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10 Things To Do Within a Half Hour's Drive of Belfast

You can easily access both countryside and sea shore within a short drive from Belfast, with a variety of exciting attractions, historic places of interest, informative tours, outdoors activities and amazing scenery for you to enjoy. Below we look at some of the highlights in the Lisburn, Castlereagh, Ards and North Down areas of Northern Ireland.

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

Gardens open: March - October 9.30am - 6pm, November - February 9.30am - 4pm
Prices: Gardens £3.50, guided tour £7.50

Hillsborough Castle is one of the most beautiful and interesting historic properties in Northern Ireland. The official residence of the Royal Family when they are in Northern Ireland, it has also been used as the residence for the Secretary of State since the 1970s. The House is a large two-story late Georgian mansion, and the State Rooms on the ground floor are open to the public. The House looks out over the beautiful gardens, formal and informal, which are filled with exotic plants, mature specimens and modern commemorative trees. Read more >>

Castle Espie

Open: 7 days a week from 10am, seasonal closing
Prices: £8.20, child £4

Castle Espie's tranquil setting offers the best views of Strangford Lough, County Down and is home to Ireland's largest collection of native and exotic water-birds. The centre has the most significant habitat improvement of its kind in Ireland, including restored lagoons, grasslands, salt marshes and reed beds. The centre is truly a magical place for all ages offering wild woodland walks, soft play areas, events and workshops, art exhibitions and retail therapy, and after your visit you can relax in the Loughshore Café over coffee or lunch. In Autumn, visitors can witness almost the entire population of migratory Brent Geese! Read more >>

We Are Vertigo

Open: Monday - Saturday, 10am - 9pm
Prices: Ski lesson £25, child £20. 1 hour trampoline session (with bounce socks) £12. Adventure Centre £7.50 for 4+.

We Are Vertigo is based at Newtownbreda Industrial Estate. The centre offers exciting experiences for people of all ages and abilities. The Ski Centre offers skiers and snowboarders, of all abilities, the chance to learn, enhance or brush up on their skills on the never ending ski slopes. Try the latest indoor entertainment in Europe’s largest and Northern Ireland’s only trampoline park. The Adventure Centre is where kids of all ages can enjoy an Alpine Swiss play village, Sky Trail high ropes, low ropes, climbing wall, electric quads and log cabin party rooms. Read more >>

Hilden Brewery

Brewery Tours: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 12pm (booking required)
Prices: £10 (including sampling)

If you are fond of your local brews, then a visit to a working brewery with licensed restaurant in a beautiful and historic setting at Hilden House could be the perfect day. Discover the magic of brewing and learn more about this ancient craft from the Master Brewer and sample award winning beers. Why not linger over a beer or two and enjoy a relaxed lunch or dinner in the Tap Room Restaurant. Read more >>

Mount Stewart

Open: Gardens 10am - 4pm in winter months, house 11am - 3pm Saturday and Sunday in winter months
Prices: £8.50, £4.25

Mount Stewart is one of the most inspiring and unusual gardens in the National Trust's ownership. Engaging tours of the opulent house reveal its fascinating heritage and historic world-famous artefacts and artwork. The garden reflects a rich tapestry of design and great planting artistry that was the hallmark of Edith, Lady Londonderry. The house has now re-opened after our 3 year long restoration project with the elegance and charm of the house when it was the home of the 7th Marchioness Edith, Lady Londonderry and her family in the early 20th century. Read more >>

Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Open: Tuesday - Sunday
Prices: £11, £6, Under 5s free

Two museums in one, the Ulster Folk and Transport gives you a window into the way of life from 100 years ago. Discover towns and countryside, with cottages, farms, schools and shops to explore throughout the Folk Museum. Many of the buildings were relocated to the museum to preserve the original structures, and you’ll witness people going about their daily lives as if it was 1900. After, visit the Transport Museum, filled with impressive steam trains, racing cars and all sorts of other vehicles. Read more >>

Eddie Irvine

Open: 9.30am - 10.30pm, Monday - Saturday and 12pm - 10.30pm on Sunday.
Prices: Karting from £12 per driver

Owned by Formula One ace Eddie Irvine, and situated in Bangor, County Down, Eddie Irvine Sports is one of Northern Ireland's premier indoor sporting facilities. Located 20 minutes from Belfast City Centre, the facility offers the ultimate experience in karting, paintball, multi-sports and more. Read more >>

Drumbo Park

Open: Friday and Saturday from 6.15pm 
Prices: See website for more details

If you’ve never experienced greyhound racing before then it’s time you came up to speed! Drumbo Park offers two action packed race nights every week and everyone’s a winner. Whether you're visiting as a small group or a large party, wine, dine and unwind as you enjoy the electric atmosphere of the races. Your comfort is key for an enjoyable night out - so with their well informed tote staff taking bets right at your table and a panoramic view over the track, the only reason to leave your seat is to jump for joy as your dog comes in for the win.  Read more >>

Dundonald International Ice Bowl

Bowling: 10am-11pm daily
Indiana Land: 10am-8pm daily
Ice Skating: Monday - Friday 11am-5pm and 7.30-10.30pm, Saturday & Sunday 11.15am-1.15pm, 1.30-5pm and 5.30-10pm (7.30-10pm on Sunday).
Prices: Bowling £3.60 off peak, Indiana Land £3.95 age 3 and under, £4.95 4+, ice skating £6 off peak.
You can choose to ice skate at Northern Ireland's only public Olympic sized ice rink, become king of the lanes in the Xtreme Tenpin Bowling Centre or go wild for the adventure and excitement of the Indiana Land play kingdom. It's the perfect venue for a fun family day out, with a range of exciting activities for both adults and children! Read more >>

Bangor Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex

Open: Monday - Friday 6.30am-10pm; Saturday 7am-8pm; Sunday 9am-6pm
Prices: View full price list

Enjoy fun for the entire family at Bangor Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex, Bangor's newest leisure facility. There are a wealth of activities to keep the whole family occupied, from Adventureland, a children's soft play adventure area, to the centre's three swimming pools, including the Aurora Splash Leisure Waters with two large flumes, slides, wave machine, water features, baby beach and pirate ship; and Aqua Challege, Northern Ireland's only inflatable pool assault course. Read more >>

See more things to do in Belfast and beyond >>