If you are considering a staycation and have never had Northern Ireland on your radar, then about to have your mind changed. After the year we’ve all had, our eyes have been opened to the magic that is on our doorstep, so staycations are increasing in popularity. Find out the best staycation locations in Northern Ireland here to consider for your next staycation in the UK.
The UK is full of hidden treasures, new places to explore, fabulous coastlines, and even better countryside, which has often been something we have taken for granted in the past. Lockdowns have made us realise that we have plenty to see and do close to home, which is why the staycation is rising in popularity this year as being the number one choice for the annual holiday or weekend break away from routine. However, some people are unsure about where to go.
Northern Ireland is a jewel in the UK that has been under-explored by many Brits for some time. Even those based in the Republic of Ireland have not ventured north much in the last. However, with fabulous places to eat, drinking establishments to socialise in, beautiful coastlines, rugged terrain, and beauty spots, it is a place that could tick all of the boxes for you.
Here are some of the reasons why Northern Ireland could be on your destination list for your staycation this year:
- Getting around is easy. You can drive from the city to the coast, to the countryside in a matter of hours.
- There are some pretty epic natural wonders to witness and explore.
- It is the best location for any Game Of Thrones fans to visit.
- It is also the place for any history lovers wanting to know more about Titanic.
- It is renowned for its whiskey distilleries, some of which are the best Irish distilleries.
Discover more of the great things Northern Ireland has to offer and add more places to your Northern Ireland staycation itinerary.
Best Staycation Locations in Northern Ireland
There is something for everyone in Northern Ireland. With that in mind, here are some of the best staycation locations in Northern Ireland waiting for you to explore.
First, we must mention the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast. Whether you are choosing a relaxing break or want somewhere that will have you fully entertained from the moment you wake up until you lay your head at night, Belfast is the place to consider.
I always recommend taking a bus tour as this can give you the full depth of what the city has to offer while you get your bearings. Whether you want to browse museums all day, or simply love the idea of exploring unique parts of the city, they can help you get a wider experience.
In Belfast, you will find Titanic Belfast. Titanic was built in Belfast, and you will be able to explore the ship’s history and more about the famous ship in the Titanic Quarter.
Other must-do things in Belfast include the Botanic Gardens with their Victorian glasshouses, and Belfast Castle and Gardens (although be aware the castle is not open to the public). If you are visiting Belfast as a family, then you have to take the kids to Belfast Zoo and the W5 Discovery Centre. They’ll love it!
Another great thing to do in Belfast is to take a black cab tour of the city to see some of the amazing murals. These were created to reflect some of the troubling times the city and Northern Ireland have experienced and are worth seeing.
Staying in hotels in the centre, or choosing self-catering options just outside of the city, you are likely to find something to suit the holiday you want and the budget that you have. Belfast is also an excellent starting point if you were wanting to explore other parts of Northern Ireland or embark on a road trip.
The Causeway Coastal route
If you are looking for adventure, then the Causeway Coastal route is the one to consider. It embodies everything about Northern Ireland that you will love.
Along the Causeway Coastal Route, you will be able to take in some of the best-loved destinations that we mention further in the article. But as a staycation option, it has to be mentioned.
Many people love the idea of doing a planned route for a road trip, and the Causeway Coastal route can give you some of the most scenic and breathtaking views that Northern Ireland has to offer, visiting places such as Country Antrim and Derry-Londonderry, as discussed in further detail below.
Whether you start or finish your Causeway Coastal route here at Derry-Londonderry, this is a beautiful city worthy of a visit when it comes to a staycation. There are few places that have such a history.
It is one of the only truly walled cities left in the UK. Explore the 400-year-old walls and experience Guildhall. The city itself is up and coming, with lots of fabulous restaurants and bars, so perfect for couples wanting to spend some time together. However, it is also a great location for children. There are several museums to visit, St Columb’s Cathedral, and crossing the Peace Bridge is a must.
Stepping beyond the walls, you are in Country Londonderry as an area, with plenty of countryside and things to do. Limavady is great to visit if you are staycationing in Derry, and at certain times of the year, you can visit a maize maze with kids, or go strawberry picking with them. Portstewart is great for cliff-top walks or strolls along sandy beaches. There is a great golf course at Portstewart and if you visit in mid-May, you might catch sight of the Northwest 200 motorcycle road races. Or choose to avoid them!
Going south from Belfast, you will find yourself in County Down. Here you will find stretches of stunning beaches, fantastic countryside to explore, castles to experience, and forest parks, stately homes and so much more.
One of the main attractions in County Down is Hillborough Castle and Gardens. This late 18th-century castle is a lovely place to visit that is suitable for the whole family to enjoy.
Newry is famous in the Republic of Ireland for its shopping opportunities, but you can also visit the Derrymore House and the Newry & Mourne Museum, which gives you an opportunity to learn about the history and archaeology of the area.
The county is also home to the Mourne Mountains with their stunning natural beauty. Find family-friendly walks as well as forest parks to explore. Bangor is also a great town to explore with a castle, museum, and marina.
For any golf lovers, there is the Royal County DownGolf Course, voted number 1 of the Top Links golf courses in the UK and Ireland (source).
County Down is a great location for a staycation and you will find so many things to see and do here. Accommodation-wise, this place is perfect for anyone who wants to stay in a hotel, go camping in the great outdoors, or even as a stop on a campervan tour.
Despite being Northern Ireland’s smallest county, Armagh packs a punch and is the one that arguably has the biggest heart.
Here you can explore an ancient pagan ceremonial site, believed to be the site where St Patrick chose to begin his mission to spread Christianity across Ireland. Navan Fort (Emain Macha) is one of the most important archaeological sites in Northern Ireland and is free to visit.
Armagh City is also worth visiting. There are two Cathedrals to visit, the Armagh County Museum, and the Armagh Robinson Library, founded in 1771, and the library which is home to a first edition of Gulliver’s Travels.
Nature lovers can experience the wildlife on long walks and hikes, and visit Lough Neagh which is the largest lake on the island of Ireland, and the largest freshwater lake in Britain and Ireland.
Whether you are hoping for some time away to relax, or a more active staycation where you want to canoe or head out on walking trails, County Armagh is one of the locations that could satisfy all interests.
While we may have already mentioned one of the big highlights of Country Antrim the city of Belfast, there is so much more to this region, so it is worthwhile considering it as a staycation location for your holiday or weekend getaway.
Whether you explore the 400-year-old grounds of Antrim Castle or exploring the walled garden of Glenarm Castle, this place is perfect for anyone who loves to be taken back in history. You can also enjoy a visit to the clifftop Dunluce Castle or the fantastic Carrickfergus Castle, one of the best to visit in Northern Ireland.
No visit to Northern Ireland would be complete without visiting the Giant’s Causeway, located in County Antrim. These famous rock formations attract thousands of visitors every year. Just further along the coast is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, swaying 30m above the rocks and sea below. Will you be brave enough to cross it?
Much of the Causeway Coastal Route lies within County Antrim and is a great road trip to take in this part of Ireland.
County Antrim is also home to many filming locations for the TV series, Game of Thrones, including the Dark Hedges, Ballintoy Harbour, and Larrybane Quarry.
If Antrim has piqued your interest, read this post about the best things to do in Antrim to find out more that the county has to offer visitors.
Hopefully, this has given you plenty of inspiration for finding your perfect staycation location in Northern Island. Whether you choose a city break in Derry or Belfast, or decide to find Game of Thrones places, or simply want to enjoy nature, Northern Ireland has it all for your next staycation in the UK or Ireland.