Belfast is an incredible city to explore, but sometimes it’s fun to get out and discover a new area. It’s an excellent base for adventures around Northern Ireland, and there are many day trips from Belfast to go on.
While there are so many things to do in Belfast itself, you can extend your trip by using the city as a base while you go out for a day or two to a surrounding area. From famous Irish landmarks to new cities waiting to be explored, you’ll love taking a Belfast day trip.
Here are 15 places in Ireland that you’ll want to check out for your next adventure!
15 Day Trips From Belfast to Explore
Here are some of the best day trips that you can take from Belfast. It’s easiest to have your own car so you can go to some of these places, so make sure to read my tips for driving in Ireland first.
Worried about not having a rental car? Check out my guide on how to get around Ireland without a car.
1. The Giant’s Causeway
Giant’s Causeway is one of the most popular day trips from Belfast. This geological wonder is Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site and is made up of around 40,000 basalt columns along the Northern Irish coast. It’s also an ideal thing to do with kids in Belfast if you’re staying nearby.
According to local legend, the columns formed when Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill and a Scottish giant named Benandonner faced off in a battle.
It is believed that they tore up pieces of the Antrim coastline and threw them into the Irish Sea. They wanted to build a road to meet each other to engage in battle, hence the name Giant’s Causeway. It is, however, a result of an underwater volcanic eruption.
How to Get to Giant’s Causeway
Giant’s Causeway is 60 miles (96 km) away from Belfast, and it will take you an hour without traffic to get there by car. It makes for the perfect day tour from Belfast, as you can leave early in the morning and be back before dark.
If you prefer not to drive, there is public transport available. You can take a bus directly from Belfast, which will take about 90 minutes.
Things to Do Near Giant’s Causeway
This area is filled with myths and legends. Some of the other places you can visit include the Wishing Chair, Camel’s Back, and Giant’s Boot.
You can also embark on a whiskey tasting tour at the Old Bushmills Distillery. It is believed to be the oldest whiskey distillery in the world, dating back 400 years.
Then there’s also the Giant’s Causeway & Bushmill Railway, where you can learn more about the area’s old tramway, which opened in 1883. It was the first electric tramway in the world and operated for over 65 years.
If you’ve got kids, you can take them to the Causeway Fun Farm for a day filled with exciting activities.
Alternatively, you could opt for a guided tour to Giant’s Causeway in an air-conditioned tour van.
Dublin is the dynamic capital of the Republic of Ireland. The best way to discover both Irish capitals is with a day trip from Belfast to Dublin, especially if you’re visiting this part of the world for the first time.
Both capitals are synonymous with a dark period in Irish history known as “The Troubles” but have since worked hard to move forward and reinvent themselves.
How to Get to Dublin
You can easily drive from Belfast to Dublin, as the distance between the two cities is just 105 miles (168 km). It should take you just under two hours to get there without traffic.
There are also regular train and bus services between the two cities, and the journey lasts around 2 hours by both services.
Things to Do in Dublin
There is lots to see and do in Dublin in just one day. One thing you should do when visiting Dublin is to look in at one of the local Dublin pubs and try out some local food. Dublin is also home to the world-renowned Irish stout Guinness, so if you enjoy beer, be sure to give it a try.
You can also visit the Guinness Storehouse to learn more about the history of this iconic Irish Beer. Some of Dublin’s other attractions worth seeing include the Dublin Castle, Trinity College Library, and Temple Bar.
Be sure to walk across the Ha’Penny Bridge, which spans the River Liffey. If you want to have some fun, you can kayak under the bridge.
3. Carrick-A-Rede Bridge
If you’re looking for something to get your adrenaline pumping, then visit the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, one of the more famous landmarks in Ireland. This is also one of the best drives in Ireland when you come from Belfast.
The Carrick-a-Rede is a rope suspension bridge that hangs 98 feet above a rock cliff. A fun fact about Ireland is it was originally built in 1755 by fishermen, and the bridge spans 65 feet from the mainland to the small island of Carrick-a-Rede.
How to Get to the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge from Belfast
The distance from Belfast to the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge is only 58 miles (93 km), and the journey will take you about an hour by car. If you’re looking for a more scenic option, you can take a 3-hour bus or train ride, which will take you through County Antrim.
Things to Do Near Carrick-a-Rede Bridge
Giant’s Causeway is a short 15-minute drive away from the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge. You can also visit the Ballintoy Harbour, Dunseverick Castle, and Whitepark Bay Bridge.
You can also take the Causeway Coastal Route and stop at the Kinbane and Dunluce Castles.
This Northern Ireland tour will also take you here if you don’t have a car.
4. The Dark Hedges
Whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not, no trip to Northern Ireland would be complete without visiting the Dark Hedges.
It’s one of 25 GOT filming locations in Northern Ireland. This mystical avenue is lined with beech trees that form a tunnel down Bregagh Road.
How to Get to the Dark Hedges from Belfast
The drive from Belfast to the Dark Hedges is a short one, as the distance between the two places is only 49 miles (78 km) and should take you about an hour.
Alternatively, you can take a train from Belfast to Ballymoney Station, which will take about 90 minutes. You’ll then need to take a taxi from the station to the Dark Hedges, which will take another 10 minutes.
Things to Do Near the Dark Hedges
Many tours combine a tour of the Dark Hedges with a visit to the Giant’s Causeway. If you’re not on a tour, you can still visit the Causeways along with the Ballintoy Harbour, Cushendun Caves, and Murlough Bay.
After a long day of exploring the area, you can stop at Joey’s Bar for a pint of beer and a traditional Irish pub meal.
You can also choose to go on a Game of Thrones tour if you’d prefer to have someone else drive you.
Looking to take a scenic drive from Northern Ireland to its Irish neighbor? Then take a trip down to the beautiful County of Donegal.
Donegal sits at the mouth of the River Eske. It is known for having the most fantastic scenery on the island, with rolling hills, stunning beaches, and dramatic cliffs.
How to Get to Donegal from Belfast
There are two ways to get to the town of Donegal, which is about 108 miles (173 km) from Belfast. You can travel by car or bus, both of which will take you about 2 hours.
Things to Do in Donegal
Donegal is filled with hidden gems and popular tourist attractions. The famous Donegal Castle was built right in the town center in 1474.
To experience the area’s true beauty, I recommend visiting the Glenveagh National Park and Malin Point. Another must-see attraction in Donegal is the Doon Fort, which is on an island in the center of Loughadoon.
There are also a number of beautiful beaches in the area that you can visit, like Silver Strand Beach. Check out my guide on unique things to do in Donegal for more in-depth information.
Carrickfergus is a charming town that dates back to the middle ages and is located on the north shore of the Belfast Lough.
It is home to the Carrickfergus Castle, a Norman-style castle that was built in 1177. It helped protect the town, which was the largest town in the area.
How to Get to Carrickfergus from Belfast
Belfast to Carrickfergus is one of the shortest day trips, as the distance between the two places is only 12 miles (19 km), and the drive will take you about 30 minutes.
There’s a train from Belfast to Carrickfergus, which should get you there in about 20 minutes. There’s also a bus service, which should get you there in about 30 minutes.
Things to Do in Carrickfergus
While visiting the Carrickfergus Castle is a must, you can also check out the Marine Gardens, Carrickfergus Museum, and Civic Center.
Be sure to visit the beautiful Belfast Lough and check out the Blackhead Lighthouse as well. You can also take a stroll along Crawfordsburn Beach.
7. Dunluce Castle
A must-see attraction when visiting Northern Ireland is the Dunluce Castle. This historic castle dates back to the early 1500s and is situated on top of a rugged cliff, and Game of Thrones fans might also recognize it as the House of Greyjoy.
How to Get to Dunluce Castle from Belfast
The distance from Dunluce Castle to Belfast is about 58 miles (93 km). If you plan on driving there, the trip should take you around 70 minutes. You can also take a train or bus to the castle from Belfast, which should take about 2 hours.
Things to Do Near Dunluce Castle
The Old Bushmills Distillery, Royal Portrush Golf Club, and Giant’s Causeway are all a short drive away from Dunluce Castle, making it one of the best day trips from Belfast.
You can also spend the day soaking up the sun at the Portrush Whiterocks Beach and visit the Dark Hedges on your way back.
No day trip from Belfast would be complete without stopping in Derry. It is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and is situated along the River Foyle.
Derry is a vibrant city that has a rich history. The town is best known for its 17th-century city walls, which are still intact and have seven gates leading into the city center.
How to Get to Derry from Belfast
The distance between the two cities is about 70 miles (112 km), and it should take about 90 minutes to get there by car. There are also direct train and bus services between the cities, and the journey will take about 2 hours.
Things to Do in Derry
In Derry, you can stroll along the cobblestone streets and admire the modern murals created by street artists. You’ll find a mix of craft shops, restaurants, and pubs inside this quirky village.
If you enjoy history, check out the Museum of Free Derry, which delves into the city’s rough past during The Troubles. You can also walk across the Peace Bridge and visit the Derry Craft Village in the city center.
9. The Gobbins Cliff Path
Another popular day trip from Belfast is the Gobbins Cliff Path. It is one of the most picturesque locations in Northern Ireland and part of the Causeway Coastal Route.
How to Get to the Gobbins Cliff Path
The Gobbins Cliff Path is only 18 miles (28 km) away from Belfast, and it takes about 30 minutes to get there.
You can also take a train or bus to Ballycarry Village and then take a taxi from there to the Gobbins Visitor Center. The whole journey should take about 40 minutes.
Things to Do Near the Gobbins Cliff Path
Once you get to Gobbins, you can take a guided tour of the area’s intricately designed suspension bridges, caves, and tunnels. Alternatively, you could just hike around the area by yourself and enjoy the dramatic scenery surrounding you.
10. Royal Portrush Golf Club
There’s no better place to enjoy a game of golf than at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim.
Established in 1888, it boasts one of the most challenging golf courses in the world. Although it is a private golf club, it is open to visitors who book in advance.
How to Get to the Royal Portrush Golf Club
The Royal Portrush Golf Club is about 58 miles (93 km) from Belfast and an ideal day trip from Belfast if you love golfing. The scenic drive will take you about 70 minutes.
Things to Do Near Royal Portrush Golf Club
Before or after a round of golf, you can take some time to visit Dunluce Castle, which is a short drive from the golf club. You could also admire the wonderful views of County Antrim from the Rinagree Coastal Park or Portrush Whiterocks Beach.
11. Mourne Mountains
For one of the most amazing day trips around Northern Ireland, take a scenic drive to the Mourne Mountains. This stunning mountain range is nestled along the marvelous coastline of County Down, and it is home to Northern Ireland’s tallest mountain, the 2,700-feet high Slieve Donard.
How to Get to Mourne Mountains
The Mourne Mountains are about 42 miles (67 km) away from Belfast, and a trip by car should take about an hour, depending on traffic.
Things to Do Near Mourne Mountains
Once you reach the Mourne Mountains, you can hike up the Slieve Donard summit. It might be a bit tricky, but you’ll be rewarded with the best panoramic views of the Belfast Lough, Dublin Bay, and the Isle of Man.
You can visit the nearby Tollymore Forest Park to enjoy activities like horse-riding. After a long hike, you can also cool off at one of three beaches in the Mourne Mountains area. If you’re thirsty, stop off at the Mourne Mountains Distillery.
12. Causeway Coastal Route
One way to experience the highlights of Northern Ireland is to take the scenic Causeway Coastal Route. You can make multiple stops along the way and discover the best that the island has to offer.
How to Get Around the Causeway Coastal Route
The Causeway Coastal Route runs for about 200 miles (321 km) around the Northern Irish coastline from Belfast down to Derry.
You can also arrange a private tour or go on a full-day group tour to enjoy the route’s highlights.
Things to Do Along the Causeway Coastal Route
Some places where you can stop along this Northern Ireland route include Giant’s Causeway, The Dark Hedge, Carrickfergus Castle, and Bushmills Distillery.
You can also enjoy fishing, hiking, and coasteering. If you enjoy being on the water, you can enjoy a day cruise, sea kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding.
13. The Glens of Antrim
The Glens of Antrim is home to nine picturesque valleys and one of the most beautiful day trips from Belfast. While you could spend an entire week discovering the valleys, there is one that stands out above the rest: Glenariff Valley.
How to Get to the Glens of Antrim
The Glens of Antrim are about 42 miles (67 km) from Belfast, so it should take about an hour to get there by car, which is the best way.
You can also take a bus or train to Cushendun Square and take a further taxi. The journey by public transport will take just under three hours.
Things to Do in the Glens of Antrim
The Glenariff Forest Park is a must-visit, and it offers four square miles of dense forest with lakes and picnic areas. There are also numerous hiking trails, but the most beautiful is the Waterfall Walkway, which leads to a gorgeous waterfall at the end of the path.
For another quick day trip, visit the neighboring town of Lisburn. The town has a fascinating history as it was one of the leading producers of linen in the 18th century.
How to Get to Lisburn from Belfast
Lisburn is only 9 miles (14 km) from Belfast. You can quickly drive there, or take a bus or train directly to the town center, and it should take you between 20 and 35 minutes to get there.
Things to Do in Lisburn
There are quite a few things you can do in Lisburn. Get to know more about the town’s history at the Irish Linens Center and Lisburn Museum. You can also visit Hillsborough Forest Park and Hillsborough Castle.
15. Lough Neagh
To escape the chaos of the city, head over to the peaceful Lough Neagh area. It’s the largest lake in the British Isles, and there’s plenty to do in the area. Lough Neagh has it all, from historical buildings to wildlife attractions and forest parks.
How to Get to Lough Neagh
Lough Neagh is about 19 (30 km) miles from Belfast. It will take you about 30 minutes to get there by car or 45 minutes by train or bus.
Things to Do Near Lough Neagh
You can enjoy many water activities, including boat tours, kayaking, and fishing. You can also visit the Antrim Castle Gardens and Shane’s Castle.
Where to Stay After Belfast Day Trips
After your day of exploring, you’ll need somewhere to stay. I have a complete list of places to stay in Belfast, but here are a few recommendations:
- Ibis Hotel is in the middle of the bustling Central District so you’ll be close to shops, restaurants, and night life. (rates start at €116 per night)
- Jurys Inn is where I last stayed when I was in Belfast and I loved how affordable it was while providing free breakfast that I could grab and go. (rates start at €88 per night)
- Titanic Hotel Belfast is a fun place to stay if you love the Titanic, as you’re near the musem and shipyard. (rates start at €290 per night)
Which one of these day trips from Belfast are you looking forward to the most?