Top things to do one hour from Belfast

  1. The official residence of the Queen in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle, County Down is an impressive 18th-century mansion. A 40-minute drive south of Belfast, see the castle’s State Drawing Room, Dining Rooms and the furniture plus silver from HMS Nelson.

 

  1. The garden at Glenarm Castle, around 40 minutes’ drive north of Belfast, is a wonderful place to stroll around. There has been a castle at Glenarm since the 13th century, although the present house was built in the mid 17th century and it remains a private home – to the 14th Earl of Antrim and his family.

 

  1. Though published while he lived in Belfast, much of Seamus Heaney’s Nobel Prize-winning poetry recalled his upbringing in County Londonderry, an hour west of the city. The poet excelled in portraying a bygone landscape of fields, farms, bogs and rural traditions. Explore it from the new Seamus Heaney Arts & Literary Centre in Bellaghy.

 

  1. If you hear a knock on your door in the middle of the night while staying at Ballgally Castle, be prepared to open it and find no-one there. Lady Isobel Shaw, whose family owned the castle in the 17th and 18th centuries, is said to roam the building after being locked up and starved to death by her husband. Ballygally Castle is around 40 minutes’ drive north of Belfast.

 

  1. The Air Waves Air Show in Northern Ireland is an annual event in one of the UK’s most spectacular locations. Based at the seaside town of Portrush in County Antrim (an hour’s journey by rail or road from Belfast), planes fly past the stunning Giant’s Causeway.

 

  1. Hear traditional music beneath Northern Ireland’s oldest thatch: The Crosskeys Inn, which started life as a coaching stop on the old Belfast-Londonderry road. The oldest part of the bar dates back to 1654. Nowadays, it’s also a top-notch traditional Irish folk music venue, 45 minutes northwest of Belfast by road.

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