Nancy: If you only have a day to spend in Northern Ireland, do yourself a favour and book a day tour. At Belfast's visitor centre, the guides are more than happy to show you the many competitively-priced options.
They'll helpfully point out that lesser known tours hit the same famous sites as the more expensive but well-marketed Game of Thrones tour (~40 pounds). Check Groupon as well for a good deal -- One female traveller that I met on the tour actually paid 12 pounds for her ticket because she bought it off of Groupon! I paid 18 pounds at the Visitor Centre, which is still amazing for a whole day of easy sightseeing.
We went with the Allen Tour and our driver was a nice older gentleman who pulled double duty by telling stories of attractions and local happenings in an accent so thick, none of us understood it. Due to traffic, the only attraction we couldn't make it to was the dark hedges, which was rather unfortunate. Regardless, the tour is well planned and timed, and one of the better tours I've been on in all of my travels.
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (above) allows an intimate 8 crossers at a time, which I totally didn't realize until I reviewed the photos and saw the sign. Whoops. All tour busses arrive around the same time, so rush to the entrance as soon as you get off the bus. It's the only way to see it all and not get stuck waiting behind lines of tourists. Seriously, the washroom stop can wait till the end.
The other highlight of the tour is the Giant Causeway. It's on most people's hit list for a reason. The inexplicable rock formations piled neatly in stacks of hexagons is certainly weird and wonderful. The work of a giant running away from a fight or the aftermath of an epic volcano eruption? You decide.
Northern Ireland was definitely the highlight of my trip and I definitely see myself visiting again in the future. Next time though, I would plan to spend at least two weeks there, rent a car and leisurely explore all of its natural beauty and charm.
Till next time,