Camping in Northern Ireland: Best campsites, things to do, wild camping and more!

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 here. 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, and can’t be swayed to stay in a campsite instead, we have more information and tips on how to be considerate when free camping in Northern Ireland 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

Camping in Northern Ireland

The striking beauty of Northern Ireland is down to it’s 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.

If you’re looking for some great campsite recommendations though, below we share some of our favourites in Northern Ireland.

Camping in Northern Ireland

Camping in Northern Ireland: Some of the best campsites in Northern Ireland

Camping Tollymore Forest Park

Open all year-round, Tollymore Forest Park covers an area of almost 630 hectares at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. The park is home to a campsite with 71 pitches that can boast panoramic views of the mountains and the sea.

Campers will be delighted to have their morning coffee whilst admiring the spectacular mountain backdrop. The town of Newcastle is a five-minute drive from Tollymore too, and has a good variety of supermarkets, fresh food shops, retail outlets, cafés and restaurants.

We highly recommend two fantastic walks on site. If you are looking for a long leisurely stroll, the black walk is perfect; whilst the red route is a great choice if you fancy a romantic walk along the riverside. 

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 clear skies here. As such, this tranquil location is a great base to reconnect with nature.

We love the many cycling and hiking possibilities in the Sperrin Mountains and this site is very well located to discover nearby Enniskillen and Belfast. Kids will enjoy the huge modern barn here which has been converted into a large recreational space for table tennis and pool.

With a warm and friendly welcome from the owners, campers will feel at ease instantly with the great onsite facilities and a very cozy pub with an open fire.

Camping in Northern Ireland

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.

Children will be kept entertained by feeding the animals or watching the amusing sheep race that’s held everyday. The highlight of our stay was definitely the beautiful landscape and the baby animals in the barn.

This campsite is also a great base to explore the surrounding area and famous attractions like the Giant’s Causeway and Glenarriffe Waterfalls.

Camping in Northern Ireland

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 cycle 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 town.

Camping in Northern Ireland

Wild camping in Northern Ireland

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. 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 a long tradition of wild camping in Northern Ireland, so it is often tolerated even if campers don’t have permission, as long as 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 are some of the best walks and best places to visit in Northern Ireland!

Camping in Northern Ireland

Some of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland

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, and visiting this designated UNESCO World Heritage site is a must!

Dunluce Castle

Claimed by many as being the most picturesque and romantic castle in the country, this ruin dates from the 16th to 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.

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.

Camping in Northern Ireland

Some of the best walks in Northern Ireland

Slieve Donard

Get your adrenaline pumping on this Mourne hiking path that offers rewarding panoramic views of the surrounding area. Slieve Donard walking route 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.

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.

Causeway Coastal Walk

Walkers will love this route as they can explore the polygonal basalt columns along the way, and discover 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.

Camping in Northern Ireland

Camping in Northern Ireland: The weather and 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 here. 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.

Recommended for your camping in Northern Ireland