For me although it would be efficient in certain situations to drive around the countryside, living in Europe, you realize that public transport is super efficient and trustworthy! It also gives an opportunity to the person who would otherwise be concentrating on driving, to relax and take delight in the surroundings!
Being enthusiastic about offbeat locations, when it does come as a surprise that the local transport has glitches, it hampers elaborate travel plans!
I had initially decided to stay in a remote location in Ballycastle in Northern Ireland. Getting to Ballycastle and back from Belfast would take up precious 2 days unless I drove around. Since that plan was out of the window, I decided to make the best itinerary I could while staying in Belfast itself for 5 days!
Once again, this 5 day itinerary including the Causeway Coastal route is one we enjoyed. I am going to provide information about the local transport available in Northern Ireland.
However, for all those travelers who would like to take a road trip by themselves, I am putting in all the options you could try out!
The quirky art that covers the entire Shankhill road…..
Fly to Belfast. We opted for a morning flight [Flybe] as the flights were cheap. Do note that there are 2 airports within Belfast. The international one is on the outskirts of Belfast and the George Best City airport is 4 miles from the city center. If your flight lands at the international airport, its best to take the Airport Express 300 bus transfer to the city center. Latest details and prices available here.
If it’s the George Best City airport you are landing at, it’s not too expensive to take a taxi to your place of accommodation.
The best app to get a quick taxi is Value Cabs. Their service is great!
The best part: If you do use their services, each receipt entitles you to a discount at a list of attractions throughout the city!
STAY: We stayed for 5 days at Abbeydene House. An excellent location by the seaside, that gives you a feeling that you are miles away from the city yet is easily accessible from the city center. Tim & Ethy are some of the most amazing hosts I’ve ever had and Tim whips up the most authentic Irish breakfasts you could possibly ask for! It’s a local favorite with the cast and crew of Game of Thrones as well!
Here’s my review with all the information you would need!
Premier Inn is another option and has great views of the Titanic quarters.
Belfast is an amazing city to explore! Here are some places:
- Cathedral Quarters locality
For some of the best pubs in Belfast. Quirky art adorns the locality and the atmosphere is superb!
- Titanic museum and a ride of the locality via the Wee Tram
The Wee tram is a lovely way to quickly get familiar with Titanic quarters. Tickets can be purchased on board and the train leaves the Titanic Museum every half hour.It is always advisable to purchase tickets in advance for the newly renovated Titanic Museum. Prices vary depending on the experience chosen. You could opt for a combined ticket to the Museum and SS Nomadic. The Titanic Belfast Museum tour has interesting history about the process used to build the Titanic, its maiden voyage and the unfortunate events that occurred leading to the disaster. It also provides glimpses of Belfast in the early 1900’s. The best part is a video of the actual deep sea exploration that discovered the remains of Titanic, at the end!Completely worth it!
- Shankhill road
A walk down Shankhill Road is a must!
You will definitely get tired walking and clicking pictures but I’m pretty sure you will still have loads of Murals to check out and appreciate! You could take the route that leads to the Peace wall and end your walk there. Approx. a 1-2 mile walk.
- Tea at The Merchant hotel
One of the best ways to spend an afternoon! The The Merchant Hotel itself has its share of history and the tea does not disappoint! Daily from 12 pm – 4.30 pm.
- Other options
Although I did not get a chance to visit the following you could give it a try if interested!
– Crumlin Road Gaol
A non-operational prison, this is a great way to experience what life was like for those imprisoned in ‘The Crum’.
– The Big Fish
A modern art piece with a scale of tiles. Each tile has a story about the city! Located near the Europa Bus Center
– Ulster Museum
Great collection of art & history. Free for visitors!
– St. George’s Market
An amazing place to sample local produce and enjoy the vibes of the city on Friday, Saturday & Sunday.
Another great way to explore the city is to take a Paddy Campbell Black Taxi tour! Prices and details here.
TRANSPORT: Ulsterbus No. 163 traverses between Belfast City center and Abbeydene House. A taxi ride would cost approx. £8 one way.
The sun shining bright on the Titanic Museum in Belfast!
Cathedral quarters – with the famous Duke of York pub!
After tucking in a hearty breakfast conjured up by Tim, it’s time to head off to the Causeway Coastal Route, described as 1 of the best drives in the world by National Geographic!
As mentioned earlier, as we were not driving ourselves we opted for a Causeway Coastal trip with McComb’s. Consisting of the best spots on the Coastal route, the coaches are spacious and clean!
For a self-drive, here are the best spots:
- Carrickfergus Castle
A Norman castle in excellent condition. Dedicate an hour for your visit. Great sea views!
Entry: £3 per adult, Child £1.50
A typical quaint Irish coastal village. A quick walk around and you will be able to see the curvature of the Causeway coastal route
- Glenariff Forest Park
Glenariff Forest Park caters for many outdoor activities including walking, caravanning, camping, and horse riding. The waterfalls are exceptional! Here is a trail map for reference!
One of the scariest rope bridges in the world! Tickets available at the start of the walk.
Anybody below a height of 5 feet is not permitted to cross the bridge! The bridge would be closed only if the weather conditions are terrible
Entry: £5 per person
- Giant’s Causeway
The highlight of the entire route! Basalt columns formed by a volcanic explosion millions of years ago. Do dedicate at least 2 hours to the place, a UNESCO World heritage site! A bus traverses every 30 minutes right to the formations at a nominal price of £1 per way
- Old Bushmills Distillery
All the whiskey aficionado’s would definitely want this to be on their radar! The oldest licensed, working distillery in the world! Ideal for home-cooked lunch and for tastings of the smooth, rich whiskies! Tickets need to be purchased only if you opt for the Whiskey tour
- Dunluce Castle
The roofless ruins of Dunluce Castle are breathtaking. Ideal for a quick pit-stop!
- Mussenden Temple
A picturesque temple settled atop a cliff surrounded by the Mussenden Temple gardens. Great for picnics :)
Entry: Grounds and Hezlett House: Adult £4.70 (£4.27); Child £2.35 (£2.13); Family £11.75 (£10.68) – as on Jan ’16
If you are driving around a great place to stay would be at Ballycastle at Ardaghmore Bed & Breakfast! Located by the sea, this charming place over looks Rathlin Island!
And if you have opted for a day trip, its time to get back to Belfast!
Carrick-a-Rede! A Wow experience!
Me being silly at the Giant’s Causeway! :P
It’s a day for a cliff walk!
Gobbins Path is not entirely ‘new’. It was originally opened in 1902! However, due to many reasons, mostly natural the path had to be closed down. Recently restored and now fully functional since August 2015, it is a must-do in Northern Ireland!
For as low as £8.50 for an adult, it’s an amazing way to connect with nature. The biodiversity around will put a smile on your face :) And who knows? If you’re luck you might even spot puffins in summer!
All details can be found on the official Gobbins Website. Or if you’d like to check the place out first, why not check my article about it?
TRANSPORT: Ulsterbus No. 263 traverses from Belfast to Whitehead. Ensure you call the Gobbins visitor center if you need transport between Whitehead and the visitor center. They ensure a taxi is arranged for you for as low as £4 one way!
Once at the visitor center you will be taken with the group via a minibus to the start of the walk with your guide.
The Gobbins – 1 of the best coastal/cliff walks ever!
A trip to Northern Ireland would be incomplete without a Game of Thrones tour!
Even if you are not smitten with the #GOT bug, it is a great idea to visit the locations where these epic series were filmed.
It will take you by surprise to discover hidden gems which may have gone unnoticed had it not been for Game of Thrones, but now attracts many visitors.
We opted for another tour with McComb’s because they have officially been ferrying the crew across Northern Ireland every year when they return to shoot! That being said, they also have insider info on the latest sightings of the cast in the city!
Here’s a list of what you could take up if you drive by yourself:
- The Dark Hedges
A location abundant with charisma.
A photographer’s delight, this place will definitely entice you!
GOT trivia: The location where Arya escapes via the King’s road
- Ballintoy [Pyke] Harbor
This little harbor is beautifully built and will give you a glimpse into medieval Irish times!
GOT trivia: Theon Greyjoy arrives back in the Iron Islands at this location
- Cushendun Caves
One of the top locations for a Game of Thrones tour! The Caves can be found right along the coast, next to the Bay Hotel. Walk right till the end of the caves, to find a house still in use!
GOT trivia: This is the place where Melisandre giving birth to the shadow assassin!
Although these stops included stops to the Carrick-a-Rede and the Giant’s Causeway, we were more than happy to take a walk along the cliffs at Carrick-a-Rede and to pay a 2nd visit to the Giant’s Causeway!
I just couldn’t get enough of Northern Ireland!
A plaque for Theon! Who would have thought!
The Dark Hedges in their glory!
I chanced upon Castle Ward due to Game of Thrones :) Although I am glad I did!
Famous because the entire Season 1 in the series was shot here, you would easily understand why this location was chosen in the 1st place. Untouched nature, vast grounds, castles, lough’s, seals…..
This place has it all!
We opted for the Archery experience through Clearsky Adventure and it was super fun!
After a rigorous session with William, and a couple of bruises we set off on a walk of the grounds. William and his 2 Labradors accompanied us around the property and the lake.
Maintained in excellent condition by the National Trust , it is definitely an offbeat piece of paradise! Well worth to dedicate an entire day!
TRANSPORT: Ulsterbus no. 15 traverses to Downpatrick, the nearest bus stop to get to Castleward. Discuss with Clearsky about the possibility of a pick-up from Downpatrick and they will be more than glad to help! Do ensure you check the latest bus timings from the Translink website!
As the charming trip is now almost reaching an end, why not end it with a walk? Nothing beats a walk around the countryside or by the sea!
Like I did mention, the sea is literally 5 mins away from Abbeydene House!
We went for a good long walk, saying hello to all the dogs along the way, right up till Whiteabbey and then wound our way back.
I wouldn’t end a holiday to Northern Ireland any other way!
You could include additional places worth a visit, like Magherafelt, Londonderry, Rathlin Island and the Mourne Mountains for a longer vacation!
You can print off a detailed map HERE. A gist is also available on the map below.
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