Are you looking for something new to experience in Northern Ireland? You will be surprised what you’ll find when you go off the beaten track. Here’s a quick guide to some of our best loved hidden gems.
Janus Figure, Boa Island, Co. Fermanagh
In Caldragh Cemetery on Boa Island, Lower lough Erne stand two unique stone carvings. The larger of these is a Janus figure, two figures back to back with pear shaped heads and interlacing between the heads. The East Face is said to be female and the West Male, both figures are described as Celtic Idols.
Fishermen’s Cottage, Carrick-a-Rede, Co. Antrim
Step back in time at the 400 year old fisherman’s cottage at Carrick a Rede. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour and uncover the history of the fisherman’s cottage, which for decades was used by the fishermen who sheltered there as they worked at the fishery.
Glenariff Forest Park, Co. Antrim
Glenariff Forest Park is situated in the Glens of Antrim is considered by many people to be the most beautiful of the nine Antrim Glens. The unique Waterfall Walkway, opened 80 years ago provide a rich backdrop for photographers, as do the other forest trails that offer panoramic landscapes and peaceful riverside walks.
Located in Castleward, Co. Down this show piece village was carefully restored by the National Trust to give the authenticity of a traditional fishing village. The village lies three miles to the east of Portaferry, with views across to Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Mountains of Mourne. The Trust owns a number of cottages at Kearney and these have been restored in the vernacular style giving authenticity to this place of character.
Secret Garden, Hillsborough Castle
Visit the Secret Garden in what was once the kitchen garden of Hillsborough Castle. A little known gem, your tour will reveal its current regeneration programme. Its café serves
delicious lunches and light refreshments. A range of plants, organic herbs, fruit and vegetables are also for sale.
Loughareema, The Vanishing Lake, Co. Antrim
Alongside the Ballycastle/Cushendall road, you’ll find a lonely and mysterious Moorland Lake, sometimes called the “Vanishing Lake” from its habit of disappearing suddenly as if “someone had pulled out the plug”.
Garvagh Forest Pyramd, Co. Londonderry
You don’t need to go to Egypt to see the pyramids…Northern Ireland has its very own! Created as a burial chamber for Lord Garvagh in the 19th Century, this stone pyramid is located in Garvagh forest, just a short walk from the car park.
The Peace Maze, Castlewellan Forest Park, Co. Down
One of the Forest Park’s key attractions, the Peace Maze, is one of the world’s largest permanent hedge mazes, representing the path to a peaceful future for Northern Ireland. Planted in 2000 with community involvement, it is maturing quickly and visitors attempt to solve their way to the peace bell in the centre of the maze.
Legenderry warehouse No. 1, Derry-Londonderry
A brand new Cafe and City of Culture space opened on Guildhall St, the centre of 2013 Legenderry celebrations. Visitors to the cafe can enjoy delicious homemade food, treats, great coffee and all served with a smile. The Legenderry Warehouse No. 1 is not just a regular cafe it is also a hub for the 2013 UK City of Culture celebrations, playing host to many unique events and lots of live music!
Tollymore Forest Park, Co. Down
Covering an area of almost 630 hectares at the foot of the Mourne mountains this forest park has panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the sea at Newcastle. The dramatic forest site may already be familiar to Game Of Thrones fans which features in the popular HBO show and is also being used as a film location for the new Dracula movie which is currently being filmed in Northern Ireland.
Limavady Sculpture Trail
Limavady’s myths and legends come to life with the newly launched Limavady Explore See Do Sculpture Trail. The Limavady Explore See Do Sculpture Trail is an original way to allow visitors to the area to experience our most celebrated tales. Discover tales of merciless highwaymen pillaging unsuspecting travellers and seek a gift for an ancient sea god. Listen to the faery harp playing ‘Danny Boy’, marvel at the leaping dog and unearth the last serpent in Ireland.
A visit to the rugged Rathlin Island is a must! One of our most beloved spots, visitors can enjoy the beautiful birdlife in the summer months – including the the famous puffins of the island.
Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast
Now reopened to the public after extensive renovations, Crumlin Road Gaol is one of Belfast’s most historic buildings. Take a tour of the Goal & discover the fascinating history behind it & for those that are brave enough there is a Paranormal Tour also on offer – not for the faint hearted!
Rams Island, Lough Neagh
Take a trip on the ‘Island Warrior’ to Rams Island, the largest island on Lough Neagh is located approximately 1 mile offshore from Sandy Bay on the Eastern Shore of the Lough. The island is steeped in history and heritage, featuring the ruins of the 19th Century O’Neill’s summer house and round tower. The island was last permanently inhabited in the 1920’s by the Cardwell family who were caretakers for the O’Neill’s. The island is also blessed with an impressive array of flora and fauna among the dense woodland.
Sheelin Lace Museum, Fermanagh
The award winning Sheelin Lace Museum located in Bellnaleck just outside of Enniskillen houses approximately 700 exhibits showcasing a wide range of antique Irish lace. The majority of the collection dates back from the 19th Century. Visitor’s to the museum can also enjoy the treasure trove of goodies on sale in the adjoining shop where you can purchase vintage lace, veils and many other unique pieces. Pop into the coffee shop next door which has all sorts of delicious treats on offer and is a wonderful lunch spot – with an excellent outdoor seating area, great for when the sunshines!
Armagh Public Library
One of the oldest libraries in Ireland, Armagh Public Library was established in 1771 by Archbishop Robinson. In addition to the Archbishop’s personal library which contains 17th and 18th century books on a wide range of subjects, there are many rare and valuable books such as incunabula, first editions, and illuminated manuscripts.
Hill of The O’Neill, Dungannon
Situated in Dungannon and located at the top of Market Square is Hill of The O’Neill. Take a stroll on the Hill of the O’Neill and take in the spectacular views from the newly landscaped gardens and pathways of this historical location. On a clear day visitors to the site can get a view of all 6 counties in Northern Ireland. View the remains of the towers that belonged to the Knox Hannyngton House on the site which once stood the Castle of Hugh O’Neill.
That’s just a small selection of our hidden gems, do you have any favourite spots in Northern Ireland off the beaten track? Let us know in the comments below.
Make a break of it
With so many hidden gems to explore in Northern Ireland, you may want to make a break of it in one of our cosy cottages, luxury hotels or homely guesthouses. Our great value breaks start from £45 per room: discovernorthernireland.com/accomfinder/