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3 days in northern ireland

New Richmond...
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3 days in northern ireland

Hi TA experts!

In the early stages of planning our first trip to ireland (myself and friend) for third week in May 2013.We will arrive in Ireland from scotland by plain on a Saturday and leave back to States from Dublin the following Saturday. Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland are so beautiful that we are having a hard time accepting that we will not to be able to take in the entire island :0}

First idea....

Say we arrive in Belfast on an early AM flight from Glasgow. We hire a car for 3 days. We want to be able to drive the Antrium coast seeing the follwing sites,,,,Giants Causeway, Carrickarede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle, Bally Castle, Buschmills,and Glens of Antrium...

We would also like to see County Down,,, The Mourne Mountains, Downpatrick/Cathedral, Scrabo tower,Killyleagh Castle,Castlewellan park...

Can we do this in 3 days? I realize you might tell us we r going to have to pick..! Also a lot of the things that interest us in Down could be seen if we just keep the car and sight see on our drive to dublin area and pay the extra fee to cross to the republic and use the car there instead of having to take the car back to Belfast.

All your expertise is appreciated and please let us know if we are missing better areas/sites. Thank you so much. I have to say it's amazing how much i have learned on TA and that all you take so much of your own time to share your knowledge with us. Thank You!!!

North Coast, N...
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for Northern Ireland
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1. Re: 3 days in northern ireland

Have you family roots in county Down or is there a particular reason you want to visit? The likes of Castlewellan forest park is popular here with families going for walks/days out etc but would not normally be on the tourist trail. It is a slightly odd choice. My normal first choice for that sort of thing for tourists would be the waterfall walk in Glenariff forest park which is nice stop as you drive the Causeway Coastal route.

You aren't including Belfast or Derry - are you deliberately wanting to avoid these?

You can do the Causeway area on day one with a morning arrival. In May, days are long so you have a good amount of time to fit in scenic areas e.g. Causeway, Mournes which don't have a "closing time" for you to worry about!

You could then try to end day one heading towards the county down area. If you want to include Belfast, then maybe head back via the M2 from the north coast. Drive time Coleraine to Belfast approx 1 hour by motorway. Overnight in Belfast would allow you to spend a morning in Belfast to get a snapshot of the city and then you could head along to Ards area and spend the rest of this day covering north county down .That leaves day 3 to finish exploring southern county down (Mournes area).

The AA route planner is a good guide - add maybe 10-20% to drive times to allow a bit of a safety net for slow vehicles, diversions, roadworks, comfort stop etc!

So yes, it is do-able, if you leave out Belfast totally you would see a lot of county down in 2 days.

I know they hold concerts at Killyleagh castle at times but I am not aware of it being officially open to the public?

Belfast, United...
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2. Re: 3 days in northern ireland

It's perfectly do-able provided you keep moving. Your tour through Co Down will be deligthful and the more so because it is not part of the general tourist trail. In overall terms Co Down is more and consistently beautiful than Co Antrim, although the Causeway Coast and Antrim Glens are the gems.

I guess your interest in Castlewellan Forest Park is for the arboretum and if so consider visiting Mount Stewart which has beautiful gardens. Since Killyleagh Castle is not open, you could go from Scrabo Tower via Mount Stewart and then take the ferry from Portaferry and onwards to Downpatrick.

North Coast, N...
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3. Re: 3 days in northern ireland

Ah Drumlough, that makes sense - I wasn't even aware of an arboretum in the forest park - must go there this year.. Most of my experiences in Castlewellan forest park seemed to involve canoeing and weekend activity holidays in my younger days!

Edited: 29 February 2012, 10:45
New Richmond...
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4. Re: 3 days in northern ireland

Thank you both for your advice! drumlough, yes you are right about castlewellen. Thank you for the suggestion of Mount Stewart. It looks amazing too. Will add to our list.We realize that Down seems not the usual tourist area but what we have seen of it looks beautiful and the appeal that its not the usual tourist area appeals to us. We will most likely add a day for Belfast as I would really like to see the city too. I was thinking if we do return the car to Belfast, we could spend the day seeing some sites maybe do a black cab tour then take the train to Dublin at a later time in the evening. The problem is we want to see everything!! Maybe I shouldn't have started planning already....just find more and more to see and then won't be able to make up my mind! :o) Any more advice or ideas are welcome. Thank you again.

North Coast, N...
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5. Re: 3 days in northern ireland

Sounds like you don't need much advice from us! You sound well on your way with your planning. it would be great if you would write a trip report when you come back especially as you are going off the tourist trail a little. Mount Stewart has been offered by some cruise ships as an option so it seems to be making a good name for itself.

Difficult to give more advice without knowing of any specific interests. The whole Strangford area has quite a lot of points of interest so don't be afraid to take detours. I would maybe have one or two wet weather options up your sleeve just in case - but cathedrals, museums, folk parks etc all can fit that bill and there are ample in Downpatrick, Cultra etc in County Down. Also, once you have dates look online for local councils in your area in case there are any interesting special events on.

New Richmond...
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6. Re: 3 days in northern ireland

Thanks ponaire, but yes I need help! In more ways than one :) I had another thought I would like to run by you. You got me re-thinking about Derry because I think the walled city would be neat to see. If that first day we arrive in Belfast we get our car then tour Belfast for about 6 hours or so which would be around 3pm. I believe I read somewhere that Belfast is not like Dublin for driving so we should be able to park our car in town and tour the city on foot and by tours etc...am I right? Then head to Derry which should take us to around 430pm. Then tour Derry and spend night. Next day head to Antrium for the next part of our trip. Derry to Bushmills about 2 hours? We would have 3 days then to tour Antrium and Down. What are your thoughts. Does Derry need a full day and are we not doing Derry or Belfast justice by splitting them in a day?

I will definitely post our trip! Thank you

Belfast, United...
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7. Re: 3 days in northern ireland

Check which airport you are arriving at. If you are arriving into Belfast International Airport on easyJet, then since the airport is well out of town to the NW, it would make more sense to head straight to Derry. Given the pace of your trip and that you want to see as much as possible, allow 2 to 3 hours in Derry. You could probably make it to Bushmills and might even visit some of the attractions there that evening. Then next day head down the Antrim (not spelling) coast towards Belfast.

If however you are arriving into Belfast City Airport of Flybe then your plan is equally valid. Parking close to the city centre for a few hours is much easier than Dublin. On street car parking has a 2hour time limit, so you would be better seeking one of the car parks.

North Coast, N...
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8. Re: 3 days in northern ireland

Agree with Drumlough that going north west first might work best.

Re drive times I would say 1 hr 45 from Belfast to Derry and maybe 1 hour 15 from Derry to Portrush/Bushmills. If weather is good take the Causeway Coastal Route from Derry via Mussenden (doesn't add too much on to your journey) and have a short photo stop on Downhill beach of the temple.

My gut feel is that if you are arriving on a Saturday and have an early start, you may not want to head to Derry late afternoon and it probably isn't the best time to walk the walls. It just sounds like too busy a day - two cities - with an early start. It can be done but if you are flying to the International, stick to Drumlough's suggestion.

Edited: 01 March 2012, 19:01
New Richmond...
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9. Re: 3 days in northern ireland

Great advice. Thank you. Im pretty sure that the cheaper flight was on easyjet from Glasgow to Belfest so I will do as you suggested and head to Derry straight from the airport. I think Derry is worth the visit.

10. Re: 3 days in northern ireland

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