

If you’re visiting Hillsborough Castle, leave some time for lunch in either the Weston Pavilion Café or the Stable Yard Café. The Weston Pavilion is open April through September, from Wednesday to Sunday and the Stable Yard Café is open from June to September, also from Wednesday to Sunday.

When in Belfast, lunch at the Titanic Hotel is a must. This historic building was the former headquarters of Titanic shipbuilders Harland & Wolff, and it still retains many original features. Dine in Drawing Office Two, where RMS Titanic was designed, or the Wolff Grill, and enjoy a blend of classic and contemporary dishes.

A visit to Northern Ireland would be incomplete without trying the local gin. Many restaurants and bars offer a variety of artisan gins, such as Shortcross Gin and Belfast Artisan Distillery Gin. They are often infused with orchard fruits or other locally sourced flavors.

By experiencing these food and drink recommendations, you’ll gain a taste of the vibrant culinary culture that Northern Ireland has to offer while enjoying your scenic road trip.

Drawing Office Two at The Titanic Hotel Belfast
Drawing Office Two at The Titanic Hotel Belfast

Spas in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is not only known for its stunning landscapes and rich history but also for its luxurious spas that cater to those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation. Among the top spas in the region, Galgorm and The Rabbit Hotel stand out as popular destinations for travelers and locals alike.

Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort is one of the most renowned spas in Northern Ireland. Located just 30 minutes from Belfast, this premier luxury hotel and spa offers a range of facilities and treatments that cater to all preferences.

With an indoor pool, a beautiful outdoor Thermal Village, and a variety of indulgent treatments, guests can find relaxation and well-being in a serene environment. Try the Celtic Sauna Infusion, or the OTO Quartz treatment.

The Celtic Sauna Infusion is included in Shepherd’s Hut stays at Galgorm, and for those staying in other types of accommodation it can be added on at £15 per person. Guests staying in a Deluxe room or Suite have a private spa experience included in their stay – a private bathing experience, Galgorm detox therapy or mud rasul.

One of the many cute saunas at Galgorm!
One of the many cute saunas at Galgorm!

Another notable spa destination is The Rabbit Hotel in Templepatrick. This boutique hotel is nestled within lush gardens and offers a tranquil escape from daily life.

The Rabbit Hotel’s spa has a focus on holistic well-being, providing therapeutic treatments and rejuvenating experiences. The private Duo Clay Experience, which is included for all hotel guests, is great fun. The cabins overlook the river, and the combination of mud and steam left our skin feeling super smooth.

While embarking on a Northern Ireland road trip, don’t miss the opportunity to pamper yourself with a visit to one of these luxurious spas. Whether you’re looking for pure relaxation, holistic healing, or a connection to historical elegance, you’re sure to find the perfect spa experience in Northern Ireland.

The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat in Templepatrick

How to Get around Northern Ireland

When planning a Northern Ireland road trip itinerary, there are several transportation options to consider. This section will cover two of the main options: rental cars and buses, as well as the alternative option of trains.

Rental Cars

A rental car is often the most convenient and flexible choice for a road trip. You can rent cars from various providers, with Discover Cars being a popular option. Renting a car makes it easy to explore Northern Ireland on your own schedule, stopping at the many sights and attractions along the way. While driving in a foreign country can be a bit daunting, roads in Northern Ireland are well-maintained, and driving is on the left-hand side of the road.

Some things to consider when renting a car include:

  • Insurance coverage
  • Type of car (automatic or manual transmission)
  • Rental location and drop-off point
The beach car park at Portstewart
The beach car park at Portstewart


Buses are a budget-friendly option, and the public transport system in Northern Ireland is reasonably reliable. You can travel by bus between major cities like Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, as well as to some of the smaller towns and attractions. However, this option may be less convenient for those looking to stop at multiple locations along the way.

When using buses for your road trip, remember to:

  • Plan your route in advance
  • Check bus timetables
  • Purchase tickets ahead of time if possible


Trains in Northern Ireland are another option for traveling between major destinations. While the train network is limited compared to countries like England or France, there are services between larger cities like Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, as well as to smaller towns in the region.

Trains can be more comfortable and faster than buses, but they may not service all the points along your chosen itinerary.

Here are a few tips for traveling by train in Northern Ireland:

  • Check train schedules and purchase tickets in advance
  • Be aware of the limited train network
  • Consider combining train travel with one of the other transport options such as renting a car, for greater flexibility
Car rental in Northern Ireland
Car rental in Northern Ireland

How to Get to Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland, a land of stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, attracts visitors from all over the world. When it comes to getting here, there are a few options to consider.

The region is well-served by three airports – Belfast International Airport, George Best Belfast City Airport and City of Derry Airport. They offer a range of direct flights from cities across Europe and beyond. We flew in and out of George Best Belfast City Airport and it was a really quick and pain-free experience, being just 3 miles from the city center. You could also fly to Dublin airport in the Republic of Ireland.

If you’re looking for a particularly scenic route, the ferry is a popular choice for those traveling from Scotland, England, and Wales. Sailings depart regularly from ports in Liverpool, Cairnryan, and Holyhead, and arrive at Belfast or Larne. Whichever way you choose to embark upon your Northern Ireland adventure, you are guaranteed a warm welcome upon arrival.

City of Derry airport lit up green for St Patrick's Day
City of Derry airport lit up green for St Patrick’s Day – Patryk Sadowski

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days are needed for a Northern Ireland road trip itinerary?

A road trip in Northern Ireland can vary in duration depending on your interests and time constraints. A 2-day itinerary is possible, but to fully experience the region’s beauty and historical sites, a 5-day trip is recommended.

Best time to visit?

The best time to visit Northern Ireland for a road trip is during the spring and summer months. In this period, the weather is more favorable, and you can truly appreciate the lush landscapes and stunning coastline.

Recommended itineraries?

There are several road trip itineraries in Northern Ireland to choose from. Some popular attractions and landscapes to visit include the Causeway Coastal Route, Giant’s Causeway, Glens of Antrim, Lough Neagh, Game of Thrones filming locations, Whiterocks Beach, and Ballycastle Beach.

Travel without a car?

While a car is the most convenient mode of transportation for a road trip, it’s not the only option. Northern Ireland’s public transport system, including buses and trains, can allow travelers to visit key attractions. However, it may limit your flexibility and spontaneity during the trip.

Ireland combined trip?

Combining a trip to Northern Ireland with a visit to the Republic of Ireland is an excellent idea. This way, you can experience both countries’ unique cultural and natural beauty. Be sure to allocate enough time for both countries, as there is much to discover.

Driving duration?

Driving duration during a Northern Ireland road trip will vary depending on your chosen routes and stops. Generally, Northern Ireland’s size allows for manageable driving distances, and many attractions are within 2-3 hours of each other.

One of the ornate rooms in Hillsborough Castle
One of the ornate rooms in Hillsborough Castle

Final Thoughts on this Northern Ireland Trip Itinerary

If you’re looking for a truly mesmerizing holiday, look no further than Northern Ireland. And with all the incredible sights to see, there will be plenty of places to save for round two.

You can make it as big or as small of an adventure as you like; with this road trip itinerary, your holiday has limitless possibilities. Whether you’re in Northern Ireland for a day, a week or more, you’ll find that this beautiful province will provide endless opportunities for fun and exploration.

If you’re ready for some moody landscape and beautiful sights, pack up your car and get ready to go. Take this ultimate guide to the best places in Northern Ireland with you! Make sure to check out our other travel articles if you want some more inspiration – we’ve got something for every kind of traveler.

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