Highlights of Northern Ireland Tour with Paddywagon

Highlights of Northern Ireland - Carrick-a-Rede
This past Saturday I boarded a large green Paddywagon tour bus bright and early and set off to see the highlights of Northern Ireland. It was a fantastic day that saw us visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Giants Causeway, the rope bridge at stunning Carrick-a-Rede, Dunluce Castle, Belfast and an amazing coastal drive along the north.

Highlights of Northern Ireland
Among several multi day options, Paddywagon offers a 4 day southwest tour of Ireland from Dublin starting at $441 per person. They also offer a 3 Day Northern Ireland Tour from Dublin including Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge from $278 per person. *These are current multi day tours in summer of 2018*

Highlights of Northern Ireland

Highlights of Northern Ireland with Paddywagon Tours

Our first stop was at spectacular Carrick-a-Rede. There is a rope bridge that was initially built by salmon fishermen to get to the small island across to catch fish in their nets. The bridge rests (and sways!) 23 meters above the sea. As I’m scared of heights I was wary about crossing the bridge. But we were told that the bridge is now reinforced with steal cables and nobody has died…yet! With that in mind, I figured what the heck- don’t look down and just cross it. I was really glad I did because I was fortunate to get a photo of just myself on the bridge, which now stands as one of my all time favorite travel photos…And like all the others before me, I didn’t fall off!

Highlights of Northern Ireland
Throughout the day’s journey you’ll see loads of beautiful green rolling hills, breathtaking coastline and lots of cattle and sheep that are quite fortunate to have such posh surroundings. Our bus driver and tour guide John was quite an entertaining character. He had loads of fun stories to share and a few pranks to pull. I won’t go into too much detail on that as to not spoil the fun, or scares!

Highlights of Northern Ireland
 

Highlights of Northern Ireland
 

Highlights of Northern Ireland
 

Highlights of Northern Ireland
The main event of the day was a visit to one of the most famous spots on the emerald island, Giant’s Causeway. A place where British Prime Minister David Cameron found awe inspiring during his visit last year during the Olympics. Giant’s Causeway is a dramatic and thought provoking place, consisting of around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. According to scientists, the site spawned from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. According to our tour bus driver, the rocks were placed during an epic brawl between a nearby Scottish and local Irish giant, hence the name. On a clear day, you can see Scotland just across the sea as it’s only about 20km away.

Highlights of Northern Ireland
 

Highlights of Northern Ireland
We had a 2 hour stop at Giant’s Causeway and the entire area is stunning. If it’s a nice day, like it was during my visit, you can grab sandwiches from the cafe or take a picnic and maximize your time admiring the scenery. If the weather isn’t so good, there is a pub or hotel to eat at and you can take a shuttle bus down to the Causeway. In any event, the shortest walk is just 15 minutes from the visitors center to the Giant’s Causeway.

Highlights of Northern Ireland
On our way back to Dublin, our driver drove us around the docks where the infamous Titanic ship was built. We also saw the studio where the hit TV show ‘Game of Thrones’ is currently being filmed. We then had 1 hour of free time to stroll Belfast as the Paddywagon bus was centrally parked next to City Hall. Use that time to check out one of the coolest city halls in Europe and if you’re thirsty for a quick pint head over to the famous Crown Liquor Saloon. It has some of the most beautifully ornate woodwork you’ll ever see in a pub, carved many years ago by Italian craftsmen. On a previous visit to Belfast with my father, we spent time at the Crown and my Dad who typically hates pubs loved the place.

The Paddywagon Giant’s Causeway Day Tour from Dublin costs  €60 ($80 USD), leaving Dublin at 7:30 am and returning around 8:15 pm. There are 3 centrally located pickup stops in the center of Dublin. It’s a convenient, worthwhile and fun way to experience the best Northern Ireland has to offer. *Updated summer of 2018: Paddywagon no longer offers this exact day tour from Dublin. They do offer a day tour from Dublin to Belfast that includes a visit to the 6th century monastery of Monasterboice and the Titanic Experience. Price of that tour starts at $52 US per person* 

Highlights of Northern Ireland

Where to Stay in Dublin?

First you need a place to stay, and it’s a good idea to book a hotel with free cancellation in advance. Later if prices change and you find a better deal, you can easily cancel your reservation and book another one. Here are hotel and bed and breakfast recommendations for Dublin:

Luxury:

Shelbourne Hotel is Dublin’s most historic luxury hotel, as several US Presidents and many foreign dignitaries have stayed there. They have a wonderful cocktail lounge and fantastic dining options. Even if you’re not a guest, swing in for high tea and enjoy a lovely view of St. Stephen’s Green.

The Merrion Hotel is another excellent luxury choice. This 5 star hotel offers an old world luxury experience in a great location.

Mid Range:

O’Callaghan is a small chain of centrally located, comfortable hotels with good breakfasts. Trinity College often puts job applicants and guests up in these hotels. We stayed at O’Callaghan St. Stephens Green when Bell interviewed for her post doctoral position at Trinity College and highly recommend it.

Budget:

ABC House Dublin and Egans House are quintessentially Irish bed and breakfasts a little outside the center of Dublin. They both offer reasonable comfort for those that don’t want to spend a lot to sleep. We spent a week at ABC House Dublin while searching for our apartment when we first moved to Dublin. We stayed at Egans House on a visit to Ireland.

Backpacker: 

Generator Hostel is conveniently located right next to the Jameson Distillery (fun!) and is part of a reputable chain of hostels in Europe that are known for being clean and having a fun atmosphere.

Families especially will find the best deals on short term apartment rentals. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here for freeand receive $40 credit off your first stay!

Want to travel to Ireland for Free?

Play the credit card points game and use bonus point sign ups for free plane tickets! The most popular card among travel hackers is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The card also includes complimentary priority pass lounge access with free food, drinks and wifi. The annual fee seems steep at $450, but it includes $300 in travel credits. The 50,000 bonus point sign up is good for $750 in travel credit, enough for a free plane ticket to Ireland! They’ll also compensate you $100 for free Global Entry and TSA pre-check to skip airport lines.

If you don’t travel very frequently, the Delta Skymiles American Express Gold Card is free the first year and just $95 each year after. They give a 40,000 point bonus after you charge just $1,000, so this is a great card. You’ll typically need around 60,000+ miles for a free flight to Ireland, but you can earn these miles with everyday purchases. There are other perks to having the Delta SkyMiles AMEX Gold Card, like free checked bags on Delta flights.

Disclosure: Paddywagon Tours provided this tour free of charge, but we received no financial payment for this review. Bell was unfortunately unable to take the tour due to prior commitments (she certainly wanted to). The opinions, experiences and photos included in this article are solely those of Alex. Also, this article contains some affiliate links.

3 thoughts on “Highlights of Northern Ireland Tour with Paddywagon

  1. This looks fabulous I will definitely take this tour while I am in Dublin next year. Glad you got over your fear of heights, the photo was definitely worth it!!!

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