Eight places to visit in Northern Ireland this summer: from Giant’s Causeway to the Mourne Mountains

Northern Ireland has a great history and is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK

By Neve Wilkinson
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 1:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 1:35 pm

There is something for everyone in Northern Ireland - whether you fancy a day on the beach, a trip to a local museum or a hike up the country's tallest mountain.

With the hopes of good weather across the country, there are tons of day trips you can embark on.

Find out eight things that you can do with family and friends this summer.

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Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim

The Giant’s Causeway on the Causeway Coast (also known as the north coast) is Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The free attraction is famed for its 40,000 natural polygonal-shaped columns of layered basalt - which were created by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago.

The legend of the Giant’s Causeway is that it was carved out by a mighty giant, named Finn McCool, who tore up great chunks of the coastline and hurled them into the Irish sea - in a battle with Scottish giant, Benandonner.

Sometimes, weather permitting, you can see Scotland in the distance.

The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty makes for a great walk - and with the exception of the layered columns, it is now mostly wheelchair accessible.

The Giant’s Causeway also has a state-of-the-art visitor centre, owned by the National Trust, with a gift shop, exhibitions, toilets and a cafe.

Tickets for the visitor centre must be bought online in advance here.

The ticket (which is free for National Trust members) includes parking, guided tours, hand-held audio guides, as well as access to the exhibitions, interpretation area, the shop and the cafe.

The centre can also provide audio guides for your walk towards the columns.

Tickets are £6.50 for a child and £13 for an adult. Family tickets can also be purchased.

Parking costs £5 for walkers who aren’t entering the visitor centre.

Address: 44 Causeway Road, Bushmills, Co Antrim, BT57 8SU

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Co Antrim

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge can be found just outside the coastal village of Ballintoy.

The vertigo-inducing rope bridge joins the Antrim coastline to a tiny island - called Carrickarade.

The island was established by fishermen, who were fishing for Atlantic salmon, more than 250 years ago.

Also owned by the National Trust, the bridge is 20 metres long and is set 30 metres above the rocks.

The area around the bridge is free to explore, with the car park and toilets open between 10am and 6pm - prices for parking are £1 an hour.

However if you wish to cross the bridge, you must buy a ticket - which is £4.50 for a child, £9 for an adult, and £22.50 for a family ticket.

National Trust members get free parking and free access to walk along the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge - subject to availability.

Address: 119a Whitepark Rd, Ballintoy, Co Antrim, BT54 6LS

Titanic Belfast, Co Antrim

The museum of Titanic Belfast sits where the ill-fated ship was built in 1909.

The star-shaped building is home to nine interactive exhibitions where you can discover Belfast’s maritime history and the story of the RMS Titanic.

The museum also hosts a restaurant, a café, a gift shop and toilets.

Additionally, visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the slipway and the dry-dock behind the museum building - or for an additional fee, visitors can hop on board the SS Nomadic.

The SS Nomadic, which is docked opposite the museum, was built in 1911 to carry passengers from shore to their chosen ocean liner.

Tickets for Titanic Belfast are available here.

An adult ticket costs £21.50 whilst a child ticket costs £10.

Family tickets are also available, as well as a discounted price for children under five, students and seniors.

Address: 1 Olympic Way, Queen's Road, Belfast, Co Antrim, BT3 9EP

Carrickfergus Castle, Co Antrim

The port town of Carrickfergus is home to the mediaeval Carrickfergus Castle.

This Norman castle is one of the best-preserved structures in Northern Ireland - having been built in 1177.

The castle, which played an important military role until 1928, now houses historical displays and cannons from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Visitors can pick up an audio guide from the visitor centre, and explore the interior, recreated banqueting hall and battlements.

An adult ticket costs £6 whilst a child ticket costs £4 (children under five go free).

Family tickets are also available, as well as discounts for students and seniors.

Address: Carrickfergus Castle, Marine Highway, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, BT38 7BG

Portrush, Co Antrim

Portrush is a small seaside resort town on the north coast.

There are a number of beaches within walking distance from the town, including White Rocks and West Strand.

The seaside resort boasts a train station, a golf club, as well as a number of ice cream shops, fish and chip takeaways, restaurants, bars, shops and hotels.

The town is also home to the newly reopened Curry’s Fun Park (formerly known as Barry’s Amusements) which hosts the famous Big Dipper.

From Portrush, you can visit the quieter neighbouring resort of Portstewart, Dunluce Castle or National Trust’s Mussenden Temple.

The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Co Down

This museum is designed to show what Ulster life was like more than 100 years ago.

There are rebuilt cottages, working farms, rural schools, and village shops - exactly as they once were.

The Transport Museum has a collection of electric trams, fire engines, motorbikes, beautiful vintage cars, and horse drawn carriages.

You can hop on board steam locomotives, visit the tea room or gift shop, or enjoy the 170 acres of surrounding parkland.

An adult ticket costs £9.90 whilst a child ticket costs £6.05 (children under five go free).

Family tickets are also available, as well as discounts for students and seniors (£7.70).

Address: 153 Bangor Road, Holywood, Co Down, BT18 0EU

Newcastle and the Mourne Mountains, Co Down

Newcastle is a small seaside resort town which lies at the foot of Slieve Donard - the highest mountain in Northern Ireland.

The town is packed with arcades, restaurants, bars and shops.

Visit the popular Nugelato ice cream shop, stroll along the promenade, relax on the sandy beach, or splash about in the Tropicana sea pools on the promenade.

Nearby you can also visit Murlough National Nature Reserve which leads to the sandy beach of Murlough Bay.

Newcastle also offers great access to all 12 of the mountains in the Mourne Mountain range.

Keen hikers can enjoy the higher peaks of Slieve Donard (853m) or Slieve Binnian (747m), or take it steadier with a trip up Slieve Guillon (573m) or Pigeon Rock (534m).

Ards Peninsula, Co Down

The 32-kilometre-long picturesque Ards Peninsula starts from Donaghadee and runs along the Irish Sea coastline until it turns inland to Portaferry.

The route passes through Ballywalter, Ballyhalbert and Cloughy.

Donaghadee is home to a historical lighthouse and a 17th century harbour.

In Ballywalter you can enjoy the long stretch of sandy beach, or explore the nearby 18th century Mount Stewart House and Gardens.

Ballyhalbert is a 17th century fishing village with weather dependent views of Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Cloughy is home to the beautiful and restored Kirkistown Castle, as well as a popular beach.

Once you’ve reached Portaferry, you can explore Exploris Aquarium, or hop on a ferry across the lough to Strangford.