Now...before you even arrive - let's get some vocab straight to help you survive in 'Norn Iron' - aka Northern Ireland.
A wee...literally means a little, but is used in ALL contexts (it's a wee bit cold, have a wee nap, do you want a wee beer?)
It's craic! But pronounced, "it's crack!"...very confusing at first. "Last night was craic!" "Let's get some craic going tonight!" Trust me - I was as confused as they come when I first heard this in a family home, but soon learnt that it simply means fun, hilarious, happy times together. Phew!
I'm grand! Literally means, "fine".
Day 1: Belfast
Good to see and experience for a day, but I wouldn't be suggesting to stay longer than this. Must sees are the Titanic Museum and the Peace Wall separating the Catholic and the Protestant neighbourhoods.
Day 2: Belfast - Portstewart
Head out of Belfast towards Carrickfergus, where you will begin one of the most stunning coastline drives you may ever experience. At Carrickfergus, you can stop to view the Norman Castle if you wish. From Carrickfergus, follow the A2, which will take you right alongside the coast. Be sure to cast your eyes to the right as you drive for the incredible views and of course, stop often to breathe in the scenery!
First Stop: Carnlough
Pit stop for some lunch and to check out this cute little harbour town. First spotting of the rows of colourful houses!
Second Stop: Ballycastle
By now, it will be late afternoon, and Ballycastle offers a fine resting point for a quick coffee. It's worth noting for those beach lovers amongst us, this was the first sighting of white sand, which caused a few excited shrieks of delight to escape from the back seat of the car. Although be warned - there are even more spectacular white beaches to come...it's just a shame that the weather doesn't permit a nice dip!
Third Stop: Kilbane Head
From Ballycastle, continue driving along the coastal road right past the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Soon after, you will see a right turn off to Kilbane Head. Take this turn - trust me on this one. You will be pleasantly rewarded with stunning cliff views and a hike down to a medieval castle. Absolute must see!
Views from Kilbane Head
Fourth Stop: Portstewart (sleep 2 nights)
A pretty happening beach town. Classy and comfortable, we thoroughly enjoyed the two nights that we spent here. It was the perfect base to see the northern coast of Ireland. Portstewart was quite a laid back and older crown scene, but as an alternative, you could try Portrush for a younger and more lively scene.
Stay: Knock Bed and Breakfast and Seaweed Bath House (family run)
Eat: Amici Ristorante (book a table in advance!)
Day 3: The best of Northern Ireland
Get ready for a day jam-packed full of tourist delights and natural beauty.
First Stop: The Dark Hedges (Ballymoney)
Made famous by a scene from Game of Thrones, but The Dark Hedges are famous by their own right. Gloomy and mysterious, it's best to visit these on a cloudy day for full effect. But be warned - tourist central here. Park the car and walk through for the best photo opportunities.
Second Stop: The Giant's Causeway
According to Gaelic mythology, the giant Finn MacCool built this causeway across the North Channel to battle his Scottish enemy Benandonner. Funnily enough, there is the exact same step like pathway directly opposite the channel in Scotland. What a legend! Science says that the causeway is a result of an ancient volcano eruption. Believe what you will, but for me, Finn will always win. €9 entry and well worth it – between the hikes, exploring the causeway and the gift shop, you could very happily spend a whole day here.
Third Stop: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Visit this famous rope bridge used by salmon fisherman more than 350 years ago. The rickety rope bridge connects the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It costs €6 to cross the 20 meter bridge which is 30 meters above sea level. Do it for the views from the tiny island – but hold on tight and don’t look down! Well worth it for the spectacular views.
Until we meet again, Norn Iron, thanks for the craic!