Northern Ireland’s capital city Belfast is a great place to base yourself if you are looking to visit the wider part of the country. And with this great list of the best day trips from Belfast, you will soon be planning which corners of Northern Ireland you will be visiting while in the country.
Northern Ireland is a beautiful part of the Emerald Isle and there are many top places to visit in Northern Ireland that you’ll find on many Ireland bucket lists. Whether you want to visit the magical Giant’s Causeway, get back to nature in the likes of the Mourne Mountains, or are a Game of Thrones fan, there is plenty on offer for those visiting Northern Ireland and basing themselves in Belfast.
Whether you want to stay and enjoy some Northern Ireland day trips or venture a bit further afield and try a day trip from Belfast to Scotland, or even head south and join a Dublin day trip from Belfast, there are plenty of ideas for day trips from Belfast below.
All of the destinations below can be reached by car, and many can be visited by tour groups and tour companies. You could reach many via public transport if you are electing to visit Ireland without a car but be aware that the estimated times may be more than quoted here due to the public transport timetables available for each destination.
- Best Day Trips from Belfast under 1 hour
- Best Day Trips from Belfast under 2 hours
- Best Day Tours from Belfast over 2 hours
- Final thoughts
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Best Day Trips from Belfast under 1 hour
In this section, you will find a variety of destinations that can be reached from Belfast in under one hour and make ideal places for a Northern Ireland day trip from the capital. Many can be reached by public transport, by car or with a tour group.
Gobbins Coastal Path
A great day trip to take from Belfast is to visit the Gobbins Coastal Path. The Gobbins Visitor Centre is located approximately 35-40 minutes north of Belfast City Centre and is easily reached by car.
Created by an Irish railway engineer at the turn of the 20th century, it is a cliff-face path at Islandmagee in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Running through a tunnel, past caves, and across bridges, the Gobbins Coastal Path is accessible to visitors via a guided tour.
Hailed as one of the most dramatic cliff walks in Europe, visitors will enjoy a walk along a path teeming with flora and fauna while enjoying some incredible views along the way. If you are looking for an outdoor challenge from Belfast, this might be the perfect one.
Book your tickets direct from the Gobbins Cliff Path website direct.
Another one of the great day trips Northern Ireland has to offer visitors in Belfast is to Lough Neagh. Located less than an hour from Belfast City Centre, the length of your journey to the lake will depend on where you are arriving. For example, Antrim Castle Grounds are less than 30 minutes from Belfast, while visiting the lake from Ballyronan on the west side will take you around 40-45 minutes from Belfast.
Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake on the island of Ireland and five of the six counties of Northern Ireland (read more about the differences between Northern Ireland and Ireland) have a shore on Lough Neagh.
As well as supplying Northern Ireland with 40% of its water, Lough Neagh is also used for leisure purposes including fishing and bird watching. There are plenty of nature reserves around its shores and forest walks to be enjoyed, as well as water activities. Check out the Lough Neagh website to find out more things to do around this huge lake in Ireland.
The Ards Peninsula is located just under an hour from Belfast City Centre and is a great place for a day trip from the city. Reachable by car and public transport going to Portaferry via Newtownards, there are a few things to do on the peninsula.
Places of interest on the Ards Peninsula include Mount Stewart, an 18th-century house and gardens owned and managed by the National Trust. There is also Grey Abbey to visit, and Scrabo Tower which overlooks Newtownards and the northern end of the peninsula.
Visitors can also enjoy golf, fishing, walks, and more on the Ards Peninsula and its shores along Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea. Find out more about the Ards Peninsula and everything it has to offer visitors by clicking here.
Calling all Game of Thrones fans! Located less than an hour south of the centre of Belfast is Castle Ward, a National Trust property that was the filming location for Winterfell in the popular TV series, Game of Thrones.
The property is an 18th-century property that was built in the late 18th century and has a shore along Strangford Lough. The property a fortified tower house, landscaped gardens, sawmill and corn mill, restaurant, shop, and more. It has dual architecture combining classic Palladian style with Georgian Gothic style.
Visitors can enjoy guided tours of the gardens and the mansion house, as well as tea rooms and a gift shop. There are even opportunities to stay at Castle Ward. Find out more by clicking here.
Glenariff Forest Park
One of the best day trips from Belfast for outdoor lovers is to Gelnariff Forest Park. Situated just less than an hour north of Belfast, this 1185-hectare forest is part of the Glenariff Glen itself. One of the Glens of Antrim, it was formed during the last Ice Age.
This is the biggest glen and most visited by tourists and locals alike. As well as forest trails, visitors to Glenariff Forest Park can see no less than 3 waterfalls, one of which is among the best waterfalls in Ireland. There is a visitor centre, shop, and seasonal caravanning/camping and restaurant.
The Glenariff Forest Park is part of a Nature Reserve and as well as stunning flora, visitors might also catch a glimpse of some of the residents which include squirrel, Irish hare and hen harrier. If you are a lover of the outdoors and looking for a day trip from Belfast, head to Glenariff. Find out more about the park here.
Another great day trip from Belfast for those who enjoy the outdoors is a trip to the Mourne Mountains, located an hour south of Belfast, close to Newry. Also called the Mountains of Mourne, this granite mountain range in County Down contains the highest mountains in Northern Ireland.
Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, they form the background for many scenic areas in the area. Visitors to the Mourne Mountains can enjoy walking, hiking, and exploring parts of the Mourne Wall, as well as several forests located in and along its foothills including the Tollymore Forest Park and Donard and Rostrevor Forests.
Cities and towns under an hour away
If you are looking to visit another town or city by way of a day trip from Belfast, then these are all located under an hour from Belfast.
Lisburn is located 20 minutes south of Belfast and can easily be reached by public transport. As the third largest city in Northern Ireland, Lisburn is home to the Ulster Aviation Society, has several museums to visit, a great family-friendly park, and plenty of opportunities for retail therapy.
Just under an hour south of Belfast is Newcastle, a lovely seaside town in Ireland. Known for its sandy beaches, proximity to forests, and with it being nestled in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains (see above), this is a great place to visit during a day trip from Belfast. Visitors can enjoy the outdoors, beach, promenade, golf course and more.
25 minutes north of Belfast is the large town in County Antrim, Carrickfergus. As one of the oldest towns in both Northern Ireland and Ireland as a whole, Carrickfergus is most famous for its Norman Castle. Many people come to visit the castle as part of Belfast day trips and to explore some of the museums, parks, and town itself.
Best Day Trips from Belfast under 2 hours
In this section, you will find a variety of destinations that can be reached from Belfast in under two hours and make ideal places for a Northern Ireland day trip from the capital. Many can be reached by public transport, by car or with a tour group.
Many visitors enjoy a day trip from Belfast to Giant’s Causeway when staying in the city. Giants Causeway trips from Belfast are among the most popular things to do in Northern Ireland.
The Giant’s Causeway is located around 1 hour and 20 minutes northwest of Belfast and this popular place in County Antrim is one of the most famous landmarks in Ireland and is often found at the top of people’s Ireland bucket lists. The Giant’s Causeway is famed for its basalt hexagonal rock formations, formed millions of years ago by volcanic fissure eruptions. But there is a great legend that goes alongside it.
Visitors to the Giant’s Causeway can enjoy walks along the cliffs, wander down to the rock formations, enjoy the Visitor Experience (a fully guided 5-mile hike), and drop into the Visitor Centre where you can learn more about the cliffs, enjoy a break in the café and stock up on souvenirs in the gift shop. Find out more about the Giant’ Causeway here.
Book your Giant’s Causeway coach tour from Belfast by clicking here. This Giant’s Causeway day trip from Belfast includes a stop at Carrickfergus Castle, the Glens of Antrim (see below), and Dunluce Castle.
Causeway Coastal Route
The Causeway Coastal Route is in fact a stretch of coastline that runs from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry. This popular driving route follows the coast, passing cliffs, pretty seaside towns, and some of Northern Ireland’s famous landmarks including the Giant’s Causeway (see above).
This is one of the best ways to see as much of Northern Ireland as possible and is best driven by car. Driving yourself gives you the freedom to stop where and when you want. If you are unsure about driving versus public transport read my posts about getting around Ireland without a car and about generally travelling around Ireland.
Things to see along the Causeway Coastal Route include things included in this article such as the Gobbins, Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and the historical city of Derry. If you are doing a self-guided Giants Causeway day trip from Belfast, then take the long way and enjoy some of the Causeway Coastal Route.
Glens of Antrim
One of the best things to do in County Antrim and also an idea for a day trip from Belfast is to pay a visit to the Glens of Antrim. While the Glenariff Forest Park, part of the Glens, has already been mentioned in this article, there is much more to the Glens than just that park. The Glens of Antrim are located about one hour and ten minutes from Belfast (the town of Ballintoy to be exact).
This region of Antrim is located between Cushendun and Glenarm and is an area where nine rivers carved deep valleys in the landscape towards the coast and are an area of outstanding beauty. For lovers of the outdoors, the Glens of Antrim is the place to visit. With walks, hikes, coastal paths, and more on offer, if you are looking for a great place to get out in nature and away from Belfast City, consider adding it to your Northern Ireland itinerary.
This tour from Belfast passes through the Glens of Antrim during a day trip from Belfast that also takes in the Dark Hedges (see below), the Giant’s Causeway, and more. Click here to see the latest prices and availability.
Made famous by the hit TV series “Game of Thrones”, the Dark Hedges has become one of the most popular places to visit in Northern Ireland. As one of the most popular Northern Ireland tours from Belfast, the Dark Hedges is located just over an hour from Belfast City.
The Dark Hedges is an avenue of beech trees between Armoy and Stranocum in County Antrim and the trees were planted in the late 18th century by James Stuart when he built a house in the name of his wife. 150 trees were planted, of which about 90 remain today.
The road is popular with tourists coming to take pictures under the trees and as a result, was closed to vehicular access in 2017. Parking is nearby on the Dark Hedges Estate and the road is a short walk from the car park. While there is not a lot else to do at the site, the pictures are what most people come for. So, if you loved Game of Thrones, add the Dark Hedges to your wish list.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Another popular attraction in Northern Ireland along the Causeway Coast is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, located one hour and twenty minutes north of Belfast.
Spanning 20 meters between the mainland and the tiny island of Carrickarede and hanging 30 meters above the rocks below, there has been a rope bridge between the island and mainland for 350 years. The form of the bridge has changed since the original one created by the salmon fishermen, but that does not detract from the fact it is one of the most popular sites to visit in Northern Ireland.
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is managed by the National Trust (find out more here) and there are timed crossings of it. You are advised to pre-book your visit ahead of time to avoid queues. There is a car park a short distance from the entrance to the rope bridge itself. If you are not afraid of heights, then make sure to include a day trip to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge from Belfast in your itinerary.
Located one hour and fifteen minutes from Belfast City is another popular site for day trips from Belfast, Dunluce Castle. Now a ruined medieval castle, it is a popular site to visit in Northern Ireland thanks to its proximity to the Giant’s Causeway.
Built on the edge of a basalt outcrop, Dunluce Castle is accessible via a bridge that connects it to the mainland. The first castle at the site was built in the 13th century, while the current ruin dates from the 16th century.
There is not much else to see and do at Dunluce Castle except admire its position and the views from the castle. However, it makes for a fantastic backdrop for photos. You can visit Dunluce Castle as part of a day trip from Belfast with a tour group. Click here to see the latest prices and availability. This tour also visits the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and the Dark Hedges making it the ideal tour.
The Sperrins are a mountain range in Northern Ireland located one hour and fifteen minutes northwest of Belfast. Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Sperrins are another great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Sperrins are one of the largest upland areas in Ireland, the landscape is wild, beautiful, and almost untouched. Hiking and walking are popular activities to do in the area, as well as trying to spot some of the wildlife which includes red fox, deer, pine martin, and red squirrel. However, go prepared with waterproof footwear and clothing as this is a peat bog area.
The nearby Creagán Visitor Centre offers visitors facilities such as toilets, a gift shop, and a café.
Downhill Demesne and Mussenden Temple
Travel one hour and twenty minutes northwest from Belfast and you’ll find Downhill Demesne, with its famous Mussenden Temple.
Managed by the National Trust, Downhill Demesne, with Downhill House, is a popular place for a day trip from Belfast. Downhill House was built in the late 18th century. Despite being rebuilt after a fire in the mid-19th century, it fell into disrepair after the Second World War. However, the estate is a great place to visit.
The Demesne includes a walled garden, summer house, the Mussenden Temple, and a mausoleum. The area around the Mussenden Temple is a great place to spot snowdrops in Northern Ireland in early spring and in late spring bluebells.
Mussenden Temple was built in the late 18th century and was constructed as a library. It is a popular place for pictures, but visitors need to take care due to its close proximity to the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean. Learn more by clicking here.
Cities and towns under two hours away
If you are looking to visit another city or town by way of a day trip from Belfast, then the below town is located under two hours from Belfast.
A great town to visit as part of a day trip from Belfast is Portrush, located one hour and 30 minutes northwest of the capital of Northern Ireland.
Portrush is a popular seaside town in Northern Ireland and is home to one of the best beaches on the Emerald Isle. Popular with holidaymakers thanks to its three beaches, Portrush is a thriving seaside town, particularly in the summer. As well as the beaches, fish and chips and more, there is a championship golf course nearby and stunning clifftop walks.
Best Day Tours from Belfast over 2 hours
In this section, you will find a variety of destinations that can be reached from Belfast in a little over two hours and make ideal places for a Northern Ireland day trip from the capital if you don’t mind being out for most of the day.
Located around two hours west of Belfast is Lough Erne, the second-largest lake in Northern Ireland and a great location to spend the day away from Belfast.
Lough Erne consists of two connected lakes, that are home to many coves, inlets, peninsulas, and islands, of which there are nearly 200. Lough Erne is a popular place for angling and other water sports including rowing, and water-skiing. Visitors to its shores can also enjoy leisurely walks along its banks.
Lough Erne Resort is a 5-star resort with a hotel, championship golf course, spa, and restaurants. This luxury resort is located on the banks of the lake near the town of Enniskillen and would be a great place for a spot of lunch if you are visiting the area.
Cities and towns over two hours away
If you are looking to visit another town, city, or country by way of a day trip from Belfast, then the below are located between two and three hours from Belfast.
Derry City is located just two hours from Belfast, depending on your route and traffic. Also known as Londonderry, the city is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland. As well as exploring those city walls, there are plenty of museums to while away a few hours, the murals of the Troubles (read this post for a short explanation), and the Peace Bridge to cross. If you are looking to visit another city from Belfast, choose Derry.
Did you know that you can take a day trip to Dublin from Belfast? Dublin is just 2 hours by car from Belfast and makes the perfect location for a day trip. You can also reach Dublin by public transport, typically in under two and a half hours.
And when it comes to things to do in Dublin, there are plenty. Some of the top Dublin attractions include the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin Castle, and of course, the Book of Kells in Trinity College.
If you grab an early morning train you could easily visit Kilmainham Gaol, do a spot of shopping and lunch on Grafton Street, before visiting the EPIC Museum and the Book of Kells before getting your evening train back to Belfast. This itinerary is easy to do as I’ve done it myself recently.
So, if you want to visit both capital cities on the Emerald Isle but are based in Belfast, this section should convince you that you can also squeeze in a visit to Dublin.
And if visiting Belfast, you can also hop over to Scotland via the ferry. From Belfast there is a ferry to Cairnryan or you can travel from Larne to Stranraer. However, the crossing from Belfast can take up to 4 hours if you aren’t on the fast ferry, while the crossing from Larne takes around two hours.
And while you might be in Scotland, you won’t be able to squeeze in a visit to Edinburgh or Glasgow if you are only there for the day. But if you are travelling by car you could explore the area around Cairnryan or Stranraer and enjoy lunch in a cosy pub or restaurant before getting your ferry back to Northern Ireland. Use Rome2Rio to plan your Scotland day trips from Belfast.
These are just some of the ideas for day tours from Belfast. Whether you want to visit the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast, escape the city into nature in the Mourne Mountains, or even visit another country by going to Dublin or Scotland, there are plenty of options for those wanting a day trip from Belfast.
These articles might be of interest:
- Is Belfast Worth Visiting?
- The Two Fascinating Capitals of Ireland – Dublin and Belfast
- Top 10 Things to Do in Northern Ireland
- Navigating Ireland Without a Car
- The Differences Between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
- Causeway Coast and Wild Atlantic Way 7-Day Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in County Antrim