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Where is Lonely Planet’s Top 2018 Destination? The Causeway Coast & Belfast

By Dawn Rainbolt, Marketing Executive
More by Dawn

It’s official – Lonely Planet’s Top 2018 Destination for Best in Travel is… Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast & Belfast!

So, what makes the Lonely Planet, travel guide extraordinaire, choose the Causeway Coast and Belfast as 2018’d top destination? What is it that’s drawing people in droves to these up-and-coming landmarks?

Until recently, Belfast was a region divided and haunted by violence – tourism just wasn’t on the cards. Further North, the Causeway Coast was seen simply as the countryside surrounding the famed Giant’s Causeway. But no longer – as the Lonely Planet’s Top 2018 Destination, they are both making a mark of epic proportions – and 2018 is the year for both the Causeway Coast and Belfast to shine!

Read on to find out why the region is Lonely Planet’s Top 2018 Destination.

Crazy Geology

Giant's Causeway hiking Causeway Coastal Route - Lonely Planet's Top 2018 Destination

The strange rock columns of the Giant’s Causeway.

The star of the show of the Causeway Coast and Lonely Planet’s Top 2018 Destination is the beloved Giant’s Causeway, a unique geological formation along the coast. Protruding from cliffs and sea alike are approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. Irish folklore claims these unusual rock formations were formed by the illustrious Finn MacCool, a legendary giant whose fight with rival giant, Benandonner of Scotland, to create the Giant’s Causeway we know today.

Alternatively, the formation of these columns took place following violent volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. But the Causeway Coast is far more than just the Giant’s Causeway. The coastline on either side is strung with more basalt columns for miles, as well as historical clifftop castles, luscious green fields and scenic headlands.

Real Life Game of Thrones

Ballintoy Harbour - Coastal villages Ireland

Sunset at pretty Ballintoy Harbour (or is it the Iron Isles from Game of Thrones?!)

One of the biggest shows on TV at the moment, Game of Thrones portrays the struggle for the Iron Throne in the fantasy land of Westeros. The filming takes place at Titanic Studios in Belfast, but outdoors, the Game of Thrones filming locations are peppered throughout the Northern Irish landscape. From the Mourne Mountains to Tollymore Forest, from Ballintoy Harbour to the Dark Hedges – there’s so much to see! Both avid fans and casual watchers of Game of Thrones will enjoy revisiting favourite scenes as well as simply enjoy the overall splendour of Northern Ireland.

Get more info about Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland here.

 

Phenomenal Hiking Paths

hiking Causeway Coast

Hike the Causeway Coast for strange geology and stunning landscapes.

Hiking all or part of the Causeway Coastal Route (33 miles/52km in total) is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the spectacular geology of this rugged coastline. The Causeway Coastal Route, which is well sign-posted, provides breath-taking views of the remarkable causeway geology. On the trail you will weave your way past ancient castles, Game of Thrones filming locations, striking clifftop scenes, impressive ocean panoramas sweeping out to the horizon and of course, you will be surrounded by the classical Irish countryside.

Hiking along the Mourne Wall which traverses the rambling Mourne Mountains.

Other hikes include climbing Slieve Donard, hiking through the Mourne Mountains to traverse the never-ending Mourne Wall, or easy hikes perfect for active families in Tollymore Forest. See info about these hikes and more on our 20 Best Hikes in Ireland article

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey tasting

Find your favourite during a private whiskey tasting led by a local connoisseur!

You can’t come to Ireland and not try the whiskey! Dotted with distilleries big and small, Northern Ireland sports one of the Emerald Isle’s most beloved whiskey hubs, Bushmills Distillery. This Distillery has been operating officially since 1608 which grants it the title of the oldest working Distillery in all of Ireland. On the tour you will learn about the process of how Bushmill’s Whiskey is made and what makes it so unique. Afterward’s you will be treated to a wee taste of the smooth stuff!

Amazing Clifftop Castles

Coastal Causeway Route - Dunluce Castle

The dramatic ruins of Dunluce Castle on the Causeway Coast.

The Causeway Coast is littered with the ruins of once-formidable clifftop castles such as Dunluce Castle – inspiration for C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia – Dunseverick Castle and Kinbane Castle, to name but a few. Not only are these wildly picturesque, but they are steeped in the history of the local area and add further enchantment to your trip along the North Coast.

Belfast's 180 Degree Transformation

Belfast Northern Ireland black cab

If you’re looking for cosmopolitan charm, look no further than Belfast!

Belfast has come a long way. Not too long ago, Belfast was a no-go zone. And yet today, it’s one of Ireland’s most interesting and hip cities. Known as a foodie haven, Belfast is full of delicious cafes, eateries and markets. It also is famed for its murals – both artistic and political. A black cab tour will take you around to some of the best ones, including the Peace Wall originally built to divide the two sides. Don’t miss the Victorian era Palm House in the Botanic Gardens, or the Ulster Museum, Northern Ireland’s national museum, home to everything from Spanish gold to Irish statues to Egyptian mummies.

Belfast’s Titanic Museum

Belfast Titanic Experience Museum - Lonely Planet's Top 2018 Destination

The shiny new monument to Belfast’s role in the story of the RMS Titanic.

The glittering and hugely successful Titanic Experience of Belfast, which stands proud in what was once the docklands, has not only rejuvenated the warehouse district but has given Belfast a brand new angle to be viewed through. Though most people associate the Titanic as “the boat that sank,” this exhibition is the the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience and looks at the historic event from a new perspective.

The Titanic Experience devotes a significant amount of its exhibits to the city and people whose very blood, sweat and tears went into building this massive boat and her sister vessels. Visit the exhibitions, disused offices and docklands and the last remaining White Star Line ship to complete the experience.

Explore Lonely Planet’s Top 2018 Destination:

Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

“American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture and sweeping landscapes of Ireland. Armed with a Masters Degree in Tourism Marketing and a love of writing and photography, she is Wilderness Ireland's Marketing Executive since 2017.”

View profileMore by Dawn

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