Northern Ireland is a place that holds a spot on many people’s bucket lists – and for good reason. With its fascinating history, scenic views, local delicacies and buzzing atmosphere – there’s so much to explore when planning a weekend break here.
With so many things to do, can come the problem of creating an itinerary that suits you and your fellow travellers. Luckily, there’s something for everyone in NI – sometimes you just need a bit of guidance and a few recommendations to help get you started.
Here’s our top tips on how to plan the ultimate weekend break in Northern Ireland:
Decide What Type of Weekend Away You Want to Have
A weekend break is the perfect opportunity to take a breather, unwind from reality and spend quality time with others. Northern Ireland offers so many different ways you can do this – you just need to decide what aspects are most important to you.
The perfect weekend away will be different for everyone, as it very much depends on what you enjoy. There are other factors to consider also, like the time of year you’re planning to go and who you’re going with – as the weather and other people’s preferences will come into play.
For example, it could be that you want to:
- Learn something new e.g. visit a museum or take a guided tour
- Take time to relax e.g. enjoy a spa treatment
- Experience the local culture e.g. browse local markets
- Participate in an activity e.g. outdoor adventures or family activities
- Do some shopping, whether it be high street or locally owned shops
- Stay in the one area e.g. Belfast only
- Or go further afield e.g. drive up to the North Coast or down the Ards Peninsula
In Northern Ireland, there are so many ways you can tailor your trip to work for you all.
Find Out What’s On
Once you have decided what you want to get out of your trip, we recommend doing some research to see what’s happening in Northern Ireland during your stay.
Northern Ireland offers a good mix of staple and special events, depending on the time of year. For example, St. George’s Market is on every Thursday-Sunday, while the Belfast Christmas Market is only open during November and December.
There’s also lots of art and culture events to immerse yourself in, like the exhibitions available in the Ulster Museum, which is free to visit and open all year round. Yet, the MAC Theatre and Grand Opera House also have exclusive shows and other entertainment to make your experience unique as well as unforgettable.
Discover Northern Ireland is a great one-stop platform to help you find out what’s going on in the country – no matter what part you choose to stay in.
Once you find a couple of activities and events that have piqued your party’s interest, we advise that you book in advance to better plan your trip. Now you can start getting excited!
Plan Your Transport
How you plan to get around is a huge part of going away. Many don’t realise that by not looking into different methods and routes, you can be robbed of precious time that could otherwise be spent exploring or relaxing!
In Northern Ireland, there are many modes of transport to choose from, including:
- Vehicle hire
- Planned tours and itineraries
- Bike hire
- Public transport e.g. buses, trains and the Glider
This means if you make a last-minute decision to venture further afield, you can do so very easily, no matter where you’re staying! Depending on the type of trip you want to do, we would recommend hiring a car if you plan to explore more rural areas, especially if you are doing so with a family. Alternatively, if you are simply town hopping or perhaps are staying in Belfast and want to take a day trip up to Derry/Londonderry – then we suggest you enjoy the scenic train or bus journey for the best views (and value for money!).
Choose Your Accommodation
By now, you probably have a good idea of where you want to stay in Northern Ireland.
We believe that everyone should make time to explore the beauty that Northern Ireland is best known for – whether it be the tranquil waters, or the rolling hills of the countryside. Where you stay should also give you as much freedom as possible, so you can explore as much as you like, and relax as much as you like. The best way to achieve this is through self-catering accommodation.
Coach Road Cottages offers boutique self-catering accommodation in Holywood and Comber in County Down, Northern Ireland. If you like to be beside the seaside – our Holywood residence Ninety Seven is perfect for groups of up to four people. It sits right next to the Holywood train station, meaning you have the best of both worlds right on your doorstep.
On the other hand, The Annex provides a peaceful hideaway tucked in the countryside. Situated just outside Comber in Ballyaltikilligan, the property comes with scenic surroundings looking out over Scrabo Tower and Strangford Lough. Only a 15-minute drive from Belfast, it is highly accessible for those who want to strike the perfect balance between rural and urban life.
Scout Places to Eat
Now that your plan is coming together, one more thing that will get you even more excited is researching nearby eateries.
To whet your taste buds, we suggest you take to Instagram to search for snapshots of local cafes, restaurants and bars. Or, you can always turn to Trip Advisor for honest reviews from previous customers.
Discover Northern Ireland also has a large database of food hotspots that are segmented into counties. Here, you can refine your search by selecting the type of food you want and the location – making it super easy to find and book ahead of time.
If you want more advice on how to plan the ultimate weekend break in Northern Ireland – we at Coach Road Cottages can offer you plenty of options and recommendations through our blog and social media channels.