Best Road Trips in Northern Ireland for Summer 2023
Team Stroll21st June 2023
Whether you fancy touring the coast or sticking inland, here in Northern Ireland we have some perfect spots to add to your road trip bucket list.
Places to Visit on a Northern Ireland Road Trip
Opening times: dawn to dusk (coastline), 09:00 - 17:00 / 10:00 - 16:00 (summer / winter times for car park & visitor centre)
No trip in Northern Ireland is complete without a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site. The Giant’s Causeway is made up of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. It’s a worthwhile stop if you’re planning a a trip up to the North Coast. Many locals consider it to be the 8th Wonder of the World due to its natural beauty.
At the site, you are free to wander along the basalt columns or take a walk along the coastal path which is a popular hiking route for tourists of all fitness levels.
If you’re travelling from Belfast, you can reach the Giant’s Causeway in an hour and 15 minutes if you follow signs for the M2 and turn off at Junction 1. You can also take the more scenic route by taking the M5 which brings you along the coast.
The Dark Hedges
Opening times: 24 hours (public road)
If you’ve done the Game of Thrones tour, then The Dark Hedges are a must-see for fans of the hit TV series. After being planted in the 18th century to line the entrance to Gracehill House, these trees can still be seen today on Bregagh Road.
There were about 150 trees set at first and legend has it that they’re visited by a ghost called the Grey Lady who travels down the avenue and flits across from tree to tree. She’s thought to be the spirit of the house owner’s daughter or a maid that died mysteriously.
The Dark Hedges are an hour's drive from Belfast, making it the perfect day trip. If you’re doing the Causeway Coastal Route, it’s only a short detour off the route. Otherwise, you can take the M2 out of Belfast City and turn off at Junction 1. You can also take a public bus or train but the route either involves changeovers or a taxi ride from the station to the tourist attraction.
Glens of Antrim
Opening times: 24 hours
Known locally as The Glens, this trip will take you on an adventure to see nine glens (or valleys) in County Antrim. The nine glens include:
It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty extending from the Antrim Plateau to the coast between Larne and Ballycastle. Glenariff Forest Park is the perfect place for a walk featuring the insta-worthy waterfall, or hike while Glenarm by the coast is where you’ll want to visit for a quick swim on your trip.
Opening times: 09:30 - 16:30 (in summer)
If you’re a fan of heights and love a bit of thrill seeking, then this stop off along your Northern Ireland trip is compulsory. This rope bridge located near Ballintoy in County Antrim is connected to cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean. It’s 66ft long and 98ft above the sea. At the other end of the bridge, you’ll land on Carrick-a-Rede Island where the only building is a fisherman’s cottage.
Pre-booking is essential for this exhilarating tourist attraction as the number of people who can cross the bridge is limited for safety reasons. You can pre-book on the National Trust
Opening times: 09:30 - 17:00 (March to October), 09:30 - 16:00 (November to February)
Another renowned attraction in Antrim is Dunluce Castle located at 87 Dunluce Road. Here you’ll find the ruins of a picturesque, medieval castle. During the 16th and 17th centuries, this castle was first occupied by the McQuillan family who were later displaced by the MacDonnell clan after losing two major battles against them.
During excavation works in 2011, archaeologists discovered remains of “the lost town of Dunluce” which was destroyed during the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
There are many cultural references to the castle including:
The castle appeared on the inner gatefold of Led Zeppelin’s album Houses of the Holy in 1973.
It featured in the 2003 movie The Medallion starring Jackie Chan and was used as Snakehead’s hideout.
More recently, it was used as the filming location for “House of Greyjoy” in Game of Thrones.
This stunning temple, which was built in 1785, is located high above a 120ft cliff top and offers amazing views across the Atlantic Ocean. One of the few sights in Northern Ireland situated outside Antrim, this attraction is located within Downhill Demesne near Castleknock in County Derry.
Although inside Mussenden Temple is not accessible to the public, you are free to take a stroll around the demesne or walk across the cliff top to glance across the ocean. You may even get a glimpse of a bride and groom on their wedding day as this place is very popular for wedding photoshoots.
Opening times: 09:00 - 16:00
Located in Carrickfergus in County Antrim, this castle is an impressive monument whether it’s approached by air, sea or land. The Norman castle played an important military role in the country until 1928 when the ownership was passed onto the government. Its remains are still well preserved to this day.
If you’re planning on taking an organised Game of Thrones tour, then the castle will be one of the first stops on the trip. Although the castle itself doesn’t feature in the award-winning TV show, it serves as a nice stop to get you in the mood.
How to Plan a Road Trip
Now you’ve gained some knowledge of some popular attractions in Northern Ireland, what’s next? Prior to setting off on a road trip adventure, it’s important to plan your trip and take note of some tips:
Ensure your car insurance policy is up to date - expired insurance policies can land you in hot water should you have an accident on your trip.
Decide on a route before you start the ignition - planning your road trip route in advance helps you say money on gas. You can use Google Maps to decide on where you’ll start and finish, as well as mark off the sights you wish to visit.
Create a budget and stick to it - road tripping can be expensive especially when accommodation is needed.
Make reservations in advance - this includes restaurant bookings or tickets for attractions. Doing so, can help save money and ensures tickets aren’t sold out when you arrive at your destination.