Fancy a great craic? There’s plenty of it to be had in Northern Ireland.

Shouldered by the wild Atlantic with soul-stirring coastline, ancient castles, quaint wee villages and a vibrant metropolis that rivals cities twice its size, Northern Ireland is a true gem on the Emerald Isle. The country’s turbulent past means it hasn't always been a popular travel destination, but now we’re making up for lost time. Uncover the mystery and legend of Giant’s Causeway, learn about “the Troubles”, visit the romantic ruins of Dunluce Castle and sip on a cold pint of Guinness (or two) in Belfast’s buzzing pubs – all with the inside knowledge of a local guide.

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Highlights of Northern Ireland

A street in Cathedral Quarter in Belfast City

Enjoy the lively capital of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s lively capital, Belfast is brimming with culture, history, art galleries, pubs and quirky bars. Wander the streets of the bohemian Cathedral Quarter, marvel at the stately City Hall lit up at night, grab a bite in a cosy pub or tap your toes to traditional music with a Guinness (or two). 

The exterior of the Titanic Museum in Belfast

Uncover the history of the Titanic

Visit the Titanic Museum on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard where the legendary RMS Titanic was built and launched. It's an immersive sensory experience where you'll learn the story of the ship's ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912 and the tales of her passengers. 

Giant's Causeway on a sunny day

Explore the legendary Causeway Coast

Legend has it Giant’s Causeway was created when a Scottish giant named Benandonner threatened Ireland’s biggest giant, Finn McCool. McCool got angry and hurtled rocks into the sea so he could get to Benandonner. Science says it formed 60 million years ago due to volcanic eruptions. We’ll let you decide this one, but either way, it’s a magical sight.

Botanic Gardens in Belfast

Chill out in the gorgeous Botanic Gardens

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city in the Botanic Gardens. Wander the stunning rose gardens and get a whiff of all the flowers, check out exotic plants in the cast iron glasshouse or have a picnic on the lawn. It's also home to the Ulster Museum where you can uncover the history of Northern Ireland and discover the country's treasures. 

Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland

Explore Dunluce Castle

Can you get a more dramatic backdrop for a castle? Dunluce Castle is carved into a towering sea cliff with sweeping views of the rugged Antrim coast and wild waves crashing into the rocks below. Step inside the romantic ruins and see where powerful clans lived and fought mighty battles for hundreds of years. 

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Walk over to Carrick Island

The only thing on Carrick Island is a tiny fisherman’s cottage – and that's the beauty of it. The only way to get there is by walking across a narrow rope bridge that's suspended 30m above rocks and sea. It might be a bit nerve-wracking, but we promise the views of the coast are worth it. Just grip on tight and you’ll be grand!

Northern Ireland tour reviews

Northern Ireland holiday information

Capital city: Belfast
Population: 1.9 million
Language: English, Gaelic and Ulster Scots
Currency: Pound Sterling (GBP)
Time zone: (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time : Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London
Electricity: Type D (Old British 3-pin) Type G (Irish/British 3-pin) Type M (see D)
Dialing code: +44

A group of people enjoying a pint in a Northern Ireland pub

 

Northern Ireland has a complex and turbulent past with religious and political upheaval (commonly referred to as " the Troubles") that lasted for about 30 years. Most of this is now in the past, and the country has worked hard to get where it is today. The situation is still complex, and if you’re around the southern border area and get chatting to locals, avoid calling or asking people if they're Irish or British – simply call them locals. The people are generally very warm, welcoming and friendly. 

Northern Ireland culture has influence from Ireland, Scotland and England, but it’s uniquely Northern Irish. It’s still traditional and conservative in many ways with a strong religious presence from both the Catholic and Protestant churches, especially in the villages and smaller townships. The capital city, Belfast is vibrant and diverse with a buzzing nightlife, music, arts and shopping scene.

Northern Ireland is located on the top of the isle of Ireland. The geography is made up of craggy terrain with hills, mountains, pristine lakes, winding rivers and lush woodland valleys. Northern Ireland also has a beautiful rugged coastline that faces the Atlantic. You know somewhere has pretty incredible landscapes when it was a filming location for the Game of Thrones!

There’s no question about it… the weather in Northern Ireland is unpredictable. It’s similar to Ireland and the UK with mild summers and winters. The weather never reaches the extremes thanks to the Atlantic Gulf Stream. However, it does tend to be a bit wetter and chillier than Ireland and Britain when that sharp wind blows in from the Atlantic. Spring and autumn can be cool, wet and windy, but the days are long and it’s sometimes surprisingly sunny and warm.

MONTH

AVERAGE HIGH (°C)  

AVERAGE LOW (°C)  

January 

8

3

February

8

3

March

10

4

April

13

5

May 15 7
June  18 10
July 19 11
August  19 11
September 17 10
October  14 8
November  10 5
December  8 3

So what do you eat when in Northern Ireland? The food is similar to what you’ll find in Scotland, Ireland and England, but there are some classics that are unique to the country. Here are some national dishes to try.

Ulster fry 

The Ulster fry is the Northern Irish fry up, and it might even be the nation’s favourite dish. It’s typically served for breakfast or brunch (word on the street is that it’s the ultimate hangover cure), but you could also eat it for dinner. It consists of fried sausages, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomato, soda farls and potato bread. And not forgetting to wash it down with a big mug of tea.

Potato farl

A potato farl is essentially a potato pancake. It's made from mashed spuds, flour, butter and salt which is then squished into a patty and baked on a griddle pan. They're simple, filling and delicious. Eat them classic (fried in butter and sprinkled with salt) or get creative with grated cheese, herbs and spices. Farls are also a great substitute for bread and are yummy topped with eggs your way, bacon, spinach or whatever tickles your fancy. 

Champ

A warm bowl of champ is creamy, salty and soul-warming. The creamy texture is thanks to a splash of milk and a generous spoonful of butter. It’s then mixed through with chopped green onions (and maybe even some grated cheese if you're feeling a bit extra!). Think of it as an upgrade on your standard mashed spuds… and once you’ve had champ you’ll never want a standard bowl of mash again.

"Sure, why would you want to go on holiday when the sun's shining here?" This is something you might hear locals saying when the sun’s shining. And it’s true! Northern Ireland is absolutely gorgeous on a clear summer's day. June to August is a great time to visit as you have the best chance of good weather and the scenery is gorgeous. There’s plenty of beaches to enjoy the sun, as well as plenty of open green spaces to have a picnic. Better weather means bigger crowds, so bear this in mind. The weather in spring and autumn can be hit or miss but it can be a fantastic time to see colourful wildflowers and autumn foliage in the woodlands, valleys and countryside. Winter is cold and wet but you do get some clear, crisp days which make for gorgeous coastal walks on the Antrim Coast. 

Learn more about the best time to visit Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland FAQs

Everyone travelling on an Intrepid trip must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of carriage. 

All travellers are required to produce: 

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination
  • All children aged 5 to 17 years old must provide proof of vaccination (if eligible), proof of recovery or a negative COVID-19 test.
  • If you are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, you may apply for an exemption. Exemptions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. To apply, you must provide a medical certificate from a medical professional. 

In all cases, you must be fully inoculated. This means you must receive the full dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine and allow enough time for immunity to take effect. Each COVID-19 vaccine has different dosages and timeframes for inoculation, so please check the relevant medical advice associated with your vaccine.

Learn more about Intrepid's COVID-19 proof of vaccination policy

 

Visas in the UK are granted on a UK wide basis, so if you’re coming from overseas and have been given a visa it will be valid for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Visa regulations are always subject to change, which is more likely after Britain's exit from the European Union (EU). Citizens of the EU, Australia, Canada and the United States have visa-free access to Wales provided you meet the immigration rules. Learn more about visas on the GOV.UK website.

Tipping isn’t expected but if you’re happy with a meal or service, a tip is always appreciated. Rounding up a taxi fare is common.

  • “Wee” = a word used (for pretty much everything!) but especially for small or cure things

  • “Craic” = a term used to describe a great time or a good laugh

  • “Bout ye?” = “How are you?”

  • “Buck eegit” = an endearing term for someone who is being or did something silly

  • “Houl yer whisht” = “please be quiet” or “shut up”

  • “Yoke” = a term used to describe an object, e.g. “Will you pass me that yoke (TV remote, hairbrush, glass, etc) over there?”

  • “Catch yourself on” = “Don’t be so ridiculous!”

  • “Baltic” = a term used when the weather is very cold, e.g. “It’s pure baltic outside this morning!”

  • “Aye” = “yes”

  • “Banter” = similar to craic, it’s a term used to describe having a good laugh

Mobile phone coverage is generally very good in most parts of Northern Ireland, but it might be patchy in more remote areas. Ensure global roaming is activated before you arrive if travelling from overseas.

Cup of coffee = £2.50

Pint of beer = £4

Glass of wine = £4.00

Simple cafe lunch = £10 

Nice meal in a restaurant = £30

Drinking tap water is safe in England unless otherwise marked. We recommend bringing a refillable bottle with you to avoid buying single-use plastic bottles to do your bit for the environment.

Major credit cards are widely accepted in shops and hotels in Northern Ireland. Smaller shops may not accept credit cards, so it’s never a bad idea to carry some cash for smaller items such as a coffee, or if you’re splitting bills with your group.

ATMs are called cash machines or cashpoints in Northern Ireland. You’ll see plenty of them on main streets and shopping centres. You can use Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, Plus, Amex and Cirrus at most cash machines, as well as international bank cash machines in bigger towns and cities.

Definitely. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every trip.

Please speak to your Adventure Consultant at the time of booking if you need assistance arranging insurance. Learn more about travel insurance.

If you’re travelling by air, the easiest airport to fly into is Belfast International Airport (BFS). You can also fly into the smaller George Belfast City Airport (BHD) which is only three miles from the city centre. The ferry is a good option if you’re travelling from Scotland or England and want to take your car. If you’re coming from the Republic of Ireland, you can take the TransLink cross-border train from Dublin to Belfast Central Station. 

Learn more about how to get to Northern Ireland

Belfast is the most LGBTQI+ friendly destination in Northern Ireland with many social meeting places for the LGBTQI+ community. Belfast is also home to the largest LGBTQI+ festival in Ireland. Some areas of the country such as smaller country towns might be more hostile to LGBTQI+ travellers. For more detailed and up-to-date advice, we recommend visiting Equaldex or Smartraveller before you travel.

Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. We’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and, where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Learn more about Accessible Travel with Intrepid

Responsible travel

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Colourful houses in Ireland

How we're giving back

In Northern Ireland, we stay in locally run accommodation including guesthouses, smaller-scale hotels and homestays in an effort to support the local economies. We also visit locally run restaurants and markets where travellers will have opportunities to support local businesses and purchase handicrafts created by local artisans.

Read more about the United Kingdom