A touch of luxury in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland steps up to the plate with an incredible array of experiences, both epic and intimate, from whiskey tours with locals to walks across wobbling rope bridges.
Explore Titanic attractions and relax in historic city hotels, admire centuries of history on a 6th century island monastery, and gallop down vast deserted beaches. It’s all there for the taking.
Belfast is having a moment. You can feel it on the streets. You can feel it in the galleries and in the buzzing restaurants where some of Ireland’s very best ingredients are transformed into artful plates of delicious food. And you can feel it in the city’s multifaceted neighbourhoods, from the cobbled arty Cathedral Quarter to the reinvigorated docklands. This is a place layered with history, a place full of resilience and optimism and a place that seems to have settled on the perfect blend of culture and “craic”.Explore Day 1
A piece of Titanic history
So, where to start? A good place to kick off any exploration of Belfast is at Titanic Belfast, the world’s top Titanic visitor experience. From the moment you step inside this architecturally dynamic building – clad in shimmering titanium and located at the very place Titanic was launched – you will be immersed in all things “Ship of Dreams”.
Into the heart of Belfast food
Next up, it’s time for lunch. Belfast is forward-looking when it comes to food, but for a truly authentic Belfast experience, head to John Long’s for a lunch of fish and chips. This “chippie” opened in 1914 and serves up super-fresh fish and chips daily to legions of loyal locals. If you’re in the city at the weekend, don’t miss a stroll around St George’s Market; built in 1896, the market buzzes with artisan food stalls and trinkets from Friday to Sunday.
Belfast’s arty side
Belfast’s got a vibrant street art scene, and discovering it with a local is an amazing way to get under the skin of this spirited city. Like Berlin and Bethlehem, which are both famous for their street art, the city is a nexus of creative cool and the Street Art Walking Tour gives you the chance to explore it in the company of contemporary artists. Not feeling arty? There are tons of alternative private tours from the Belfast Gin Jaunt, which takes a deep dive into the local gin scene, to the Belfast Traditional Music Trail, a fun way to experience the city’s musical traditions.
Don’t miss a pre-dinner drink at the Merchant Hotel’s glamorous Cocktail Bar. The bar is packed with original architectural features including Baccarat chandeliers and an antique fire, and serves up everything from Champagne cocktails to “Temperance” favourites. It’s only a short stroll from here to OX restaurant, where you can enjoy a dinner inspired by the seasons. This award-winning Michelin-starred spot has helped put Belfast on the map as a top culinary destination and boasts innovative dishes showcased across exciting tasting menus.
It’s one epic experience after another along one of the most majestic coastal routes in the world. Get set for the Causeway Coast!Explore Day 2
Castles and coastal routes
It’s up early to embark on an amazing tour of one of Northern Ireland’s most spectacular attractions: the Causeway Coastal Route. Starting out from Belfast, the first stop you’ll get to is Carrickfergus, which boasts an impressive 12th century castle. For a truly unforgettable experience, jump on board the bespoke Gobbins Sea Safari here, which will take you past key sights on this section of the Causeway Coastal Route, including the Victorian coastal village of Whitehead, the beautiful Blackhead Lighthouse, and the Gobbins Cliff Path, a cliff-path walk that mixes historic features with modern elements including tubular and suspension bridges, staircases and tunnels carved through rock.
Afterwards, soak up the staggering beauty of the coastal road as it weaves through the scenic villages of Cushendall and Cushendun and past the ruggedly beautiful headland of Torr Head to the town of Ballycastle. Here, you’ll find the Ursa Minor Bakehouse Économusée – a great little café that uses traditional techniques to create amazing breads and sweet treats – a perfect stop for lunch. After lunch, check in for a Sourdough-making class, a delightfully hands-on way to learn some rustic bread-making traditions.
Eco stay on the coast
You’re not too far from your stop for the night – a signature suite at the The Salthouse, a luxury eco hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. And if you happen to be here on a Thursday, don’t miss a traditional music session down at the local pub in Ballycastle, O’Connor’s Bar.
Get in gear for the coast’s top sights including the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Giant’s Causeway.Explore Day 3
Wobbly fun and epic sights
First stop today is the legendary Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This wobbly, vertigo-inducing rope bridge near Ballintoy crosses from the mainland to the island of Carrick and was traditionally used by salmon fishermen for hundreds of years. A brilliant way of exploring this piece of living history is on the Beyond The Bridge tour, which explores the heritage behind the bridge and has been described as “one of the most exclusive tours in Ireland”. Not only that, but as part of the tour, guide Mark Rogers will bring you to an old fisherman’s bothy – a unique experience that takes you back to a bygone era.
Harbour of delights
If you have more time, Ballintoy Harbour is a ridiculously pretty spot surrounded by sea stacks, pools and rocky islands – so it’s no surprise that it was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones®. It’s also a great stop for lunch at the gorgeous little cottage café, The Red Door, which uses local produce and has a lovely outdoor seating area.
A giant spirit
The Causeway Coast’s big hitter is next – the Giant’s Causeway. This incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site is a magnificent concoction of over 40,000 hexagonal columns that tumble down to the sea. For a unique way to experience this geological wonder AND enjoy a taste of the Causeway Coast’s rich whiskey heritage, try out the excellent Whiskey On the Rocks Tour. There’s little better than having the salty sea air whipping at your hair, a 60 million-year-old landscape to look at, and a glass of Bushmills 12-Year-Old Distillery Reserve in your hand. Led by a National Trust guide, the tour unveils the history, heritage, myths and legends of this exceptional place in a very memorable way.
Keeping things cosy
Keep the whiskey theme going in Bushmills village with an overnight in the luxury Master Distiller’s Suite at The Bushmill’s Inn. Looking for a cosy dinner? The gorgeous Gas Bar is the ideal spot for a traditional feast of Guinness and oysters. Exuding a cosy, traditional atmosphere, the bar is filled with snug little corners, open fires, gas lights, and – as you’d expect from the home village of one of the world’s oldest operational whiskey distilleries – there’s an extensive offering of excellent whiskies.
Beach rides, breweries and a bucketload of Game of Thrones® fun, get set for a trip from the coast to the city.Explore Day 4
Imagine the pure thrill of horse riding along a vast, sandy beach with the wind whistling past your ears and the salty Atlantic Ocean crashing beside you. Saddle up with Sheans Horse Farm and you can experience the stunning Causeway Coast on horseback with gorgeous beach rides, or treks on horseback around some of the coast’s most breathtaking sites including Mussenden Temple, Dunluce Castle and even Game of Thrones® filming locations.
Take to the skies
After racing along the beaches of the Causeway Coast, something completely different is in order: the sky! Amp up the excitement factor with an thrilling trip in a helicopter above the majestic Northern Ireland landscape. Head to the city of Derry~Londonderry and you’ll find Cutting Edge Helicopter Tours, who will whisk you off into a luxury helicopter for an incredible Game of Thrones® Iron Island Adventure Tour.
Discovering a walled city
The island of Ireland boasts a very vibrant craft beer scene, and the Walled City Brewery in Derry~Londonderry has gained a loyal following both for the quality of the beer, and the food. After lunch here, you can join a Beer Masterclass – a fantastic 1.5 hour storytelling experience along with tastings. But if that’s not up your street, you’ll be spoiled for choice as Derry~Londonderry boasts excellent things to do, from walks along the 17th century walls to strolls across the iconic Peace Bridge. Try a spot of paddleboarding on the River Foyle, take a walking tour of the historic city, or explore the Museum of Free Derry before transferring to the Lough Erne Resort in County Fermanagh for the night.
Soak up the tranquillity of Lough Erne with beautiful boat tours through history.Explore Day 5
Fancy a round of golf? Well, you’re in the right spot as the Lough Erne Resort is one of the top golf resorts on the island of Ireland featuring two championship golf courses. The jade green parkland courses here offer challenging games, as well as beautiful views of the water and surrounding area.
The inky-blue waters of Lough Erne are captivating, and have been visited by ancient Celts, Christian monks and marauding Vikings. There are some great lakeside walks in the area including the Carrickreagh looped walk, Castle Archdale Park and Ely Lodge looped walk, but to really understand this part of Northern Ireland, you have to get out on the water. Book in for a private boat tour of Lough Erne and you’ll discover the amazing wildlife, heritage and history of the lake, including the monastic site of Devenish Island, which dates back to the 6th century.
Fancy something a little different? The Boatyard Gin Experience Tour – which can be booked through Lough Erne Resort – could be for you. You’ll be whisked off to this beautiful lakeside craft distillery, where you can enjoy both a tour and tastings.
Your very own castle
Lough Erne is surrounded by beautiful mansion houses and castles, including Castle Coole and Florence Court, both of which offer romantic and tranquil landscapes. But one not to be missed is most definitely Crom Castle Estate. If you want to detour and stay longer, then an amazing option is a stay in this castle, with the Earl of Erne as your host. As well as afternoon tea and cocktails with the Earl, there are amazing boat tours, private meetings with local lords and ladies in their gardens and gala dinners.
Otherwise, it’s back to Belfast and the end of your five-day adventure.