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Need suggestions for Northern Ireland bases for daytripping

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Nov 21st, 2013, 07:58 AM
  #1
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Need suggestions for Northern Ireland bases for daytripping

I'm just starting the research for our first trip to Northern Ireland, 2 to 3 weeks in Sept 2014. There is much less travel information here on Fodors about Northern Ireland than for the Republic of Ireland. Even my good friend Rick Steves isn't being very helpful at first glance

I've seen a vast range of comments about Belfast saying skip it entirely, do it as a day trip from Dublin (we will fly in and out of Dublin on this trip since we are using USAir) or stay two days and then move on. Even the green Michelin guide gives Belfast only 2 stars.

We've been to Dublin for 5 days on a previous trip so my plan was to take the bus to Belfast immediately after arriving at the Dublin airport and end our trip with two days in or around Dublin before flying home.

The must see that seems to be on every list is the Giant's Causeway. Surely there must be additional sights in Northern Ireland to use as a base for day trips. Places that come to mind are Derry/Londonderry and Enniskellin and the area around Castle Ward.

As first time visitors to Northern Ireland we are more interested in visiting castles, historic home and gardens and museums than taking hikes along the coastline. So I'd like to stay where we can take day trips that offer those sights.

How would you divide a 2 to 3 week trip using a rental car rather than public transportation? We prefer slow travel so does this amount of time seem a good decision for a first trip? Thanks for any comments or suggestions. Deborah
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Nov 21st, 2013, 09:26 AM
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ron
 
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Two to three weeks seems a long time for the 6 counties, particularly given that you don`t find Belfast compelling, and can`t find anything else that interests you.

Perhaps you should expand the scope beyond the 6 counties, certainly add Donegal and perhaps the other 4 counties of the Republic that border Northern Ireland (and maybe Sligo too, but you don`t like coast lines).
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Nov 21st, 2013, 09:27 AM
  #3
ESW
 
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I like your idea of three bases.
• NORTH around Colraine/Ballycastle area as this gives you easy access to the north coast.
• SOUTH WEST around Enniskillin
• SOUTH EAST around Castle Ward/Ards Peninsula (use the ferry between Portaferry and Strangford to get between the two).


Some ideas to get you going.

NORTH
Giant’s Causeway must be top of the list for any visitor to Northern Ireland. Plan your visit for low tide when more of the rocks are exposed. I know you aren’t too keen on coastal walks but the walk along the cliffs above the causeway is really one to consider. You look down on the rocks with the tourists looking like scurrying ants. The path drops you down past the organ pipes to the east of the causeway.

Close by is Bushmill’s Whiskey.

Further east along the coast are the ruins of Dunluce Castle, well worth exploring and even further east is Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge....

A bit further to drive are the Antrim glens. Glenarriff is the best and the waterfall walk is another must.

Don’t miss Benvarden Gardens near Ballymoney.

To the west is Mussenden Temple and the ruins of Downhill. Near by is Hezlett House (17thC thatched cottage), also worth considering

Have you thought about taking the ferry from Ballycastle for a day trip to Rathlin Island?



SOUTH WEST
Florence Court and Castle Coole are both worth visiting. There is the ruined Castle Balfour.

The Ulster American Folk Park just north of Omagh makes a very interesting day. You begin in ‘Ireland’ with reconstructed houses of families who emigrated to the United States. You then move to the port and board one of the ships which carried people across the Atlantic. A family had about 6’ square area below the deck to live and sleep. They didn’t know how long the crossing would take or where they would land. It all depended on the winds and weather. You leave the ship in ‘America’ and go into a general store where the store keepers will tell you he doesn’t understand a word you are saying.... There are reconstructed houses in America which make you realise some of the problems facing the settlers. Costumed interpreters in the houses know the history of the families and are entertaining and knowledgeable. If interested, you could easily spend a full day here.


SOUTH EAST
Castle Ward with its mixture of Gothic and classical style architecture and the delightful Mount Stewart are both worth visiting. The gardens at Mount Stewart are stunning. Other gardens you might like are Seaforde and Rowallen.

Spend a day exploring the Mourne Mountains.

If you like Folk Museums, then the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is a must. Again it has a wide range of different buildings from across ireland which have been reconstructed n the site. There is a town scene with shops, workshops, houses, school, bank, churches, bar. The country area has reconstructed farm buildings. Again there are very good costumed interpreters on site and it makes a fascinating visit - and thats before you go into the transport section. Again allow a full day.

In the middle, done on the way between south east and south west are The Argory, Ardress House and Springhill House and costume collection.
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Nov 21st, 2013, 11:39 AM
  #4
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ESW, Thank you, the information you provided will help me decide where to plan stays that will allow for a variety of day trips.

ron, indeed I would expect to find Belfast compelling because I like cities/towns more than bucolic countryside. My early research indicated that two days in Belfast would be sufficient. I thought that was too short of a stay for such a large city. With castles, gardens and a variety of museums, I expect to find much to enjoy in Northern Ireland. Thanks, Deborah
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Nov 27th, 2013, 02:48 PM
  #5
 
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Near Enniskillen, Upper and Lower Loch Erne are also worth visiting. I don't know if you'd be interested, but in a small cemetery on Boa Island in Loch Erne, there are two prehistoric statues, called the Janus statue and the Lusty Man. The Belleek porcelain factory is also on the shores of Loch Erne. In Sheelin, there is a lace museum that has a fascinating collection of Irish lace.

Florence Court is very beautiful.
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Nov 27th, 2013, 03:11 PM
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My daughter spent a semester at Queens University in Belfast and found lots of things to see and do there. When we visited her, we only had 2 days in Belfast, but I could have easily spent another 2 days there at the least. I can't remember which guidebooks I used for our trip, but I do recall finding more information that you seemed to have found. Try Lonely Planet and Rough Guide.
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Jan 2nd, 2014, 02:11 PM
  #7
 
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Belfast is a great city. Lots to do and see. Good night scene at weekends. I wouldn't skip it but it is definitely worth a few nights. Also Derry City. If you are not caught up in having one base, I would spend a few nights in Belfast then travel up to the Antrim coast and stay in Cushendall - from there explore the glens of Antrim. From there to Ballycastle exploring Bushmills, Giants Causeway, Rathlin Island.
Then over to Derry for a night or two and down to Enniskillen.
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Jan 2nd, 2014, 04:50 PM
  #8
 
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Near Derry I have a suggestion for a lovely guesthouse within daytrip distance of a great deal of NI, should you be interested.
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Aug 20th, 2016, 05:34 AM
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