Northern Ireland Seven Day

 

Northern Ireland: Seven-Day Tour

Start: Belfast  Finish: Belfast

Recommended Length: 7 days

Total distance:  628km / 390mls

Day One: Belfast to Ballycastle

Distance: 105km, 65mls

1  Head north on the M5 past Cave Hill’s famous profile and onto the A2 through Carrickfergus, where you can stop to have a look at the 12th-century Norman castle.  

2   At the Kilroot power station, turn north to Glenoe, which has both scenic waterfalls and an excellent ice cream parlour called Maud’s. 

3   Take the scenic upper road towards Larne, stopping off along the way to enjoy the splendid panoramas. The famous Antrim Coast Road runs through Glenarm, Carnlough and Cushendall, all of which make great stops, and passes close to Layd Church, Ossian’s Grave and Cushendun. 

4  You can then stay with the A2 across the plateau or detour via steep minor roads to Torr Head and Murlough Bay.

5  Before you get to Fair Head, park the car and walk to out to the spectacular headland to breathe in that wonderful crisp, clean air.

6  At Bonamargy Friary, you’re very nearly in Ballycastle, so make sure to get in a visit to the spectacular Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge before the sun sets.

Day Two: Ballycastle to Coleraine

Distance: 40km, 25mls

1  If you didn’t get to see the rope bridge on day one, make sure to check it out first thing. Then, if your plan is flexible, take a morning ferry to Rathlin, which takes about 45 minutes crossing time. 

2  Otherwise stay with the coast road (B15), passing Kinbane Head and Larrybane, which has the best access to Carrick-a-Rede.

3  Take the twisting lane down to Ballintoy, and on to Whitepark Bay and “Ireland’s smallest church” at Portbraddan.

4  Spend the rest of the day exploring the exceptional natural wonder of the Giant’s Causeway and the famous Bushmills whiskey village.

5  Dunluce Castle is a rewarding visit, and is particularly romantic at sunset. Overnight around the resorts of Portrush, Portstewart or Coleraine, which is a pleasant university town.

Day Three: Coleraine to Londonderry

Distance: 55km, 34 mls

1  Another low-mileage day. Enjoy golf on the magnificent links course at Portrush or feel the sand between your toes on beach walks.

2  Continue west to Castlerock, past the thatched Hezlett House, which was built without foundations on a bare rock in 1690.

3  Stop at Downhill to walk up to the fantastic Mussenden Temple, perched on the edge of a cliff since 1785. 

4  Further west lies Magilligan Strand, seven miles of golden sand with a national nature reserve and the strange Martello Tower at the point. 

5  From Downhill take the scenic route over Binevenagh Mountain into Limavady for lunch, on through two London companies villages – Ballykelly (built by Fishmongers’ Company) and Eglinton (Grocers’ Company).

6  End the day in Londonderry, capital of the North West.

Day Four: Londonderry to Kesh

Distance: 92km, 57 mls

1  Spend the first part of the day exploring the Londonderry’s historic Cathedral Quarter and walk along the fantastic City Walls, while admiring the fine city architecture and public art. 

2  Step into St Columb’s Cathedral Chapterhouse and Tower Museum before heading onto the A5 to Strabane, noted for its American connections. Next continue on to Sion Mills, a model linen village with exotic architecture, where linen yarn is still spun.

3  Continue on the A5 beside the sparkling Strule River through Newtownstewart, where you can see a 17th-century castle, and past the twin towers of the 14th-century Gaelic castle. 

4  Visit the Ulster-American Folk Park near Omagh then travel via the A32 to Irvinestown and on to the lovely lakes.

Day Five: Kesh to Enniskillen

Distance: 72km, 45mls

1  The first stop of the day is Belleek via the A47 and Boa Island, where you can stop to see enigmatic Janus figures at Caldragh. 

2  After touring Belleek Pottery, take the A46 along south shore of Lower Lough Erne, stopping at the ruined Tully Castle with its delightful formal garden. 

3  Take a detour to the Lough Navar Forest viewpoint (entrance opposite Correl Glen) to see entire Fermanagh Lakelands spread out below. 

4  If you like stately homes, there are two magnificent ones near Enniskillen – Castle Coole and Florence Court, but don’t miss the Devenish and White Island monastic sites, both of which are easily reached by public ferry.

5  If you’ve time, fit in an underground boat trip to the Marble Arch Caves before spending the night in Enniskillen. 

Day Six: Enniskillen to Newcastle

Distance: 167km, 104mls

1  Say goodbye to the lakes and head east through the characterful Clogher Valley villages. Soon the A4 becomes the M1. 

2  Take exit 15 to Armagh and explore this lovely city on foot making sure to take in the cathedral, the museums and the observatory. Complete your Armagh experience with a visit to nearby Navan Fort, capital of prehistoric Ulster. 

3  Now the mountains of the southeast beckon. Passing north of the great bulk of myth-wreathed Slieve Gullion, head for Newry City, and along scenic A2 into the Kingdom of Mourne, which has its “capital” at the lively fishing port of Kilkeel. 

4  If time allows, a turn on to the B27 leads quickly into glorious high Mourne country and Silent Valley reservoirs. 

5  Staying with the A2, after Annalong and Bloody Bridge you reach Newcastle.

Day Seven: Newcastle to Belfast

Distance: 97km, 60 mls

1  Take your pick of two forest parks: Tollymore has some amazing garden architecture, while Castewellan has a wonderful natural arboretum. If there’s time, you could always do both. 

2  Head north on the A2, past Slidderyford dolmen and Dundrum Castle.

3  At Clough stay on A2 to Ardglass, known for its one big and six small castles. Then take the B1 to see St Patrick’s Grave at Downpatrick.

4  Head for Strangford village, past Struell Wells, Saul and Raholp churches – all of which have strong St Patrick connections. Make sure to allow 10 mins to walk up Slieve Patrick to the holy statue of St Patrick before boarding Strangford car ferry, which runs every 30 minutes, to Portaferry with a good aquarium and castle.

5  Take the A20 passing Grey Abbey and Mount Stewart, to Newtownards and on to Belfast.

 

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