To pay your respects at the burial place of St Patrick, head up to the hilltop 12th-century Down Cathedral, in Downpatrick, where it is believed his grave is marked by a massive granite stone. Stick to the main roads for easy access to these three lively cities, stopping along the way to dine at some of the 34 gastro-pubs listed in the 2014 Michelin Pub Food Guide. Then, finish up north with one of the world’s top rated road trips along the Causeway Coastal Route.
Things to see: Every first-time visitor must do the Guinness Storehouse tour, the Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells. The Little Museum also provides a real feel of Dublin’s social history and currently features an impressive new exhibition about U2. Escape the bustle in beautiful St Stephen’s Green, immortalised in James Joyce’s “Ulysses”, or Phoenix Park. Sports lovers will enjoy the Croke Park Stadium tour, while shoppers should head to Grafton Street, where you will also hear some very talented buskers performing.
Restaurant to eat: The Pig’s Ear
Pub to eat: The Chop House
Where to drink: Temple Bar is touristy fun but the cool kids know how to find No Name Bar, which only has a sign of a snail to mark its location.
Where to stay: Brooks Hotel
Things to see: Wander along the quay and around the lovely historic university. Admire St Finn Barre’s Cathedral and St Peter and Paul’s Church. The English Market is always buzzing with shoppers seeking fresh produce. Ten minutes outside the city is the famous Blarney Stone, awaiting your kiss.
Restaurant to eat: Farmgate Café
Pub to eat: Toddy’s at The Bulman
Where to drink: Arthur Mayne’s Pharmacy is an atmospheric 120-year-old chemist turned into a wine bar.
Where to stay: River Lee Hotel
Things to see: Titanic Belfast spreads over nine galleries, with lots of special effects and full-scale reconstructions, and you can walk onboard the ship’s restored tender, the SS Nomadic. Also renovated, Crumlin Road Gaol has interesting guided tours. Check out the political murals on Falls Road and people’s handwritten messages scrawled on the Peace Wall on Cupar Way. A Black Taxi Tour is a handy way to be shown around town in the back of a traditional black hackney carriage (ask for Billy). Don’t miss socialising with the friendly locals.
Restaurant to eat: Mourne Seafood Bar
Pub to eat: Lisbarnett House in Comber
Where to drink: Enjoy the great atmosphere in the Duke of York, the Harp Bar, Laverys and the John Hewitt Bar.
Where to stay: Malmaison Hotel
CAUSEWAY COASTAL ROUTE
Things to see: Keep driving towards the North Coast along Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route, which links the tiny villages of Glenarm, Carnlough, Cushendall and Cushendun. Giant’s Causeway, a world-famous natural phenomenon of 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns that formed after a volcanic eruption 50 to 60 million years ago. According to legend, the columns are the remains of a road across the North Channel, built by a giant, Finn MacCool.
Cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, erected by fishermen over a 30m-deep gorge to check their salmon nets. Drive back via the Dark Hedges, an avenue of old beech trees, and delightful Ballintoy Harbour, both settings in filming of The Game of Thrones.
How to get there: Etihad flies direct between Australia and Dublin.