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Northern Ireland’s Great Outdoors – Go Explore It!

It won’t be long now before people are getting busy planning their trips to Ireland for next year, and I wanted to put together a few suggestions for things to do in Northern Ireland. I’m going to be optimistic and say that a wonderful summer is on the way, and with that in mind I’ve come up with a few things to do in Northern Ireland’s great outdoors. Feel free to add a few suggestions of your own in the comments section below. It’d be great to discover somewhere new.

Beaches

When the sun is shining, what better way to enjoy a piece of Northern Ireland than at one of it’s magnificent beaches. Plan a day out at the beautiful long sandy Portrush West Strand Beach and you’ll be spoilt for choice of things to do. Water sports, including windsurfing, sailing, and boating are usually all available here in the summertime, and you’ll have plenty of restaurants to choose from when you’re feeling peckish. If sand dunes are more your thing, then you can’t go too far wrong with a trip to Portstewart Strand. Looking to do a spot of horseback riding along the water line? Sure thing! A quick web search should give you plenty of options to choose from.

Golf

I’m by no means anywhere near what you might consider to be a great golfer, but I do appreciate a round once in a while. I think you’ll agree that it’s quite impressive that, by some calculations, Northern Ireland is the greatest golfing nation in the world! Northern Ireland has plenty of world class golf courses to choose from, and for those of you on a tighter budget, there are plenty of options available for you too. Grab your clubs, and hit the links!

Ballyliffin, Northern Ireland's Great Outdoors

18th Green, Ballyliffin (image credit Flickr user easylocum)

Lakes of Northern Ireland

Did you know Lough Neagh is the biggest lake on the island of Ireland? It’s true. Of course it’s not the only lake in Northern Ireland, but if you’re spending some time near there, you’ll find that it has plenty of attractions and amenities to keep you busy for days. You have the lake itself, great for all kinds of water activity, but around the lake there’s a little something for all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. Scenic trails, abundant fishing, the Loughshore cycleway, the Canal Walk and the nearby round towers, are just some of the things that jump out at me as reasons to visit the area. discoverloughneagh.com has plenty more information for you if you’re interested.

Mountain Bike Trails

I’ll be making sure my bike tyres are properly filled with air next time I’m up north. In 2013 100km of purpose-built bike trails were opened, and by all accounts, they are pretty special! I’ve done a little bit of research on the trails and the Davagh Forest trail, in the Sperrin mountains, looks right up my alley. And for the family, I might check out Castlewellan trails. It’s meant to suit all ages/abilities. mountainbikeni.com has all the details for you.

Castles and Monuments

A lot of times when I visit castles or ancient Irish monuments, such as churches or round towers, I spend quite a bit of time outside first, taking in the beauty of the building and the surrounding areas. If you think about it, many centuries ago people would’ve spent a lot of time around these buildings, tending to animals or crops, trading goods, playing, socializing and going about their daily lives. While you’re at one of Northern Ireland’s many centuries-old monuments, try to remember that a lot of what you can see, they saw. Ok, you might be looking at new trees, or roads that weren’t there, modern structures in the distance etc, but the countryside would’ve looked much the same. Get your camera out and capture the moment. Point it in the direction of something that wouldn’t have looked much different all those centuries ago. This is what Northern Ireland’s great outdoors is all about.

Kinbane Castle

Kinbane Castle (image credit Flickr user sjdunphy)

I know I have left off dozens, more like hundreds, of other amazing places and ways to experience Northern Ireland’s great outdoors, and that is intentional. I invite you to chime in with your own in the comments. Let my fingers take a break from typing and tell me some of your own favorite outdoor spots. I can’t wait to explore them.

3 comments

  1. There is, of course, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which gets the adrenalin pumping but it’s well worth the hike. But, don’t go on a windy day is it could be closed down. I’m fond of the Giant’s Causeway, too.

    If you’re in south County Tyrone near Coalisland, it’s worth it to check out Peatlands Park and Oxford Island Discovery Center – both great spots for nature lovers.

    Back in September, I went with some friends to Ardress House in County Armagh (near Portadown) and loved it. We went for an InstaMeet (we’re all Instagrammers!) and spent an hour just walking though the apple orchard which is open to the public…the apples were just at their peak, too.

    Thanks for putting this together, Liam…Northern Ireland has so much to offer!

    • Thanks for this great input, Elizabeth! Especially the Co. Tyrone suggestions. I’ve been to neither, so will be sure to look them up before my next trip!
      Enjoy your weekend!
      Liam

  2. A suggestion via Facebook from Steve Hogan:
    The International Appalachian Trail is a trail that spans multiple countries and a section of it was recently opened in the northwest of Ireland, in Donegal. While not yet spanning in to Northern Ireland, there are talks to do so. Check out the video for more details and images from this magnificent walking route.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5hWrjBqvZU#t=68

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