Yes, I know. I’ve just been to Prague and paid an unforgettable visit to Bohemian Switzerland National Park, but I haven’t written about it yet. Shame on me. And yet those stories have to be on hold, as I’ve packed my bags and I need to go. To Northern Ireland. Say YAY!
Soon I’ll be enjoying this view… I can’t wait! Photo: Tourism Ireland.
Together with Daniel, tomorrow morning I’ll start my 4-day road trip along the East and North Coast of Northern Ireland. Even if the coast will play the main role, we won’t forget the inland roads and Lough Neagh, the largest lake of the British Isles.
This trip is part of Finnish ‘Irish Week’ campaign. Besides myself, 3 other Finnish travel bloggers will be travelling to different parts of Ireland between February and March. All of our travel stories will be posted during the Irish Week, meaning 12.–19.3.2017 (you can find the campaign Facebook page here, but you know… Finnish language… Awful, isn’t it?).
Finnish Irish Week campaign is working closely together with Tourism Ireland, who is the main partner. For me, it means that Tourism Ireland is providing us with accommodation for the first 2 nights, plus the admission to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway. Depart from that, the trip will be at our own expense.
Now when that’s clear, let’s find out the best part: How we’re going to spend our 4 days in Northern Ireland!
4 days in Northern Ireland: The route and the highlights
I had a very special request for our first night accommodation. And I’m so extremely happy to tell you that I got exactly what I wanted: A night in Ballygally Castle Hotel.
Why am I waiting for this night so badly, you might think? Well, Ballygally Castle is only the most haunted castle hotel in Northern Ireland, and staying in one has been number one on my bucket list like… Well, forever.
Be aware ghosts, Saana’s coming!
This is what we’ve planned this far:
Monday: From Dublin Airport to Ballygally Castle
Even if there weren’t any ghosts in Ballygally Castle (and there are at least three!), I would probably want to stay there anyway. Just because I love the sound of Ballygally Castle… It’s so poetic, isn’t it?
The first day of the road trip is dedicated to the natural wonders of the East Coast. On our way to Ballygally Castle, we’ll be stopping at Flagstaff Viewpoint, where we’ll be able to admire the beautiful views of the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough. Photo: Tourism Ireland.
Before ghost hunting, we’re trying to experience at least some optical illusions, forest parks, stunning views and castle ruins. Luckily we have a nice little loophole in our itinerary that is allowing us to go back to these sites later on, in case we can’t manage everything in one day.
Tuesday: The Antrim Coast
The second, and at the same time the first full day of our road trip, is dedicated to the Antrim Coast. The actual distance might seem like a short drive, but as you might guess, we’ll be stopping a lot. I mean, a LOT!
Ballintoy is one of the many stops on the Antrim Coast.
Photo: Tourism Ireland.
A few weeks ago I found a lovely little helper on Instagram, who grabbed my attention with his fantastic photos and was very eager to share his tips for Northern Ireland. Even the ones along the ‘road less travelled’.
I highly recommend to check out and follow @hunterhorizons on Instagram, but let me warn you that once you do, you might very soon find yourself booking flights to Ireland. The man behind the Instagram account is a professional photographer Sam Hunter, who I owe a lot for all the great tips he was sharing. If we only could manage to visit them all…
We’ll be finishing our day in a guesthouse called Strand House, which is the 2nd guesthouse provided by Tourism Ireland.
Wednesday: From Portstewart to Lough Neagh
Our original plan was to drive all the way to Derry on our second day and stay there overnight. As we wanted to spend as much time on the coast as possible, we changed this plan a bit.
We’ll start our 3rd day (unless we can fit this on Tuesday’s schedule) by driving through a mystical alley called The Dark Hedges. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you’ll definitely recognize the place.
I have to admit, I’ve never watched the series. But Daniel, my beloved travel companion, is a fan. Northern Ireland is full of Game of Thrones filming locations, and because 1) I’m travelling with a fan and 2) those places are pretty stunning, we’ll be visiting quite a few of them.
The Dark Hedges is one of the Game of Thrones filming locations we’ll visit. This photo is from Pixabay.
After The Dark Hedges, we’ll head to Derry, the main stage of the Bloody Sunday, where we’ll spend the most of the day. After Derry tour, we’ll drive to the shore of Lough Neagh, the largest lake of the British Isles, where we spend our third night.
We spotted a fantastic Valentine’s Day deal in a hotel called White River House Hote. Besides the room and breakfast, ‘Getaway for two’ includes 3-course dinners and a bottle of Prosecco. The price: 99 pounds. Yes, please!
There’s another reason why this deal was a great finding. As lame as it sounds, many years ago Daniel and I had our first date on Valentine’s Day. And where we had our first date? In an Irish Bar. The circle is closing! Maybe we’ll get lucky and have some Irish music to accompany our 3-course dinner.
Thursday: From Lough Neagh back to Dublin
Thursday is our ‘loophole day’ that I mentioned in the beginning. This is the day we can go through all those nature sights we had to miss on our first day of driving. The plan is to hike the Cave Hill Walk near Belfast and admire the views from Black Mountain.
We don’t have enough time to properly visit neither Belfast nor Dublin, but it’s ok. The whole idea of this trip is to enjoy the beautiful nature of Northern Ireland.
As we’ll be flying back to Finland on Friday morning, we booked our last night’s accommodation only a 15-minute drive away from the airport. The Waterside House Hotel is located right at the beach, and we found a double room with breakfast for 75 pounds. Didn’t get a sea view, though.
This is what I’m going to do next week. How about you? Do you have any other golden tips to share for Northern Ireland?
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