Friendly, outdoorsy, historic and fun Northern Ireland is very good at family holidays.
It’s an astonishingly beautiful country and not too big, so exploring from end to end is easy to do.
There are mountains and glens, vast forests, ancient castles and World Heritage sites to discover.
Festivals all year round celebrate everything from Bramley Apples to St. Patrick’s Day. And it couldn’t be easier to hop on a plane or car ferry and be there in a few hours, so it’s just about ideal for half-term breaks, a few days in summer or even a winter weekend.
Direct daily flights from London to Belfast all year round take just 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The Mourne Mountains and Antrim Coast.
One for Game of Thrones fans
GoT locations all over Northern Ireland to visit like Co. Antrim’s Dark Hedges and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
The Fermanagh Lakelands for outdoor activity centres and extreme sports.
Surfing on huge Atlantic beaches and family summer holidays in pretty seaside resorts.
Dozens of National Trust properties including the World Heritage Giant’s Causeway, Minnowburn Woodland and Castle Coole.
Heritage experiences like the Ulster American Folk Museum and Titanic Belfast.
Where to go
Northern Ireland’s capital is lively and modern with a deeply historic heart, a love of festivals and a talent for making everything from creepy prisons to legendary shipwrecks fun for kids. It’s also an amazingly green city covered in pretty parks from impressive Belfast Castle to the beautiful Botanic Gardens. And for a quick city break, Belfast is good value with loads of free museums and galleries, year-round offers on transport and accommodation and family tickets for everything from Belfast Zoo to the brilliant Titanic Experience.
Belfast has a wide range of city centre accommodation, it’s also a business capital and many hotels offer excellent family rates at the weekend.
Don’t miss the caverns under Belfast Castle, Ulster Museum, Titanic Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol and Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory.
Belfast has one of the world’s most famous St. Patrick’s Day Parades and the city’s Christmas celebrations are incredibly colourful – wonderful markets.
This is the county for outdoor adventure, endless freedom and fun days out that can easily turn into entire holidays. Cycling, sailing, walking, hiking and island-hopping are just a few of family activities in and around the enchanting Fermanagh Lakelands. And the county’s nestled on Northern Ireland’s border to the west so it’s wonderful for exploring ancient, fortified castles like Enniskillen and romantic Castle Balfour.
Good for self-catering country cottages, family-run B&B and holiday lodges.
Don’t miss Castle Coole, Devenish Island and Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
Area for outdoor activity centres with skill schools and on-site family self-catering.
County Antrim’s dominated by a magnificent coastline of cliffs and headlands staring down into the wild Atlantic. It’s here you’ll find the Giant’s Causeway, one of Northern Ireland’s most famous landmarks, a World Heritage site and all-out wonder of the world. Coastal road or path, driving or walking this is a stunning country to roam around and as filled with myths and legends as it is with natural phenomena.
County Antrim has a wide choice of family accommodation from country inns and guesthouses to coastal golf resorts and Belfast city centre hotels.
Big, beautiful Atlantic beaches are great for surfing – wild walks in winter too.
Don’t miss Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Glenarff Forest Park, the gorgeous Glens of Antrim, the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway and sensational wreck-diving off Rathlin Island.
Armagh’s small and easy to get around, packed with history, myth, legend and overflowing with fantastic natural wonders. It’s the spiritual heart of Northern Ireland, where St. Patrick founded the first church in 445AD – Northern Ireland’s Cathedral stands on the same site today. Sometimes known as ‘Orchard County’, Armagh has an Apple Blossom Festival every May and is also home to Slieve Gullion the extinct volcano at the heart of the Ring of Gullion which kids will love for tales of the Giant , Finn McCool.
Armagh City’s well known for its fine Georgian buildings. A good base for exploring the county.
Don’t miss Armagh Planetarium, Observatory and Astropark, Navan Fort and the circular earthwork and Ardress House.
Peatlands Park has over 15km of well marked walking trails – if you’ve ever wanted to try Bog Snorkelling, visit the park in June.
See herds of deer at Gosford Forest Park and visit Slieve Gullion Forest Park to climb the county’s highest hill – views of the Mourne Mountains are sensational.
County Down is where the 60 plus peaks of the magnificent Mourne Mountains dominate the landscape, glorious sands are edged with enormous cliffs and pretty towns offer seaside family fun, all-year-round. Cranfield Beach proudly flies its Blue Flag here and Tollymore Forest Park is where to find all sorts of action from horse riding and hillwalking to bouldering, canoeing, abseiling, climbing and mountain boarding.
Country cottage self-catering, pretty seaside hotels, forest lodges and cosy guesthouses are another good reason for families to visit County Down.
Several of the Mourne Mountains are over 600m and the area is in the process of becoming another one of Northern Ireland’s wonderful National Parks.
Newcastle is one of the country’s favourite beach resorts.
Don’t miss Silent Valley, Castlewellan Forest Park, fishing at Kilkeel and the Newry and Mourns Museum in the lively city of Newry.
Derry-Londonderry’s Northern Ireland’s second city and the only remaining completely walled city in the country. Base a holiday with kids here for exciting living heritage museums, beautiful countryside and colourful events all-year-round.
Large city centre family hotels and country house hotels and resorts.
Don’t miss Tower Museum, Prehen Wood, Riverwatch Aquarium and a guided tour of the city’s 17th century walls.
Drive the roads around Tyrone’s Sperrin Mountains and it’s easy to see why they’re included in the World’s Best 101 Scenic Routes. It’s a wonderful county for walking too and dozens of the well-marked routes are perfect for younger kids.
Don’t miss the Ulster Folk Museum, Beaghmore Stone Circle, Ranfurly House Arts Centre and Springhill Plantation.
Top county for mountain biking, cycling and hiking.
What to do
Marble Arch Caves, Enniskillen
A Global Geopark, daring underground experience and fascinating science lesson all rolled into one.
1500 animals from 150 different species, a great city zoo with an excellent programme of kids events at weekends and during school holidays.
Game of Thrones’ Tours
Day and multiple day tours round dozens of famous locations in the Game of Thrones’ cast and crew bus.
Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory, Belfast
Chocolate and candy making workshops for kids in Belfast’s favourite traditional sweetie shop.
Tollymore Forest Park, County Down
A huge, wild forest park filled with follies, rivers, woodland trails and Ireland’s oldest trees.
Titanic Belfast, Belfast
The city’s most famous and infamous creation is explored from top to bottom in this award-winning interactive museum.
Ulster American Folk Park, County Down
The journey from 18th century Ireland to the American Frontier made real for kids in this excellent living heritage museum.
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim
One of the UK’s most visited World Heritage sites and a top 100 natural wonder, superb visitor centre and Antrim Coastal Path.
Corralea Activity Centre, Fermanagh Lakelands
Go it alone on a family adventure or learn everything from canoeing and windsurfing to rock climbing and caving.
Exploris Aquarium, County Down
Sharks, piranha and manta rays are the underwater monsters and seals bring the cute in this large, modern aquarium.
Educational value for kids
Northern Ireland has dozens of fascinating museums in every county and they’re all free.
Ancient myths and legends are part of what makes Northern Ireland so fascinating, start kids with Finn McCool at the Giant’s Causeway, find out about Cúchulainn on the summit of Slieve Gullion and finish up with Game of Thrones fantasy locations all over the place.
Forest parks and outdoor centres from Antrim to Fermanagh have great kids’ courses for everything from diving to sailing.
Discover the events which shaped modern Northern Ireland on guided tours of Belfast’s Crumlin Road Gaol and Titanic Quarter.
Visit the castles of Fermanagh and let kids see how Northern Ireland fortified its borders, fought battles and made history.
Go climbing and hiking in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains and enjoy the peace before they become Northern Ireland’s first National Park.
Pick any month of the year and find a festival happening in towns, villages and cities all over Northern Ireland, it’s a country that loves a party and everyone’s welcome to join in.
Getting around with kids in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland’s surprisingly compact for a country with such a remarkable landscape. Come by car ferry or hire a car and drive thousands of famous scenic routes, it’s the best way to see the countryside with kids. The rail network is excellent if you want a break from driving and there are local bus services from morning till late in the evening across every county. City centres are easy to walk around and good public transport is available to all the major attractions.