An Amazing Staycation Itinerary in Northern Ireland
With the rising demand for Staycations in Northern Ireland this year, we’ve had an influx of enquiries about short and extended breaks to Ardtara Country House. The most common question people ask is what there is to see and do whilst visiting Ardtara for a staycation. Ardtara is the best possible base for exploring Northern Ireland, it is located in NI’s geographical centre, less than 45 minutes from Belfast, the Causeway Coast and the City of Derry. We’ve put together an itinerary for a Northern Ireland Staycation to make you forget all about tropical holidays, we’ve tried and tested every experience listed and can confirm that you will be immersed in our local culture and captivated by our local people with their authentic stories and great hospitality. We’ve suggested the best places to eat to ensure you enjoy the finest gourmet food on your Northern Ireland Staycation.
Day 1 of your Northern Ireland Staycation
Arrive at Ardtara Country House, check in and explore your bedroom with many charming original features. Enjoy an afternoon tea in the lounge with a spread of canapes and finger sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, and delicate sweet treats, all made lovingly in our own kitchen by our talented team of chefs.
Make your way to Drumnaph Wood. This beautiful ancient woodland is situated less than 10 minutes drive from Ardtara and is one of the few remaining fragments of a great forest that once covered much of mid-Ulster. In summer, butterflies bring Drumnaph’s meadows and woodland edges to life, while brightly-coloured dragonflies patrol the bog cotton grass in wetland areas. Whether you are interested in timeless woodland, excellent walks or fascinating cultural connections, Drumnaph Wood is well worth a visit.
Return to Ardtara and take a gentle stroll through the Upperlands Mill & Dam Trail to make sure you work up an appetite for dinner. This scenic walk is accessible on foot from the grounds of Ardtara, just ask one of our team to point you in the right direction. There are four-man-made lakes or “dams” in Upperlands. These used to serve the linen mills. They are Craig’s dam, Island dam, Green dam and Lapping-room dam. The walk circumnavigates the old mill dams, which are now disused, but very picturesque. After your walk, take a seat in the Clark restaurant for an unforgettable Michelin recommended dining experience. Our team of chefs are renowned for creating amazing dishes with ingredients that are fresh, seasonal and locally sourced – including from our own gardens. After dinner enjoy a night-cap (or two) in our cosy bar before retiring for the evening
Day 2 of your Northern Ireland Staycation
Awaken to the majestic bird song before admiring the early morning views from your bedroom window, take a gentle stroll outside to awaken your senses before indulging in a freshly cooked breakfast in the dining room. Make your way to the board walk at the Stand at Lough Beg for a walk with spectacular views across to Church Island. Take in the words of Seams Heaney at the location he wrote so fondly about before making your way to the Seamus Heaney Homeplace to delve into his works in more depth.
Next you’ll visit Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a purpose-built arts and literary centre in Bellaghy, which celebrates the life and work of the late poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, and contributes to his legacy. Step into Seamus Heaney HomePlace, and discover the world-renowned poet in his beloved hometown. Journey through the life and works of this literary giant, greatly valued locally for his decency and humility, and experience the place, the people and the landscape that so inspired his work.
What’s inside Seamus Heaney Homeplace
Here, you will see Heaney’s leather school satchel and his wooden desk from Anahorish Primary School, handwritten transcripts from the poet, and books donated by the Heaney family. You will learn about the people who were integral to his life and poetry. Click here for more information and online tickets. Top tip: enjoy refreshments at the cafe in Homeplace, or wander down the street where you will find another two locally run cafes.
Return to Ardtara Country House for a gentle stroll before dinner.
Day 3 of your Northern Ireland Staycation
After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast you will set off for the Causeway Coast, arriving at the Giants Causeway for an adventure packed day. The Giant’s Causeway is a geological wonder and home to a wealth of history and legends. Follow in the footsteps of the giants at Northern Ireland’s iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Some call it the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World. It is steeped in legend and folklore.
Are the unique hexagonal stones a result of volcanic action 60 million years ago? Or were they built by the Giant Fionn MacCumhaill? Only a visit will help you decide.
Discover the legend of the giant and search for distinctive stone formations such as the Camel, Wishing Chair, Harp and Organ. Be part of a guided tour or go solo. You’ll be amazed at what you see.
If you have a head for heights, you’ll enjoy the coastal walk to Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge and make the crossing – but it’s not for the faint hearted! The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It spans 20 metres and is 30 metres above the rocks – conquer the ultimate bucket list challenge with this thrilling rope bridge experience which rewards with epic views of the North Coast of Ireland.
After the exhilarating experience of crossing the bridge, you’ll make your way to Portstewart for dinner at Eighteen Ninety Four, a superb new restaurant with the most spectacular views across Portstewart Strand. Eighteen Ninety Four is a fine dining restaurant owned by the Browns Bonds Hill Collection, who also own Ardtara Country House. After dinner take a walk on the beach and if you are feeling energetic there is a spectacular cliff walk which brings you to Portstewart promenade where you can finish off with a poke of ice-cream before returning to Ardtara.
Day 4 of your Northern Ireland Staycation
After a sound nights sleep at Ardtara and a wonderful breakfast, prepare for a visit to the City of Derry to explore the city walls and some of the city’s finest restaurants. Park your car at Ebrington and enter the city via the magnificent peace bridge
The historic Walled City is the best example of a European walled city remaining virtually unchanged since it was built in the 17th Century. You can walk on top of the wall and look down into the Bogside, the scene of modern Irish history – we recommend a guided walking tour to learn the history of this culturally vibrant city
For lunch visit Browns in Town, just a short stroll from the city walls, a trendy restaurant recommended by the Michelin Guide, it will be sure to delight you with local and seasonal dishes.
Visit the Tower Museum to see the remnants of the Spanish Armada ships, which sunk off the coast in their desperate attempt to sail home after disaster. Pick up a wireless City Digital Tour Guide at the Tourist Information Centre to guide you around the town at your own speed. Afterwards, make your way back across the Peace Bridge for the grand finale – dinner at Browns Bonds Hill, the No1 restaurant in the city and also recommended by the Michelin Guide. Enjoy some the the finest dishes in the North West in this newly refurbished restaurant before returning to Ardtara Country House for a final night cap to end a fantastic few days in the heart of Northern Ireland.
We hope this itinerary has inspired you, it really is just a flavour of what’s on offer within one hour of Ardtara – there’s lot’s more to see an do!