8 Car-Free Days Out
Why not leave the car behind for a day and explore Northern Ireland by train or bus?
Or better still, slow things down and drink in the scenery on two wheels or two legs. From the stunning Belfast – Derry rail journey to hiking in the Mournes, there are endless possibilities for car free days out in Northern Ireland. Here are a few ideas...
1. The Walled City by train
This spectacular train journey along the North coast was described by Michael Palin as “one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world.” And it is not difficult to see why. The train passes alongside vast unspoilt beaches, soaring cliffs and views over the Atlantic before arriving in the historic 6th Century walled city of Derry. Join the train at Belfast Victoria or Central and drink in the views every inch of the way along this stunning stretch of coastline. The train journey terminates in Derry~Londonderry, Ireland’s only completely walled city. Take a tour of the City Walls and explore some of the many intriguing sights of the city such as Saint Columb’s Cathedral, the Guildhall and the new Peace Bridge before hopping on board the train for a relaxing journey home!
2. Beach-ward bound
Did you know that you can take the train to some of Northern Ireland’s best beaches? A short 20 minute train journey from Belfast will bring you to two award winning beaches; Helen's Bay and Crawfordsburn Beach. Both are beautiful sandy beaches within the stunning Crawfordsburn Country Park and are conveniently located on the Belfast/Bangor train line. Hop off the train at Helen's Bay stop, walk down Church Road and you’re there. Crawfordsburn Beach is about 700 metres towards Bangor from Helen's Bay Beach. The park also boasts a large visitor centre and café, an Adidas approved running trail and mobility scooters which are available for hire. So pack up your bucket and spade and get on board! For information on other beaches served by public transport visit www.beachesni.com.
3. A Titanic Day Out
The Titanic Quarter couldn’t be easier to reach on foot or by public transport. Either stroll towards Belfast’s maritime quarter or hop on a number 26 or 26B bus from Belfast City Hall to Titanic’s Dock & Pump House, where you can enjoy a guided harbour cruise showing Titanic’s story from the water, including a close up look at the slipway where she first entered the water, the Thompson Pump-House, the SS Nomadic and the HMS Caroline. Alternatively, enjoy a walking tour through the old heart of the shipyard. Next make for the iconic ‘Titanic Belfast’ visitor attraction. The state of the art building extends over nine galleries, drawing together special effects, shipyard rides, reconstructions of passenger cabins, footage of the launch and a live undersea exploration centre. For more information, visit http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/titanic/.
4. Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Step off the Belfast – Bangor train at Cultra Halt rail station and find yourself transported back in time. The Ulster Folk & Transport Museum helps visitors to uncover a way of life from 100 years ago. Discover town and countryside with cottages, farms, schools and shops as you wander through the beautiful parkland of the Folk Museum. Climb on and off majestic steam locomotives or experience the sensation of flight in the Transport Museum bursting with horse drawn carriages, electric trams, boats, motorbikes, fire-engines and vintage cars.
From the Cultra Halt rail station, it is a 2 minute walk to the Transport Galleries or an uphill 15 minute walk to the Folk Museum. The museum is also served by bus. For more information visit http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/Ulster-Folk-and-Transport-Museum-Holywood-P2856.
5. Hiking in the Mournes
Did you know that the Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland’s highest and most dramatic mountain range was the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’s “Narnia”? The good news is that you don’t need a car to enjoy this incredible landscape on foot. Newcastle, the Gateway to the Mournes is well served by public transport and Translink’s Mourne Rambler Service provides transport within the AONB.
From Belfast’s Europa Bus Station, hop on a Translink Service 18/20/237/ 518/520 to Newcastle. A ten minute walk from Newcastle Bus Station will bring you to Donard Park, the starting point for a challenging climb to the summit of Slieve Donard, which at 850m (2,789 ft) is the highest of the Mourne Mtns. On a clear day the Isle of Man, Wicklow, Donegal, Wales and Scotland are visible from the summit. Another option is the Mourne Way - a challenging and varied 2 day walk, taking you from the coast across the edge of the Mourne Mountains. For more information on routes and starting points see www.walkni.com.
6. Goldline Express to the Ancient city of Armagh
Hop on a Translink Goldline Express service from Europa Bus Station to the ancient city of Armagh and enjoy the 1 hour and 25 minute journey in the comfort of a luxury Goldline coach. The city is famous for its stunning architecture and Georgian buildings. Look out for the two cathedrals, the Georgian Mall, Courthouse, Archbishop’s Palace, Observatory and Royal School. And of course, no visit to Armagh is complete without a look through the largest telescope in Ireland so stop off at the Armagh Planetarium and Observatory before hopping on your bus back to Belfast.
7. Two wheels around Strangford Lough
The Strangford Lough Cycle route is an 82 mile circular trail winding its way around the Strangford Lough AONB. The Ards peninsula section from Newtownards to Portaferry offers breathtaking Irish sea coastal views and on a clear day, both Scotland and the Isle of Man are visible. The route travels through the fishing village of Portavogie and past the National Trust protected village of Kearney before continuing on to Portaferry. After a short ferry crossing to Strangford village, the trail continues through the National Trust owned Castleward Estate through a traffic free path. The route returns to Newtownards via Downpatrick, an historic town and burial site of Saint Patrick. As the route makes its way up the Western shore of Strangford Lough, it passes through Killyleagh, with its ornate chateau style castle. The final leg, from Comber to Newtownards travels past Killynether Wood, beneath Scrabo Tower and Country Park with superb panoramic views over Strangford Lough. For further information visit www.cycleni.com.
8. Newry City on the Enterprise
Travel in luxury from Belfast Central Station to Newry, on board the Northern Ireland Railways Enterprise Service. Enjoy a coffee, snack or even a glass of wine in the café carriage, while being whisked to your destination. Arrive refreshed and visit Bagenal’s Castle, the Newry and Mourne Museum, or simply make the most of the superb shopping available at the Quays and Buttercrane centres. As well as being of the country's foremost shopping destinations, Newry offers a vibrant nightlife. Click here for more information.
For rail and bus timetables and prices please visit http://www.translink.co.uk or telephone + 44 (0)28 90 66 66 30.