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Guest Post: 7 Day Northern Ireland Road Trip with Bunk Campers

In September 2023, we headed out on one of our favourite outdoorsy adventures of the year. After hiring an Aero Plus motorhome from Bunk Campers, we started an exciting 7-day Northern Ireland adventure to see as much nature, wildlife and scenery as possible.

Northern Ireland has always been on our bucket lists, and we’d been told countless times about how beautiful it is. With a rough idea of where we wanted to explore, we set off to see the best sights.

This was our first time driving a motorhome, as all of our road trips in the past have been in a standard car or a pop-top van. This meant we were a little more nervous about getting around, parking and driving along narrow country lanes.

But we didn’t need to worry. Driving in our Bunk Camper was an experience we’ll never forget. The freedom and accessibility it gave us was unlike any other travel experience we’ve had before!

We stopped at unexpected viewpoints, camped in forests under the stars and drove along some of the most scenic coastal roads in the country.

In this blog, I explain what we did during our Northern Ireland road trip, including our campsites, wild camping spots and some tips to help you plan a Northern Ireland campervan holiday.

Author: Jennie Tuck

Blog: https://www.jenniewanders.com/

Short on time? Here’s an overview of our 7-day Northern Ireland route:

Day 1 – We touched down in Belfast and headed to the Bunk Campers Belfast depot, where we picked up our motorhome rental. After grabbing some groceries from a nearby Tesco, we set off for our first wild camping adventure in the Mourne Mountains.

Day 2 – After spending the morning hiking, we walked around the woodlands in Tollymore National Park. We then made the choice to drive a little further west to the Dungannon campsite to power up our electricity.

Day 3 – We spent the morning walking around Dungannon Park, before driving the scenic route to the Sperrin Mountains. After multiple stop-offs at viewpoints and hidden gems, we stopped for a night of wild camping near the mystical Beaghmore Stone Circle.

Day 4 – We spent a morning in Derry before heading back out to the countryside, with a stop at Binevanagh Lake. As we wanted to recharge our batteries again, we parked at the Castlerock Beach Campsite for the night.

Day 5 – Castlerock Beach was the perfect start to our day (and luckily it wasn’t raining!). We walked along the sand before driving to our next location. It was time to explore the Causeway Coastal route, with stops at Whiterocks Beach, Dunluce Castle, Giant’s Causeway, and the enchanting Dark Hedges. We wrapped up the day by wild camping in Ballypatrick Forest.

Day 6 – An adrenaline rush was on the agenda today at the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, before spending the night in the Glenariff Forest campsite.

Day 7 – After a short morning woodland walk in Glenariff Forest, we headed back to the Bunk Campers depot to say goodbye to our campervan (*cry*). From here, we headed back to Belfast Airport to make the onward journey back to London.

TOP TIP: Download the ‘Park4Night’ app for updated and reviewed wild camping spots all over the world.

Day 1 – Arriving in Belfast and picking up our campervan

We arrived in Belfast on a cold, rainy morning, so we headed straight for a coffee shop to create a plan of action. We wanted our Northern Ireland road trip to be as successful as possible, so we gathered a list of landmarks, cities, viewpoints and areas we wanted to visit.

A few cappuccinos later, we had a wander around Belfast city centre, before heading out to the Bunk depot. As it’s around a 30-minute drive out of the city, we jumped in an Uber to get started with our motorhome holiday as soon as possible!

Picking up our motorhome was easy, and once we had signed the waivers and agreed on the right insurance package, we were shown around the campervan and given some expert tips. After learning about how to empty the dunny (which would automatically be my partner’s job, not mine) and how to keep the campervan running smoothly, we were on the road!

After spending an hour (or two) buying an endless and over-the-top amount of groceries in the supermarket, we drove south of Belfast to the Mourne Mountains, which would be our first wild camping stop.

Being from London, we both wanted to spend as little time in cities or towns and most of our time either in the countryside or on the coast.

After reaching the Mourne Mountains in no time at all, we realised how tiny Northern Ireland is. This was a great thing for us, as we only had 7 days on our motorhome holiday to explore as much as possible. It made us even more excited to get on the road and experience everything Northern Ireland had to offer!

Wild camping in Northern Ireland

If you search ‘wild camping’ in Northern Ireland, it doesn’t take long to see that it’s actually illegal. Unlike road-tripping the NC500, you aren’t technically allowed to pull up in the countryside and use it as a camping spot for the night. And this can really throw a spanner in the works for your motorhome holiday!

But, all is not lost. I recommend downloading Park4Night app and looking at what some other travellers have said about wild camping in Northern Ireland. It turns out that just because it’s not technically legal, it doesn’t mean people don’t do it.

There are plenty of wild camping spots in Northern Ireland, and some of them are just too beautiful to miss. So after a lot of discussion, conversations with locals and the guys at Bunk Campers, we realised we could wild camp as long as we did the following:

  • To be sensible when finding a wild camping spot; ie. not in front of someone’s house or in their garden.
  • Find an area that isn’t populated, is quiet, and is out of anyone’s way.
  • To double-check for any ‘no wild camping’ signs
  • To keep noise levels to a minimum, leave no trace and don’t cause any problems, you should be fine.

Throughout our entire 7-day Northern Ireland road trip, we had zero issues when it came to wild camping. We also saw plenty of other campers and motorhomes doing the same.

But the Park4Night app really was our saving grace – without this, we wouldn’t have known where to park or where we’d feel safe. It’s a must-have when road-tripping the UK!

The Mourne Mountains

The Mourne Mountains are a nature lover’s dream come true. Not only are they an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a UNESCO World Heritage site, but even seeing them in the distance will make your jaw drop! They are truly stunning and in my opinion, are one of the best landscapes in the UK.

The Mourne Mountains are the highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland, and they’re perfect for hiking, walking or setting up a picnic on a sunny day. Even from driving around the surrounding area, we were able to appreciate just how beautiful the mountains are!

If you do have time to do some hiking on day one, I recommend the “Silent Valley Reservoir Walk.” This is an easy, pretty trail around the reservoir with minimal elevation gain. It was recommended to us to do this on our first day, however, the sun was starting to set, and we didn’t want to be walking in the dark.

As it was getting late, we set off to find the perfect wild camping spot overlooking the mountains. Luckily, we found a lovely spot surrounded by rolling green hills and a stream running right next to our campervan!

On one side we had flocks of grazing sheep, and on the other, we could see a traditional, cosy cottage.

After making our first cup of tea in the van, we hung our fairy lights and settled in to watch a movie. The perfect end to our first night!

Day 2 – Waking up in the Mourne Mountains and Tollymore Forest Park

There’s just something magical about waking up in the heart of nature. I made a fresh cup of coffee and sat on our campervan’s doorstep, gazing up at the dramatic mountains. I couldn’t help but feel incredibly thankful.

Our first destination that day was exploring more of the Mourne Mountains in Tollymore National Park. Just a short drive from our wild camping spot was the main Tollymore car park, so we headed there first.

Tollymore National Park covers an area of approximately 630 hectares of woodlands, waterways, and the iconic Mourne Mountains.

The park is not only a popular destination for hiking and walking, but it’s also famous for its appearance in the iconic TV series “Game of Thrones”!

As we travelled in the off-season, it was a little quieter than we expected, so we were able to enjoy Tollymore by ourselves! We completed the “Tollymore Forest Park Loop”, as it gave us some of the best views of the mountains behind the misty forest.

After a few hours of hiking through Tollymore, we decided to drive further west to be closer to the locations we wanted to visit the next day. One of the most highly-rated campsites on our app was Dungannon Park, so we drove to the campsite, parked up and began to charge our electrics.

Day 3 – Driving the scenic route through the Sperrin Mountains

On the third day, we took some of the scenic routes and made the most of having the freedom of our campervan.

We left Dungannon early morning to explore the Sperrin Mountains. Spanning over 40 miles, the Sperrin Mountains are the largest mountain range in Ireland. The views from the van are enough to warrant a visit, but after a while, we were keen to park up and get outside!

In the middle of the Sperrin Mountains lies the Beaghmore Stone Circles. A mystical and mysterious feature that has amazed archaeologists for years is a short five-minute walk from the car park. This is also the starting point for night solar walks to spot the Northern Lights. Sadly, no Northern Lights for us, but it was a pretty stunning place to sleep. 

With this being a perfect stop, (even if the Stone Circles were a little spooky), we headed off for some long walks around the mountain area, and camped under the stars.

TOP TIP: Don’t forget to look up! The night sky in Northern Ireland is beautiful and the little light pollution means the stars are clear to see! And like I said, there’s even a chance to see the Northern Lights!

Day 4 – Exploring Derry

As we live in a city, we didn’t want to spend too much time in towns or built-up areas. But, as I’m a big Derry Girls fan, I couldn’t say no to stopping off in one of the most iconic filming locations.

As a bonus, the ride from the Sperrin Mountains to Derry was stunning. We had so much fun spotting sheep, cows, and horses along the way, all while taking in the views of the surrounding mountains.

If you’re in a motorhome, we recommend parking in Ebrington, as there’s a large car park for tall vehicles. It’s then only a short walk to the Peace Bridge and the Derry Girls mural.

There are lots of things to do in Derry, and if we had had more time, I would have loved to have taken a free walking tour or walked the Derry City Walls. But as we only had seven days, we left after a few hours to explore more of the coast and countryside.

TOP TIP: Along the way, stop off at The Bakery Ebrington. They do some of the best coffee we tried in all of Northern Ireland.

Binevenagh Lake

Before reaching our final destination of the day, we made a detour to Binevenagh Lake. This turned out to be one of my favourite places on our Northern Ireland road trip, and I am so glad we made the stop!

It was raining pretty heavily, but Binevenah Lake still looked beautiful. Made up of a tranquil body of water located near the Binevenagh Mountain in Northern Ireland, it is surrounded by rolling hills and dramatic, tall woodland trees. It looked like something straight out of a fantasy novel!

Beginning the Causeway Coastal Route

That afternoon, we began the Causeway Coastal Route. The Causeway Coastal Route is a scenic drive along the northern coast of Northern Ireland, spanning about 190 miles. It’s known for its stunning coastal landscapes, including famous attractions like the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. We knew we wanted to spend a lot of time exploring, so we made Castlerock Beach our first stop!

Castlerock Beach blew me away. Even though it was raining, the beach was made up of golden sand that was soft to walk on. It’s a shame it was such bad weather, as I can imagine Castlerock is a great place to be on a sunny day. Surrounded by surf shops, beer gardens and plenty of space to prop up a BBQ, it’s somewhere we’d love to return to!

Luckily, we had the chance to explore Castlerock before the torrential downpour began. Then we ran, coats over our heads, back to the motorhome that we’d parked in the Castlerock campsite. It was time for dinner, a cup of tea and an early night in our cosy camper!

Day 5 – Giant’s Causeway and the Dark Hedges

Day 5 was one of my favourite days on the Causeway Coastal Route. We woke up excited to check out the legendary Giant’s Causeway, which was somewhere I’d seen on social media and was desperate to see with my own eyes!

The Giant’s Causeway is a series of rock formations that were created from a volcanic eruption over 50-60 million years ago. Now, there are hundreds of unique pillars and columns of rock situated around the cliffs, with a near-perfect, flat hexagonal base. This makes them perfect to walk and jump on!

If you’re into myths and legends, the story of the Giant’s Causeway tells of a giant named Finn McCool who built the causeway to challenge a Scottish giant, Benandonner, to a battle. In fact, on a clear day, you can actually see Scotland from the Giant’s Causeway!

Exploring the Giant’s Causeway is straightforward, and the National Trust car park is motorhome-friendly with no height restrictions. Even better, if you’re a National Trust member, you get the perks of free parking and complimentary access to the visitor’s centre!

TOP TIP: Avoid the Heritage Railway Station car park. Even though it might have spaces during peak periods, it doesn’t allow campervans or motorhomes! We parked up and started to eat lunch just to be told to leave!

The Dark Hedges

After spending time exploring the Giant’s Causeway, taking lots of photos and checking out the visitor’s centre, we jumped back into the campervan and headed for the Dark Hedges.

The Dark Hedges is an enchanting tree-lined avenue in Northern Ireland, famous for its hauntingly beautiful tunnel of beech trees that arch over the road.

This natural wonder has become an iconic backdrop for photographers, tourists, and even some well-known TV shows (yes, Game of Thrones again!), making it a must-visit destination in Northern Ireland! While it’s a relatively short stop, it’s worth the detour from the Causeway Coastal route!

Ballypatrick Forest wild camping

For our final stop of the day, we headed to Ballypatrick Forest. As well as having plenty of easy forest walks for us to end our day on, there was a free campervan car park where we were able to wild camp for the night.

If we were going to visit Northern Ireland again, I’d arrive earlier at Ballypatrick to be able to explore even further.

The views from the car park were worth the visit alone, especially for someone who loves dark, misty and mysterious forest landscapes. This was one of my favourite wild camping spots!

Day 6 – Driving along the Antrim Coast and the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

Waking up nice and early, we packed up the campervan and headed to our next location; the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge!

If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a 66-foot-long bridge that dangles 100 feet over the Atlantic Ocean (so it’s safe to say it isn’t for the faint-hearted).

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was originally constructed by local fishermen in the 18th century as a means to access the island of Carrick-a-Rede. They used the bridge to check their salmon nets and catch migrating salmon.

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was originally constructed by local fishermen in the 18th century as a means to access the island of Carrick-a-Rede. They used the bridge to check their salmon nets and catch migrating salmon.

After looking at the map and choosing one of the trails, we set off along the rocky cliff to reach the bridge. We were told it would sway a little in the wind, so as someone with a fear of heights, it definitely felt scary!

Viewpoints along the Antrim Coast

Whilst driving along the Antrim Coast, we found multiple viewpoints that we didn’t know about. This is the beauty of having a motorhome; you can stop wherever you want!

Among our top picks were a pit stop with a view of White Park Bay, and the vantage point at Portaveeny, which gave us a fresh perspective on the iconic Carrick-A-Rede Bridge.

We also stopped off at Dunserverick Falls, which is an easily accessible waterfall bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Seeing the natural beauty of the falls hitting the ocean was incredible – it’s such a rare sight to see and was definitely worth a visit!

Glenariff Forest Park

As it became darker (and we were exhausted from all of the day’s activities) we decided to drive back into the countryside and park up at the Glenariff Forest Park. Known for having over 1000 hectares of woodland and lakes, it was somewhere we wanted to see before the end of our trip!

Glenariff also has its own campsite, so we booked a space online and drove down to find a good spot. This meant we could recharge our batteries before heading back to the Bunk Campers depot in Belfast the following day.

Day 7 – A final walk in Glenariff Forest Park

It was the final day of our Northern Ireland trip, and we were feeling sad that it was all coming to an end. We had seen the country in such an amazing light and could have stayed for so much longer.

To end our trip, we woke up early for a morning stroll around Glenariff Forest Park. We followed one of the trails to walk amongst the trees, jump over streams and wade through muddy bogs.

Glenariff is also home to one of the best viewpoints in the country. Just a 2-minute walk from the main car park, it’s accessible for all, and you can see where the mountains meet the ocean. It was one of our favourite moments of the whole trip and is a location I recommend to anyone visiting Northern Ireland.

What a special place to reflect on our incredible trip!

TOP TIP: Glenariff can become really muddy. Make sure you’re wearing appropriate shoes!

Our trip ended by driving around 90 minutes back to the depot and dropping our motorhome off with a heavy heart. We said goodbye and ordered an Uber back to Belfast city centre to grab lunch before our flight home.

Working as digital nomads in Northern Ireland

As we both work remotely, we need to log onto our laptops and catch up on a few hours of work. This is something that we needed to plan into our Northern Ireland road trip.

Most of the campsites in Northern Ireland had free and strong Wi-Fi, so we found working on the road easy. It’s just hard to pull yourself away from all of the fun things to do!

If you’re not staying in a campsite, we found most places had good mobile Internet connection. We were either on 4G or 5G even in our most remote wild camping spots, so we were able to hotspot to our laptops easily.

There were a few places where the signal was non-existent, and in these times, it was easier to just embrace it and live in the moment!

A Summary: Northern Ireland Road Trip

Overall, we had an incredible time exploring Northern Ireland, and hiring a motorhome from Bunk Campers made it extra special. We were supported throughout the entirety of our trip, and if we had any questions or worries, Bunk Campers was on hand to help us out (even with our itinerary!)

Exploring Northern Ireland has always been on my bucket list. I’m so glad we finally got around to doing it.

There’s something magical about the UK. As I get older, I feel myself being drawn to exploring places closer to home. We’re so lucky to have such incredible landscapes on our doorstep.