“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
Top Five Destinations In Northern Ireland
- 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.
- Derry-Londonderry Is the only completely walled city in Ireland. Take a walk around the city walls, visit the symbolic Peace Bridge, and learn 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Mourne Mountains & Ring of Gullion Is an area of outstanding beauty in Northern Ireland and really is one of the 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, splat in the middle of the country, is the largest lake in the UK 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 80 years old.
- Almost half of the Northern Ireland population is under 30 years old, so it’s no surprise that the nightlife is quite 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, it is technically illegal to go to the cinema on Sundays. 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 are unable to get along. They are there for the safety of the residents living near one another. To this day, in areas with continued 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 not needed; 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. 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 and 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 both 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 simply being physical with others in public is seen as inappropriate in Ireland. Avoid using PDA 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 when 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 by crossing 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 is full of 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.
When to go to Northern Ireland
The best time to visit Northern Ireland is from May to September. The days are the longest in, and the temperatures are comparatively pleasant. Tourism in Northern Ireland is growing in popularity, but you will not see crowds like other UK 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 common in the summer. The number of hours of sunshine is quite shorter year-round; only Scotland has even less sunshine. 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
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On our second visit to Ireland, we spent two days in Northern Ireland, and we were quite fascinated and moved by this area with many wounds but that keep 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.
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 plenty of recommendations for eating and drinking. Features on the local culture focus on what makes Belfast unique. Discover this travel guide here
Full disclosure, we are huge Rick Steve’s fans, it will be rare 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, together with his independent travel philosophy, matches well with how we travel. The guides never disappoint. Find this must-have guide here
Our favorite websites
2. US 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 US Federal Government addressing the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency US 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.
3. The Center of 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.
Our favorite maps
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
Rome2rio: Trip Planner Trip and Holiday Organizer Enter any address, landmark, or city in the app will instantly display all your travel options, booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. Find 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 on your local app store.
Do you have a favorite Northern Ireland travel resource? Share your favorites in the comments section at the bottom of this page or