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.
#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.
#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.
#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).
#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?
#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.
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.
#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 ancestors. Note 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)?
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.