Northern Ireland is one of those places that reminded me just how beautiful the world is, how nice strangers can be, and that sometimes the journey isn’t easy but the destination is so worth it. Our Northern Ireland road trip seemed to start out as a comedy of errors. From our 5-day house rental being cancelled at the last minute to a flight cancellation that cut our trip short by two whole days, I thought we’d never make it to Ireland. Not only that, but it was our first trip to Europe with a toddler. (Cue nerves!)
Fortunately, traveling with a toddler taught us a few things about flexibility. While our Northern Ireland road trip itinerary was shortened by a few days, it turned out to be the best trip we’ve had as a family to date. If you’re contemplating an Ireland road trip, I highly recommend going north. It was the perfect mix of relaxation and sightseeing, filled with a whole lot of beautiful outdoors, a little golf, a little history and even a little Game of Thrones. If you want a combination of touristy and off-the-beaten path attractions, this family-friendly driving itinerary for Northern Ireland is perfect for you.
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Northern Ireland Driving Itinerary
A few things to note about our road trip through Northern Ireland.
- I HIGHLY recommend extending your time to enjoy more than just 24 hours in Belfast. While it’s totally doable, there are so many fun things to do in Belfast that it’s tough to scratch the surface with less than 2 days there. Plus, constantly changing your base location can add to the stress of traveling as a family.
- Our itinerary for one week in Northern Ireland will look a little different than most since we spent some time at The Open golf tournament. (So if you’ve ever thought about attending The Open with kids, we have you covered!)
- While this driving itinerary is for a Northern Ireland road trip with kids, aside from a few playgrounds we would have done all the same things if we were traveling to Ireland without our 2-year old. That means our week in Northern Ireland was full of pubs, distilleries, and outdoor adventures.
We ended our trip to Ireland with 48 Hours in Dublin. It was the perfect amount of time for our second trip to the biggest city in Ireland.
Getting to Northern Ireland
If you’re flying into Northern Ireland, the two primary airport options are Belfast International Airport and Dublin International Airport. Belfast has the advantage of being based in Northern Ireland and it’s a great option for a round trip throughout Northern Ireland.
If you’re coming from the United States like us, however, Dublin typically has more nonstop flights as well as less expensive flights. We had been wanting to visit Dublin again, so it made the most sense for us to fly in and out of the Dublin International Airport. While we opted to drive from the Dublin Airport to Belfast, there’s also a Belfast to Dublin airport bus available.
We rented a car at Enterprise rental car Dublin Airport, located right at the Dublin Airport. It was easy to get from the airport to the rental car area where we were renting at Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Dublin Airport is only about an hour drive to the border of Northern Ireland, and it’s an easy 2 hour drive to Belfast.
Tips for Driving in Northern Ireland
Driving in Ireland can be a little tricky, whether you’re driving in Ireland for the first time or have some experience with it. Below are additional driving in Ireland tips that are particularly helpful if you’re driving in Ireland as an American like us.
- You drive on left side in Ireland and Northern Ireland and your steering wheel will be on the right.
- You should always pass on the right lane in Ireland while driving on the highway.
- Roundabouts are super common across Ireland. Pay close attention to the traffic patterns.
- Rent a small car if you can, since the roads are so narrow in some places. People often park on the street in small towns as well, leaving little room to maneuver.
- Aside from getting out of Dublin onto the main highway, we didn’t encounter any tolls on our drive.
- Google Maps worked well everywhere we drove in Northern Ireland.
- Make sure your car rental is appropriately covered insurance-wise. Check what insurance is offered by the rental company versus what you can get through your credit card.
- Driving in Ireland with US license is permitted. You do not need a special license to drive in Ireland.
Also keep in mind that Ireland uses Euros and Northern Ireland uses British Pounds. It can definitely get confusing if you’re driving across the boarder between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Related Post: Tips for Renting and Driving a Car in Europe
The Best Time to Visit Northern Ireland
This was our second time in Ireland and we visited in the summer both times. While I haven’t been to Ireland in other seasons, we’ve experienced beautiful weather in Ireland from July through early September. The weather is warmer during that time and is generally in the 60s or even the 70s F. There also tends to be less rain in Ireland in the Summer. Although we love exploring in the rain, it was SO nice not having heavy rain when visiting Ireland with a toddler.
What to Pack for Ireland in July
This was our second time visiting Ireland in the summer and we learned a few things after the first trip. Below is our packing list for Ireland in July (in addition to the normal items you may bring for a trip.)
- Light raincoats are a must for everyone in your family.
- Dress in layers and check the weather before you leave. Although keep in mind, the weather can fluctuate.
- Bring a small, wind resistant umbrella for the rain. I prefer a lightweight rain jacket with a hood versus an umbrella to be hands free. We did use an umbrella twice during our trip, though.
- Don’t forget sunscreen! Contrary to popular believe, Ireland has been fairly warm and sunny the last few summers. Our favorite sunscreen for kids is this zinc based sunscreen.
- Bring tennis shoes/ sneakers for all the walking you’ll be doing. I personally don’t think rain boots are needed for visiting Ireland in July. You can always spray your sneakers with this waterproof shoe spray, however, for extra protection.
Day 1 Itinerary: Arrive in Ireland & Explore Belfast
Our flight from the US to Dublin landed around 7:30am. By 8:30, we were already on our way from Dublin to Belfast. We arrived in Belfast around 10:30am on a Sunday. (Talk about an efficient deplaning and car rental process!)
Where to Stay in Belfast with Kids
We stayed in Ormeau Park, an area just outside of the city center in Belfast. Ormeau has a hipster vibe with a family-friendly feel, and it’s a great neighborhood right outside of the Belfast City Center. We rented this 2-bedroom townhouse in Ormeau Park on AirBnB.
It’s a beautiful house and perfect for a family or small group. There were also added touches for families, like toys, a high chair and a portable crib for use. Plus, there was an amazing clawfoot bathtub. If you’ve ever traveled with a baby or toddler, you know how great it is to find a home rental with a tub.
If you’re not already signed up for AirBnB, register through our referral link here for credit toward your first stay.
Just down the street from our house was General Merchants, a trendy yet casual place for breakfast and lunch. They have a great weekend brunch, and it was the perfect meal after a long night of travel. My chai tea was also just the right mix of spicy and sweet.
Family Photoshoot in Belfast and Dinner in the Cathedral Quarter
That evening, we did this family photo shoot in Belfast through AirBnB experiences. Our son just turned two, so we wanted family pictures to commemorate his birthday and our first trip to Europe as a family. The photo shoot couldn’t have been more perfect and the photographer, Lucy, was a great local guide. I especially loved that she took us to unique places for pictures that we likely wouldn’t have found ourselves.
For dinner that night, we went to the Cloth Ear Public House for dinner in Belfast. The decor is classy yet cozy, while still being totally kid-friendly. They even greet kids at the Cloth Ear with a huge basket of toys to chose from. My husband and son had fish and chips, while I got a yummy chicken curry. We definitely recommend Cloth Ear as a great kid-friendly restaurant in Belfast.
Ormeau Park and the Best Ice Cream in Belfast
After dinner, we took a cab back to Ormeau Park near our house and walked around. Ormeau Park is the oldest of the public parks in Belfast and certainly one of the largest. It’s filled with various walking and running paths as well as sports fields and a playground.
Tip: Download the Value Cab app to get around Belfast via cab. It’s similar to Uber in the US. Also note that children are not required to have car seats in cabs in the United Kingdom.
To finish our day in Belfast, we had gelato at AL Gelato. Each of our flavors were yummy and our cones were toppedd with a waffle cookie. If you’re looking for the best ice cream in Belfast, this is it!
Check out our itinerary for 24 Hours in Belfast for our full guide to Belfast. This also includes the things we originally planned with 2 additional days in Belfast.
Day 2 Itinerary: Belfast & Carrickfergus
For breakfast that morning, we grabbed coffee and something to eat at Kaffe O. Kaffe O is a nordic coffee shop with beans roasted in Copenhagen, and it’s definitely worth the stop if you’re in Belfast.
After breakfast, we checked out of our AirBnB and headed over to the Titanic Belfast museum. If you’re only going to do one museum or paid attraction in Belfast, I highly recommend the Titanic Experience. As you can guess, the museum pays homage to the Titanic ship. It contains everything from Belfast’s start as a city of industry, to the building of the Titanic and its eventual sinking.
If you’re visiting the Titanic Belfast with kids, there’s a map that guides children to look for things throughout the museum. Keep in mind the Titanic Museum in general has a lot of information to read through. Chances are your children may hit their max before you get through the whole museum. (Like mine did!)
Before or after your trip to Titanic Belfast, be sure to stop by The Big Fish. (a.k.a. The Salmon of Knowledge.) This sculpture is a mosaic filled with different pieces of Northern Ireland’s history. The setting in front of the River Lagan is also perfect for taking in the city.
Trip to Carrickfergus from Belfast
The seaside town of Carrickfergus is only about a 30 minute drive north of Belfast. It’s the perfect day trip from Belfast with kids or without and makes a great stop if you’re driving along the north coast of Ireland.
One of the most popular things to do in Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland is the Carrickfergus Castle. Carrickfergus Castle dates back to the 1100s, and they’ve done a great job at maintaining it since then. The views from the castle walls are beautiful, and you can see both the town of Carrickafergus and beyond.
Visiting Carrickfergus Castle with kids? The castle has a dedicated kids play room. This makes it perfect for visiting Carrickfergus with a toddler or really kids of any age. Kid-friendly features at Carrickfergus include dress up clothing, a block castle, and several interactive displays.
Lunch and Marine Gardens Play Park
If you’re looking for restaurants in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, Castello Italia is a great option. This italian restaurant has an outdoor patio with amazing pizza and pasta. It was a great change from the traditional Irish food we knew we’d be eating throughout our Ireland road trip. It also has an espresso bar, and ice cream and other sweet treats. There are also several other great Carrickfergus restaurants with seaside views.
If you’re visiting Carrickafergus with kids, one stop you can’t miss is the Marine Gardens Play Park. It’s so good that I even recommend driving out taking a day trip from Belfast to Carrickfergus for the playground alone. This massive playground in Carrickfergus has tons of different swings, slides and other play structures for kids of all ages. The focal point is a huge pirate ship that kids can play in. There’s even a smaller ship for younger kids. The Marine Gardens Play Park is also a free, making it the perfect stop if you’re looking for fun, free things to do in Northern Ireland with kids.
Carrickfergus to Cushendall
From Carrickfergus, we made the drive about an hour north to the beautiful coastal town of Cushendall. The drive along the coast of Northern Ireland is so scenic and beautiful. If you’re driving north from Belfast and Carrickfergus, I definitely recommend taking the longer drive along the causeway coastal route versus cutting through the inland towns.
If you’re looking for one of the best places to stay in Northern Ireland, Cushendall is a great seaside town. We stayed in Cushendall for 3 nights, and as part of the Glens of Antrim it’s absolutely beautiful. Not only that, but I’m pretty sure we were the only tourists from outside of Europe. It was a nice break from the busier cities we visited on our Ireland road trip itinerary, like Dublin and Belfast.
Cottage Rental in Cushendall
Our 4 bedroom cottage in Cushendall was on the hillside and one of 6 cottages in Moneyvart Manor. If you’re looking where to stay in Northern Ireland with family, this cottage has everything you need for a home away from home. The lovely host provided several breakfast items including bread, jam and fruit. The house is also equipped with everything from a washer, to a picnic basket, to wetsuits for the beach.
If you’re not already signed up for AirBnB, register through our referral link here for credit toward your first stay.
Speaking of, I have to give our host, Christine, credit for opening her home to us in a pinch and also for being a great tour guide. She has a detailed guide book for guests with so many ideas for things to do in Northern Ireland with kids or without. She also made great recommendations for kid-friendly restaurants in Cushendall.
Upstairs at Joe’s for Dinner in Cushendall
For our first night in Cushendall, we had dinner at Upstairs at Joe’s. Joe’s is one of the most popular bars in the Glens of Antrim. The upstairs of the building holds a family-friendly restaurant. While the service was a bit slow since they were very busy, the food made up for it. I had seafood linguini while my husband had the fish and chips he was craving. Upstairs at Joe’s also has a kids menu and high chairs if you’re visiting with little ones.
Day 3 Itinerary: The Glens of Antrim, Dark Hedges and The Open Practice Day at Portrush
Our trip to Northern Ireland was a little different than most itineraries given that we attended The Open golf tournament. If you’re not familiar, it was formerly called “The British Open.” It’s one of the most prestigious golf events in the world and its held in the United Kingdom each year.
Yes, we were crazy enough to bring a toddler to a golf tournament!
The drive from Cushendall to the North Coast town of Portrush is really scenic and you can drive for miles without seeing another soul. Most of the drive takes you through the beautiful Glens of Antrim. The Antrim Coast and Glens is designated as an “Area of Outstanding Beauty” and it’s no surprise why. I definitely recommend driving through the Glens of Antrim at least once during your Northern Ireland road trip.
Visiting the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland
Prior to reaching Portrush, we stopped to see the Dark Hedges, an infamous beech tree lined road that’s one of the most popular things to do in Antrim. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you may recall this area as King’s Road from the HBO show. The tunnel created by the hedges is pretty cool to see up close. While the Dark Hedges can feel a little uneventful, it’s definitely one of the more unique things to do in Northern Ireland, and it’s worth the stop if you’re exploring the nearby areas.
Tips for Visiting the Dark Hedges
- The Dark Hedges are located by the town of Ballymoney along Bregagh Road, and you can find them via Google Maps.
- It costs $2 per car if you want to park in the Dark Hedges park lot and walk over. (You can find parking along the street, but I don’t recommend it unless you’re going really early.)
- From the parking lot, you weave through a fairy trail that takes you to Ballinlea Road and then you cross the road to find the hedges.
- If you want a guided tour of the Dark Hedges, you can get one through the Dark Hedges Experience as well.
- If you want an ideal photo opportunity at the Dark Hedges, I recommend getting there early for a clear shot. We were there around 10am and it was already getting really crowded.
The Open with a Toddler: Practice Day at Royal Portrush Golf Club
From the Dark Hedges, we drove a bit further north to the town of Portrush. Portrush is a small seaside town in County Antrim, along the most northern coast of Northern Ireland. The 2019 Open was held at the Royal Portrush Golf Club, a beautiful link style golf course along the coast. This was the first time The Open was being held in Northern Ireland in almost 70 years. It was amazing to see the excitement in both Portrush and throughout the country.
While a golf tournament may not come to mind as one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland with toddlers, practice days at The Open are perfect for kids. The atmosphere is more relaxed and there are so many fun things to do throughout the course. It’s also worth noting that kids under 16 are FREE at The Open. We also attended a Championship Day at The Open with our toddler at the end of our Northern Ireland road trip.
If you’re looking for more The village of Portrush is a lively seaside town and should definitely be part of any Northern Ireland road trip with kids. Portrush also has three beautiful, sandy beaches, including White Rocks, East Strand and West Strand. If you’re looking for more things to do in Portrush, Northern Ireland, there are also several amusement rides and family friendly places to eat for kids. Barry’s Amusements is one of the most popular things to do in Northern Ireland with the family, and it offers carnival style rides for kids of all ages.
Dinner at Harry’s in Cushendall
That evening, we headed back to Cushendall and had dinner at Harry’s Restaurant, another family-friendly restaurant in Cushendall. This pub-style restaurant serves British and Irish cuisine. Not only does it have great drinks and beers on tap, it’s also kid-friendly with a kids menu and high chairs. For dinner at Harry’s Pub, my husband and I both had fish. The smoked haddock special and salmon were both yummy and super fresh.
Day 4 Itinerary: Explore Cushendall
We intentionally left a free day to explore Cushendall and relax, given all of the sightseeing we were doing on this trip. Ironically, it was also our only rainy day during our visit to Northern Ireland in July. It’s not a trip to Ireland though with at least a few adventures in the rain!
We started our day in Cushendall with breakfast at Cafe Cova. This little cafe is casual with quick service. Cafe Cova offers a traditional Irish fry as well as the option of choosing your favorite 5 items versus the full fry. Everything we had was good and you can’t beat the prices at this casual breakfast and lunch cafe in Cushendall.
Walk around the Cushendall countryside and Layde Church Ruins
Our AirBnB host provided a map outlining her favorite walk in the Cushendall countryside, which we followed with our 2 year old son. I highly recommend this baby and toddler carrier if you’re visiting Northern Ireland with a toddler, since the landscape tends to be hilly in general
Our walk took us to Layde Church ruins, a hidden church near the coast of Cushendall. These church ruins are notably the oldest ruins in the Glens of Antrim. Layde Church is thought to date back to the Iron Age, with it’s first tax records valuing it at 20 shillings in 1306. The church was abandoned in 1790 after it’s last two clergy members passed away. On a clear day, you can easily see Scotland from this part of the Northern Ireland coast.
If you’re visiting Layde Church by car, there’s a small parking lot along with picnic tables. The cliff walk by Layde Church was closed when we were there. It’s supposed to be a beautiful path down to the Cushendall Beach.
Dinner at the Cushendall Golf Course: Rosie’s Restaurant
Rosie’s is a family owned restaurant located within the Cushendall Golf Clubhouse. You do not need to be a member of the Cushendall Golf Course to eat at the restaurant, and it’s a wonderful family-friendly place. The food at Rosie’s is perfectly prepared and presented. Everything we had from dinner to desserts was SO good. The service at Rosie’s was also the best we experienced during our time in Northern Ireland. (And all of Ireland, for that matter!)
Walk along the Cushendall Beach
Weather you’re staying in Cushendall or visiting the surrounding area, I definitely recommend taking a seaside walk at least once. There’s a nice walking path that goes by Cushendall Beach and around the harbor of Cushendall. We were super lucky after our dinner at the Cushendall Golf Course when we had the must beautiful sunset after a rainy day. Even if you don’t have warm enough weather to enjoy the Cushendall Beach, its worth the visit if you’re in the Glens of Antrim.
Day 5 Itinerary: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge & Ballintoy Harbour
On our 5th day in Northern Ireland, we left Cushendall and headed further north to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. We started our day with another Irish breakfast at Cafe Revive. This cute basement cafe in Cushendall is known as one of the best restaurants in the Glens for good reason. The service from the husband and wife duo is quick and friendly, and the kitchshy decor is warm and cozy. The food is equally as amazing, with specialty coffees and a yummy Irish fry. If you’re looking for a great breakfast in Cushendall, I highly recommend Cafe Revive.
Side note: I have to give a shoutout to the owner of the local auto body shop for helping us restart our car when the battery died. You have to love a friendly town with wonderful people always willing to help!
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in Ballintoy
Carrick-a-Reed Rope Bridge is one of the most popular things to do in Northern Ireland. The rope bridge is set against the beautiful cliffs, and its been around for 350 years. Before Carrick-a-Rede was a tourist attraction, it was used by salmon fisherman to get from the main part to a little island to fish.
Parking at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is free. Tickets cost £9 for adults and £4.50 for children 5 and older. A timed ticket is required to walk enter the hike up to the rope bridge. Note: We purchased our tickets online here. I definitely recommend it since you can bypass the ticket queue and guarantee your window of time for entry.
Visiting Carrick-a-Rede with a Baby or Toddler?
Below are a few important things to note before you try the rope bridge with a baby or toddler.
- There’s a steep walk uphill which may be tricky for little kids. It’s possible to bring a stroller with sturdy wheels if necessary.
- For safety reasons, you can’t carry children while walking over the bridge.
- If you have kids that aren’t old enough to cross the bridge themselves, I recommend using a baby carrier. We used this baby carrier throughout our trip to Northern Ireland with a toddler and it worked perfectly.
- Kids under 5 are free at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Any serious Game of Thrones fans will instantly recognize Ballintoy Harbour as the Iron Islands. Ballintoy Harbour was in several Game of Thrones episodes, and it’s a popular stop for those visiting the nearby Giant’s Causeway.
Ballintoy Harbour is accessed via a winding road, so be sure to drive slow and use caution if you’re making a stop there. There’s a small parking lot that’s accessible for free as well as public restrooms. Although it was worth seeing, we only spent about 10 minutes there before heading back up the winding road.
Lunch Near Giant’s Causeway at the Smuggler’s Inn
If you’re looking for a great restaurant near Giant’s Causeway and other attractions on the Northern Ireland coast, Smuggler’s Inn is a great option. Smugglers Inn is a great, family owned place for traditional Irish cuisine. I had the mussels while my husband had the seafood stew and our son had fish and chips. There was also a great list of local beers on tap like many restaurants in the area.
Check in to Maggie’s Cottage in Lisnagunogue
Maggie’s Cottage is located in Lisnagunogue, Dunseverick, which is part of County Antrim along the Northern Ireland coast. The cottage is perfectly situated between the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway. We took a chance on this two bedroom cottage since it was newly listed on Booking.com, and I’m so glad we did.
Maggie’s Cottage was recently renovated and the rooms were tastefully and comfortably decorated. The kitchen was fully stocked and it even had special dinnerware for the kids. The owner not only met us at the cottage, but she baked us fresh wheaten bread and provided other breakfast items as well. This home rental near Giant’s Causeway also has a nice backyard and outdoor seating, making it perfect for enjoying the summers in Ireland. Aside from that, there were also added touches for kids including books, a pack-n-play and games. I can’t recommend this home away from home enough if you’re visiting County Antrim with kids of any age.
For more information on Maggie’s Cottage rental by the Causeway Coast, see here.
Dinner at Fullerton Arms
Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy was recommended by our host based on the proximity to Maggie’s Cottage. Upon arriving at Fullerton Arms, we realized it was another Game of Thrones destination. The Fullerton Arms is close to several Game of Thrones filming locations. As part of that, it’s home to number 6 of 10 doors that were carved from trees at the Dark Hedges and placed throughout Northern Ireland.
After dinner, we stopped for milkshakes at Bothy’s White Park Bay. This cute cafe just happened to be open late on Thursdays. Both’s is a great, casual restaurant in Ballycastle with outdoor seating. Whether you’re looking for coffee, dessert or healthy meal options, it’s super family-friendly.
Day 6 Itinerary: Bushmills and Giant’s Causeway
In addition to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Giant’s Causeway is considered one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland. This popular spot along the North Atlantic Ocean is known for the tall columns made of basalt stones. The Giant’s Causeway story is it that these columns were formed when Finn McCool was fighting a Scottish giant. McCool allegedly threw pieces of the Antrim Coast in the water to form the columns that stand today. Science, however, tells us that Giant’s Causeway is the result of volcanic lava burning and cooling from an eruption 60 million years ago.
Giant’s Causeway is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and it’s no surprise that it’s a Unesco World Heritage site. If you have limited time while driving through Northern Ireland with kids, I definitely recommend having Giant’s Causeway on your list. Our son was two when we went to the Giant’s Causeway. I brought soft baby carrier with us, thinking I’d need it, but he LOVED climbing around on the rocks.
Interested in a Giant’s Causeway tour? You can easily get to the Giant’s Causeway from Dublin or Belfast to make a great day trip from either city. Check out these options for a Giant’s Causeway tour from Dublin or a Giant’s Causeway tour from Belfast.
Tickets and Parking at Giant’s Causeway
There’s a Visitor’s Center right at the site of Giant’s Causeway, which charges a fee for admission. It’s free to walk down to the basalt stones, however there is a fee for Giant’s Causeway parking. Parking at the Visitor’s Center is only available for those purchasing tickets at the center. As an alternative, you can park at the nearby Giant’s Causeway & Bushmill’s Railroad for less money and a short walk. We chose this option since we skipped the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Center when visiting with our 2 year old.
If you’d like to purchase Giant’s Causeway tickets for the Visitor’s Center, you can find them here.
Additional Tips for Visiting Giant’s Causeway with Kids
- We skipped the Visitor’s Center, and I was glad we did since our toddler just wanted to explore when we got there.
- Bring a stroller if you’re visiting Giant’s Causeway with a baby or toddler. There’s a bit of walking to get down to the stones and you can leave your stroller there when you’re exploring.
- Have your kids wear sneakers/ tennis shoes with a good grip, as the rocks can be slippery.
- There’s a bus available that takes you from the visitor’s building and down the hill so you can skip the walk to the basalt stones.
- Like most sites along the Causeway Coast Ireland, get there early if you want more room to explore and better pictures. Giant’s Causeway starts to fill with tourists around mid-morning.
Bushmill’s Whiskey Distillery
We’ve been big fans of Bushmills whiskey ever since finding out about it during our Northern Ireland road trip research. (And by we, I mean my husband. Whiskey makes me cry if I drink it straight!) Once we realized we’d be staying at a cottage rental near Bushmills, we knew we had to visit the distillery during our trip.
If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering, can you bring kids to Bushmills Distillery? The answer is yes, but with some restrictions. Children have to be 8 to go on a guided tour at Bushmills, but they can enjoy the property at any age. We had a chance to walk around the Bushmills Distillery to get to the restaurant and tasting room in the back. Our son loved following the arrows to the back and taking in the different buildings and sights. I had an awesome margarita made with bushmills whiskey and fresh oranges, while my husband sampled some of the aged whiskey.
Tip for Traveling with a Toddler: If you’re planning to do a lot of adult focused things on a trip, try to mix in some parks or open spaces in between, We also always have small toys or activities on hand. These magnetic blocks went everywhere with us on our road trip through Ireland with a toddler.
Woodfire Pizza Lunch at Bothy’s White Park Bay
When we stopped at Bothy’s previously, we discovered it has a backyard pizza oven available from Thursday- Sunday. We were lucky enough to be in the area on a day they were serving pizza. Not only does Bothy’s offer games and different activities for kids in their awesome outdoor seating area, but the food is equally amazing. I highly recommend Bothy’s for a kid-friendly cafe near Giant’s Causeway and a break from traditional Irish food.
Dinner at Causeway Hotel
We noticed the Causeway Hotel when we were visiting Giant’s Causeway earlier that day and had to try it out for dinner. It was only a few miles from our rental home in Dunseverick, making it perfect for dinner after a long day of exploring.
While the Causeway Hotel Restaurant has an air of sophistication about it, it was still casual enough for a relaxed dinner with a 2 year old. Not only was the dining room beautiful with amazing views, but our food was yummy and perfectly prepared. The Causeway Hotel Restaurant had a great kids menu complete with ice cream for our son as well.
We didn’t stay at the hotel, but from our experience it looks like a great option if you’re looking for family friendly hotels in Northern Ireland. You can check availability and rates at the Giant’s Causeway Hotel here.
Day 7 Itinerary: The Open Championship Day at Royal Portrush and Drive to Dublin
Our last day in Northern Ireland came way too soon, and it started with an early but scenic drive further north to Royal Portrush for The Open. The crowds and the energy of the Championship day were even higher on than on a practice day. We were more prepared this time and decided to bring our lightweight travel stroller to The Open. I was surprised at how well the small stroller tackled the hills and it made our day so much easier.
The Open also did an amazing job at catering to kids in general. There was an indoor play area with several activities and play structures throughout. They also had an area with Doosan trucks for kids to look at and climb in. (In addition to all the great kid-friendly food at The Open.) I was super impressed with the offerings given that kids get in for free. If you’re ever considering visiting The Open with kids, I highly recommend it.
Tips for attending The Open with a baby or toddler
Thinking about attending The Open or another golf tournament with a baby or toddler? We highly recommend squeezing in some golf (or at least the views) on your Northern Ireland road trip with kids.
Below our our tips for attending The Open with young children:
- Kids under 16 are free at The Open, but they still need a ticket to attend.
- Bring a stroller for babies or younger toddlers since there’s a lot of walking. A baby carrier would also work well for younger babies.
- Changing tables are available at the bathroom facilities
- There are various activities for kids at The Open, including a designated kids room and autograph areas.
- The putting green and practice areas are a great way for kids to see the players up close.
- Unless your children are able to stay extremely quiet when asked, avoid getting right next to where the golfers are hitting the ball.
- The bunkers (hills) outside of the fairway are great for giving a good view of the hole while still keeping your child
- Bring small toys to entertain young children. My son carried two little toy trucks with him everywhere we went.
Related Post: Tips for Attending a Sporting Even with a Child Under 2
Our visit to The Open Championship Day in Portrush concluded our driving tour of Northern Ireland. From Royal Portrush, we made the 3 hour drive south to spend 48 hours in Dublin before heading home.
Have you been to Northern Ireland before? We loved it so much that it’s definitely a place I’d return to again. Please share if you have any favorite places for the best Ireland road trip that we missed on this trip!
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