Top 10 Reasons to Sail to Northern Ireland

03 Oct 2016

If you needed any more reasons to hit the water and head to Northern Ireland, here are ten glorious suggestions to get your mind planning your next trip…

10. Ulster Fry

Similar to the full Irish or English breakfast, the chief difference with the Ulster Fry is that it is eaten not only for breakfast but also throughout the day. Typically, white pudding is omitted.

9. Safety is a priority

Visitors may be wary because of the memory of the Troubles – but today, visitors to Northern Ireland are hugely welcome, and Belfast has been rated among the safest cities in the UK.

8. Outdoor activities aplenty

Although Northern Ireland’s mountain ranges are typically low lying, the Mourne Wall, a 22-mile-long dry stone wall, traverses 7 of the 10 highest summits, providing a bit of a challenge to the keen hiker. If the sailing isn’t enough, you could try mountain biking in the Davagh Forest, angling on Lough Erne, walking the 113-mile- long Loughshore trail on the largest lake in the British Isles – Lough Neagh – or golfing on the dozens of fabulous courses.

7. The music scene rocks

From Sir George Ivan ‘Van’ Morrison and Gary Moore to Ash and The Divine Comedy, Northern Ireland has always been on the centre stage in music. For a new voice check out Foy Vance, signed to Ed Sheeran’s new label Glassnote Records. Today, almost every village pub, town bar and city nightclub supports live music. Singing along is encouraged and everyone is guaranteed to have a good time.

6. The Belfast Renaissance

Barely recognizable from the scarred city of the 1970s and ‘80s, the city’s glorious Victorian past intermixes beautifully with its regenerated docklands and Titanic Quarter. The cuisine has enjoyed a similar evolution with two Michelin starred restaurants – Ox and Eipic – leading the way. Not to be missed – Titanic Belfast, Stormont (the NI parliament), Crumlin Road Gaol, The Grand Opera House, City Hall and the Ulster Museum. 

5. Derry’s medieval walls

According to legend, Derry originated as one of the monasteries founded by St. Columba or Colmcille. In the 12th century, an expanded settlement became the centre of political and cultural influence and the headquarters of the Columban Churches in Ireland. Positioned on a bend in the River Foyle, Derry’s medieval walls are among the best-preserved in Europe despite having endured three major military sieges. Their mile-long stretch encloses the original charming medieval street structure that is chock full of enjoyable attractions including the Saint Columba’s Cathedral, The Guild Hall, Tower Museum and the Verbal Arts Centre – and it was the European City of Culture in 2013.

4. Tranquil loughs in which to anchor

Carlingford Loch between Counties Louth and Down is considered a glacial fjord rather than sea inlet and forms part of the border between NI and the Republic. Loch Foyle, Larne Loch, Belfast Loch, and Strangford Loch, dotted along the coast, provide exquisite shelter and extensive cruising grounds for exploration.

3. Fabulous amenities in marinas

There are safe and secure, well maintained marinas dotted around the coast of Northern Ireland. Each is unique, some more so than others, like the Ballydorn Light Ship which serves as the clubhouse for the Down Cruising Club in Strangford Loch and has a visitors pontoon attached. To learn more about the marinas of Northern Ireland, see our listing of marinas here.

2. The glorious 120 mile coastal route between Belfast and Derry

Most people make a beeline for the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only designated World Heritage Site, with its amazing black basalt columns – and don’t forget the nearby Old Bushmills Distillery for a taste of true Northern Irish malt whiskey. But there are diversions aplenty en route when heading out by sea. Rathlin Island harbours amazing wildlife and Portstewart is punctuated by a glorious two-mile sweep of golden sand (voted Best Blue Flag Beach in the UK 2016) and the Barmouth Wildlife Reserve. You can also book a private tour of the stunning filming locations used in the Game of Thrones TV series, including Ballytown, Carrick-a-Rede and Ballintoy Harbour.

1.It’s part of the UK and still in the EU

From England or Scotland you can pop across the water without any concerns, including currency. While it’s still in the EU, you can sail over from the Republic of Ireland or Europe without needing different documents or requiring quarantine. Clearing customs and immigration may be required for EU citizens in the future, so why not go now? Of course, after Brexit, popping across may qualify for duty free purchasing, so it’s not all worries…