With January in full swing, taking the time to slow down and take care of yourself has rarely been more important.

Thankfully, as Irish radio presenter and wellness advocate Clare McKenna notes, our perception of time slows down when we travel somewhere new. This is known as the oddball effect and whether you’re an oddball or not, there’s no better place to escape to this winter than Northern Ireland. 

Whether they are on your doorstep, or slightly further away, Northern Ireland is home a wealth of unique experiences suitable for a wide range of budgets - with many less than two hours from Dublin.

To help you plan your next giant adventure, Clare has highlighted five of her favourite refreshing experiences you can embrace in Northern Ireland this winter!

Escape to nature in Fermanagh

Science shows that taking a trip to somewhere new can make the world of difference to our well-being and for me, there are few better places to unwind than by the shores of Lough Erne in a forest dome at Finn Lough

These private domes feature 180-degree transparent walls that allow you to truly immerse yourself in nature and sleep beneath the starry skies.

This spring the resort is set to open a one-of-a-kind spa – Awen Springs. Nestled among the enchanting woodland, the new spa will feel akin to the balmy cenotes of Mexico and allow guests to enjoy a revitalising swim in a natural pool housed within a large circular glass dome. 

Finn Lough-Awen Shore Spa

The resort is also home to the Shoreline Spa which offers panoramic views of the lough, Boa Island and the Lough Navar Magho Cliffs. At Finn Lough your stay includes the free use of bikes and there are also opportunities to revitalise with a yoga session or glide along the water on a kayak to reveal secluded islands.

Be inspired on the Causeway Coastal Route

Northern Ireland’s stunning coastline provides long stretches of golden sand, impressive sand dunes and inspiring views. 

I love going for a walk along the Causeway Coast. With its dramatic sea cliffs and rolling hills, it is a great way to clear your mind, especially after the hustle and bustle of Christmas. It’s easy to see why this part of the world is such a draw for blockbuster movies, thanks to its accessibility and jaw dropping scenery.

Away a Wee Walk - CCR landscapes

From the painters paradise of Ballintoy Harbour to the cascading waterfalls above Downhill Beach there is something for everyone to enjoy in this part of the world. 
After a day well spent in nature, the coastal calm and sustainability championing The Salthouse hotel and its ocean view restaurant, is the perfect place to recharge. 

Embrace the dark skies of Tyrone

With so much going on in life I’m really making the effort to carve out time for some meditation. It’s a great way to focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts in your mind and I’ve found the dark skies of Davagh Forest, along with the serene silence, sets the mood for me to find my inner peace.

The lack of light pollution in Davagh Forest (one of only two Dark Sky Parks in Ireland) and the nearby OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory makes nighttime here magical. The crystal-clear view of star constellations is awe-inspiring and really helps me feel like I’m part of something much bigger. 

If you’re looking for a unique stay then I’d really recommend Sperrin View Glamping on the outskirts of Cookstown. The untouched rural landscape surrounding the site creates the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind in nature and the specially designed windows in each pod allow for the perfect view of the night sky in all its glory. 

Night scene at Sperrin View Glamping

Conquer the Mournes

Hiking is one of my favourite activities and a refreshing hike in the magnificent Mourne Mountains is an enjoyable way to spend the day — it is also a great way to spend quality time with the family with an added challenge!

The views from the top of Slieve Donard - Northern Ireland’s tallest mountain really help to put things in perspective and include Newcastle, the Irish Sea and the 12 other peaks in the range.

Slieve Donard Resort and Spa pool

After a day spent hiking, what better way to rejuvenate than at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa – your legs will certainly thank you as unwind in the hot-tub or thermal suite and gaze upon the majestic mountain you conquered. And, if you’re into golf, there is a pretty famous course just next door which will host the Horizon Irish Open 2024 in September. 

Unwind in style in Belfast

Sometimes the best way to refresh and revitalise is in the lap of luxury and in Belfast, look no further than The 5* Merchant Hotel.  Every time I’m in Belfast I’m left in awe of this breathtaking listed building, which was formally a bank headquarters. It’s perfect for special occasions and the spa and hydrothermal area is simply gorgeous. The views from the rooftop hot-tub are amazing, especially at sunset. Talk about a picture-perfect skyline!  I love The Merchant’s afternoon tea and its city centre location makes it the perfect spot to indulge and soak up some culture. 

Merchant Hotel afternoon tea

Belfast is home to amazing restaurants and I just love trying new places and new dishes! Variety is the spice of life and the six or nine course tasting experience at Blank in the Queens Quarter — where each dish is an unknown until it arrives at your table — is a culinary delight you’ll want to tell all your friends about.

So, if you are looking for that perfect break to leave you refreshed and rejuvenated this new year, look no further than a giant adventure in Northern Ireland.

Finn Lough - Forest Domes
Guest Accommodation

The Forest Bubble Domes feature 180° transparent walls allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of nature. Escape the noise of the outside world and enjoy stargazing in comfort for the perfect romantic break in Northern Ireland.

Shoreline Spa at Finn Lough
Spa and Well-being
drone overview

The Awen Shore Spa incorporates the healing power of water and heat to deliver guests an immersive experience that reflects the tranquillity of the lake.

Ballintoy Harbour
Causeway Coastal Route
Ballintoy Harbour

Ballintoy Harbour can be discovered in the picturesque village of Ballintoy. Known as a ‘raised beach’, it is located alongside the B15 Coast Road, 17 miles north-east of Coleraine and five miles west of Ballycastle.

Downhill Beach
Downhill Beach

Downhill is a golden sandy beach stretching from Downhill Cliffs in the east towards Magilligan Point. It's overlooked by one of Northern Ireland's leading landmarks, Mussenden Temple, and benefits from classic views of the Donegal Coast and beyond.

The Salthouse
The Salthouse

Standing in its own private grounds surrounded by the natural beauty of the county Antrim countryside, overlooking Ballycastle, The Salthouse enjoys jaw dropping views of the coastline to Fairhead and beyond.

Davagh Forest
Forest Parks
A woman walking along a path in Davagh Forest.

The true definition of a hidden gem, Davagh Forest is an International Dark Sky Park and lies approximately 6 miles north west of Cookstown in an untouched rural landscape of rolling hills and sweeping forests.

OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory
Observatory / Planetarium
A couple looking up at a telescope at the OM Dark Sky Observatory

Take a journey through time and space with a visitor experience that’s out of this world. Book your visit to Northern Ireland’s only International Dark Sky Park.

Sperrin View Glamping
Guest Accommodation
firepit and 2 chairs outside glamping pod

This unique glamping site is situated in Northern Ireland's only designated dark sky site. Each pod features it's own specially manufactured viewing window, allowing guests to lay in bed a gaze upon the stars.

Mourne Mountains
Natural Feature
Mourne Mountains

"Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea" (Percy French) The popular song has made the Mournes the best known mountains in Ireland. Distinctive and self contained, they are tucked away in the south east corner of Northern Ireland, ...

Slieve Donard Resort and Spa
Slieve Donard Exterior

A beloved destination for families, golfers, and holiday travellers, Slieve Donard is a local landmark that’s equal parts homey and breath-taking. The resort sits at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, on the edge of Royal County Down Golf Club, ranked no. 1 in the world by Golf Digest.

The Amgen Irish Open 2024
The Amgen Irish Open 2024

The 2024 Amgen Irish Open will take place from 11-15 September, at Royal County Down Golf Club, in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. World-class golf, live music, and the best fans in the world are all to be enjoyed at this unmissable tournament.

The Merchant Hotel
The Merchant Hotel's Victorian Facade

Situated in the heart of Belfast city centre's historic Cathedral Quarter, The award-winning 5 AA Red star Merchant Hotel is a harmonious blend of Victorian grandeur and Art Deco inspired sleek modernity with award-winning restaurants and cocktail bar, a tranquil spa and rooftop gym and hot tub.