Kissing the Blarney Stone is probably what comes to mind when many people think of Ireland, but the popular tourist terminus country has much more to offer. You’ll miss the Blarney Stone entirely if Northern Ireland is your destination (it’s located in Ireland outside of Cork), and that’s not a bad thing.
Northern Ireland is brimming with gorgeous seaside scenery, historic castles, and exciting wildlife. Not sure where to start on your adventure? Here are three things to know about Northern Ireland.
Cover image credit: DieterMeyrl / iStock
You Can Play a Real Game of Q*bert
In 1982, the arcade video game Q*bert was introduced. In the game, the player guides the titular character around as he jumps up, down, and across a landscape of three-dimensional cubes. In some versions of the game, Q*bert navigates hexagonal-shaped objects that look a lot like Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway.
The Giant’s Causeway is a natural collection of approximately 40,000 basalt columns and solidified lava cliffs located a few miles outside of the town of Bushmills in Northern Ireland. Visitors can sample some whiskey in Bushmills, check out the official Giant’s Causeway visitors’ center (for a fee), and jump around the hexagonal columns while watching the waves wash over one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations.
You Can Tour the "Titanic"
Arguably the most famous ship in all of nautical history, the RMS Titanic was built and first set afloat in Belfast Harbour in May 1911 (almost a year before its sinking).
Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience, gives travelers and tourists a chance to step foot on the decks of the RMS Titanic. Well, not literally. But Titanic Belfast is likely the closest you’ll get to actually walking the decks of the infamous ship.
Titanic Belfast was voted World’s Leading Tourist Attraction in 2016, making it a top destination for many Ireland visitors as well as Titanic fanatics. The nine featured, interactive galleries make the most of “special effects, dark rides, [and] full-scale reconstructions” to virtually bring people aboard the RMS Titanic to experience it in its former glory.
There are also plenty of original Titanic relics on display if interactive attractions aren’t up your alley. These include things like the original plans for the Titanic, the last luncheon menu for passengers, and even launch day tickets.
You Can Pal Around with Puffins
Northern Ireland is home to a number of puffin colonies, but one of the country’s largest can be found on Rathlin Island. You can reach the island via short ferry ride from Ballycastle. Visitors can join around 150 locals on the island and walk or bicycle along beautiful panoramic views of rolling hills and seaside expanses.
Rathlin Island is Northern Ireland’s northernmost point, is home to an upside-down lighthouse, and it’s believed that Robert the Bruce was exiled there. These alone make it worth the visit, but palling around with puffins is a cherry on top of a Northern Ireland sundae.
A colony of puffins — recognizable for their webbed feet and bright red and yellow beaks — share the cliffs with a wide array of Northern Ireland birds during the summer. Visitors flock to the cliffs and the West Light Seabird Centre every year to watch the puffin parade.
You’d be hard-pressed not to find something worthwhile while visiting Northern Ireland. Puffins, Titanic attractions, and natural basalt columns are only scratching the surface of what Northern Ireland has to offer visitors. Historic landmarks like still-standing castles, ancient monasteries, and active cathedrals dot the landscape all over Northern Ireland.