You’re planning a long weekend with your 2 BFF’s. The date is chosen. You have the map of Europe in front of you and you decide all together you are NOT AGAIN doing another citytrip. We decide to do a little roadtrip and chose Northern Ireland. And yes, then you go to Google and type “What to do in Northern Ireland”. Here my list of the 7 things to do for a long weekend in Northern Ireland!
Rent a car and sleep in B&B’s.
Northern Ireland is beautiful, but you don’t want to explore it by bus or other public transport cause then you barely see anything. So you rent a car, preferably reserve your rental beforehand. The three of us agreed it was quite handy that our rental car (a nice Audi A3) was automatic geared, cause honestly…. driving at the wrong side of the road on super narrow roads in heavy rains without a proper GPS… it’s already tricky enough for your concentration..
We slepts in these 2 B&B’s.
UR Needs Holiday in Carnlough. A nice cosy house very close to the Coastal Route. With the cutest doggie.
Kinbane in Ballycastle. A farm with a magical see view.
Take the tiny roads (less travelled)
Northern Ireland is the decor and scenery of mulitple scenes of Game of Thrones. As a real GOT addict I knew my photographic eye would twinkle seeing this. The country is most known for the so called Causeway Coastal Route, a coastal route which goes from Belfast all the way up to Londonderry. This route is super beautiful, but as always, everything becomes more photogenic if you take the roads less travelled.
- Ballintoy Harbour and the magnificent sunset.
- Murlough Bay. Another GOT location. A mini gravel road leads you to the bay. Continue (by car or by foot) until you really can’t go any further. It’s super quite down there, and once you continue past the only white house, you reach a white beach with barely any people around…
- Torr Head. A little windy, but oh so nice.
- Dunluce Castle. The castle (or the ruin) was in renovation. We decided not to visit it, but at the right side of the entrance a path leads you down. If you climb over the fence of the path you can walk down to a big bay with rocks all over. Such a nice view here…
- Visit the Dark Hedges early in the morning.
Another magical GOT scene. We should have known, we arrived there around 11am, way too late of course. You know, we foodies first wanted to enjoy our bacon and eggs at the B&B… Anyway, 11am is the timing when all the touringbuses from Belfast arrive and park in the middle of the road… forget your ‘portrait-in-the-middle-of-the-dark-hedges’, unless your photoshop skills are more than avarage :-). Therfor, we advice you to park your car at the hotel closeby, walk less than 5 min, and be impressed by this magical three-phenomenan, preferably in early morning mist… The picture unerneath is from my bestie Katelijne. She managed to capture the trees with no other people in the frame!
Do not pay for Giant’s Causeway!
This is a somewhat sneaky and nasty tip. But that’s who we are. I cannot get used to the idea that you have to pay for every damn thing. Giant’s Causeway is a must see, but tourists are dropped there with dozens (if not hundred) of buses and are led to this wonder of nature is massive numbers. If you arrive there, you are led to a parking lot, where you’ve been told to pass by the visitors centre to pay there 9€, which is a lot… BUT in fact you can do it for free. You just leave the parking immediately and park your car next to the road, 200m along the way. You will find a little path uphill, which leads you to the walkway (after the visitors centre). You will first walk over the cliffs with a breathtaking panoramic view over the ocean. More or less a km along this path you can go down to the ocean with steps, to reach the well known and popular basalt rock formation, the Giant’s Causeway. Visit this at sunset or right before. The light is just perfect then.
Visit Belfast in the weekend
Belfast, what a nightlife. We left our Air B&B in the suburbs around 7pm on a Saturdaynight. Direction Cathedral Square, we told our taxi driver, (a tip from our Air B&B host). After some streets we knew why this was the place to be. Every pub was packed, in each bar, another live band was playing. What a nice atmosphere!
We only miscalculated our timing. At 9pm we were still drinking beer and we got hungry, a bit. What we didn’t know was that the Irish usually have dinner around 5pm in the weekend, then go out and go home at 1am. So 9pm apparently was way too late to arrive at a restaurant… after 30 minutes going from one place to the other, we finally found a place where they still had a table for 3… 🙂
Visit the Bushmills destillery
What do you do if you get up in Northern Ireland, and you see it’s raining ‘cats ‘n dogs’? Yes, you find something interesting to visit, which allows you to leave your raincoat in the car, for once… The Bushmills Whiskey Destillery officially opened its doors in 1784 and is therefor the oldest Irish Destillery until today. Because the factory is in operation, it’s logical you can’t visit the site on your own, so you have to book a guided tour. During 30 minutes you see the main production facilities of the destillery, where they explain you the entire destillation proces. After the tour you can taste one of their 6 whiskeys. We chose 3 different and walked away with a bottle each. This whiskey. Yes. Tastes Goodddddd!
We prefered the 10y and the 12y. The last one is not available online but can be purchased in the shop of Bushmills.
And it was meant to be, cause when we left this place, sun was shining again!
Enjoy the good food
Who thought that Ireland was all about fish & chips, eggs, bacon, bad sausages and beans is completely wrong. In the 4 days we were there we were blown away several times by the delicious food Nortern Ireland has to offer. Let the locals suggest you a good resto and enjoy the complimentary Irish beers, a dinner with fish or meat, to finish with a real Irish Coffee…
Will I go back? Well Northern Ireland is quite small, so next time I will visit Ireland and the west coast, which is also on my To-Do list!
*** Technical note: all pictures are taken with the Fuijifilm XT-1, with the 35mm f/1.4 and the 16-55 f/2.8. I still adore my Canon 5D’s, but I try to force myself to shoot with mirrorless cameras. Not only for the weight when you travel, but as I don’t like change, I really have to force myself to try out other stuff.