Northern Territories Tour (7 Night)

Itinerary for the 7 Night Northern Territories Self Drive/Chauffeured Tour of Ireland

In order to give you an idea of the detail that we at IrishTourism.com place in our itineraries, below is the first part of the 39 page detailed itinerary that we have painstakingly put together for this tour. Regardless of the depth of information that is contained within these itineraries, your dedicated agent is always a quick phone call or e-mail away should you require assistance in any way, whether it be before your arrival in Ireland or during your time here.

Overnights:

  • Belfast City for 2 nights
  • County Antrim for 1 night
  • Derry City for 2 nights
  • County Donegal for 1 night
  • Dublin for 1 night

Old Bushmills Distillery

Heading south from the Giant’s Causeway, make sure to take a stop at the Old Bushmills Distillery. Depending on the route you find yourself on, you may see Bushmills either before or after the Castle at Dunluce.

The Old Bushmills Distillery is the world's oldest licensed Whiskey Distillery. King James I granted the original licence to distil 'Acqua Vitae' in April 1608, and since then Bushmills has been making the finest Irish Malt Whiskey for almost four hundred years. Situated just a mile from the spectacular Giant's Causeway, the distillery lies in an area of outstanding natural beauty, rich in history and folklore. Here at Bushmills you will be invited to experience for yourself the craft and skills of making Irish Single Malt Whiskey. During the guided tour you will discover the secrets of the special water from St. Columb's Rill, the malted Irish barley, triple distillation in copper stills and ageing for long years in oak casks. Of course no visit would be complete without enjoying a complimentary glass of the final product, one of the famous Bushmills whiskeys.

The remaining details of this itinerary are included with your booking.

Newgrange

One of the great wonders of the ancient world, Newgrange is older than Stonehenge, Mycenae or even the Pyramids of Egypt. Foremost among the passage-tombs of Europe, Newgrange has long evoked the wonder of archaeologists and laymen alike. The magnificent entrance slab - 'one of the most famous stones in the entire repertory of megalithic art' - is especially satisfying, the confidently executed spiral and lozenge motifs still crisply defined after 5,000 years.

The triple spiral, found only at Newgrange, occurs both on the entrance stone and inside the chamber. The passage is long, over 60 feet (20m), and leads to a cruciform burial chamber with a corbelled roof which rises steeply upwards to a height of nearly 20 feet (6m). There are regular tours of the different sites, but advance booking of tours is recommended.

The Megalithic Passage Tombs of Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, Fourknocks, Loughcrew and Tara are located in the present day County of Meath on the east coast of Ireland. The Boyne Valley Mounds at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth were built around 3200BC making them older than Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

Built by Neolithic farming communities about 5000 years ago, the passage tombs have clear astronomical alignments such as the Winter Solstice Sunrise at Newgrange and the Equinox Sunrise at Loughcrew. Judging from the splendour and magnificence of Newgrange and Knowth it is likely that these temples of the ancestors were places of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance, much as present day cathedrals are places of worship where dignitaries may be laid to rest.

Head north out of Dublin on the N2 via Ashbourne and towards Slane in Co. Meath. About 2km south of Slane, you will see a sign to the right for the Brú na Bóinne visitor centre. Take this right and travel for 7km (4.5 miles) east towards the village of Donore. The Brú na Bóinne Visitors Centre is the starting point for guided tours of Newgrange and Knowth. All visitors wishing to visit Newgrange and Knowth must begin their visit at the Visitor Centre. There is no direct access to these monuments. Please note that this is a very busy site and visitors must expect a delay in the summer months if visiting Newgrange and Knowth and access is not guaranteed.

Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, open in 1997, is designed to present the archaeological heritage of the Boyne Valley, which includes the megalithic passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth. The Centre is the starting point for all visits to both monuments, and contains extensive interpretative displays and viewing areas. All admission tickets are issued at Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre.

Last tour of monument is 1hour 30mins before closing time of the Centre. Last admission to Visitor Centre is 45 minutes before closing. All groups of 15 or more must book in advance. Please note that this is a very busy site and visitors must expect a delay in the summer months if visiting Newgrange and Knowth and access is not guaranteed. Groups which have pre-booked are expected at Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre at the appointed time, not at the monuments.

From Newgrange take a right onto the N51 until you join the M1 taking a left north towards Dundalk joining the N1. Proceed on the N1 until you reach the town of Jonesborough where you join the A1 in the direction of Newry. Heading north on the A1, follow directional signs to Belfast joining the M1. If you wish to prolong your journey to Belfast, you may wish to take the stunning drive along the coastal route that brings you to Belfast via the County Down coastline and along the famed Mountains of Mourne and Swinford Lough.

Expect the driving time alone to be in the region of 3 hours plus should you decide to include the detours to both Newgrange and the County Down coast.

Belfast to Antrim Coast

From Belfast you will be taking the M5 in the direction of Newtownabbey, joining the A2 towards the Coastal town and port of Larne. Proceed on the A2 in the direction of Glenarm. From Glenarm take directional signs to the town of Cushendall. Cushendall is an attractive village nestled in the heart of the Glens of Antrim between the hills and the sea of Moyle.

The area's natural beauty was officially confirmed when it was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It is located at the bottom of Ballyeamon, one of the famous nine glens. Its central location and wide range of services and activities contribute to its well-deserved title of ‘Capital of the Glens’. The area has a varied and fascinating history with evidence of settlement from Neolithic times. Many monuments can be found from the Stone Age and early Christian period. There have always been strong links with Scotland and the Mull of Kintyre is only 16 miles (26km) from the Cushendall coast. Indeed until the middle of last century, Cushendall would have looked towards Scotland for much of its trade, as it was easier to travel across the sea than across the mountainous areas which surround the village.

From here take the A2 towards Cushendun. The picturesque village of Cushendun is situated at the mouth of the river Dun (The Brown River). This small but charming village nestles at the foot of Glendun, one of the loveliest of the renowned Glens of Antrim and one of the most historic. It has been an attraction and an inspiration for painters and writers from Ireland and abroad. The National Trust Shop is a good place to purchase quality giftware. Heading north towards Ballycastle to the town of Ballintoy where you will find the stunning Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge spans a gaping chasm between the coast and a small island used by fishermen. The terrifying eighty foot drop can be crossed via the swinging bridge - not for the faint hearted! Whether you enjoy a challenge or watching your friends’ bravado, then Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is the place for you. After walking along the beautiful coast path, you will find yourself confronted by an amazing rope bridge, which crosses a 30m deep and 20m wide chasm to the tiny Carrick Island.

From here take the B146 to the Giant’s Causeway.

The Giant's Causeway

Adequately fortified, it is time to brave the North Atlantic breezes with a visit to the Giant's Causeway. The fact that the Causeway was formed 70,000,000 years ago by massive volcanic activity is contradicted only by local legend. Clearly this was giants' work and, more particularly, the work of the giant Finn McCool, the Ulster warrior and commander of the King of Ireland's armies. Finn could pick thorns out of his heels while running and was capable of amazing feats of strength. Once, during a fight with a Scottish giant, he scooped up a huge clod of earth and flung it at his fleeing rival. The clod fell into the sea and turned into the Isle of Man. The hole it left filled up with water and became Lough Neagh. Finn was said to inhabit a draughty Antrim headland and when he fell in love with a lady giant on Staffa, an island in the Hebrides, he built this wide commodious highway to bring her across to Ulster.

At one time considered to be one of the wonders of the world, the Causeway proper is a mass of basalt columns packed tightly together. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Altogether there are 40,000 of these stone columns, mostly hexagonal but some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 40 feet high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 90 feet thick in places. A fine circular walk will take you down to the Grand Causeway, past amphitheatres of stone columns and formations with fanciful names like the Honeycomb, the Wishing Well, the Giant's Granny and the King and his Nobles, past Port na Spaniagh where the Spanish Armada ship Girona foundered with the loss of twelve hundred men, past wooden staircase to Benbane Head and back along the cliff top.

Dublin to Belfast City

Departing Dublin you will be traveling north. From Dublin proceed onto the M1 in the direction of Drogheda. The direct route to Belfast will take under 2 hours. However, where the M1 meets the N51 take a left in the direction of Slane where time permitting you can take a tour to visit Newgrange. 45 Minutes north of Dublin, you will find Ireland's most visited attraction, the Megalithic Tombs in Newgrange.

Dunluce Castle

As you leave the Causeway visitor centre, turn right to visit the ruins of the nearby Dunluce Castle. This spectacular castle was shaped when the sea cut deep into the land, exploiting cracks in either side of the rock. The early Christians and the Vikings were drawn to this romantic place and an early Irish fort once stood here. For its crowning glory, however, the crag had to await the coming of those master-builders, the Normans. They had a habit of consolidating their victories by building castles, and they knew a good site when they saw one. The battling MacDonnells ruled all this north-eastern corner of Ulster in the late 16th century. Steeped in myth and legend and inhabited by giants, ghosts and banshees wailing through the sea mist, it has the most dramatic coastline in the British Isles.

Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, first built this castle at Dunluce. It often came under siege and in 1584 Sorley Boy MacDonnell captured it from the English when one of his men, employed in the castle, hauled his comrades up the cliff in a basket. Sorley Boy came into some money in 1588 when the Spanish Armada treasure ship Girona was wrecked by storm off the Giant's Causeway. He used it to modernise the castle, but he must have skimped on the kitchen, since in 1639 it fell into the sea and carried away the cooks and all their pots.