Finishing our selection of historic places in the UK, our last stop is Northern Ireland. Here are some selected places, museums, routes and areas to discover. We hope you enjoy your trip to Belfast or wherever else you’re heading in Northern Ireland.
Giant’s Causeway (Causeway Driving Route)
Starting with the oldest and one of the most popular attractions in Northern Ireland is Giant’s Causeway. A geological marvel, the strange basalt columns stretch into the sea and run along 6km of coastline. They lie on what’s called the Antrim plateau, which is between Causeway Head and Benbane Head, North East of Londonderry. Formed 6o million years ago, the rocks are the result of erupting lava flowing into the sea. They were discovered in 1693 and in the 1960s became a part of the National Trust. Later in 1986, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This particular site is made all the better when you have your own car. It is categorised as one of the prettiest coastal drives on the planet. Breeze past the sea, quaint villages, castles, lookouts, and of course the columns. The suggested route is from Belfast to Derry through the nine Glens of Antrim. It can take up to 5 days. Along the route, you will see Carrickfergus Castle, Dunluce Castle, and Torr Head. Pick your section or do the whole thing, either way, it’s worth the trip.
Nearby Giant’s Causeway is the culturally significant city of Derry. Surrounded by still-standing walls, built hundreds of years ago. As a city once under siege you can walk the magnificent walls built in the 17th Century. Not only does it give amazing views of the city but you can see cannons, watchtowers, and battlements. Be sure to check out the famous Siege Museum too near Craigavon Bridge. It offers in detail the history of the Jacobian army’s attack on Derry.
For some modern history do a walking tour and discover some of the city’s many street art murals. An important place in recent historic events like The Troubles, Derry’s open-air street art often depicts these. Once you have seen the murals step all the way back in time once again. In Derry is the famous Craft Village. This section looks just as it did in the 18th Century selling traditional food, crafts, and books. Find it on Sackville Street just by Peace Bridge.
We will give a run-down of the best historical sites around Belfast. However, we felt the Titanic and its museum was deserving of a spot. With this incredible interactive museum opening again soon (27th May) now is the perfect time to plan a trip. RMS Titanic was the largest ship ever built in its time in the dockyards of Belfast. It tragically sunk in the Atlantic Ocean on her maiden voyage in 1912 after striking an iceberg.
At the Titanic Belfast museum, you can learn about this engineering and nautical feat of the early 20th Century. This includes her tragic demise. Explore the docks, enter cabins, see some of the recovered artifacts and see the depths of the ocean. You can even enjoy afternoon tea and go aboard the SS Nomadic. This was the Titanic’s original tender ship, and the last remaining White Star Line vessel.
There is so much to see and do in Belfast it warrants its own article. However, we will do our best to highlight some of the best historical sites around Belfast. Surrounded by the stunning Titanic Memorial Gardens is the Belfast City Hall. It is an incredibly beautiful building, inside are guided tours. In fact, the building is lit up over fifty times a year! If you have some energy do a hike up Cave Hill. Discover Belfast Castle as well as natural caves that inspired Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
After a lovely hike, you should set out to explore the rich history of the Cathedral Quarter. Situated around the famous Saint Anne’s Cathedral, in itself is a wonderful place to visit, you’ll find the area. It boasts some of the best nightlife, quaint shops. You’ll also find the best pint of Guinness you ever had. Head to the Duke of York for a refreshing pint of the stuff. Finally, for those with a strong stomach, visit the Crumlin Road Goal. It’s a surviving Victorian Prison that now offers tours of its grim history of hangings.
Perhaps more a beautiful driving route than anything, the Ards Peninsula is a 32 km stretch along the Irish Sea. Of course, we wouldn’t include it if there weren’t significant stops along the way. Between Donhagdee and Cloughy you will hug the coast and pass picturesque seaside towns like Ballywater and Ballyhalbert. All these places are like a trip through time. Most of these quaint little towns dating back to the 17th Century, and some even serving as ports and airfields during WWII.
From Ballywater it is only ten minutes in the car to the exquisite 18th Century estate, Mount Stewart House. Protected by the National Trust this beautiful property and its surrounding gardens make for some incredible walks. It is currently re-opening its tea rooms and Horse Box area. There are five miles of trails and sites to explore. There is also the nearby historic town of Killyleagh with its 17th Century Hilltop Castle. The naturalist Hans Sloane was born here and his collection was the basis of the British Museum.