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Northern Ireland

Block Island
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Northern Ireland

We are traveling to a wedding in Donegal in later September. Unfortunately we will not have too much extra time for traveling. We are a family of three (including an 11 year old boy who is a good traveller). Our thought is to spend our first night in Enniskillen leaving time to visit the caves the following morning before heading to the wedding. We will then have free time from Sunday afternoon until our flight out on Tuesday (Dublin). Our first thought is to go to the Giants Causeway on Sunday and then meander our way down to Dublin on Monday and stay in Dublin Monday night.

Our questions/stumbling blocks...there doesn't seem to be much info on meandering from Antrim to Dublin. We are definitely not interested in 4 hours of highway driving. Ideally we would drive for a couple of hours and then stop at an arts/historic or nature site for a couple of hours and then finish the trip to Dublin arriving for dinner. Also, it appears that Portstewart is more our speed but I can't find an inn that welcomes children. We are not interested in staying at a chain hotel and would like to be able to wander a bit in a town. We loved Doolin on a previous trip.

If the above isn't reasonable then our second thought is to either go back through Fermanagh or through the upper midlands. And we would welcome suggestions on that option as well.

Thanks for your advice!

Dingle, Ireland
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1. Re: Northern Ireland

How are you getting to Northern Ireland is my first thought. If you are flying into and out of Dublin there is no problem, but hiring a car in the North and dropping it in the Republic is expensive. Try to make sure you hire and drop in the same country.

Belfast
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2. Re: Northern Ireland

I would head over to Portstewart via Derry on Sunday,I am sure Ponaire will recommend a place to stay.

Next day you can visit the Causeway , Carrick-a-Rede, lunch in Ballycastle (OConnors) or Cushendall (Harrys) then drive the coast rd to Belfast, From Belfast take the M1 back to Dublin Airport 90 min drive. If you need a hotel close to the Airport check out The Dublin Airport Manor.

Belfast, United...
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3. Re: Northern Ireland

"there doesn't seem to be much info on meandering from Antrim to Dublin. We are definitely not interested in 4 hours of highway driving."

Take the ferry and your drive from Co Antrim to Co Donegal will cover less than 20 miles in Co L/Derry

http://www.loughfoyleferry.com/

North Coast, N...
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4. Re: Northern Ireland

Portstewart has less selection of accommodation than other local towns. 2 of the top B&Bs with seaviews and in a lovely setting would be Strandeen & Strand House but unfortunately these don't seem to have a family room option.

Cul Erg also gets very good reviews has a family room available so that would be my preferred option. This B&B gets consistently good reviews and is very close to the harbour/promenade. To me it's your best option in Portstewart for a family/triple room. Have a read at reviews on TA to see what you think.

.

Other options

Knock B&B. This would be in the older part of town nearer the Primary School. Not the most upmarket of locations - and the B&B would be a small older house but the few reviews I see are very positive. It has a family room with a seaview. You could walk to the promenade from here or it's a very short drive.

Meadowpark Lodge - my big caveat here is that it is up for sale. It's been for sale for a while (since last summer) but the signs are now officially outside. It is on the outskirts of town, right opposite a supermarket for supplies and a restaurant but about 30 minute walk to the Promenade. It would be fairly modern so I imagine rooms would be spacious...

The Anchorage & Cromore Halt would also have family rooms but the anchorage is best known as a pub with night club/live music at the weekend so I'm not sure that's really the sort of place you'd want? Cromore Halt is on the edge of town so a bit further out than would be ideal. There's a garage/supermarket next door.

Re meandering from Antrim to Dublin, the Causeway Coastal route has lots of places to stop and explore. You would barely scratch the surface in a day. You've got the big attractions like Dunluce castle, Bushmills Distillery, Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, Causeway. Some popular GoT sights such as Ballintoy Harbour & the inland Dark Hedges. Lots of beaches (eg Whitepark bay) and other walks (Waterfall walk at Glenariff forest park is a good place to stretch your legs), Torr Head scenic road is a must on a good day (don't bother if poor visibility), Cushendun is another pretty place for a pitstop & Cushendall would be a good lunch stop Glenarm has a nice riverwalk etc.

http://www.causewaycoastandglens.com/

Similarly this is a great guide to the Glens

heartofthecausewaycoastandglens.com/Portals/…

Carrickfergus also has a very well-preserved Norman castle.

This takes you to Belfast. After that it's a straight 2 hour journey by highway to Dublin. I guess another easy detour would be to detour into Hillsbrough which is quite a quaint old-fashioned village with the famous castle. Nearby is Sprucefield where you have M&S for coffee/sandwich. But these aren't that far south of Dublin to be honest. That said, the Causeway Coastal route is full of so many sights and such a winding road, you might actually be glad of a highway for the final strait to Dublin.

Block Island
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5. Re: Northern Ireland

Thank you for all of the very helpful advice!

Los Angeles...
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6. Re: Northern Ireland

We did a full drive last year in early October from Dublin -->Enniskillen -->Antrim Coast -->Derry--> Donegal-->Mayo-->Dublin over the course of about 15 days.

When you say "Antrim" do you mean "Antrim Town" or the Antrim Coastal area? If you're coming down the Causeway Coast and Glenns route then, from my experience, I would say that you wouldn't even need a pre-planned itinerary until after you reached Belfast heading south (at that point I believe it's all M1).

Completely agree with Ponaire:

"That said, the Causeway Coastal route is full of so many sights and such a winding road, you might actually be glad of a highway for the final strait to Dublin. "

The entire coast is breathtaking beyond belief. We had an itinerary for the coastal route but just found so many charming un-planned sites etc along the way that it was hard not to keep stopping. If you're from the US, then this drive will seem like nothing to you. We planned over 3 days for the Antrim Coast and went to and fro Randalstown everyday and by the last day we had run out of things to see because we were able to cover so much. Poinare's links are right on. Go to the CC&G website and dowload all of their maps and you will have no shortage of things to see. They have a "GoT" itinerary that you can pretty much pick and choose any site from and you won't be disappointed regardless of whether you've even seen the show or not. The only real "dud" was the "Dark Hedges" as it is a bit out of the way and definitely not worth it as the pictures make it look far more interesting than it is. We saw everything Ponaire mentioned and then some. The driving alone is spectacular but if you have children with you, that may be a different story. If you make your way back through Armagh on the way down I would highly suggest the Navan Fort museum. I was not expecting much going in, but turned out to be well worth it it just to watch their short movie on the Ulster Cycle and walk up to the "mound" to see the breathtaking "top of the world" panoramic view.

One piece of advice for the CC&G is to start early. The good news is that the Northern Irish have a different idea of "early" than us Americans. Whereas here in the US the sites (Giants Causeway, for instance) would have mobs of people at the gates to get in at the crack of dawn, you have until about 10am to see the sites and get some nice pictures until the real crowds begin. We got to the Giants Causeway around 9am-ish and there were only a couple of people there. It was calm until just after 10am (I believe the visitor center opens at 11) and then busloads of people just started showing up and literally covered the basalt structure. We hit Dunluce Castle just before 11 or so and there wasn't many people there either, but I'm guessing that was because we'd beat all the busses that were still at the Giants Causeway. We doubled back to carrick-a-rede around 1pm and it was far too crowded so we ended up not going. That being said, some sites like Dunluce or Carrick-A-Rede that require admission may not be open before 11am.

Los Angeles...
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7. Re: Northern Ireland

Also, if you're going to be in Donegal to begin with, don't discount a drive around the Donegal coastal routes. We did a circuit from Londonderry to Malin Head and back. Then from Londonderry-->Letterkenny-->N56 route and coast-->Ardara-->Slieve League-->Donegal Town. We also branched off to Glenveagh National Park for a hike to the Castle. Highly recommended! There aren't as many of those "attraction" type stops along this route but you will feel like you're driving through Middle Earth or some sort of "land that time forgot" as the haunting beauty of the rugged terrain and villages is something totally different, yet easily rivalling what you'll find on the CC&G route. Stop along the highway to see the vista of the "Poison Glenn" in Gweedore and you'll have a hard time believing you're not looking at a matte painting. This route also takes you through the "Gaeilge" area where English is no longer the main language.

8. Re: Northern Ireland

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