Want a done-for-you Northern Ireland itinerary that ensures you see all the best things to do in Northern Ireland? You’ve made it to the right place.
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From the thrilling Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge to the enchanting Dunluce Castle and Mussenden Temple, you can’t visit the northern coast without stealing this Northern Ireland Itinerary.
Out of the 20+ countries I’ve been to, Northern Ireland is one of my favorite places in the entire world. As someone who has visited Northern Ireland numerous times and is a previous Ireland local, I can assure you that you’ll find all of the best Causeway Coast stops in this guide.
I also have a list of the best Causeway Coast things to do here for you to use, too!
Without further ado, here’s the best Northern Ireland itinerary for 1-3 days.
Northern Ireland Itinerary Map
How many days do I need in Northern Ireland
Ideally, you need at least 2-3 days in Northern Ireland to see everything, such as Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.
However, if you are limited on time and only have a day in your Ireland trip to spare, one day in Northern Ireland is definitely worth it.
What month is best to visit Northern Ireland?
June is the best month to visit Northern Ireland because you will have the best chance for sunny weather and fewer tourists than midsummer.
If budget is more of a concern to you than weather, consider visiting Northern Ireland in winter. You will experience much colder, windier weather, but you are guaranteed to encounter fewer crowds and cheaper prices.
Otherwise, if budget, weather and crowds are all a concern, visit Northern Ireland in the shoulder season, during April, May, September or October.
Nonetheless, I’ve been to Northern Ireland on multiple occasions, and I’ve always scored the best weather in June.
Where To Stay In Northern Ireland
When visiting the Northern Ireland, I recommend staying in County Antrim, which is central to the main attractions, in a coastal town such as Bushmills, Portrush or Portballintrae.
Here are my top recommendations for accommodations in each town.
I’ve personally stayed in all of these towns, and I love them. Most recently, we stayed in this ocean-view Blackrockview Townhouse in Portballintrae, which was absolutely stunning.
The sea views from the front windows were unmatched, and the balcony was perfect for coffee in the morning and watching the sun set over the water in the evening. Plus, there was a fantastic swimming beach just steps away.
What is the most famous thing in Northern Ireland?
The most famous thing in Northern Ireland is Giant’s Causeway, which attracts around a million visitors every single year.
Rightfully so, too, as Giant’s Causeway is an incredible natural rock formation, consisting of thousands of perfectly hexagon-shaped columns that mold together to form a massive coastline causeway.
It also happens to be my favorite place in the world to date, so I have never and never will visit Northern Ireland without stopping at Giant’s Causeway. In fact, the last time I passed through Northern Ireland, I stopped at Giant’s Causeway twice — once at sunrise and once when the visitor center opened at 9:00 a.m.
Naturally, Giant’s Causeway makes an appearance in this Northern Ireland itinerary. Now, let’s dive into the itinerary schedule.
Northern Ireland Itinerary Day One: Belfast And Castles
On day one of your trip to Northern Ireland, you’ll see the country’s capital city, Belfast, as well as two distinct Irish castles: Castle Coole and Carrickfergus Castle.
When you go to Northern Ireland, you’ll likely fly into either Dublin or Belfast. If you fly into Dublin, you’ll visit Castle Coole first on your way to Belfast.
If you fly into Belfast, you may want to flip this day around and start with Belfast or Carrickfergus Castle instead.
Morning: Castle Coole
Castle Coole boasts beautiful modern castle grounds and architecture. If you have watched Downton Abbey or any similar television shows, you will absolutely adore Castle Coole.
The classical designs on both the exterior and interior of the castle give off what we would now call an “old money” impression. It’s clear that the family who once resided here had impressive generational wealth.
Furthermore, unlike most castles in Ireland, you can actually tour the servant quarters of Castle Coole, which is a jaw-dropping experience. You’ll get to see the servant bedrooms, dining hall, bell system, wine cellar and more — just like in Downton Abbey.
Next, head into Belfast city to see Northern Ireland’s capital.
Here are the best things to do in Belfast:
Or, you could book the Sightseeing Belfast Hop-On-Hop-Off tour bus to easily visit all of Belfast in a day. As touristy as they are, I love that the hop-on-hop-off tour buses have guides on board so that you can learn about the city as you drive to your destination. You don’t get this on public or rented transportation.
Evening: Carrickfergus Castle
Lastly, venture north from Belfast to Carrickfergus Castle.
In stark contrast to Castle Coole, Carrickfergus offers ancient medieval ground and architecture.
Carrickfergus Castle is exactly what you imagine when you picture a castle — gray stone walls, arched wooden door, fortress canons, spiraling towers, knights in shining armor, stone-cold dungeon, the whole nine yards.
It is also located right on the water with plenty of park benches nearby, making it the perfect spot for sunset on day one.
Northern Ireland Itinerary Day Two: Causeway Coast
Day two of your Northern Ireland itinerary consists of, my favorite, Causeway Coast. Today, you’ll cross Carrick-A-Rede, step on the Giant’s Causeway and walk through history at Dunluce Castle.
If you only have one day to spend in Northern Ireland, use this day (day two) as your day trip! This day is, by far, the best.
Morning: Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
First, head to Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge for an exhilarating once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As the name suggests, Carrick-A-Rede is a swaying rope bridge that connects mainland Northern Ireland with a small-but-mighty cliff island.
The bridge was once used by fisherman who historically fished on the small island. Here, you now can cross the bridge to the island for magnificent views and some of the bluest water in Ireland.
If you’re up for a heart-racing experience (by the way, there is no harness, just a small rope net to catch you if you fall), you can’t skip crossing Carrick-A-Rede.
Pro tip: A National Trust membership will grant you free entrance into many of these Causeway Coast things to do, including the Giant’s Causeway shuttle, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Castle Coole and more.
Afternoon: Giant’s Causeway
After Carrick-A-Rede, head to the legendary Giant’s Causeway.
As previously mentioned, Giant’s Causeway, named after the folklore giant Finn McCool, is an out-of-this-world landscape unlike anywhere else. Here, you’ll be witness to some of the most massive, well-preserved volcanic basalt columns on the planet.
The perfectly hexagon-shaped rocks stack across the entire coastline, creating a huge collection of majestic stepping stones.
I highly recommend visiting Giant’s Causeway at sunrise for the best views and fewest crowds. Although, you will miss the Visitor Center (closed for sunrise) and it will add a little drive time to back track from the causeway to the rope bridge. That’s why I added it later in the day in this Northern Ireland itinerary.
However, if you’re up for a sunrise adventure, you can learn all about visiting the Giant’s Causeway at sunrise here.
Evening: Dunluce Castle
Just down the Causeway Coast from Giant’s Causeway is the breathtaking Dunluce Castle.
Dunluce Castle is an iconic castle-in-ruins that hangs over the ocean on a steep cliff. Here, not only will you walk through rich medieval history, but you will also see inspiring views of neighboring cliffs, crashing waves and impressive white sea arches.
For the best view of Dunluce Castle, drive from east to west on Dunluce Road A2. On this road, you’ll drive up a small hill and be met with an awesome first impression of Dunluce Castle.
This is the best place to watch sunset in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Itinerary Day Three: Causeway Coast Continued
On day three, you’ll complete the Causeway Coastal Route with Mussenden Temple and The Dark Hedges, and end the day optionally in Londonderry.
Morning: Mussenden Temple
A little farther down the Causeway Coast, you’ll come across the famous Mussenden Temple.
This temple is one of the most photographed places in Northern Ireland, so you may recognize it.
At Mussenden Temple, you’ll walk through giant (and relatively new) castle ruins. Past the castle ruins stands the iconic temple building on the edge of a cliff.
If you walk to the edge, you’ll see one of the best beach views in Northern Ireland. Which leads me to your next Northern Ireland itinerary stop…
Afternoon: Downhill Beach
Downhill Beach is quite possibly the best swimming beach in Northern Ireland.
It is perfectly turquoise, usually shallow and comfortably sandy.
Spend the afternoon here lounging on the beach, tailgating in the boot (AKA the trunk) of your car, taking in the lower view of Mussenden Temple and, perhaps, plunging into the cool sea.
Evening: The Dark Hedges (And/Or Londonderry)
Finally, to finish your perfect Northern Ireland itinerary, stop by the mystical Dark Hedges.
What put The Dark Hedges on the map was the popular series Game Of Thrones. The Dark Hedges was a film location in Game Of Thrones season two episode one.
Unsurprisingly, The Dark Hedges is not the only Games Of Thrones film location on the Causeway Coast. In fact, you can take tours totally designated to the Games Of Thrones film locations.
Or, if you’d prefer to experience Derry-Londonderry, the other major city in Northern Ireland besides Belfast, you could certainly end your Northern Ireland itinerary there, too.
Have any questions about this Northern Ireland itinerary? Reply in the comment section below, or follow and DM me on Instagram. I’m happy to help!
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