Where should I walk in Northern Ireland?
March 13, 2012 1:20 PM   Subscribe

I'll be spending a couple of days near the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Please help me plan my trip, because I'm too busy!

I'm travelling to Belfast on business, but I'll have a weekend to myself and am planning on driving up to the area near the Giant's Causeway to do some hiking. I've done exactly zero research so far, because I'm super busy with work, which is very much not my usual way of travelling!

So, any suggestions of the best walks in that area would be extremely helpful. I'm a solo female traveller in my early 30s, and used to doing full-day hikes. I'll be leaving Newtonabbey on Saturday morning first thing, and will need to be back in Belfast by dinnertime on Sunday.

Secondly, I need a place to stay! Unfortunately both HI hostels are booked for the night I need them, and there are a lot of B&B options. Any recommendations? Ideally I'd like to keep it to under 50 GBP for the night.

Finally, any suggestions of other things to check out in that area are certainly appreciated.
posted by sabotagerabbit to Travel & Transportation around Northern Ireland (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I know this doesn't specifically answer your question, and you may not be this brand of travelling cat--but my experience in Ireland (the Republic, 5 weeks on a mountain bike) was that any plan was immediately waylaid by someone or something vastly more interesting that I ever could have planned myself. If you're extroverted and not hell-bent on "plans" . . . just hit the road and find some small town somewhere. IMHO you almost can't lose . . . just walk into a pub and ask where you can stay. It never failed for me!

*Caveat--This was in May/June, before tourist season goes batshit . . . my luck may not have been as great in July/Aug.
posted by eggman at 1:26 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, not generally my style, but there's nothing saying I can't push myself out of my comfort zone for once!

And that reminds me that I forgot to mention that this is in about a week and a half - the weekend of March 24-25.
posted by sabotagerabbit at 1:27 PM on March 13, 2012

The timing is good then . . . it's just not a busy time of year, tourist-wise. You'll have zero problem finding a place. I jumped from hostel to hostel (mostly without calling ahead) for my entire stay and was not left out in the cold. There are also lots of places that aren't listed in guidebooks, online, etc.

You may already know this, but I can't overstress how warm, friendly and accomodating I found Ireland . . . of course, being from Boston and having a blatantly Irish name helps, but really, unless you're an introverted shut in . . . just go get lost up there for a few days.

I might be wrong but I sense that the stress of trying to plan would ruin it for you? Always did for me, anyway!
posted by eggman at 1:54 PM on March 13, 2012

Hi! Belfast native and keen hiker here.

Try browsing the Walk NI website for inspiration: you can browse walks by region and distance.

For something specific, you might consider Dunseverick Castle to the Giant's Causeway. The North Antrim cliff path hugs the coast and has spectacular views. The walk described in the link is about 5 miles, but you can do 10 by doubling up and walking back.

Ballintoy to Bushmills is longer at about 12 miles and also covers a gorgeous stretch of the north coast.

Other points of interest around the Giant's Causeway are the ruins of Dunluce Castle and Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge. You can also take a guided tour of Bushmills Distillery, the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world.

The other popular place to go walking in Northern Ireland is in the Mournes, which are the range of hills south of Belfast. They're great for walking, but if you've only got a weekend, the scenery on the north coast is better and it's more geared towards tourists.

Bring waterproofs: the weather can be very changeable here, and in late March you might get anything from a fine spring day to a downpour.
posted by meronym at 4:20 PM on March 13, 2012

Forget to mention: if you're a fan of HBO's version of Game of Thrones, Ballintoy village was used to film parts of season 2.
posted by meronym at 4:28 PM on March 13, 2012

Sabotage--how did your trip work out?!?
posted by eggman at 7:52 PM on April 10, 2012

Well, this is very late, but Eggman reminded me that I should post a little follow-up! I'm just copying in what I sent to him in a message...

My trip was fantastic! I ended up driving up the coast from Belfast, which was beautiful in and of itself, and doing a walk that day along the beach east of Giant's Causeway (I can't remember exactly which walk). I stayed at a B&B that was literally about a 10-minute walk from the Causeway, so I just stayed parked there the next day and walked down early to the Causeway and checked that out for a while, long before it got really swamped by tourists. Then I hiked up the cliffside away from the Causeway and all along the top of the cliffs for a couple of hours. There was literally noone else there, which was amazing. The views were incredible, the weather was great - it was a fabulous day of walking. I also went to the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge on my way back down the coast and it was really cool, too, even if it is a touristy area.

I also hiked up Slieve Donard when I was down that way, which was also a really nice day of walking.

The Walk NI website was super helpful. I was also incredibly lucky to have nothing but beautiful weather for my entire week in Northern Ireland, which I know is so unusual!

Thanks so much for your advice and help!
posted by sabotagerabbit at 8:20 AM on July 4, 2012

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