Pack a family holiday in Northern Ireland full of amazing days out with kids and there’s a good chance it’ll top the list of best family holidays, ever. Not sure where to begin? Take a look at 10 of the top days out for families handpicked to help with your holiday plans. And don’t worry if you have to leave a few out, you can always catch them next time you visit Northern Ireland – because there definitely will be a next time.
1/9 Titanic Belfast, Belfast
The ill-fated Titanic was built in Belfast, and the city’s fond of saying, ‘she was all right when she left here’. Discover just how ‘all right’ she was, what went into her construction and what really happened at the very end, on a self-guided tour of interactive and kid-friendly Titanic Belfast.
Where: Titanic Quarter, 20 minutes walk from city centre
When: Reopens 27 May 2021, check online for opening times and to book tickets.
2/9 Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills, County Antrim
The Giant’s Causeway is an unimaginably ancient landscape of perfectly hexagonal basalt columns stretching out into the Atlantic from Antrim’s coast. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and could have been designed by nature simply to thrill kids. The award-winning visitor centre nearby balances fascinating science with fantastic fables. And don’t forget to leave time for a walk along at least a little of the lovely Antrim Coastal Path.
Where: 5 minutes drive from Bushmills
When: 7 days. Coastline: dawn to dusk. Visitor Centre: 9am to 6pm.
3/9 Mourne Mountains, County Down
Spend a day exploring the Mourne Mountains with kids and it’s easy to understand why C. S Lewis found the inspiration for fictional Narnia here. Not only is the spellbinding range home to Northern Ireland’s tallest peak, Slieve Donard, it’s also where to see the mysterious Ring of Gullion standing stones. And if all that isn’t quite magical enough, the views are spectacular too. On a clear day you can see for miles and that mix of big skies, wide open spaces and mighty peaks makes for some of the best family adventures.
Where: County Down
4/9 Crumlin Road Gaol Experience, Belfast
Between 1846 and 1996, infamous Crumlin Road Gaol incarcerated over 25,000 inmates including some of the most notorious murderers in Irish history. Discover the very darkest secrets with the Crumlin Road Gaol Experience. This 60-minute self-guided tour immerses visitors in the chilling history of the prison, and tells its bloodcurdling and tragic tales in unsparing detail. A good fit for older kids or teenagers and their steel-nerved parents.
Where: Crumlin Road, 20 minutes walk from Belfast city centre
When: Reopening 24 May 2021. Open 7-days from 11am to 3.30pm
5/9 Tollymore Forest Park, Castlewellan, County Down
Have an amazing adventure in a forest filled with follies and Ireland’s oldest trees. Tollymore Forest Park comes with river walks along the banks of the Shimna, as well as a network of easy to follow woodland trails – kids can even try hunting down descendants of the original oaks felled to build the Titanic. Giant redwoods and eerie caves pile on more excitement, which all adds up to making Tollymore close to perfect for a family day out.
Where: 30 minutes’ drive from Castlewellan
When: Open year-round from 10am to sunset.
6/9 Exploris Aquarium, Portaferry, County Down
Northern Ireland’s only aquarium, Exploris is even bigger and better after a £2million refurbishment by international marine giants, Nautilus. Kids can get closer than ever to vast tanks of tropical fish, slow moving sharks, deadly piranha and delightful seals. Daily feeding experience add to the fun and a colourful programme of events fills holidays and weekends with excitement too.
Where: Castle Street, Portaferry, County Down
When: Open 7-days from 10am to 5pm
7/9 Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Ballintoy, County Antrim
The famous rope bridge, suspended over the Atlantic between the Antrim coast cliffs and Carrick-a-Rede Island was made by salmon fishermen in the 18th century. Today 1000s of visitors pluck up the courage to walk across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Do you dare? If you do, the views are amazing and bragging rights guaranteed. The bridge has made a few appearances in Game of Thrones too and it’s part of Northern Ireland’s only Dark Skies Discovery Site.
Where: Ballintoy, 5 minutes’ drive from Bushmills
When: Open 7-days from 9.30am.
8/9 Castlewellan Forest Park, Castlewellan, County Down
Enormous Castlewellan Forest Park spreads over 450 hectares and has every thing from well-marked (but wild enough to thrill) walking paths to challenging bike trails and pretty lakes and ponds. Always leave time to explore the Arboretum, it contains over 20 of the oldest trees in the UK.
Where: 20 minutes’ walk from Castlewellan
When: Open year-round from 10am to sunset
9/9 Roe Valley Country Park, Londonderry
Remarkable Roe Valley Country Park is the place to see restored machinery from the Irish linen industry and explore the buildings where it operated in the 18th and 19th century. Once you’ve checked out the heritage there’s lots more to do around the park from fishing off pretty piers to canoeing down rivers, trail walking, rock climbing or just rambling around in the wild and seeing where the day takes you.
Where: 30 minutes drive from Londonderry
When: Open year-round