Saturday 16 December 2017

10 Reasons to Say Hello to Northern Ireland This Autumn

From glacial valleys and mountains, to stunning coastal views, from Norman castles to world-class golf courses to Celtic and Christian monuments, Northern Ireland is known around the world for its natural beauty.

But what about stargazing and staying overnight in a 180 degree transparent bubble, walking in the ‘Silent Valley’ or experiencing tales of banshees in a castle with a stormy history?  Or a big night out with a difference in the rejuvenated and bustling ‘Titanic City’ of Belfast?

It’s time to rethink Northern Ireland and plan your own bespoke itinerary for autumn.  Here are 10 great reasons to say hello to the region right now:

1.  “An unforgettable experience”

Referenced in BBC’s Great Railway Journeys of the World, why not try the Belfast to Derry / Londonderry Causeway Coastal Route train journey for yourself?   As Michael Palin put it: “A train journey to the North Coast will be an unforgettable experience.  Whether you live in Northern Ireland or are visiting, take the opportunity to visit and enjoy the beautiful scenery”.  The route is the longest single train trip in Northern Ireland at just over two hours, crosses the River Lagan twice and is a brilliant way to see the highlights of Belfast from a height.  It winds along the Atlantic Ocean with stunning views of crashing waves, past the beautiful sandy beach at Benone Strand, the seaside town of Portrush and the amazing Mussenden Temple, one of Ireland’s most photographed sites.

2.  Brave Enough For the Bridge?

It’s one of the most iconic go-sees in Northern Ireland but are you brave enough to walk the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge?  First erected by salmon fishermen in 1755, the bridge is suspended almost 100ft above sea level.

Thrill-seekers and the many bird watchers that make the journey are rewarded with amazing views of Rathlin Island, the Causeway Coast and can see even as far as Scotland. 

3.  Luxury, Spa Treatments and Log Cabins At Galgorm

Set in 163 acres of stunning parkland, Galgorm Resort and Spa in Co. Antrim is only 30 minutes from Belfast, but seems like a real oasis. The world-class spa at Galgorm, the first of its kind in Ireland has the most rejuvenating indoor and outdoor experiences and unsurprisingly was voted Second Best Spa in the World by OK! magazine.  Stylish suites and rooms offer the ultimate hideaway and the restaurant at Galgorm was recently awarded 2 AA Rosettes for culinary excellence.  Gillies Bar and Grill is a more informal choice for those who prefer a different kind of relaxation and there’s regular live music.

4.  Fabulous Fermanagh - Lough Erne Resort

The five star Lough Erne Resort in Co. Fermanagh became famous as the location of the G8 summit when world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron gathered there and photos appeared around the world.  The Resort is regularly home to celebrities, movie stars and champion golfers.  It’s not surprising, as set in to its own peninsula of 600 acres, it’s like a nature reserve and is on the second biggest lake system in Northern Ireland.  The stunning lakeside rooms, suites and cottages are surrounded by two Championship golf courses, one designed by Nick Faldo and there’s also a Thai spa and extraordinary dining experience under the guidance of Executive Chef Noel McMeel.

5.  Bustling Belfast – the ‘Titanic City’

Belfast has undergone a complete transformation in recent times.  There is now so much to do that it’s advisable to plan ahead to make the most of it before visiting.  The Titanic Quarter, one of the world’s largest urban waterfront regenerations, is the place to relive and uncover the Titanic experience in the city where it all began.

There are over 9 interactive galleries, amazing underwater footage in the ocean exploration centre and one of the highlights is a tour through the shipyard on an evocative electronic dark ride.  Berthed right beside Titanic Belfast in the historic Hamilton Dry Dock is SS Nomadic, tender to RMS Titanic and the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world. 

Completely unchanged since 1911, the enormous Thompson Dry Dock is a poignant experience, as it was the original site where Titanic last sat on dry land.  Not to be missed as part of the Titanic experience are the two massive cranes in Harland and Wolff, Belfast – masterpieces of engineering.  Known as Samson and Goliath, wherever you go in the city you’ll catch sight of them and they are an important reminder of the Titanic legacy and enduring connections in Belfast.

6.  Ancient Or Contemporary? Go to Derry

The ancient but contemporary city of Derry / Londonderry was voted the UK City of Culture in 2013.  Within it is the ‘Walled City’, one of the best preserved walled settlements in Europe, built to defend the city from Chieftains.  Over a mile in circumference, it has 24 original cannons, including the mighty ‘Roaring Meg’ which is a must-see.  Some of the other sights include Saint Columb’s Cathedral and the famous Guildhall.  The Craft Village, with its glazed canopy is well worth a visit for anybody with an interest in the past.  The new Peace Bridge curves along the River Foyle and there’s a new performance space at Ebrington.  With  a year-round cycle of Festivals and Ireland’s biggest Halloween carnival, Derry is a great option at this time of year.

7.  Stargazing and Nature at Finn Lough Forest

Photo by Rob Durston ( )
Photo by Rob Durston ( )

Want to get back to nature?  One of the most romantic and different breaks available in all of Ireland right now is a trip to the Forest Domes at Finn at Finn Lough Resort, Co. Fermanagh. There’s nowhere quite like it in the UK or Ireland.  There are pods available to sleep in with 180 degree transparent walls where you can immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of nature and go stargazing in wonder and comfort.  If you like your dose of nature with a bit of luxury thrown in, there are also 4 poster beds and ensuite bathrooms with Nespresso coffee machines and fluffy robes and slippers! 

8. The Silent Valley – Outstanding Natural Beauty

Known by locals as ‘The Valley’, the Silent Valley Reservoir is one of the lesser-known treasures of Northern Ireland, but attracts 50,000 visitors per year.  Located in Co. Down, in the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty there are parklands, lakes and a pond all to be discovered.  There are some amazing walking routes – an all-ability loop, reservoir loop and viewpoint loop, whether you like a pleasant stroll or a more challenging hike.  Sights include the Mourne Wall made from natural granite stone and the Binnian Tunnel.

9. Nightlife in Belfast

If you want world-class food, live music or waterfront pubs, there is a huge choice in the city.  The thriving culinary scene has been acknowledged once again this year and Michael Deane’s EIPIC and OX restaurant, run by Belfast born Stephen Toman and Brittany native Alain Kerloc’h, have retained their Michelin stars.  James Street South, Deanes at Queen’s and Home have all kept their bib gourmand status for 2017. Belfast really has a huge breath of choice - the Victorian surroundings of the Crown make a great place for a pint and this National Trust treasure is always on the list for a pub crawl.  From the fabulous National Grande Café to the Treehouse hideaway if it’s a beer garden you’re looking for there is no shortage.  There are great live sessions in Belfast pubs and some of the best are at the Garrick, one of Belfast’s oldest pubs.  Located in the heart of the Queen’s Quarter, Alibi focuses on bourbon served with a twist.

10.  Drama and Digs at Dunluce

Set in to the dramatic coastal cliffs of the Causeway Coastal Route, the ruins of Dunluce Castle tell the tale of a tumultuous history.  There is a story of a banshee and the castle kitchens falling in to the sea one stormy night in 1639 and much more to keep you entertained.

Do something out of the ordinary and be inspired by Northern Ireland this autumn.  For great autumn hotel deals and inspiring ideas for short breaks, go to

Sponsored by: Discover NI

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