Things To See and Do
Top things to do in Northern Ireland
Ardtara Country House sits close to the epicentre of things to see and do in Northern Ireland. Here are suggested “Sightseeing” itineraries and nearby links “Golf”
I. SIGHTSEEING – Itineraries and Details
Note: Ardtara offers a free tipsheet with satnav/GPS settings for easy finding and return.
- Giant’s Causeway Coast, Bushmills Distillery and 9 Antrim Glens
One of the 8 Wonders of the World…thousands of hexagonal volcanic rocks… Finn McCool…historic steam train…walks and hikes…Bushmills Distillery visit & tour (get a bottle of Bushmills personalized with your name on the label) …Dunluce Castle (see where the kitchen fell into the Atlantic)…Carrick-a-Rede fishermen’s Cable Bridge across open water to Carrick Island…Cushendall & Cushendun in the nearby Glens of Antrim designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- Belfast and Titanic Centre
Treat yourself to some of the best shopping in the UK… sample the brew in historic pubs… visit the Titanic Centre, with fascinating displays in a stunning building in the city’s Titanic Quarter. Or try the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum which shows life in the 18th century “up close and personal” plus historic planes, trains, ships and cars (including the Delorean automobile); see Belfast Castle, with panoramic views from high above the Belfast Lough on Cave Hill (site of the Shirley Maclaine movie about a true love story involving a WWII American military plane crash, “Closing the Ring”)… or roam the area of the sectarian murals remembering more troubled times.
- Historic City of Derry/Londonderry
Take a trip back in time. This city is the best example of a European walled city remaining virtually unchanged since it was built in the 17th Century. You can walk on the top of the wall and look down into the Bogside, itself the scene of modern Irish history. Visit the Tower Museum to see the remnants of Spanish Armada ships sunk off the coast in their desperate attempt to sail home after disaster. Pick up a wireless City Digital Tour Guide at the Tourist Info Centre (44 Foyle St, 7126-7284) to guide you around the town at your own speed. Visit Browns Restaurant in Bonds Hill and Browns in Town Strand Road for amazing fine dining.
- Game of Thrones® Locations Nearby
Some of the locations based across the Causeway Coast and Glens that Game of Thrones fans can visit for themselves (with Ardtara’s satnav tipsheet to help) include:
The Dark Hedges which is King’s Road
Ballintoy Harbour/Pyke, The Iron Islands
Cushendun Caves/The Stormlands
Cairncastle/North of Winterfell
Murlough Bay/Storm’s End
Alternatively, guided tours are available — we can organize this for you, if desired.
- Irish Linen Centre and Museum
From Flax-to-Fabric museum exhibition (free) tells the story of the Irish linen industry with live demonstrations of hand spinning and handloom weaving, as well as displaying examples of historic linen costumes and furnishings. The Museum Shop sells quality linen and craft goods. Café serves homemade comestibles. Note: a range of Irish linen damask table linen is on sale in the Linen Centre Museum Shop –with a flax flower design, it includes cloths, napkins and runners produced by the skilled Centre artisans (available nowhere else in the world.)
- Rathlin Island
Sail to the northernmost point in N.I… the only inhabited offshore island in N.I…. Known to the Romans and site of the first Viking landing, this six mile-by-one mile Island is now home to seals plus tens of thousands of seabirds and has been named a Special Conservation Area. Features an RSPB Bird Centre, pub, restaurant, mini bus tours, bike hire and easy walks along spectacular cliffs with vistas of Scotland in the distance. Great fun. Ferry operates March-October, costs about £21 for 2 pedestrians return (round trip) and can be booked by calling 02820769299.
- Slemish Mountain, Home to St. Patrick
Visit the 1400’ high volcanic plug where St Patrick tended swine as young slave in the fifth century…climbable path to the top in good weather (and good boots)…breathtaking views across most of N.I.…return through Broughshane, the Royal Horticultural Society award-winning Best Mid-Size Garden Village for fireside lunch in the Thatch Inn. Continue your return through Cullybackey for a quick stop at the ancestral home of the 21st US President, Chester A. Arthur.
- Seamus Heaney Home/Lough Neagh
The largest inland body of water in Ireland, Lough Neagh has history and drama. Coney
Island and Rams Island have hosted 1000 years of monks, nobles and bandits. Public boat tours available on Sundays and Thursdays from Easter to October. Directly on your return route is the Bellaghy Bawn, original home of Northern Ireland’s Nobel Prize winning Seamus Heaney and now featuring an exhibition of his manuscripts and books. News here.
- Sperrin Mountains Tours and Hikes
Savor the rugged natural beauty of this dramatic mountainous area…choose up to four primary scenic driving routes around and through … or enjoy a myriad of way-marked
hiking trails up and down valleys or over the crests of mountains…9000 years of civilization has left megalith tombs, standing stones, stone circles and alignments plus more “modern”18th century castles often perched on and near the picturesque Rivers Roe, Moyola and Bann.
- Mussenden Temple & Beach
Roam the ruins of the 18th century mansion of the so very eccentric Bishop of Londonderry…with circular temple/library perched precariously on the cliff edge over the Atlantic Ocean which hosted the Bishop’s secret trysts… then drive out onto the nearby Downhill Beach and cruise for miles to Benone Beach… then you can drive right up to the top of Binevenagh Mountain for a most spectacular view across Lough Foyle to Donegal in the west and back along the rugged North Coast to the east … return via Castlerock where you can visit the 300 year old thatched roof Hezlett House (one of the oldest in N.I.) for a feel of life in the 17th century.
- Foyle Ferry to Donegal (Ireland)
Travel (a quick 10 minutes) across the mouth of Lough Foyle from Magilligan Point to Greencastle, Donegal in the Republic of Ireland…take the scenic drive down the Lough back into Northern Ireland’s second biggest city, Derry/Londonderry and explore the Historic Walled City. Ferry operates all year, no booking necessary and costs about £20 for a car and 2 pax one way.
With three of the best links golf courses in Northern Ireland less than 45 minutes away, Ardtara has become the home-away-from-home to amateur and celebrity golfers alike.
We are happy to use our local contacts to get you the most suitable tee times and we can arrange guided tours and excursions for non-golfing partner/spouses.
Royal Portrush Golf Course – founded 1888 and became a “Royal” course with King Edward VII (to be) as patron features the Valley Course and the world famous Dunluce Course both overlooking the pounding Atlantic Ocean. Members include most of the distinguished golfers and leading citizens of Northern Ireland as well as Professionals Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell.
For more information, visit: www.
Portstewart Golf Course – founded 1894…three courses nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the famous River Bann: the championship Strand Course, the challenging River Course along the Bann and the seaside Old Course.
For more information, visit: www.portstewartgc.co.uk
Castlerock Golf Course — Castlerock Golf Club, is a classic links course set amid towering dunes. Situated on the Causeway coast and only a 20 minute drive from both Royal Portrush Golf Club and Portstewart Golf Club, Castlerock is a worthy neighbour to both of these great Irish links.
For more information, visit: www.castlerockgc.co.uk
Convenient nearby parkland courses(ranked in the top 10 in NI) include Gracehill (near Ballymoney)and Galgorm (near Ballymena). Both offer adjacent floodlit driving ranges.
In addition to shopping in Belfast and Derry, there are many small towns in the area, each with antique stores, and Irish woollen and linen products just waiting for exploration. We are happy to advise.
A. Houses and Gardens
Mount Stewart — Northern Ireland is full of wonderful Homes and Gardens. The most famous and interesting is probably Mount Stewart. The home of Lord Castlereagh, this
is a great example of its kind, with unique flora and fauna brought from all around the world. One of Northern Ireland’s most popular National Trust properties
Celebrated landscaped park: European Garden of Inspiration 2003
International Rose Garden at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park Upper Malone Road, Belfast — More than 25,000 rose bushes make this a blooming marvellous place in summer.
During Belfast Rose Week in July, the heady fragrance of floribundas drifts across the park’s 130 acres, confirming why Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park has been a world
centre of rose expertise for generations.
Ben Varden — This garden one of the most beautiful walled garden’s in the British Isles, both vegetables and flowers, cared for by the owner. Pleasant tea room in the
B. Special Events
There are numerous exciting events scheduled in Northern Ireland year round:
North West 200 motorcycle road race in May
Ulster Rugby matches on Friday nights throughout the winter
Horse Racing at Royal Down Racecourse
Occasional Senior British Open golf tournament and numerous amateur golf tournaments especially the Black Bush event open to anyone with a bona fide handicap
Auld Lammas Fair at Ballycastle in October
Hilden Beer Festival in Lisburn
C. Other Sports
The nearby Sperrin Mountains unveil some of the most un-spoilt mountain scenery available in Ireland. If you prefer, the spectacular cliff and beach walks along the Antrim coast, including the World Heritage designated site of the Giantís Causeway, are truly unique in their rugged beauty. Look for some unusual fossils in the streams around White Park Bay.
2. River and sea fishing
Ardtara is close to a variety of good rivers and lakes and the Irish sea is only 45 minute drive away. Ghillies are available by request. Examples: Fly fishing on the River Bush and course fishing on the River Bann.
3. Horse Riding — nearby.