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How to Explore The Best of Northern Ireland in One day


​Northern Ireland is the top destination for backpackers and travellers all around the world. In only one full day, you can visit most of the must-see places in Northern Ireland. This blog has all the information you need to know before visiting Ireland. 

It has been a filming location of the popular HBO TV series Game of Thrones and the fans of the series come to Ireland to see the epic locations from all over the world.

After exploring Belfast, I drove to Ballymena and stayed there overnight to be close to the places I was going to visit the next day. 

Giant's Causeway coast at Sunset

Places to see in Northern Ireland

There are so many places to see in Northern Ireland and you can easily spend weeks exploring the country but if you have only one day these are the places you can easily visit outside of Belfast. 

  • The Dark Hedges
  • Kinbane Castle 
  • Carrick-A-Rede Bridge
  • Giant's Causeway 
  • Dunluce Castle

I visited all of these places in one day and I didn't have to rush.

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The Dark Hedges 

​My decision to sleep in Ballymena instead of Belfast helped me to get to The Dark Hedges before sunrise. I woke up around 5 am and drove 30 minutes to get to the parking of the Dark Hedges. The weather was terrible, it wasn't raining but unfortunately, very windy with wind gusts of over 110 km/h and due to the winds, it was a very cold summer morning. I was one of the very few photographers trying to beat the crowds and take the best shots. 

The Dark Hedges is one of the top tourist location and if you arrive after 9 am or later expect this place to be very crowded. You won't be able to take those Instagram pictures of the road without people walking into it. 

The Dark Hedges was the location of Game of Thrones and it was named The Kingsroad in the series. I spent a little over an hour to walk around and take the pictures. Expect here to be around one hour to walk from one end of the road to the other and back. 

The Dark Hedges Parking: There is a small and free parking on either side of the Dark Hedges Road.

The Dark Hedges without tourists early in the morning

Kinbane Castle 

After The Dark Hedges, I drove to Kinbane Castle which is less than 15 minutes drive from the Dark Hedge. This is one of my favourite places in Northern Ireland, nature is absolutely stunning, with the possibility to see two waterfalls, an old castle, and high cliffs. 

The walk down the hill and back by climbing hundreds of stairs is not easy but its totally worth it and the views are breathtaking. The road to Kinbane castle is very narrow and tour buses can't reach here so only a few tourists visit this place. I saw maybe 8-10 people during one and a half hour I spent there. 

I bought my breakfast on the way from a supermarket and had this place all to myself. You should expect to be here at least an hour.  

The path that goes down to Kinbane Castle
Location of Kinbane Castle is breathtaking
The walking path goes beyond the castle to a narrow ridge
Cliffs at Kinbane Castle

Carrick-A-Rede Bridge

The rope bridge of Carrick-A-Rede is less than 10 minutes drive from Kinbane castle. The bridge connects the main island to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It is very popular among tourists and locals due to its location. The bridge is opened between 9:30 am and 8 pm and costs £9 to walk on the bridge, for opening hours and tickets check their website

Near the entrance is a lovely tearoom offering snacks, coffee and tea. The bridge is 1 km easy walk from the parking and the path goes beyond the bridge along to cliffs to some great its viewpoints. 

Expect here to be two hours. 

Carrick-a-rede bridge is 1 km from the entrance
Carrick-a-rede walking path
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-rede connecting the tiny island to the main island

Dunluce Castle

After Carrick-A-Rede Bridge I drove to Giant's Causeway but unfortunately, it was very crowded and I decided to come back here later in the afternoon. The entrance to the Dunluce Castle costs £5.50 and allows the visitors to explore the remains of the castle. The walking path that goes to the sea was closed due to some construction work. 

The castle is visible from its own free parking and to take the best pictures, walk to the side of the road.

Expect here to be one hour. After Dunluce castle, I had a little break to have Lunch in small-town of Bushmills. There are some coffee shops, supermarkets and Petrol stations. 

View of Dunluce Castle from road near to parking

Giant's Causway

The top tourist destination in Northern Ireland and unfortunately also very crowded but an absolutely must-see place. The rock formation is just incredible and nowhere else to be seen. I have written one full blog on how to experience Giant's Causeway in the best possible way. 

Sunset at Giant's Causeway coast
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Find out: How to Explore Incredible Giant's Causeway


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Where to Stay

I stayed in Ballymena to be close to The Dark Hedge and I recommend staying nearby to arrive there as early as possible. ​There are many other small towns (Ballycastle, Portrush, Ballintoy, Coleraine) with plenty of accommodation options. 

Incredible Giant's Causeway and Walking trails
Driving in Ireland for Tourists

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Wednesday, 17 July 2024

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