Places to visit and the roads to drive in Ireland, ideas wanted.

I guess like a lot of other Club members we are planning to make it a week long trip when we come over to the Spring Rally in May.  The idea currently is to start in Southern Ireland and do a full circuit ending up in Belfast for the rally.  And apart from the Giant’s Causeway we have no fixed ideas about where to go and what to see.

So has any one got suggestions please.  The sights we must not miss and the roads we must drive?


 there is quite a lot to see  when you are over      might give you some ideas.

there are the marble arch caves in co.tyrone , st patricks church in armagh , mourne mountains ( quite a nice scary road up round forkhill)
The north coast road from carrickfergus to coleraine,

 you could spend 2 full weeks and not see it all,

Giants Causeway is a little underwhelming…but the A2 up to Ballycastle is a good drive, provided its light on traffic. My favourite drive was down in Armagh; Slieve Gullion forest drive, which is 8 miles, one way, switchbacks and blind crests. Exhilarating. But you will need to check with the locals as to its condition, as in 2005, when I last drove it, it was breaking up a bit. Mournes; Spelga dam undoubtedly. as well. Windy Gap north of Dundalk. One route; pick some random roads in the Mournes, making sure you loop back Castlewellan or Tollymore forest parks, then pick up the A2 near Clough, for a really nice drive past the lighthouse. In Portaferry, get the ferry over to the other side of Strangford Lough. Aim to get dinner at Millisle.

Another drive; hit the A2 at Carrickfergus.Take a little diversion  to Island Magee, to the Gobbins. Get through Larne, while admiring the Welcome signs. At Glenarfm, pull into the seafront carpark, as there is usually a bacon van there. Continue on to Cushendall, and take the signs to Cushendall. This wee little village was built in the 1920s using the English model. Its National Trust I think. Small carpark in the middle of the village, opposite the pub, but further along the road, there is a very large carpark on the left. The pub is small, but serves very good food. Continue if you dare to Torrhead. You will drive through a small village. The road can be very narrow at places, and steep awkward camber switchbacks. At Torrhead itself, there is a carpark, and then a walk up the hill to the abandoned weather station, with superb views to Scotland. Continue onto Ballycastle. DO NOT stop at the pub that meets the A2 from Torrhead; all I was told was its known to the police… Onto Ballycastle. Bit tight for parking here. I continue onto Portrush; Giants Causeway is along the way, but tis a bit busy there with tourists. Portrush is busy; popular seaside town, with a long Golden Mile. Fantastic ice cream is available. Backtrack over the Antrim Glens to Ballymena; very different from the Mournes. By Ballymena, you can join the normal commuter road to Belfast.

For motorsport enthusiasts, there is Kirkistown; we used to do little trackdays there with Trackskills. They keep the prices down, and getting on midweek is easy, given enough notice. I think his break even point was about 15 cars, @£100 each. Also, you can trace out historic road circuits. Its fun finding the Dundrod TT; the last car road race in the UK, where Mike Hawthorn still holds the lap record. Its around near the airport, and the old 50s starting grid and stands are still visible.

Another random route is the Glenelly Valley in the Sperrins.


I still have my old, tattered route map.

 Oh, and the Southern tip of Ireland is a fair lick away. Dublin to Belfast; no really good roads, unless you head more to Monahagn, and get off the beaten track.

 Hi all,

I am part of the commitee orginising the 2010 spring rally, for my sins I have been elected to organize the runs to be held on the Sunday.

At present I am thinking of three runs, one going north up the Antrim coast, one south to the Mournes and one inland possibly round Lough Neagh. We know that a lot of you from the mainland will come for more than just the rally and we will try to post a list of places to visit mainly to promote Northern Ireland as we feel that you could easly lose a week here. To this end I would like to know peoples interests ie, good roads and scenery, historic places, motor sport etc. Also are you planning your holiday before the rally or after, in any case I would urge you to take this opportunity to see what the northern end of this island has to offer and I include Co Donegal in this. I will be happy to advise individuals on areas to visit and as a past rally navigator/driver on roads that must be driven.

I still have NI’s banner. I suppose I ought to give it back sometime…


 Hi, thats great. Exactly what we need.  The roads to drive, as Saz’s helpful post, will be priority for many of us.  But its gonna be a long way to go and so we don’t want to miss anything really.  At the moment we are scratching our heads about what to do, so the more you do to point us in the right direction the better.  A lot will be coming for a week, so quite a few days to fill. 

 I know we have a new one but i will let Stephen (co-ordinator) chase you for the old one


 Things to do: Bushmills. For historical types, Carrickfergus Castle is worth a stroll around (fairly complete Norman keep), plus there are a ton of Monestary ruins along Stranford Lough. Carrickfergus has also preserved the birthplace of Andrew Jackson.  Please go along to the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry (other side from Strangford); Europe’s largest salt water aquarium. They need the financial support for the good conservation work they do. Belfast City Centre is also worth a day strolling around; the inside of the City Hall is impressive, plus you can partake in a pint at the Crown, an historic pub owned by the National Trust. There is plenty of NCP-type parking in and around the city centre. When planning drives out; please be aware a lot of the villages are pretty tight for space, and you will still see parking restrictions outside police stations etc. Its fairly easly to clog up some places when in convoy. Also, the PSNI might still be a fan of mobile speed cameras, in the absence of fixed cameras (there aren’t many), so take care. Additionally, though it might have changed a bit in the last 4-5 years, be prepared to suddenly stop for a vehicle inspection in some areas. Mostly they will wave you through. On my last trip in 2005, we got caught out near Warrenpoint, with a flown in check point (police, with numerous soldiers crouching in the bushes). The  police were full of grins when they saw our convoy.

 Please count me in on this information. We are also planning on a very long weekend starting in Cork, Swansea - Cork ferry, and a roundish route to Belfast and back. We are new members so this will be our first national rally.


Hi SAZ9961, good to hear from you again and good to see that you still have fond memories of your time spent here in Northern Ireland. Maybe you can use your influence on the “other side of the pond” to encourage your fellow countrymen (and women of course) to come across for the Rally. Hope you will have a MX-5 by next May and will be able to join us too.

We still have a active wee club here with around 100 members and we intend to put on a good show for everybody.

The Folk and Transport Museum is an ideal venue and should appeal to most tastes. The Transport Museum as you know has some excellent exhibits with a number of unique local cars and aeroplanes etc that were at the forefront of the transport revolution. There is an aeroplane and tractor  designed and built by Harry Ferguson (an early flight pioneer and of Tractor Fame and four wheel drive systems) for example, and there are cars and AutoGyro’s built by a local man Rex McCandless. There are also exhibits from John Boyd Dunlop (a Scotsman) who was granted the first patent for the pneumatic tyre which he invented while living in Belfast and where commercial production begain in 1890. 

The exhibits in the folk museum are also excellent and as I say there should be something for everybody.

The Gala Dinner which will be held in Stormont (Parliament Buildings) promises to be an interesting event. The first batch of tickets will go on sale on 15 October and notice of this will be given in the October issue of STHT. Numbers will be restricted and tickets will be distributed on a “first come first served basis”  A new website will be up and running by that time.

Don’t worry about the banner, we now have a couple of new ones you can keep that one for posterity.



AC N Ireland



 Having recently purchased my first MX-5 (Mk 2.5 Arctic) as a weekend ‘toy’ we are really looking forward to doing this. We have been south of the border on a few occasions but never into N Ireland.

Our challenge will be getting there on time since with my wife working in Education she doesn’t officially break up here in Wiltshire until Friday evening - might have to convince her to ‘throw a sickie’.

Would be interested in any opinions as to the quickest route to get there i.e. from Wiltshire to Belfast e.g. ferry from Holyhead to Dublin and drive up or a ferry from the UK mainland direct to Belfast

We’ll obviously be looking to spend time locally post the weekend rather than beforehand


Not sure exactly where in Wiltshire you live, but from Bath for example, it would be about 268 miles to Holyhead and then a further 110 miles to Belfast from Dublin. It is shorter - only 190 miles if you were to go to Liverpool and then directly to Belfast. There is an overnight ferry which leaves around 9 or 10 pm and gets you in the next morning at around 9am. That would be the shortest option but it would be a bit more expensive, however you will save about £25 on fuel and get there a lot quicker and more refreshed. I have used this crossing a number of times and it is very good. The fare includes your evening meal and breakfast. Alternatively there is also a daytime sailing which is the least expensive way to cross the Irish sea it but can be a bit tedious unless you just want to sit around and relax for the day. One of our club members works for the Ferry company and we might be able to get reduced fares on this route.

Which ever way you wish to cross over you will be very welcome and we look forward to seeing you.

By the way you might want to have a look at our new website that was launched this week which will be the information point for all the Spring Rally details. It already has all the accommodation info on it and it will be added to over the next few days/weeks.





 Many thanks, that is really very helpful. We are about 10 miles from Bath so looks like Liverpool may be the most viable option though I suspect we will be dodging the M6 on the way up. [;)] 

Have had a quick look at the website, looks very comprehensive so we will try and move this ahead over the next few days.

thanks again


Another cheap ferry to consider is the Stena Fleetwood-Larne crossing. Like the Liverpool ferry, its a truck ferry with space for cars, and can be a bit slow. There are overnight crossings on thursday nights. Like the Liverpool ferries, a comfy cabin, dinner and breakfast are all included in overnight crossings.

What do you call cheap? I looked on their web site and although you can only book as far ahead as January a return crossing for car & driver plus passenger is £328.


Check again; January return for car and driver from £170 return,  £25 each way for an extra passenger. You might add maybe £30-40 to that for a spring crossing (plus whatever for inflation). A night sailing is £240 plus your passenger.


Norse Merchant are £170 for the 5 day excursion, on a day saling, £295 on a night sailing


Irish Sea ferries are never going to be Calais-booze cruise cheap. Cheapest regular ferries will be from Stanraer, but if you are coming from the South, you may have a significant cost in fuel. Swings and roundabouts. Many years in the Province has given me experience of virtually every ferry crossing, and what constitutes “cheap”. Cheap is £10 or less each way (pay a bit more if you get an overnighter with a cabin).

Another budget ferry is Liverpool-Dublin Port by P&O.


Another truck ferry, again best get this overnight. This truck ferry is (or was) the least geared up to deal with car drivers. I took it once from Dublin to England. You check in to a smoke filled truckers office, looking circa 1950. Cars are last on, and park on a ramp. Me being in the smallest car, was loaded last. I had to reverse off at the over end, 100foot into pitch darkness. It uses Liverpool Freeport, so you spend some time whizzing around a container yard, trying to find your way out. But it is cheap, with grub included.



Used to live in Northern Ireland so pretty much any of the coastal roads are fun.

Nice drives up through the Glens of antrim. 

Not far from the Giants Causeway is Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge but a fair walk 

from the car park and only for the bravest of you amongst us.

Goes across to a small island with a salmon fishery on it. 

 Just opened in the Ulster Folk & Transport museum (which is kinda handy for all) is an exhibition dedicated to Joey Dunlop, King of the Roads. Should be worth a visit.