With unparalleled beauty and boasting rugged scenery and tantalising views – it’s no wonder camping in Northern Ireland is such a great holiday choice.
Thankfully, there are many options for camping in Northern Ireland. There are several fantastic campsites set in some of Northern Ireland’s most rewarding landscapes – we give a few of our top recommendations further down in this article.
Wild camping in Northern Ireland is technically illegal – with a couple of exceptions – however the reality is that people still do it.
If you are planning on wild camping in Northern Ireland, and can’t be swayed to stay in a campsite instead, we have more information on that and tips on how to be a considerate camper when wild camping later on in this article.
So grab your tent and some good company – it’s time to begin your Northern Ireland camping adventure!
Camping in Northern Ireland: An Unforgettable Holiday
The striking beauty of Northern Ireland is down to its craggy peaks and stunning coastline – perfect for any adventurous traveler.
The walks up the Mourne Mountains are bound to delight hikers as the tracks take you past lush woodland, lakes, rivers and up various peaks. Rock climbers can test their skills by rock climbing in the mountains too.
Some of the best campsites are located close to Northern Ireland’s coast, serene lakes and enchanting mountains. As such, they are often situated in the most picturesque settings, and have fantastic walking and cycling routes close by.
Therefore if you are seeking a walking or cycling holiday, our recommendation would be to get a Northern Ireland walking book – like this one – and then plan your campsite visits according to what is situated beside the walking trails you wish to explore.
However if you’re looking for some recommendations, below we share some of our favourite campsites in Northern Ireland.
The Best Campsites in Northern Ireland for Fun, Views & Adventure
1. Camping Tollymore Forest Park
Open all year-round, Tollymore Forest Park is a national forest that covers an area of almost 630 hectares at the foot of the gorgeous Mourne Mountains. The park is home to a campsite with 71 grassy pitches that boast great forest and mountain views.
The shared facilities are well maintained, but this is quite a basic campsite. However it’s quiet, serene and campers can enjoy their morning coffee whilst admiring a spectacular mountain backdrop.
The seaside town of Newcastle is a five-minute drive from Tollymore too. Not only is there a nice beach there, but there’s also a good variety of supermarkets, fresh food shops, retail outlets, cafés and restaurants.
There’s plenty of great walks on-site and there’s two that we highly recommend. If you are looking for a long leisurely stroll, the so-called ‘Black Trail’ is perfect; whilst the ‘Red Trail’ is a great choice if you fancy a romantic walk along the riverside.
Address: Tollybrannigan Road, Newcastle BT33 0PR
2. Shepherds Rest Pub, Camping & Caravan Park
Surrounded by the stunning beauty of the Sperrin Mountains, this campsite is located in Draperstown and boasts green landscapes and starry nights thanks to the lack of artificial light at night. As such, this tranquil location is a great base to reconnect with nature and is famous locally for its stargazing opportunities.
With a warm and friendly welcome from the owners, campers will feel at ease instantly with the great shared on-site facilities and the very cozy pub with open fire and live music on some evenings. These’s a small play park on-site too and lots of open space for kids to have fun.
Kids will also enjoy the huge modern barn here that’s been converted into a large recreational space complete with table tennis.
On top of that there’s many cycling and hiking possibilities in the nearby Sperrin Mountains and this campsite is very well located to discover nearby Enniskillen and Belfast.
Address: 220 Sixtowns Rd, Draperstown, Magherafelt, BT45 7BH
3. Watertop Farm
Set in the pretty surroundings of the north east Antrim coast, this family-run site is full of fun activities on site and nearby. The scenic farm is well located in a steep valley with a river meandering through it so you’re guaranteed great views.
Children will be kept entertained by feeding the animals, taking a ride on the ‘quad train’, playing on the slides or watching the amusing sheep race that’s often held! The highlight of our stay was definitely the beautiful landscape and the baby animals in the barn.
This is a fantastic place for families and they are always looking for new and fun things to keep kids amused. However they did have to close for quite some time during the Covid pandemic, so they may not be open yet for your planned holiday dates.
This campsite is also a great base to explore the surrounding area and famous attractions like the Giant’s Causeway and Glenarriffe Waterfalls.
Address: Ballycastle BT54 6RN
4. Castle Archdale Caravan Park
Set on 20 acres right on the shores of the picturesque Lough Erne, this caravan and camping park is a place where you feel right in nature whilst always being surrounded by superb facilities.
Alongside all the usual facilities you’d expect, there’s also plenty of activities on site including boat and kayak hire so you can enjoy exploring Lough Erne as soon as you arrive! There’s also a kids play park on site, lots of walks to enjoy, picnic and BBQ areas for families to spend quality time and more!
For a bit of history, Castle Archdale can be visited, while you can get a boat to White Island which has a history of human inhabitation stretching back centuries.
And if all of that has made you hungry they have an ice cream parlour on site, and Enniskillen which is full of shops and restaurants is just ten miles away.
Address: Lisnarick BT94 1PP
5. Maguires’ Strand Camping & Caravan Park
Situated approximately 2 miles from Ballycastle in County Antrim, this campsite offers stunning sea front views. The warm welcome, immaculate facilities and the quirky nature of the site adds character to the place.
We recommend pre-booking a front line pitch if you want to have access to breathtaking sunsets, see seals and enjoy the coastline views of Ballycastle and Rathlin Island.
Located just a mile out of Ballycastle, campers can easily cycle or walk to the town and grab food at the many restaurants. Or even try the fish and chip shop at the marina, Morton‘s – one of the best in the region.
Address: 32 Carrickmore Rd, Ballycastle BT54 6QS
Wild camping in Northern Ireland: Everything You Need to Know
In general wild camping in Northern Ireland is illegal, however many people still do it. There are also some exceptions for when it is allowed.
If you are camping on private land and you have permission from the landowner, wild camping is legal.
And if you wish to camp in a forest that is under the jurisdiction of the Northern Ireland Forestry Service, then they sometimes grant permits for wild camping if applied for in advance.
However, there is also along tradition of wild camping in Northern Ireland, so it is often tolerated even if campers don’t have permission. Albeit that’s only if they treat the land well.
If you can’t be swayed to stay in a campsite and are determined to wild camp, then we would advise sticking to the following guidelines in order to be as considerate as possible:
- You should camp in the same place for one night only, and pitch your tent discretely and in a remote place. Therefore don’t camp in or near settlements, someone’s farm or on cultivated land. If you think you’re on private land, always seek out the landowner and ask permission.
- Camp above the highest fell wall, and far from the shores of any lake.
- Campers should set up their tent at dusk, and take it down at dawn. A tent that is discreet, blends in with the landscape, and pitches quickly is best. Therefore a lightweight walking and hiking tent like this one would be a great investment for someone planning to wild camp in Northern Ireland.
- If you are walking a main trail you should camp away from the path as a matter of courtesy.
- When wild camping in Northern Ireland you must never make a campfire. For cooking, use a storm cooker. The Swedish brand Trangia make fantastic storm cookers that are virtually indestructible. Portable solar ovens, like this one by GoSun, are also a good fuel-less option.
- Take any rubbish with you, and leave your camping spot the way you found it.
Below we look at the best time of year to camp in Northern Ireland, and then some of the best walks and places to visit in Northern Ireland!
Camping in Northern Ireland: The Weather & Best Months to Visit
With mild to warm temperatures, spring is the perfect time to visit Northern Ireland as kids and families can make the most of a full day exploring the castles and natural beauty. Temperatures range from 10°C to 17°C, and visitors can see flowers in full bloom and wildlife can be spotted during walks.
Summer is a great time to visit forests, as well as discover Northern Ireland’s rich history. With daytime temperatures reaching between 18°C and 22°C, visitors can enjoy views of the ocean and even visit and taste Irish whiskey at the country’s oldest working distillery – Old Bushmills Distillery. Summer is also a perfect time to undertake long walking trails as the land will be dry and hikers can enjoy the long daylight hours.
With milder temperatures during autumn, it’s a fantastic time to avoid the peak summer tourist season, go on hikes, take in the unparalleled and majestic coast views, and enjoy the ever-changing colours of the woodland.
Winter brings the shortest daylight hours and coolest temperatures, but visitors can enjoy the crisp air during walks on the different trails in the region. We love the atmosphere when visiting the castles and the Dark Hedges at this time of the year. But it will likely be far too cold for camping.
Some of the Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland
1. Giant’s Causeway
Lying at the foot of the basalt cliffs alongside the coast, the Giant’s Causeway is found on the edge of the Antrim Plateau. This other-worldly sight is made up of some 40,000 massive black basalt columns that jut out of the sea.
The striking landscape was made by volcanic activity during the Tertiary Period, some 50–60 million years ago. Visiting this designated UNESCO World Heritage site is a must!
2. Dunluce Castle
Claimed by many as being the most picturesque and romantic castle in the country, this ruin dates from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Once inhabited by both the feuding McQuillan and MacDonnell clans, this historic place is great for a picnic and to enjoy the stunning coastal scenery.
3. Dark Hedges
Situated just a 50-minute drive from Belfast, the Dark Hedges is well worth a visit. The tree lined road is free to visit, and this atmospheric place has gained fame in recent years after featuring in Game of Thrones!
It’s a striking sight, and one of the most photographed places in Northern Ireland.
Some of the Best Walks in Northern Ireland
1. Slieve Donard
Get your adrenaline pumping on this Mourne hiking path that offers rewarding panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Slieve Donard trail is a 5.6-mile climb to the highest peak in Northern Ireland, and should take around five hours. From the top on a clear day, you may even see Scotland, Wales, and the Isle of Man.
2. Tollymore Forest
Situated in County Down, the Tollymore Forest Park Walk is a five-mile walk along the Shimna River through beech and coniferous forests. Walkers will take in stunning views of the Mournes.
3. Causeway Coastal Walk
Walkers will love this route as they can explore the polygonal basalt columns which make up the famous Giant’s Causeway.
You can also choose the longer alternative route which is 33 miles from Portrush to Carrick-a-Rede to Ballycastle, which takes you past Dunluce Castle and some stunning rock arches.
Recommended for your camping in Northern Ireland
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