Belfast City Hall, captured on one of our Northern Ireland Tours Belfast City Hall, captured on one of our Northern Ireland Tours

Belfast, Derry and Ireland's North Northern Ireland Travel Guide

Northern Ireland Travel Companion

In peace, Northern Ireland has staked its rightful claim as one of the most beautiful, memorable and cultural regions to be found anywhere on the island of Ireland. Nowhere is Ireland's recent history more strongly felt than in the North, and a tour of Belfast in particular would perhaps be incomplete without taking this into account.

But visitors will deprive themselves if they don't look beyond The Troubles and see the North for what it really is - one of most exciting and dynamic places you will visit on any western European holiday. Northern Ireland Tours are a treasure that have to be experienced to be believed.

Plan Your Trip to Northern Ireland

While the transformation may be less striking than in Belfast, Ulster's second city has benefited from significant regeneration in the past few years. While the average tourist visit to Derry, at three nights, is perhaps more than most visitors really need, a one-day stop over will be very rewarding, especially for students of recent Northern Irish history.

An Explorer's Paradise

For those who prefer the great outdoors, Ulster has scenic beauty to rival not only the Republic to the south, but almost anywhere in the world. Heading for the Giant's Causeway and the Antrim coast, prepare to be amazed: here you will find some of the greatest coastal views any Irish photographer could hope to capture.

Belfast City Hall Belfast City Hall

Belfast Northern Ireland's Capital

Belfast City

Since peace returned to Belfast in the late 1990s, Northern Ireland's capital has undergone an astonishing transformation. Once tied in with sectarian violence and, perhaps cruelly, lumped in with Bosnia, Beiruit and Baghdad on the list of places for globe-trotting tourists to avoid, the city is now a modern, thriving and cosmopolitan hub of hotels, restaurants and family-friendly attractions.

This transformation is made all the more evident in cultural representations of the region, which have at last moved beyond the all-too-predictable film and TV depictions of The Troubles with which the city become all but synonymous.

Just as Northern Ireland has garnered attention as the eye-catching backdrop to Game of Thrones, creating a sub-industry of its own comparable to "Tolkien Tourism", Belfast has gained added prominence as the location of the hit BBC drama series The Fall starring Gillian Anderson (The X Files, Hannibal) and Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Gray).

Botanic Gardens, Belfast City

Botanic Gardens and Palm House

Belfast Attractions

Like the stunning Belfast skyline, the city's Botanic Gardens and Palm House are a leitmotif and a focal point of the BBC series The Fall. Visitors who take the time to enjoy these sights on their tour of Ireland will be glad they did so.

Of course, Belfast need not rely on television audiences to attract visitors as there is much to see here. Visitors should include in their itinerary the likes of City Hall, with its ornate and opulent Italian marble interior, The SS Nomadic, affectionately known as The Titanic's little sister but actually the more popular attraction according to TripAdvisor, and the city's notorious Crumlin Road Gaol, where popular demand makes advance-booking via the website or a suitable tour operator a well-advised precaution. Culture Vultures should also head for the Ulster Museum, recently revamped and well worth an afternoon of your stay.

Titanic Exhibition, Belfast Titanic Exhibition, Belfast

Titanic Belfast 'The Unsinkable Ship'

Birthplace of the RMS Titanic

The angular edifice which houses The Titanic Experience is so evocative of the transformation which Belfast has undergone in recent years that it has become almost as iconic as the ill-fated ship to whose short history this attraction is dedicated.

An extensive multimedia tribute to the world's most famous ocean liner, The Titanic Experience is located at the top of the slipway from which the ship made its first and only descent into the Belfast Lough and the waters of the Irish Sea beyond. Opened in 2012 for the centenary of the ship's launch and tragic demise, the museum has rapidly become Ulster's most visited tourist destination, outstripping even The Giant's Causeway.

Cleverly put together, the attraction encapsulates more than simply the scale of the ship, more even than the scale of the disaster which befell it; drawing on all the sights, sounds and smells of the age, the museum recreates all facets of this most fascinating period of history, bringing to life the experiences not only of the passengers, but also of the ship workers who realized this vision of early twentieth-century engineering.

The Titanic Shipyard and Exhibition Centre, as seen on our Tours of Northern Ireland The Titanic Shipyard and Exhibition Centre, as seen on our Tours of Northern Ireland

Visit The Titanic Exhibition on these Tours

Sheep in Kerry, Ireland

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15-Day Iconic Scenes of Ireland Northern & Southern

Discover the Island of Ireland, North and South with this unforgettable 15-day tour. Spend five magical days in Ulster, and then 10 more in Eire. Read more...

15-Day Iconic Scenes Tour 2019

  • 15 Day/14 Night
  • €1,985 to €2,485
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • North and South
  • Four-Star Hotels
2019 Tour
Newgrange, county Meath

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Historic Ireland Mini-Group Tour Mini Group Size

Visit Ireland's historic landscape and delve into its tranquilly on this mini group tour. Read more...

Historic Ireland Mini-Group Tour 2019

  • Max. 8 Guests
  • €2290
  • 8 Days/7 Nights
  • Adults Only
2019 Tour
The Giants Causeway

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6-Day Discover Northern Ireland Tour Exclusively Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's natural beauty awaits on this six-day fully-inclusive tours of Ulster. Picturesque towns and untamed coastlines. Read more...

6-Day Discover Northern Ireland Tour 2019

  • Northern Ireland
  • 6 Days/5 Nights
  • €895 to €995 per person
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • Premium Hotels
2019 Tour
The Cliffs of Moher

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Custom Private Tours Bespoke for your group

Set your own budget, set your own pace. Let us create a bespoke tour package for you and your group. Read more...

Customize your own Private Tour

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Murals depicting historic events in Belfast City, Northern Ireland Murals depicting historic events in Belfast City, Northern Ireland

Murals of Belfast

Although their history spans over a century, and although they began as a unionist motif, it was in the early 1980s that Belfast's iconic murals would gain the prominence that now draws tourists, when Republican depictions of the infamous hunger strike of Bobby Sands and his follow prisoners began to spread across Republican districts of the city.

For two decades, murals on both sides of the city voiced the deep divisions between communities whose differences seemed insurmountable. On the Unionist side, imagery was chiefly militaristic, with slogans like "No Surrender" a near-constant refrain. In Republican communities, depictions drew on a more diverse palette of cultural and historical symbolism, but their message was no less clear and no less divisive.

Belfast City

It seems almost miraculous, then, that Belfast has found the peace which prevails here today. And it is entirely fitting that this peace should once again find colourful and artful expression on the walls of Belfast's end-terraces. The figures who appear in these images today are not masked paramilitaries, but local legends such as George Best and CS Lewis.

The many black-cab guides and bus tours, often seen as integral to a visit to Belfast, will guide you through the layers of meaning which make up the city's historic murals. A good Driver-Guide is a must to get the most out of them.

Derry City, Northern Ireland Derry City, Northern Ireland

City of Londonderry / Derry

A City on the Move

Although Derry's recently transformation is perhaps less dramatic than that of Belfast, visitors who come to Derry expecting a city still darkened by the long shadows of The Troubles will almost certainly be pleasantly surprised. In anticipation of the city's status as UK City of Culture 2013, Derry received considerable investment and underwent a rejuvenating makeover.

Visitors and locals alike can look to the Peace Bridge, Ebrington Square, the redeveloped waterfront and the Guildhall area as examples of a city which has shaken off its outdated stereotype, under whose weight Derry had unfairly served as a metaphor for Ulster's violent past. In the city which greets tourists on their tour of Ireland so warmly today, visitors will find plenty of enjoyable diversion.

Visitors who wish to gain the fullest appreciation of this side of Derry should make time for Free Derry Corner, the Bloody Sunday Memorial, the People's Gallery Murals and the Museum of Free Derry. View the Visit Derry website for more information.

Worth the Trip Notable Detours and Diversions

Guildhall

Lording it over an open expanse of fountains and marbled stone, Guildhall rises to majestic heights to take its place on the Derry skyline. A £10m renovation in 2013 has brought the very best out of what was already a magnificent structure of stone and stained glass. As well serving an important civic function for the city (it was the seat of the historic Bloody Sunday Inquiry headed by Lord Saville from 2000 to 2005), Guildhall has become a nexus for Derry tourism and a focal point for most visits here. View the Visit Derry website for more information.

Walled City

Ireland's first attempt at town planning, modelled in 1545 on the French town of Vitry-le-François. Visit www.derrywalls.com for further information. Those interested in architecture should allow time to visit St Columb's Cathedral, situated within the city walls.

Bogside

Home to many thousands of predominantly working-class catholics, The Bogside deserves to be much more than a waypoint for those charting the history of Northern Irish conflict. But those who come to Ulster to gain a greater appreciation of its troubled past will almost certainly make their way here, where The Troubles of the late Twentieth Century first began; where residents declared an independent state of their own, "Free Derry", and where 26 civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army in the notorious Bloody Sunday massacre.

Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant's Causeway County Antrim

Nothern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage site, known in Gaelic as Clochán na bhFomhórach or Clochán an Aifir, The Giant's Causeway is an area of 40,000 basalt columns, formed into a regular interlocking pattern by an ancient volcanic lava flow.

However, given the scale, the geometric regularity, and the sheer natural beauty of this feature, it is easy to understand why the ancients believed its origins to be more mystical than geologists would now have us believe.

According to Gaelic mythology, the causeway was built by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) so that he could reach Scotland and fight with his Scottish rival, Benandonner. As with all great rivalries, the outcome varies depending on whose version is being recounted.

One legendary status which is not disputed, though, is the Causeway's immense pulling power as a tourist destination on any Ireland tour, with 750,000 visitors making the trip annually. Here, tourists can enjoy not only the geological feature itself, but also the modern and impressive Giant's Causeway Visitor Experience.

Visiting The Giant's Causeway

The Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, which can be seen on our Tours of Northern Ireland The Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, which can be seen on our Tours of Northern Ireland

Visit The Giant's Causeway on these Tours

Sheep in Kerry, Ireland

Show Tour Description Small-Group Tour

15-Day Iconic Scenes of Ireland Northern & Southern

Discover the Island of Ireland, North and South with this unforgettable 15-day tour. Spend five magical days in Ulster, and then 10 more in Eire. Read more...

15-Day Iconic Scenes Tour 2019

  • 15 Day/14 Night
  • €1,985 to €2,485
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • North and South
  • Four-Star Hotels
2019 Tour
Newgrange, county Meath

Show Tour Description Mini-Group Tour

Historic Ireland Mini-Group Tour Mini Group Size

Visit Ireland's historic landscape and delve into its tranquilly on this mini group tour. Read more...

Historic Ireland Mini-Group Tour 2019

  • Max. 8 Guests
  • €2290
  • 8 Days/7 Nights
  • Adults Only
2019 Tour
The Giants Causeway

Show Tour Description Small-Group Tour

6-Day Discover Northern Ireland Tour Exclusively Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's natural beauty awaits on this six-day fully-inclusive tours of Ulster. Picturesque towns and untamed coastlines. Read more...

6-Day Discover Northern Ireland Tour 2019

  • Northern Ireland
  • 6 Days/5 Nights
  • €895 to €995 per person
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • Premium Hotels
2019 Tour
The Cliffs of Moher

Show Tour Options

Custom Private Tours Bespoke for your group

Set your own budget, set your own pace. Let us create a bespoke tour package for you and your group. Read more...

Customize your own Private Tour

  • Made to Measure
  • Private Group
  • Any Accomm.
  • Any Duration
  • Tell us your needs
Private Tours
Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge, as seen on our tours of Northern Ireland Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge, as seen on our tours of Northern Ireland

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

A handy stop-off point between The Giant's Causeway and Ballycastle, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is a dizzying experience to be enjoyed or studiously avoided, depending on your head for heights. Looking like something from an Indiana Jones movie, the rope bridge conveys locals and tourists alike across the 20-metre chasm between the sea cliffs and the island of Carrick-a-Rede.

The bridge which draws visitors today is actually a stronger and safer version of the original which was put up every spring by fishermen whose nets, cast from the island's northern cliffs, would intercept migrating salmon. Today, there is a small visitor centre, a cafe and a carpark.

My Ireland Travel Guide

Barrels at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

Dublin City

Ireland's much-loved capital and the gateway to the Emerald Isle. A vibrant, modern and outward-facing city, most Ireland tours and vacations begin here. Read more...

  • Guinness Storehouse
  • Trinity College
  • Temple Bar Quarter
  • The Book of Kells
  • Dublin Castle
About Dublin
Lighthouse in Hook Head

Wicklow & the East

This wild landscape of gorse and bracken is home to many of Ireland's most significant archaeological finds, as well its grandest estates. Read more...

  • Powerscourt Estate
  • Glendalough Settlement
  • Brú na Bóinne
  • Battle of The Boyne
  • National Stud
About the East
The Cliffs of Moher

Galway & the West

Pack walking boots, a camera and a sense of adventure as you head west for Galway, County Clare and the Wild Atalantic Way. Heritage, tradition and Read more...

  • Kylemore Abbey
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Clonmacnoise Settlement
  • Clare Music Sessions
  • The Burren Landscape
About the West
Kilkenny Castle by the riverside

Kilkenny & South-East

The sunny South East. Ireland's warmest and driest region is also one of its most popular destinations with tourists and locals alike. Read more...

  • The Rock of Cashel
  • Waterford Crystal
  • Lismore Castle
  • Tintern Abbey
  • St Canice's Cathedral
The South East
Sheep in Kerry, Ireland

Cork and Kerry

Wind-swept, welcoming and rugged, Ireland South West typifies what visitors expect Ireland to look like – vibrant, vivid and verdant. Read more...

  • Cork English Market
  • Blarney Castle
  • The Ring of Kerry
  • Killarney Nat. Park
  • Skellig Michael
The South West
Trad Session in Donegal, Ireland

Donegal and Sligo

Less well-trodden than Dublin, Belfast or Killarney, this picturesque region invites you to get outdoors. Don't forget your camera! Read more...

  • Slieve League Cliffs
  • Lakes and Loughs
  • Maghera Beach
  • Errigal Mountain
  • Glencolmcille Village
The North West
The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland

Belfast & The North

In peace, Belfast and the North have staked their rightful claim as some of the Island of Ireland's most iconic and cultural regions. Read more...

  • The City of Belfast
  • Titanic Belfast
  • Giant's Causeway
  • Carrick-a-Rede
  • The City of Derry
Northern Ireland
Solo traveller admiring the coastal view in Ireland

Ireland Solo Travel

Whether you're looking to meet new people or just yearning get away from it all, Ireland is a great place to travel independently. Read more...

  • Experience the Culture
  • Find Your Inner Peace
  • Discover New Paths
  • Start a Course
  • Experience the Nightlife
Northern Ireland

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