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Northern Ireland Travel Guide

Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Travel Guide
Northern Ireland

“When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, ‘Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?”

Quentin Crisp
Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Travel Guide

Top Five Destinations In Northern Ireland

  1. Belfast Is the bustling capital of Northern Ireland, full of charm, a unique history, a music scene, and the quirky Titanic Quarter. The Titanic was built and launched from Belfast Harbor with a fascinating museum on the Titanic.
  2. Derry-Londonderry Is the only completely walled city in Ireland. Take a walk around the city walls, visit the symbolic Peace Bridge, and learn about the old city’s painful history that still shows its wounds. Known for its “legendary” food scene, your days full of culture and history will be followed by some fun evenings! Many great pubs to grab a beer.
  3. Giant’s Causeway Is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for the legendary and mythical giant Finn McCool. Legend has it built the Giant’s Causeway as stepping-stones to Scotland not to get his feet wet. Witness the 40,000 massive black basalt columns rising from the sea. It is sight surreal and remarkable.
  4. Carrickfergus and Dunluce Castles These two impressive castles. Carrickfergus is the most famous castle in Northern Ireland. The castle and the surrounding area are stunning, and the views are to die for! The Medieval Dunluce Castle ruins are filled with a dramatic history in a breathtaking setting on the Antrim Coast cliffs.
  5. The Mourne Mountains & Ring of Gullion Is an area of outstanding beauty in Northern Ireland and is one of the most gorgeous places to visit in Northern Ireland. On the coastline, the town of Newcastle has a beautiful beach. Further inland, but still in touch with nature, you have Tollymore Forest Park and Murlough Nature Reserve, full of walking trails through the trees or along the riverbank.

Did you know?

Northern Ireland Stats

  • Population: 1.9 million
  • Capital City: Belfast
  • Currency: The Pound sterling
  • Government type: Consociational devolved legislature within a unitary constitutional monarchy
  • Legislature: Northern Ireland Assembly
  • Ethnic groups: 98.21% White 1.06% Asian 0.20% Black 0.53% other
  • Languages: English Regional languages Irish, Ulster-Scots
  • Religions: Protestant 48.4%, Catholic 45.1%, Other 0.9%
  • US State Department Risk Level:
  • Terrorist groups: IRA, CIRA, ONH, IRB, and ANP
  • Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland), but it is not part of Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland)
  • “God Save The Queen” is the national anthem of Northern Ireland.
  • Northern Ireland is divided into six counties—Antrim, Armagh, Derry/Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Down.
  • GDP $49 Billion.
  • Lough Neagh, a splat in the middle of the country, is the largest lake in the U.K. and among the top 40 largest lakes in Europe.
  • Slieve Donnard is the highest mountain in Northern Ireland. 
  • Northern Ireland’s longest river is the River Bann, at 80 miles.
  • Inventions from Northern Ireland included pneumatic terror.
  • Leading industries of Northern Ireland are shipbuilding, rope manufacture, textiles, and service.
  • Life expectancy is 80 years old.

Funs facts

  • Almost half of the Northern Ireland population is under 30 years old, so it’s no surprise that the nightlife is lively.
  • Three American presidents (Jackson, Buchanan, and Arthur) were first-generation Americans whose fathers were born in Ulster. Seven more U.S. presidents have close roots in the country.
  • The Giant’s Causeway has been around 50-60 million years.
  • Bushmills Irish Whiskey has been made there since 1608 in the world’s oldest whiskey distillery.
  • Northern Ireland is where some of Game of Thrones was filmed – both in the studio and on location. This has put certain areas on the map and increased tourism. 
  • In Northern Ireland, going to the cinema on Sundays is technically illegal. This is due to a 1991 law in observation of the Sabbath. 
  • Since the Good Friday Agreement, signed in 1998, Northern Ireland has erected numerous “peace walls.” These walls separate Catholic and Protestant communities whose members cannot get along. They are there for the safety of the residents living near one another. To this day, in areas with ongoing issues, some gates are closed and locked at sundown.
  • Nearly all the schools in Northern Ireland (93%) are segregated according to the country’s two major religious groups: Catholics and Protestants.
  • Famous People of Northern Ireland, C S Lewis (Writer), Kenneth Branagh 1 (Actor), Liam Nelson (Actor), and film director James Nesbitt (Actor) and George Best Soccer player.

Northern Ireland Map

Good to know before you go

  • Tipping at restaurants is usually unnecessary; you’ll likely find that a service charge has already been added to your bill. You can leave a little more if you’re extra happy with the service. If you are unsure if a service charge has been included, you can tip your server 10 percent of the total bill. At bars and pubs, tipping is uncommon. For housekeeping services, the usual rule is 1-2 euros per night, and for a bell person, 1 euro per bag. If the hotel is small and staffed directly by the owners, such as a small bed and breakfast, no tipping is expected. Taxi drivers and car services in Ireland are generally not expecting a tip, but you can round up your fare to the nearest even amount if you like.
  • Northern Ireland accepts credit cards everywhere.
  • Overall, clothing is casual and well-kept, so you will find them often wearing jeans and comfortable shoes.
  • Driving is on the left side of the road. Don’t let that scare you. It becomes second nature quickly. Without a car, you will miss so much. The roads are good, with many high-speed highways and without tolls. The backcountry is easy to navigate, but it is rural, so you come across slow-moving machinery or cows on the road.
  • While in Belfast, stop at The Crown Liquor Saloon, also known as the Crown Bar. We made a stop there, and it was fantastic. What a treat for the eyes with its elaborate tiling, stained glass, and woodwork by Italian craftsman. Built-in 1826 and refurbished in 1885, it is a true example of a Victorian gin palace and one of Northern Ireland’s best-known pubs. Grab some grub, sit back, and absorb this magical step back in time.
  • Handshakes are the most common way to greet people in Ireland. Firm Handshakes with eye contact are customary at the beginning and end of a conversation. Even if you don’t know them, using the person’s first name is typically appropriate in Ireland.
  • However, some Irish people are sensitive about religion and recent conflicts in their country. Stay away from talking about the IRA and the Troubles.
  • Do not smoke in public spaces. In pubs, they may designate areas for smokers.
  • Swearing is common. Don’t be taken back; this is their norm.
  • Hugging, touching, or being physical with others in public is inappropriate in Ireland. Avoid using PDAs and respect people’s personal space in Ireland.
  • When we travel to Ireland, we stay almost exclusively at Bed and Breakfasts. There is something special about them in Ireland in general. The hosts’ warmth, these incredible breakfasts, and getting to know more of the locals seem to bring these people closer to you. It makes the experience more authentic. We highly encourage it.
  • Want to tackle your fear of heights? Cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which spans two 90-foot cliff faces with crashing waves below. 
  • The Ulster Fry is one of the best-known dishes in Northern Ireland. While it contains ingredients that will put healthy eaters in terror, it is delicious: bacon, egg, soda bread, sausage, potato bread, mushrooms, fried tomato, baked beans, and pudding.
  • If you’re heading to the Giant’s Causeway, you’ll pass through the town of Bushmills. Bushmills Irish Whiskey has been made there since 1608 and is the world’s oldest whiskey distillery.
  • It is a safe country. Take the usual precautions.

Northern Ireland Essential Info

U.S. Consular Emergency
The 24-hour number from a U.S. Phone is 1-888-407-4747
Outside of U.S. 011-202-501-4444

U.S. Consulate General Belfast, Northern Ireland
Danesfort House, 223 Stranmillis Road,
Belfast BT9 5GR
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Telephone: 028-9038-6100 / from the United States: 011 (44) (28) 9038-6100
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 01253-501106 / from the United States: 011 (44) 1253-501106
Fax: 028-9068-1301 / from the United States: 011 (44) (28) 9068-1301
Email: ConsularBelfast@state.gov

Emergency Numbers
GENERAL 112 or 999

Country Code
+44

Time Zone
UTC

Driving
Left side

Adaptors
Type G Plug adaptor
230 Volt

Tourism Office
https://tourismni.com

When to go to Northern Ireland

The best time to visit Northern Ireland is from May to September. The days are the longest, and the temperatures are comparatively pleasant. Tourism in Northern Ireland is growing in popularity, but you will not see crowds like in other U.K. areas. The shoulder season is not quite like in other places.

The warmest temperatures are in the summer months of June, July, and August. On average, a daytime temperature of 64 °F to 67 °F is in these months, while night temperatures of around 50 °F are typical in the summer. The number of hours of sunshine is relatively shorter year-round; only Scotland has even less sunlight. In winter, it is not very cold; even in January, the average is 43 F; additionally, it is a rainy country.

Many travelers still avoid Northern Ireland as a “conflict zone,” although the violence is in the past. Northern Ireland is a safe destination full of beauty, rich history, famous landmarks, adventure, and vibrant cities. 

  • Summer 49-65 °F (9-18 °C)
  • Spring 37-59 °F (3-15 °C)
  • Fall 39-61 °F (4-16 °C)
  • Winter 35-44 °F (2-7 °C)

Our Favorite Northern Ireland Resources

This resource section contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Travel Books/Guides

On our second visit to Ireland, we spent two days in Northern Ireland, and we were pretty fascinated and moved by this area with many wounds, but that kept vitality to it. There aren’t many guides out there specifically in Northern Ireland, but the ones we suggest do a nice job, and the official tourism site and the internet.

Northern Ireland Insight Guides Great Breaks Belfast (Travel Guide)

Belfast is an exciting place: despite its troubled past. This guide suggests 10 easy-to-follow walks and tours around Belfast, taking in sites such as the Titanic Quarter, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, and the astonishing Giant’s Causeway. There are three additional excursions into Northern Ireland’s beautiful countryside and coastline. Each unique walk is accompanied by full-color photographs, clear maps, and many recommendations for eating and drinking. Features on the local culture focus on what makes Belfast unique. Discover this travel guide here.

Northern Ireland Rick Steves Snapshot Northern Ireland by Rick Steves and Pat O’Connor

Full disclosure, we are huge Rick Steve fans, it will be rare if we do not recommend one of his wonderful guides, and it is no different. This is one of his smaller snapshot versions. This compact guide offers travel tips on Northern Ireland, including Belfast, Portrush, the Antrim Coast, Derry, and County Donegal. His off-the-beaten-path approach and his independent travel philosophy match well with how we travel. The guides never disappoint. Find this must-have guide here.

Our favorite websites

1. Northern Ireland tourism site

2. Things to do in Belfast by City Tours Belfast

3. U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs Northern Ireland Country Info

We cannot encourage you enough to visit this website as you plan and prepare for your trip. This is the U.S. Federal Government addressing the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency U.S. and Embassy contacts, health, local laws, special circumstances, threats, traveler vulnerabilities, government warnings, and transportation In Luxembourg. This is your best and most reliable resource for all this important info. Check back often before you go, as things can change quickly. Being prepared is essential in all travel, but especially internationally.

Northern Ireland International Travel Information (state.gov)

3. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers Health Resource

This CDC travel resource provides essential health info for your specific destination. Using their tool, you can determine which vaccines, medications, and health advice recommendations are needed for Northern Ireland.

CDC’s Travelers Health Page for Northern Ireland

Our favorite maps

Northern Ireland Ireland National Geographic Adventure Map, 3303

Easy-to-read maps with practical road and travel information. There are no specific maps of Northern Ireland, but this one does a nice job. Major sites and landmarks are well-marked. Mapped road network with distances and designations for major highways to the off-the-beaten-path roads. Though we default to Google Maps, this came in handy when service was poor or during construction detours. Find this essential map here.

Our favorite apps

Google Maps Trip and Holiday Organizer. Enter any address, landmark, or city in the app, and it will instantly display all your travel options and booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. We love it when using public transportation, it is spot on! Find it on your local app store.

Rick Steve’s Audio Europe This app includes a vast library of Rick Steve’s audio content. Get cultural and travel info. Includes self-guided tours of top attractions and historic walks. A must-have. Find it on your local App Store.

Google Translate For our non-English speaking readers this is the app for you. Google Translate is an easy app to use when you need to communicate. You can enter text in your native language, and it will speak back in English to aid in communicating with locals.

To check out the best travel apps, visit Best Travel Apps for the Savvy Traveler.

Do you have a favorite Northern Ireland travel resource? Share your favorites in the comments section at the bottom of this page or

© 2024 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved

Squaremouth.com

Our favorite travel insurance site!

We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured—not just for the little stuff but for the big things like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Our go-to place is Squaremouth.com. It does a fantastic job with its user-friendly interface and uses top-rated and reputable insurance carriers. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems.

To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.

MedjetAssist

Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world

They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. A Medjet membership is only for medical transport. Medjet Horizon offers expanded coverage. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74.

To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.  

Expedia.com and VRBO

Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours 

Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.  

Booking.com

Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours 

Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes. It is our preferred booking site.

Viator

The leading marketplace for travel experiences,

Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier. We use them often during our travels and love their liberal cancellation policy.

Wanderers Compass Amazon Storefront

An excellent source for all travel essentials and guides.

Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. Teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery on behalf of customers. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com offer extensive options to customers.

HYDAWAY

This is not your ordinary drinkware company. The HYDAWAY difference is what their products do when you’re not using them. Practical and portable, HYDAWAY doesn’t take up unnecessary space in your already-packed life or pile up in landfills. We have used their collapsible water bottle, carrying case for the water bottle, and collapsible insulated drink tumbler. They are all lightweight and durable. This is a conservation-focused product you can be proud to buy.

Use our Promo Code. WANCOM15, at checkout for 15% off your Hydaway order

Welcome Pick-ups

A global leader in ground transportation for travelers. They help hundreds of companies worldwide enhance their services and boost their revenue with our 5-star ride experiences and hassle-free automation.

PhotoAiD

Do you feel like you are wasting time visiting an on-site photographer only to be embarrassed by the photo? Would you like control of the final product? Get the perfect VISA or passport photo online with PhotoAID.You often need to apply for official documents such as a passport, ID, and different kinds of licenses or cards. PhotoAiD allows you to take the perfect biometric photo you approve without leaving home.

This article contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

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