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12 Top-Rated Day Trips from Belfast

Written by Alison Abbott
Mar 3, 2019

One of the wonderful benefits of visiting Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, is the wealth of additional attractions within a short drive. Before you hit the road, make sure to visit the Titanic Belfast Experience, a top-notch attraction in this bustling metropolis.

Rent a car for independent exploring or take advantage of the many tours leaving from the city to transport you deeper into the countryside. Road trips along the Great Atlantic Way are popular, and dramatic cliffs, medieval castles, mountains, and movie sets are all just a day trip away. Find the best places to visit with our list of the top day trips from Belfast.

1. The Giants Causeway

The Giants Causeway

In a little over an hour's drive from Belfast, visitors can arrive at the popular attraction known as the Giants Causeway. This area holds over 40,000 basalt columns and is located on one of the most beautiful coastlines in Ireland. Local legend has it that the columns are what remain from a road built by otherworldly Goliaths. In actuality, they are the remnants of a volcanic eruption from millions of years ago.

Visitors can walk along the path, making their way down to the ocean until the rocks eventually disappear into the sea. With a bit of creative imagination, tourists can easily imagine the lore behind this UNESCO World Heritage-listed sight. If you'd like someone else to do the driving, consider taking an organized tour. One of the best options is the Northern Ireland Giants Causeway Day Trip from Belfast.

2. Carrick-A-Rede Bridge

Carrick-A-Rede Bridge

For those seeking adventure, and an easily added side trip from Giant's Causeway, try a visit to a centuries-old suspension bridge. While not for the faint of heart, the thick rope crossing, lined with strategically placed wooden planks, has linked the mainland to the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede for centuries.

Originally built in 1755 by salmon fisherman, this attraction has seen millions of visitors over the years. You can cross it (if you dare) for a fee when the weather cooperates. Spectacular views will be your reward, and dolphins can often be seen in the distant waters.

3. Royal Portrush Golf Club

Royal Portrush Golf Club overlooking the beach

Home to one of the most challenging golf courses in the world, the Royal Portrush Golf Club is the perfect place to hit the links. This golf club was established in 1888 and is the only club to host The Open Championship in Ireland. It's open year-round and well worth the 96-kilometer drive from Belfast to take your game to the next level.

Bragging rights will allow you to say you played a round of golf where kings and other aristocrats have teed off for over a hundred years. Many holes overlook the ocean, and the often-viewed sight of horses and their riders galloping along the beach is memorable.

4. The Gobbins Cliff Path

The Gobbins Cliff Path

Less than a half-hour drive from Belfast is The Gobbins Cliff Path, on the Causeway Coastal Route. Take the guided tour across bridges, past caves, and through tunnels. With spectacular coastal views of this beautiful, rugged landscape, you'll find yourself perched precariously on a narrow path. It's easy to see why this scenic hike is nicknamed the most dramatic walk in Europe.

Because of its popularity, you will want to consider making arrangements in advance. Keep in mind this attraction is only open from mid-February to the beginning of November.

5. Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

Another must-see attraction when visiting Belfast is the Dunluce Castle in County Antrim. The castle has an interesting and occasionally sordid history dating back to the early 1500s. In a little over an hour's drive, you can arrive at this impressive structure. Although now in a state of ruin, the medieval castle and abandoned town are well worth the trip. The remains are on the top of a cliff and clearly demonstrate the visual advantage the setting gave to the reigning clan.

Visitors can access the site by a bridge from the mainland. Guided tours as well as an on-site cafe are available, so you can grab a snack as you explore the grounds.

6. Derry-Londonderry Area

Peace Bridge, Derry

Visitors can't take a trip to Belfast without heading to Derry (called Londonderry as well). This city, the fourth largest in Ireland, has a small-town feel and is filled with culture and charm. Located about 112 kilometers from Northern Ireland's capital, this border city is a great spot to head to a local public house for some traditional Irish fare. Tourists will also enjoy a stroll among the centuries-old streets, filled with rich architecture. Keep your eyes out for the many colorful and dramatic murals found throughout.

While you are here, make sure to take a walk or a bike ride over the Peace Bridge. This newer piece of architecture is not only an engineering marvel, but it connects Ebrington Square to the city center and offers a spectacular bird's-eye view of Derry. After crossing the bridge, don't miss the Derry Craft Village in the heart of the city. It's filled with a mix of craft shops, restaurants, residences, and coffee shops on a replica of an 18th-century street.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Derry

7. The Sperrins

View across the Carn-Glenshane Pass peatland in the Sperrins

If you love hiking and want to head to the mountains, The Sperrins is close to Belfast and is a popular destination as one of the largest upland areas in Ireland. The beautiful vistas and rugged landscape overlooking gorgeous green fields and rolling hills were carved out millions of years ago during the Ice Age by glaciers. The drive to and through The Sperrins is another highlight - it's so amazing that it has been named one of the top scenic drives in the world.

8. Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges

A trip to Belfast isn't complete without visiting some of the famous locations on the popular series Game of Thrones. One of the most notable is a dark street lined with beech trees, which form a mysterious tunnel along Bregagh Road, called the Dark Hedges. This previously unknown area has now found a cult tourist following for those who can't get enough of the medieval fantasy story. If you go when the fog is thick, it has an ethereal look that lends itself perfectly to the lore and legends of Ireland, as well as the HBO hit.

9. Lough Erne

Devenish Island Monastic Site, Lough Erne

To escape it all, head to the Lough Erne lake region. Located in the northwest of Ireland, this resort area is the gateway to the town of Enniskillen. It offers a relaxing, comfortable part of the island, with panoramic views and award-winning golf. It's easy to see why the world's most discerning travelers flock here year-round. You can reach the destination by car in less than two hours from Belfast.

10. Donegal

Fanad Head Lighthouse, County Donegal

The popular county of Donegal is vast and filled with some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland. The prevailing winds can quickly bring in extreme weather, so be prepared with the proper gear. A picture postcard setting introduces some extraordinary beaches, like Culdaff Beach. Splendid cliffs and rolling hills seem to continue forever in the distance. Take a drive from Belfast (about two hours) to fully appreciate its splendor and experience a dramatic portion of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Small towns dot the path to Donegal and make good stopping points, where you can appreciate the views. Other points of interests include Glenveagh National Park and the castle, and Malin Head, the Northernmost point of Ireland. Finally, save room in your suitcase for a bit of tweed from Magee, weaving their craft since 1866.

11. Mussenden Temple

Mussenden Temple

Inspired by the famous Temple of Vesta in Italy, the Mussenden Temple was built as a summer library on Downhill Demesne, a scenic estate by the sea. This circular building sits high on the cliffs and is one of the most photographed structures in Ireland. Despite the fear of it falling off the edge of its precarious setting, this building has braved the extreme weather of coastal Ireland since 1785. A secret chamber was built into the underground where Catholic priests were rumored to hold mass. On a clear day, visitors can see for miles along the coastline, and it provides a scenic spot for a picnic.

12. Winterfell Castle Ward

Winterfell Castle Ward

Winterfell Castle Ward is a historic farmyard located in Northern Ireland, about 48 kilometers from Belfast. This area serves as one of the main locations featured in the Game of Thrones. Ward castle, the grounds, and many of the nearby locations have become popular tourist destinations because of Game of Thrones' global audience. Props, costumes, and other memorabilia from the show will be on exhibit in this "new" historic destination in County Down.

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More to Explore in the Region: As an island, water travel is a part of the Irish lifestyle. To explore further afield, visitors can take connecting ferries between Belfast and Scotland. In addition, the Isle of Man, sitting in the Irish Sea about equidistant between the two, represents another distinctive piece of the British Crown.

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