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8 Great Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

Travel Expert Charles McCool shares family-friendly Northern Ireland must-sees!

On a much too short family trip to Northern Ireland, we saw incredible scenery, historical locations, and even some personal family history. While we would love to return to this enchanting area of the world, the memories will last forever.

This article has some of my favorite places to visit in Northern Ireland, but I would love to read about your favorites.

#1 Giant’s Causeway

Irish legend says that Finn McCool (no relation, or is he?) grabbed and hurled chunks of land into the sea to create a walkway between Northern Ireland and Scotland. He and a Scottish giant had a tiff and then destroyed the walkway, leaving the Giant’s Causeway. Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was one of my family’s favorite places to visit in Northern Ireland.

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

#2 Causeway Coast Way Walking Trail

Busloads of visitors visit the basalt column area of Giant’s Causeway, but a small percentage of people take time (or are permitted time) to explore the surrounding areas. Look at these incredible views from the walking path above the Giant’s Causeway.

Giants Causeway overlook, Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway overlook, Northern Ireland

#3 Old Bushmill’s Distillery

Only 2.5 miles from the Giant’s Causeway Visitors Centre, the Old Bushmill’s Distillery is the oldest operating distillery in all of Ireland and has been at this location in the village of Bushmills for over 400 years.

Old Bushmills Distillery, Bushmills, Northern Ireland

Old Bushmills Distillery, Bushmills, Northern Ireland

#4 Finn MacCool’s Public House

Still in the village of Bushmills, take time to have another shot of Bushmills Whiskey before heading to your next attraction. Finn MacCool’s is housed in the oldest building in Bushmills and also provides lodging, including a convenient family room (4 persons).

Finn MacCools tavern, Bushmills, Northern Ireland

Finn MacCools tavern, Bushmills, Northern Ireland

#5 Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Another National Trust property—as is Giant’s Causeway—Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge looks scarier than it actually is. However, not everyone can handle the swaying bridge 100 feet above the turbulent sea below. Can you?

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

#6 Dunluce Castle

Built over 500 years ago, Dunluce Castle is thought to be the inspiration for Chronicles of Narnia and is the setting of House of Greyjoy from Game of Thrones. The medieval castle is just a few miles west of Bushmills and occupies a majestic setting along the northern coast.

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle at sunset, Northern Ireland

#7 Londonderry

West about one hour driving time from Dunluce Castle is Northern Ireland’s second largest city, Londonderry. Located on River Foyle, Londonderry has a massive protective wall—over 1 mile around, 26 feet high, and up to 30 feet wide. Londonderry is a great place to view the ancient military fortification and cannons along with modern attractions. While walking along the top of the castle walls, we witnessed a peaceful demonstration.

Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Londonderry, Northern Ireland

#8 Family History Locations

It is estimated that 25 million US residents can trace their family ancestry to Northern Ireland. Also, 12 US Presidents had Northern Irish ancestorsNote that this includes only Northern Irish and not Irish ancestors (like President Barack Obama has)! I was fortunate to be able to trace the MCCOOL family line to a tiny (actually no longer existent) village called Toberhead in County Londonderry, near the small town of Magherafelt. During our visit we were granted special permission to visit the original McCool family house which has existed since 1670. Have you been able to visit your ancestral homeland(s)?

McCool Homestead, Toberhead, Northern Ireland

McCool Homestead, Toberhead, Northern Ireland

About the author: Charles McCool is a how-to travel expert, author, trainer, and blogger, whose articles and travel advice have appeared in hundreds of online publications, including Condé Nast, Frommers, Orbitz, Smarter Travel, TripAdvisor, and USA Today. He is a columnist for Consumer Traveler, frequent contributor to Yahoo Travel, and was profiled in the World’s Smartest Traveler series. He is the creator of McCool Travel, where Charles shares hidden destinations and insider tips.

1 Comment

  1. Charles McCool

    October 9, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    Still so nice to see my stuff on your website. I would love to know if the information is useful or even entertaining to anyone.

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