11 day trips within an hour of Belfast that feel like a different world

11 day trips within an hour of Belfast that feel like a different world
11 day trips within an hour of Belfast that feel like a different world

While Game of Thrones has made stunning Northern Irish locations like Ballymoney and the Giant’s Causeway more enticing than ever before to day-trippers, there are some equally beautiful spots much closer to Belfast city centre.

Here are 11 places an hour or less outside of the city that will give you a welcome break from the urban grind.

Bangor

Just half an hour’s drive east of Belfast, Bangor is a large seaside town with plenty of picturesque seafront to wander in good weather, and its own castle and abbey to explore if it rains.

Antrim

Antrim Castle and its stunning gardens are one of the main draws of this town, 25 minutes from Belfast, and on the banks of the Six Mile Water.

Keen hikers can walk through peaceful woodland on the Mill Race Trail from Antrim, up to Shakey Bridge and then back.

Carrickfergus

Located half an hour north of Belfast, along the coast, Carrickfergus is County Antrim’s oldest town, and has the 800 year old castle to prove it.

Explore the striking beach-side castle to learn more about the town’s history, or soak up the atmosphere at the dock which, on a sunny day, isn’t a million miles away from a European marina.

850 metre-high Slieve Donard is the tallest peak in Northern Ireland (Photo: Shutterstock)
850 metre-high Slieve Donard is the tallest peak in Northern Ireland (Photo: Shutterstock)

 

Donaghadee

Best known for its lighthouse and harbour with its ‘curving quay’, the small town of Donaghadee (45 minutes from Belfast) is the place to go for sweeping sea views and stunning sunsets.

Carnlough

Drive an hour north to Carnlough, and enjoy the gentle mile walk on an old limestone railway track to Cranny Falls.

Magical all year round, the falls can feel distinctly tropical on a warm and sunny day.

Bay boat tours are also available for anyone who wants to see the area by sea.

Ballygalley

The peaceful village of Ballygalley and the nearby 191 hectare Carnfunnock Country Park lie 40 minutes north of Belfast, and are the perfect destination for a spot of quiet reflection.

Newcastle

An hour south of the capital, Newcastle is a small seaside town nestled at the foot of the 850 metre-high Slieve Donard – the tallest peak in Northern Ireland.

Make sure to swing past the beautiful Victorian Slieve Donard Hotel before you start your hike up the mountain. You’ll be rewarded with some breathtaking views.

Lough Neagh  is the largest lake by area in the British Isles (Photo: Shutterstock)
Lough Neagh  is the largest lake by area in the British Isles (Photo: Shutterstock)

 

 

Lough Neagh

West of Belfast, Lough Neagh  is the largest lake by area in the British Isles, and supplies 40 per cent of Northern Ireland’s water.

A 40 minute drive from the city will take you to eastern shores of the lake, which – for any adventurers – is a 113 mile circuit all the way around.

On a bright day, though, it’s just as satisfying to settle down with a picnic and enjoy the scenery.

 

Newtownards

Impressive 19th century house and garden, Mount Stewart, can be found a few miles outside the town of Newtownards, which will take you around 40 minutes to drive to from the city.

Explore the magnificent Neoclassical residence, as well as its formal gardens and nearby nature trails, before fuelling up in the on-site tea room.

Bellaghy

Birthplace of poet Seamus Heaney, Bellaghy is an hour north-west of the capital.

A small, rural village, the area is great for those looking to immerse themselves in nature. From the nearby Lough Beg nature reserve to the haunting Church Island, this place couldn’t feel further away from built-up Belfast.

Killough

With a memorable main street flanked by sycamore trees, Killough is a charming village with several beaches and historic ruins close by.

The mysterious Ballynoe Stone Circle (which is thought to date back to the late Neolithic and earlier Bronze Age period) is particularly intriguing, and well worth the hour’s trip from Belfast.