Unlock the secrets of this historic walled city.
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Embark on a luxurious escape taking in the wondrous and exclusive site throughout Ireland's Ancient East, Wild Atlantic Way and Dublin.In this itinerary, you’ll find a wonderful way to explore the city of Derry~Londonderry in Northern Ireland – the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way and the Causeway Coastal Route. If you’re coming from the UK, you can fly to Derry~Londonderry direct from a number of cities. If you’re travelling from other countries, you can visit via Belfast.
To ensure this itinerary is relevant to as many visitors as possible, we will start our journey from Belfast International Airport. Visitors will get the chance to see some of the sights along the Causeway Coastal Route, enjoy the highlights of Derry~Londonderry and explore the wild Donegal coastline, where the Wild Atlantic Way begins.
The itinerary includes a wide range of activities, so visitors are advised to bring good walking shoes/boots, as well as waterproof clothing. It is also advisable to book all group tours, accommodation and meals in advance of travelling.
This is a sample itinerary offering suggestions and ideas for planning trips. Please contact your local Tourism Ireland representative for further information.
Rathlin Island Lighthouse
Old Bushmills Distillery
Leave Belfast and head north for the Causeway Coastal Route, joining it at the ferry port in Ballycastle for a trip to Rathlin Island. Sailings are subject to weather, so do call in advance. Ferries take 25-40 minutes from Ballycastle. Vehicles are not permitted on the island, so you will need to park up for the day. On arrival, follow the Rathlin Trail to the RSPB birdwatching facility, and pay a visit Ireland’s only upside-down lighthouse.
Reserve tables at The Lighthouse Cafe in the Manor House Rathlin – advance booking for groups is essential.
Continue to explore Rathlin in the afternoon, finishing the day at McCuaig's bar where you can enjoy some refreshments as you wait for the return ferry.
There are options for places to stay overnight on Rathlin Island, or you can return to the mainland on the same day and head to the village of Bushmills via Ballintoy Harbour. Those who enjoy HBO’S Game of Thrones® will recognise Ballintoy as one of the many locations used in the TV series, while Bushmills is the home of the famous Bushmills Irish whiskey. The Bushmills Inn Hotel, which has 41 rooms and suites, is your location for the night. Reserve tables for dinner at Tartine at the Distillers Arms, which is just a short walk up the road from the inn.
Today is a day to stop and see the sights. Not far away from Bushmills is the medieval cliff-top ruin of Dunluce Castle. Entry is free and there is limited access for wheelchair users. Our next stop is the seaside town of Portrush, where you can fit in a round of golf at Royal Portrush Golf Club – host to the 148th Open in 2019. Those who don’t want to play can enjoy the beaches of Portrush, perhaps learn how to surf at Portrush Surf School, or simply take in that fresh sea air.
Nearby Portstewart is where you’ll find your lunch venue: Harry’s Shack, which is quite literally located on Downhill Beach. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
More sightseeing in the afternoon, this time it’s a stop-off at Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne. A neo-classical folly perched high above the beach, the temple was built as a summer library and its architecture was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome. Stroll the grounds and enjoy panoramic views down to the sands of Downhill Beach below.
Drive to Derry~Londonderry and check into the Bishop’s Gate Hotel, a Grade B1 listed hotel, which is perfectly positioned within the city walls at the heart of the Cathedral Quarter. For dinner, reserve tables at The Walled City Brewery, about a 15 minute walk from the hotel to Ebrington Square, on the other side of the iconic Peace Bridge. Make sure to pre-book to avoid disappointment as this is a popular spot.
Bishop’s Gate Hotel
Walls of Derry~Londonderry
Start your day with a guided tour around the 400-year-old, fully intact city walls with Derry City Tours. Almost 20 feet high and at least as wide, the walls come complete with gates, watchtowers, battlements, bastions and huge cannons.
Enjoy a "Legenderry Burger" made of Armagh pasture-reared Wagyu beef from Pyke ’n’ Pommes, at its permanent pitch by the Foyle River. It may be street food, but its reputation for good food has people travelling for miles to eat here. There is seating for up to 100 in the converted shipping container and double decker bus.
The afternoon takes you outside the city walls, and to a place where more recent history is told through personal stories and artefacts. The Museum of Free Derry is run by the people who were impacted by “The Troubles” of the 20th century, and illustrates how their focus is on a peaceful future. Reduced rates are available for groups of 10 or more. Wind down by arranging a guided tour around the city’s red sandstone Guildhall and its impressive collection of stained glass windows.
Experience fine dining by reserving tables at Browns Bond Hill. You can stay a second night in the Bishop’s Gate Hotel, or move closer to the Guildhall by checking into the Shipquay Boutique Hotel.
Grianán of Aileach
Leave the city behind, and drive north to the far tip of the Inishowen Peninsula – Malin Head, where you can walk up to Banba’s Crown at the northernmost tip of the island of Ireland. Then we suggest booking a two-hour boat tour from Bunagee Pier. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and seals on the water, and then look back to shore to see what made location scouts choose this part of the island to film scenes for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Enjoy lunch at Nancy’s Barn in Inishowen, making sure to order a bowl of the award-winning seafood chowder.
The road out of the Inishowen Peninsula cuts through some 3,000 acres of land, but your route takes you to Grianán of Aileach, a restored prehistoric circular fort with spectacular views. This feat of architecture was even referenced by Greek astronomer and geographer, Ptolemy, in his 2nd-century map of the world.
Reserve tables at The Lemon Tree Restaurant in Letterkenny, before making your way to Rathmullan House Hotel for an overnight stay.
Fanad Head Lighthouse
Glenveagh Castle and National Park
The jewel in the crown of today’s itinerary has to be the Fanad Head Lighthouse, which has been safeguarding seafarers since it was built in 1817. Take a guided tour (groups of 15 must book ahead) and take note that the climb to the top means taking the 76 narrow steps. Depending on group size, there are also options to stay in the lightkeepers’ cottages, if this is your preference.
Book lunch at Ripples Restaurant – a family-run business located on the magnificent Mulroy Bay.
Enjoy a complete contrast to the wild seascapes of Fanad Head at the Derryveagh Mountains – home to Glenveagh Castle and National Park. The park is a huge conservation area filled with lakes, waterfalls and ancient oak woodlands. At its heart lies the castle, built in the Scottish baronial style in the 19th century. Take a tour and hear about the Hollywood legends who have stayed here, before choosing one of the well-marked walking routes to explore the grounds. Access to the castle is by guided tour only but the castle gardens and the walking trails around the park are open to all.
Head back to Derry~Londonderry city for the evening, where you can check into the Beech Hill House Hotel. Reserve tables @57 (part of Pyke ‘n’ Pommes) for treats like barbecued watermelon with agave-chile syrup or spiced lamb tomahawk, hot from the KOPA Charcoal oven.
Return to Belfast for your flight home.
This is a sample itinerary to offer suggestions and ideas for planning trips. You can contact your local Tourism Ireland representative here for further information. Please note, any mention of specific product on this itinerary is meant to be used only as an example and does not represent an endorsement of that product by Tourism Ireland.