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One Week in Ireland: Northern Ireland Driving Tour

One week in Ireland is perfect to take in the coastal highlights of a Northern Ireland driving tour, plus a few wonderful places in Donegal not covered by the 10-Day Galway and Northwest Ireland Itinerary. At the finish you’ll be traveling from Donegal back to Dublin by air, so you’ll need to use Enterprise, the only car rental company at tiny Donegal Airport. (Otherwise, you’ll be driving back to the capital.)

Day 1

Heading north from Dublin, take a scenic drive through the Mourne Mountains in County Down, have lunch in Strangford, a lovely village on an eponymous lake, and spend the night at Anna’s House in Lisbane, unofficially the best B&B on the island.

Day 2

Arrive in Belfast and take a Black Taxi tour for an exceedingly vivid history lesson. Spend the afternoon at the Botanic Gardens or Cave Hill Country Park if the weather’s fine, but if not, take the Belfast City Hall tour. After a terrific meal at one of the city’s many outstanding eateries, see what’s on at the Grand Opera House or Ulster Orchestra.

The rocky shoreline at Ballintoy Harbour.
Ballintoy Harbour. Photo © Camille DeAngelis.

Day 3

Traveling northeast from Belfast on the A2, head for The Gobbins Edwardian-era cliff walk (be sure to book your tickets ahead of time). Continue on through the Glens of Antrim, spending the night in quiet Ballintoy or cheerful, family-friendly Ballycastle.

Day 4

Clamber across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, once traversed daily by local salmon fishermen but now a worthwhile tourist draw, before continuing on the Causeway Coast route. Have lunch at The Nook before ambling down to Giant’s Causeway with its 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns. Stay the night in the Bushmills area rather than rushing through all this gorgeous scenery.

Seaside Dunluce Castle perches precipitously on a basalt cliff.
Dramatic Dunluce Castle perches precipitously on a cliff over a cave known as Mermaid’s Cave. Photo © Camille DeAngelis.

Day 5

Return to the coastal route for the precariously situated Dunluce Castle. Drive on to Downhill to check out the ruins of Bishop Hervey’s estate and the charming Mussenden Temple. Arrive in Derry City.

Day 6

Walk the Derry City walls and view the Bogside peace murals. Continue west into Donegal, pausing at the hilltop ring fort of Grianán of Aileách before driving north to the Inishowen Peninsula. Spend the evening at the fabulous McGrory’s pub in Culdaff, where you can catch a well-known musical act any night of the week.

View across the grassy moor at Glenveagh National Park
The moors of Glenveagh National Park. Photo © Camille DeAngelis.

Day 7

Another long but rewarding day’s drive: Get an early start from Inishowen down to Glenveagh National Park, where you can walk through a numinous landscape of lakes, mountains, and moor grass to 19th-century Glenveagh Castle. Continue west to Gweedore, with its dramatic Bloody Foreland viewing point and friendly Irish-speaking locals.

Day 8

Drive to Donegal Airport just south of Gweedore for your flight back to Dublin.

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Moon Ireland Travel Guide, 1-Week Northern Ireland Road Trip text over photo of the Giant's Causeway

Photo of the Giant’s Causeway © Diro/