The summer is here, the days are long and warm, so it is the perfect time to explore what hidden gems we have right here in the British Isles.
If you have a couple of days spare, you should definitely consider heading over the Irish Sea and visiting Northern Ireland. There is plenty to do, it is only a couple of hours away on the ferry and you don’t need to bother changing money!
Here are our top tips on getting the most out of the Emerald Isle:
How to Get There
If you want to take your car on your trip, consider taking the ferry. There is a port in the heart of Belfast where ferries dock from Liverpool, Troon and Stranraer.
The crossing takes at most a couple of hours, and you have the added boon of being able to drive straight off the boat. You can expect to pay around £300 return for two adults and a car, but if you book far ahead in advance you can pick up a bargain.
Belfast also caters for you if you would rather take the plane. George Best domestic airport is right in the city centre, so you can throw yourself straight into the action as soon as you land.
Flight prices can vary wildly depending where you fly from and how far in advance you book. You could pay anything from £40 if you book months in advance with a low cost airline up to around £200 for a last minute trip.
Things to Do
Once there, there is a huge variety of things to do. Stay in Belfast for the first day of so, and take one of their quirky walking ghost tours in the evening.
Belfast is a great hub for concerts and nightlife. If you’re thinking of going over in August, it is worthwhile looking up tickets for this year’s Belsonic festival, one of Northern Ireland’s biggest outdoor music events, which drew in more than 40,000 spectators last year.
Moving out from Belfast, head north up to Antrim to to take in Northern Ireland’s most iconic landmark: The Giant’s Causeway (pictured).
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Causeway was created by volcanic activity around 50-60 million years ago. However, legend has it that Irish warrior Finn McCool built the Causeway to cross to Scotland and fight his arch-rival giant Benandonner.
Finish your trip by heading south to the gorgeous Ards Penninsula, which is chock full of beautiful seaside fishing villages like Donaghadee, Groomsport and Ballywalter, perfect for taking in the picturesque coast while enjoying a fish and chip supper.
Things to Watch Out For
It is handy not having to change your money into Euros for your trip, but bear in mind that the Northern Irish do have their own pound sterling notes.
This is unlikely to cause you any problems on your trip – all Ulster retailers accept Bank of England and a variety of Scottish notes – but be wary of it on your return to the mainland UK.
It may be an idea to get any left over Irish notes changed over at a bank or spent at tourist hubs like the cities, as shops in more rural areas of the UK may be unwilling to accept them.
However, for a break with little hassle and lots to do, Northern Ireland really is a hidden gem. Catch it now before it inevitably becomes a more mainstream tourist destination.