Welcome to Northern Ireland, a land of ancient castles and breathtaking coastlines.
With so much to see and do, knowing where to begin is hard. But fear not, for I have the perfect itinerary for you.
I traveled to Northern Ireland when I first visited Ireland, and with just 24 hours to spare, I was able to explore some of the highlights of this magical land, from the historic city of Belfast to the stunning Giant’s Causeway.
It’s that itinerary I bring you here, so you can also enjoy the country if you are on a clock.
A quick visit to Northern Ireland
Planning your 24-hour trip to Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is a small country, but it is packed with things to see and do. Planning ahead is essential to make the most of your 24-hour trip.
Start by booking a rental car, allowing you to explore the country at your own pace. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking. It’s also a good idea to bring a rain jacket, as the weather in Northern Ireland can be unpredictable.
To maximize your time, plan to start your day early. The attractions on this itinerary typically open at 9:00 am, so aim to arrive at your first destination by then. Remember that Northern Ireland is a small country, but the roads can be narrow and winding, so it may take longer than expected to get from one place to another.
Book your accommodation in Belfast
Starting the day at the Titanic Museum
Your first stop is the Titanic Belfast Museum, located in the heart of Belfast. This museum is dedicated to the history of the ill-fated ship and its connection to Belfast. The museum is housed in a stunning building resembling a ship’s bow. It offers nine interactive galleries that tell the story of the Titanic, from its construction to its sinking.
The museum is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Booking your tickets in advance is a good idea to avoid long queues.
Allow at least two hours to explore the museum, as there’s much to see.
Book your visit to the Titanic Belfast
Exploring the historical center of Belfast
After you visit the Titanic Museum, take a short drive to the historical center of Belfast. This area has many landmarks and attractions, including the City Hall, St. Anne’s Cathedral, and the Albert Memorial Clock.
Stroll along the streets and admire Victorian architecture, or stop in one of the many cafes for a cup of coffee.
If you’re interested in history, be sure to visit the Crumlin Road Gaol. This former prison is now a museum. The prison dates back to 1845 and was in use until 1996. Visitors can take a guided tour of the prison and learn about its history, including the stories of some of its most notorious inmates.
Discovering Castle Ward
After exploring Belfast, it’s time to head out of the city and into the countryside. Your next stop is Castle Ward, a sprawling estate that was the backdrop for many scenes in Game of Thrones. The estate is about 40 minutes drive south of Belfast, offering stunning views of Strangford Lough.
Castle Ward is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and there are many things to see and do at the estate, including guided tours of the house and gardens, horseback riding, and cycling.
Explore the one-of-a-kind Gothic-style farmyard, which houses rare breed animals.
Exploring the Giant’s Causeway
After a quick lunch, it’s time to hit the road again and head north to the Causeway Coast. The highlight of this area is the Giant’s Causeway, a natural wonder made up of thousands of hexagonal basalt columns. The Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.
Several walking trails allow you to explore the area, including a coastal path that offers stunning sea views. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, as the ground can be uneven.
The Causeway is open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Book your tour in the Giant’s Causeway
Visiting the town of Portrush
After exploring the Giant’s Causeway, take a scenic drive along the coast to the charming seaside town of Portrush. This town is about 20 minutes drive east of the Causeway and offers a range of attractions, including a beautiful sandy beach, a historic harbor, and a lively promenade.
Take a stroll along the beach and watch the surfers catching waves, or visit the ruins of Dunluce Castle, a medieval fortress that sits on a cliff overlooking the sea.
Indulge in the delightful taste of a Guinness at a cozy pub in town, or savor the delectable local seafood for a full experience.
Enjoy Belfast’s nightlife
After the sunset, it’s time to head back to Belfast for some nightlife. This city offers a range of entertainment options, from traditional Irish music to trendy nightclubs.
Check out the Cathedral Quarter, home to many bars and restaurants, or visit the SSE Arena, which hosts concerts and sporting events.
If you’re looking for something more low-key, visit one of Belfast’s many traditional pubs and enjoy your last pint of Guinness while listening to live music.
Northern Ireland: A destination to return
A day in Northern Ireland is a beautiful teaser of so many other things you can explore in the region. If you can do and see such amazing things in such a short time, imagine if you had more days.
So, include Northern Ireland next time you’re in that part of the world. I bet you won’t regret it.
Let me know what you think about this one-day guide to Northern Ireland in the comments box. Would love to hear from you!
1-day visit to Northern Ireland
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