With its breathtaking landscapes (as seen on Game of Thrones), ancient history and warm welcomes, it’s no surprise that Northern Ireland is a firm UK holiday favourite. Every region has distinct character and something new to offer its visitors; from the cultural hive of Belfast to the quiet seaports on the coast.
If you’ve not visited before and need a little guidance on where to go, read on. These 7 spots are gaining in popularity on our site so now’s the time to book! Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly rental or a romantic escape, you’ll be sure to find it in Northern Ireland…
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? If so, you might have already seen this ancient seaport on your TV screen. The quarry wall at Magheramorne was used as a back-drop for much of the series, along with scenery at the Antrim Plateau near Cairncastle. From discovering the town’s fascinating Viking history and fine art museums, to exploring its natural beauty spots, such as Gleno Waterfall, there’s plenty to do here. Call in at the Larne Visitor Centre for more info on what to see and where to go.
This lively town in County Antrim is probably best known for its amazing Saturday morning market that’s been running since 1626 by order of King Charles I. Ballymena is packed with things to do, but the town’s green spaces, such as the People’s Park, and quiet corners mean that you can take things at your own pace. The historical village of Gracehill with its Moravian roots is well worth a visit and the picturesque village of Cushendun has unspoilt beaches and atmospheric caves to explore. In the evening, you’ll find plenty of welcoming pubs and bars where the beer and live music flows in abundance.
Just 15 miles south of Belfast, this quiet market town makes a great base when exploring County Down. You’ll find plenty of attractions nearby to keep the whole family entertained. If outdoor pursuits are your thing, head to Carrickmannon Fishery where you can spend a leisurely day catching a bite. Or maybe have a go at pony trekking or cycling down the picturesque country roads? Children with energy to burn will love the nearby trampoline and ski centre, We Are Vertigo, while the whole family will enjoy a day out at the Seaforde Tropical Butterfly House & Gardens.
With its quaint coffee shops and fantastic cycle routes, Dromore is perfect for a romantic break in the Northern Irish countryside. The town has a rich history and features a well-preserved Norman motte and bailey constructed in the early 13th century and a stunning 16th-century cathedral. You’ll also find some inspiring art for sale at Cavastone Gallery and, if you’re up for a challenge, walk or cycle through Dromara’s Foothills with its beautiful views of Begny Lake.
If it’s sweeping sandy beaches and glorious seaside views you’re after, Ballygally should be your Northern Ireland destination of choice. Must-sees in the area include the stunning views from Ballygally Head, the ethereal ruins of O’Halloran’s Castle and Ballygally Castle. If you’re a golfer, then tee off at Cairndhu Golf Course. And for action-packed family days out, Carnfunnock Country Park with its playground, bouncy castle, train rides, mini-golf and nature walks is ideal.
Perhaps best known for it’s annual Lady of the Lake festival (July), this quaint town is flanked by gorgeous countryside and has a welcoming atmosphere. The festival is one of the main events in the town’s calendar and is 11 days of fun, food, face-painting and more. There are many other reasons to visit Irvinestown though: hop on a boat to Devenish Island where you can discover the 6th-century Monastic site and take in the glorious scenery. If you need a pick-me-up after a day spent exploring, visit Tickety Moo near Fermanagh Lakes where you can see how ice cream is made and then, of course, tuck into some yourself!
Blending the old with the new, this maritime town in County Down has a fascinating seafaring history and boat loads of things to see and do. If you like nothing more than a day spent out on the water angling, then you’ll love Donaghadee as fishing trips operate regularly from the harbour. There’s also a fantastic 18-hole golf course just north of the town and a wide range of places to eat out, from fine dining to homely cafés. For a day out with the family, visit the harbour with its paddling pool, beach, playpark, ice cream shop and more.