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A Day in Northern Ireland: How to Make the Most of Your Time

Irlanda Norte. Northern Ireland.

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.

Can I get freely from Ireland to Northern Ireland after Brexit?

Yes, you can freely travel from Ireland to Northern Ireland even after Brexit. The United Kingdom officially left the European Union on January 31, 2020, which included Northern Ireland as part of the UK’s territory. However, the Brexit withdrawal agreement includes a provision known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, which aims to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (an EU member state).
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland remains in the UK’s customs territory. Still, it continues to follow specific EU rules to maintain an open border with the Republic of Ireland. This means there are no physical border controls or customs checks for individuals crossing the two regions.
As an individual, you can freely travel between Ireland and Northern Ireland without needing a passport or visa. You will not encounter the same restrictions and requirements as crossing an international border.

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

Titanic Belfast 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

St Anne Cathedral in Belfast, Northern Ireland
St. Anne Cathedral, 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.

Visiting the “Peace Wall”

In Belfast, you can also see parts of what they call today “Peace Walls”.
This physical barrier divided communities in Northern Ireland during the period of conflict known as “The Troubles.”
These walls were erected in various locations in Belfast, Derry/Londonderry and other cities in Northern Ireland, primarily to separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods and reduce sectarian violence.
Some of these barriers were constructed from brick, concrete, and steel, often running through residential areas, parks, and streets.
Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which marked a significant step towards peace in Northern Ireland, efforts have been made to decrease tensions and promote reconciliation.
While some sections of the Peace Lines have been removed or modified over the years, many still exist to this day.

Discovering Castle Ward

Castle Ward
Castle Ward | Foto de K. Mitch Hodge na Unsplash

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

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

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

Experience Irish whiskey in the Bushmills Distillery 

Another fantastic place to visit near the Giant’s Causeway is the Bushmills Distillery, even more, if you’re a whiskey enthusiast.
To learn more about this experience, read this blog post.

Visiting the town of Portrush

Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle

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

Belfast Pub

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.

In the comments box, please let me know what you think about this one-day guide to Northern Ireland. I would love to hear from you!

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1-day visit to Northern Ireland
The best of Northern Ireland in just 24 hours! This travel guide shows you the top attractions to visit and make the most of your day.
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Marlene On The Move

Marlene Marques

Marlene is the creator of Marlene On The Move. A journalist by profession, she created the blog to share her adventures around the world. It is not unusual for her to set off to discover new countries and cultures with a surfboard as luggage.



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