Northern Ireland Three Day

 

Northern Ireland: Three-Day Tour

Start: Newry  Finish: Newry

Recommended Length: 3 days

Total distance:  462.5km / 287mls

Day One: Newry to Bangor

Distance: 125.5km, 78 mls

1  Follow the road beside the old ship canal, past Narrow Water Castle to Warrenpoint and the pretty Rostrevor.

2  Turn here to take the B25 into the western Mournes, through Hilltown, an old smugglers’ village with umpteen pubs. Pat Kearney’s Big Stone (dolmen) is nearby, and you can continue on to steep Rathfriland with its many churches.

3  Take the A25 east to Drumena Cashel, which is an early Christian farmstead with underground passage (bring a torch!), then continue on to Castlewellan Forest Park for a walk around the pretty lake. 

4  Passing A24 junction (for Seaforde Butterfly House and Loughinisland churches) continue to Downpatrick, where you should take some time to explore the town before detouring a mile to Inch Abbey. 

5  Next, take the A22 through Killyleagh, past Castle Espie Bird Sanctuary (good for a tea break), Comber and Newtownards, to Ballycopeland windmill near Millisle, then to Donaghadee (with its lighthouse and Grace Neill’s pub) and Bangor.

Day Two: Bangor to Ballycastle

Distance: 129km, 80 mls

1  If you’ve time, spend a few hours at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum in Bangor.

2  Otherwise, as you pass Belfast City Airport, take the M3 flyover for great views of city’s riverside architecture. Then, take the M5/A2 along Belfast Lough to explore historic Carrickfergus. 

3  Detour to Islandmagee peninsula, with its outsized power station, wild Gobbins Cliffs and witchcraft history before continuing on to Larne. Or, alternatively, 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  Beyond Carnfunnock Country Park and Ballygalley, with its plantation castle of 1625 preserved as a hotel, the scenic road winds through pretty villages. 

5  At Waterfoot village, make a 12-mile detour (on the A43) to Glenariff Forest Park and return to the coast at Cushendall via Glenballyemon (on the B14). 

6  You can then stay with the A2 across the plateau or detour via steep minor roads (low gears!) to Torr Head and Murlough Bay.

7  Before you get to Fair Head, park, and walk to out to the spectacular headland.

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

Day Three: Ballycastle to Newry

Distance: 208km, 129 mls

1  Today there’s time to visit these coastal attractions: the swinging rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede (park at Larrybane, and allow 20 minutes to walk to the bridge, plus 20 more if you decide to cross it!), Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle. 

2  Then, take the B62, with Benvarden Garden off to the east at Dervock, to Ballymoney.

3  Now take the A26 on to Ballymena bypass (this town’s ECOS centre is a rewarding visit if you have time) and continue south, mostly on the A26, through Antrim and along Lough Neagh’s eastern shore to join the M1 at Moira.

4  Drive west to exit 15 to visit Armagh, Ireland’s Christian capital, and Emain Macha (Navan Fort), Ulster’s pagan capital until AD 332.

5  The A28 via Markethill is quickest route back to Newry.

 

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