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3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

Melbourne, Australia
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3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

Hi everyone

A friend and I are fulfilling a lifelong dream of spending 3 weeks in Ireland during Feb/March, hiring a car and seeing where the road takes us. We know we are going to be there during a pretty cold/wet/dark time but are adventurous enough to find fun things to do no matter what the weather.

We have both been before, but only saw the south of Ireland and did the typical tours - so didn't really get to experience the essence of Ireland. This time we just want to chill out, get to know some locals, and really experience the beauty of the country we both fell in love with.

We fly into Dublin, will stay a night to recuperate, and pick up the rental car the next day. We'd like to head straight up to Belfast - not sure how long we'll stay - depends on how much fun we have!!! We are going to take the whole trip as it comes - stay places we love longer, move on from places that don't quite hit the spot.

We would love some ideas on what to do in the North (in the city and around the country)- especially as neither of us got to see/experience it last time we were there. We don't want to do too much typical touristy stuff, but will fit in a trip to the Giant's Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge.

We basically want to enjoy the country for what it is - beautiful scenery, fabulous and fun locals, incredible history. We'd love your thoughts on what we should see/do or definitely not miss. We will hit Belfast on a Tuesday so we're not sure if we'll still be around for the weekend to go out, so suggestions for other towns that would be great for a drink, great music and a dance (not nightclubs!).

We'd love your thoughts guys. I hope I've provided enough information for a few suggestions of things to do! If not - let me know what else will be helpful. We're pretty flexible - we've always dreamed of hitting the road and seeing where life takes us. Ireland is the place we've decided we'd most love to have this adventure!!!

Trace

Scunthorpe, United...
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1. Re: 3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

A few thoughts about Northern Ireland to get you started...I've stuck to the coastal route but there is also some great scnery inland with the Mountains of Mourne and the Sperrins.

Are you interested in history and how are grandparents lived? If so you might enjoy the Ulster Folk Museum at Cultra a few miles from Belfast.

http://www.nmni.com/uftm

There is a reconstructed town scene with houses and shops and also several different farmhouses. You can easily spend a whole day here. Try and choose a dry day as you could get wet walking around the site. Pictures of our trip can be found here:

…mac.com/wasleys/…index.html

Across the road is the transport section with interesting displays on Irish Railways and lots of old cars, buses etc.

From Belfast amble up the coast road through Larne (don't stop). There are lots of small towns and villages to explore. The Antrim Glens are delightful. Drive up Glenariff to the car park. The waterfall walk is great fun.

If the weather is good and you feel adventurous take the unclassified round round Torr Head and Murlough Bay. There are nice walks round here. The road is narrow and winding, so drive slowly and carefully. The views across to Scotland on a clear day are superb.

Then drive along the north coast. Carrick a Rede bridge won't be up when you visit, but there are some great tramping beaches and small fishing villages to explore. The Giant's Causeway is the highlight of this section of the coast. Visit at low tide to see it at it's best. There are 2 walks. Drop down the main track for the causeway or else take the footpath up onto the cliff for an exhilarating walk along the cliffs looking down on the causeway. You can drop down past the 'Organ Pipes' to the causeway.

The ruins of Dunluce Castle are worth a stop. I'm not sure whether the site is open when you are there but if not there are good views from the car park.

Stop and explore the Downhill Estate. Walk across the fields to the remains of the mansion and then continue to the cliff edge for the view. The Mussenden Temple will probably be shut.

nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-downhillestate

http://www.walkni.com/Walk.aspx?ID=150

There are assorted pictures here:

…mac.com/wasleys/…index.html

…mac.com/wasleys/ireland_n/PhotoAlbum100.html

…mac.com/wasleys/ireland_n/PhotoAlbum86.html

You are then into Donegal and the Inishowen Peninsula with all its antiquities. There is a lovely drive round this called the Inishowen 100. This can easily be done from Derry as a day trip, or on your way south r west.

http://www.visitinishowen.com/

And pictures of our wet day round there:

…mac.com/wasleys/ireland_w/PhotoAlbum89.html

Do try and find the magnificent stone ring fort of Grianan of Aileach

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grian%C3%A1n_of_Aileach

…wikimedia.org/wiki/…Grainan_of_aileach.jpg

And now you are in glorious Donegal. As I mentioned in response to your post on the Ireland forum you might want to consider spending some time exploring this area.

Eleanor

Melbourne, Australia
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2. Re: 3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

Wow Eleanor. I didn't check this out when you posted but I'm so glad I have now! How fabulous, thank you!!!

After yours (and others) comments I am trying to add an extra day or two in the north... Belfast, Derry, Donegal and Sligo.

The only infuriating thing is wanting to see it all... but also wanting to be able to take our time with the things we do see. Looks like another trip/s will be in order.

Tracey :o)

North Coast, N...
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3. Re: 3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

Hi Tracey

Great advice from Eleanor. I very much agree with what she says - spend some time in Belfast exploring - the red hop on/hop off tour is very good although a lot of people swear by the black taxi tours. Even if you do not want a night out in Belfast, pop over to the Crown Saloon (opposite Europa hotel) for a drink in a landmark building.

http://www.crownbar.com/

The coast road (follow the brown Causeway coastal route signs from Belfast) will guide you right around the coast and you then have the opportunity to stop wherever you feel. I also love Glenariff and the sleepy towns you encounter are lovely. The whole of the Glens area has lovely walks - many around waterfalls.

The good news is that the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge now has extended opening hours and should be open (weather permitting when you viist) although it may close mid-afternoon. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-carrickarede

Also worth doing is a stop at the Bushmills Inn in Bushmills - go to the bar and have a hot toddy by the fire in one of the little nooks.http://www.bushmillsinn.com/image-gallery.aspx

If you don't want to do the tour of the Distillery, this will be a welcome break on your trip!

As Eleanor says, when you are as far flung as Derry, head over to Donegal. I love this county - Inishowen is great (check out the Famine Centre and stroll along Doagh Island beach opposite itthttp://www.doaghfaminevillage.com/) and further inland around Glenveagh National Park is a stunning wilderness. Bleak and beautiful. Stop at Doon Rock on your way over. www.finnvalley.ie/places/doon/index.html.

Almost anywhere in Donegal is worth exploring - look for the brown heritage signs which are very common and you will find some point of interest. The Slieve League cliffs are very popular if you are heading south (and don't mind a very hilly car journey!).

If you want to spend more time in Northern Ireland, well off the beaten track are the amazing stone circles near Omagh. This could be combined with a trip to the excellent Ulster-American Folk Park

discovernorthernireland.com/Beaghmore-Stone-…

I hope that helps a little!

North Coast, N...
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4. Re: 3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

I also meant to add that the north coast (and Ireland in general) is famous for lovely sandy beaches. A very popular one is White Rocks. http://www.northantrim.com/white_rocks.htm Portstewart Strand is also worth visiting if you get a nice crisp day and are well wrapped up!

And even in winter, you should sample one of our favourite Northern Irish traditions - eating a 'poke' (ice-cream cone) in Porstewart or Portrush sitting in your car at the promenade and watching the waves crash around you. Seems odd but there you go!! It is almost a Sunday afternoon tradition! I would recommend Maud's Poor Bear ice-cream - creamy honeycomb ice-cream. There are Mauds shops in most towns and certainly in coastal areas.

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5. Re: 3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

It seems to me that the core of your trip would be following the coast A2 road between Belfast to Derry/Londonderry spending time in both cities and enjoying excellent coastal landscapes. This would include the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-rede.

The name of Northern Ireland's second city is of course a conudrum of Northern Ireland politics. The BBC usually manage to include both versions iin any news story. However the place is never called Nthn Ireland. Use either Northern Ireland in full or N Ireland or just NI. To say the North (with a capital N) is acceptable, but will indicate staunch nationist politics! Confused?

Melbourne, Australia
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6. Re: 3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

Drumlough... thank you. Was calling it that to be lazy... NI appeals to me then :o) Will remember this timely lesson.

Ponaire... best advice I could have received. Ice cream is my favourite food so will definitely be hunting out a poke at Maud's!!! :o) Sounds fabulous. (Thanks for the rest of the tips too!)

Tracey

Derry
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7. Re: 3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

Don't worry at all about the politics - that's part of the appeal and interest.

Being from Derry, I must second any suggestions to visit my city. You'll find it friendly, not too big and full of history and good craic! Have a look on derryvisitor.com to find out more.

Plus, the city is well placed for onward travel to or daytrips to Donegal/Sligo.

Hope this helps - feel free to ask anything.

Derry, United...
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8. Re: 3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

Hi there - speaking of ice cream - you need to try Mullins of Kilrea homemade icecream - addictive - not only have they the wee shop in Kilrea but you can get it on the Railway Road in Coleraine (down from the swimming pool) or on the Prom at Portstewart - cant belive no one even mentioned Portstewart to you - well worth a visit to eat ice cream from mullins or morellis and walk the prom - lovely. Glenveagh National Park is ok but it is in donegal try the rural ones in the north as well - try the Roe Valley Country Park in Limavady or the Ness Woods/Ervey Woods in Derry - Portglenone outside Ballymena/Ahoghill also has a nice forest park. The Wild Duck Inn, in Portglenone does good food and I think they have sessions on some nights. Looking for somewhere nice to stay try The Bushtown Hotel in Coleraine or a little bit of luxury at the Raddison in Limavady.

australia
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9. Re: 3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

Glad i chanced on this post as I was after the same info.

Ireland is the last leg of a 9 week trip, and it will be mainly for my children to meet my extended family in Donegal and Mayo, but also to see a bit of Ireland.

We will be coming from Glasgow in May, and more or less intend doing a circuit of Ireland, flying out of Dublin.

If we arrive in NI and make our way around the Antrim Coast to the Causeway, then to Donegal...how long is the route from say Belfast to Donegal??

The Antrim Coast route -sounds really interesting , but with 2 weeks only, can it be enjoyed in 1-2 days? For example if we arrive mid-morning in Belfast, could we hope to be in Donegal by the next evening?

Hard to get a handle on whether this is doable/enjoyable. Thanks!

Derry, United...
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10. Re: 3 weeks in Ireland Feb/March - suggestions for Nthn Ireland?

hi there if you are doing the antrim coast, you would be coming around towards Coleraine from there you can take the main Coleraine to Derry road and then just pop over into Donegal from there - much handier than going round the world for a short cut just to do Belfast to Donegal! Try the AAroutefinder website it will show you mileage between locations. Donegal is a huge county so it would depend on what particular part of Donegal you intend to visit. Let me know if you want anything specific and I will try to help you - also there is a car ferry from Magilligan in county Derry which is not far from Coleraine and it would take you across to Greencastle in County Donegal which is near Moville.

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