Northern Ireland has a striking countryside and much of it is given over to coastal areas, lakelands, and rolling hills. Typical of British and Irish design, the countryside is always close at hand and visitors can be out there enjoying activities within minutes. The hiking, cycling, boating, and fishing potential are all excellent.
Most people head direct for the north coast to walk the Giant’s Causeway. It is staggering and the whole coastline can be explored on foot or by bicycle. The Mourne Mountains and Enniskillen have some of the best interior landscapes, the latter being especially good for boating and fishing on Lough Erne. Numerous companies offer trips from towns and cities.
Northern Ireland has some fantastic terrain for hikers and it is very accessible. The Mourne Mountains in the southeast are home to some of the best scenery in the whole of Ireland, with lush rolling hills and big skies. There are lakes, rivers, and peaks galore, with Slieve Donnard the highest point at 2,796 feet. The Silent Valley reservoir and Mourne Wall are must-see landmarks here. Elsewhere, the Causeway Coast, in the north, is also home to great hiking terrain. It is best known for the jaw-dropping Giant’s Causeway.
The north coast has the best potential for boating and the region is strewn with lakes, including the biggest in the British Isles, Lough Neagh. In Londonderry, Foyle Cruise Line runs reasonably priced tours of the Foyle estuary, Culmore Bay, and Greencastle (dinner cruises). From Coleraine, tours go with the Lady Sandel, while in Belfast the Titanic Boat Tour takes in the decrepit Harland & Wolff shipyards. Both Lough Erne and Lough Neagh are good for boating trips and for kayaking — tour companies do pick-ups from Enniskillen and Belfast respectively.
Northern Ireland is right up there with the best in Britain for fishing, with trout and salmon in abundant supply. The Fermanagh Lakelands have the best freshwater fishing, with charters running from Enniskillen to the Lower Lough Erne area, while County Antrim’s Causeway Coast is also fantastic. Ballycastle Charters operates three-hour trips of the latter, Monday to Saturday, from Ballycastle.
The best all round cycling in Northern Ireland for all ages is in County Fermanagh, along the Kingfisher Trail which begins in Enniskillen. This 200-plus-mile-long route takes in the neighboring Irish counties of Monaghan, Leitrim, and Cavan, and also features a shorter route of nearby towns. The National Cycle Network goes throughout Northern Ireland, including friendly routes within Belfast. In addition, Mourne Cycle Tours takes in the Mourne Mountains, or you can rent from McConvey Cycles.
Big golfing names hail from these shores, including Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy, and there are fine golf courses near all towns and on the north coast. Royal Portrush is of the latter, with Royal County Down to the southeast of Belfast. Pirates Adventure Golf, near Belfast, is a must for kids, with its 36 fun, well-tended holes.