Hit The Road: 5 Whiskey Day Trips From Belfast
Belfast is a fantastic whiskey city but it also offers you quick and easy access to some amazing distillery visits around Northern Ireland.
If getting to visit multiple distilleries with ease is your goal, then basing yourself in Belfast and planning day trips around the region is the most exciting way to plan a visit. There aren’t any working distilleries in the city itself right now but it is jam packed with great whiskey bars, hotels and whiskey shops that demand to be seen. But to get up close and personal with the stills of Northern Ireland you’ll need to venture outside the city, and it’s never been easier.
Here’s our guide to five different whiskey day trips from Belfast. (It presumes that the Covid restrictions have passed. Please check with each distillery before travelling.)
bushmills.com | 2 Distillery Rd, Bushmills, County Antrim, BT57 8XH
Driving time: 70 minutes north of Belfast
The grandfather of Irish whiskey is, of course, Bushmills Distillery in the north of County Antrim. A long established destination along the Causeway Coast, this great distillery is perfect for combining a visit to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the Giant’s Causeway and all the other highlights of this dramatic part of the island’s northern edge. Door-to-door it’s little over an hour’s drive from Belfast city centre and the visitor facilities are some of the best in the country.
It’s been here for hundreds of years and still pulls water from the same river (St Columb’s Rill, a tributary of the River Bush) as it did when it started. The village surrounding it is a designated heritage site and a tour of the distillery will transport you through time as you feel, smell, touch and taste the Irish whiskey experience first hand.
Tours: Monday to Saturday. Last tour 4pm each day. Café, gift shop and parking on site.
echlinville.com |62 Gransha Rd, Kircubbin, Newtownards BT22 1AJ
Driving time: 60 minutes southeast of Belfast
Located deep in the Ards Peninsula, this is a wonderful, lesser-travelled part of the region, lying on a strip of rich agricultural land between Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea. It’s an impressive family-run farm distillery that is proud of its closed-loop production cycle with its barley grown on its own land, its maturation warehouses right beside them and the handsome new distillery building contrasting perfectly with the manor house that established the Echlinville Estate in 1730.
A visit through this wonderful historic building is included in the tour but it’s the dramatic stillroom and maturation warehouses that deliver the biggest draw. Echlinville started distilling their own spirit in 2013 and have launched a spectacular revival of the old Belfast whiskey brand Dunvilles and also Old Comber, as well as award winning, poitín, gin and other whiskey labels.
Tours: Monday to Saturday. Last tour 4pm. Café, gift shop and parking on site.
Rademon Estate (Shortcross Distillery)
rademonestatedistillery.com | 65 Church Rd, Crossgar, Downpatrick BT30 9HR, United Kingdom
Driving time: 45 minutes south of Belfast
The sprawling country estate of Rademon is just a short drive south of Belfast and home to Shortcross Distillery. They released their first whiskey in 2022, the award-winning Shortcross Single Malt Chinquapin Finish, breaking records as they did so. This was the first wholly-distilled and own-made whiskey in Northern Ireland in 120 years. The distillery also has single pot still and other single malts maturing in their onsite warehouses for release in 2022, as well as being the home of the multiple award-winning Shortcross Gin.
Rademon is a 500-acre estate and one of Ireland’s oldest. It’s built around the original estate house from 1647 and you’ll see its historic courtyard and workers cottages when you visit. The husband and wife team that run this incredible operation have invested great passion and commitment to the creation of a singular identity for their brands. They take huge inspiration from the US distilling and brewing story in their choice of woods and production methods while conjuring a wholly local distilling experience on their lands.
Tours: Fri, Sat and Sundays. Booking is essential. Gift shop, café and onsite parking.
copelanddistillery.com | Manor Street, Donaghadee, Co Down, Northern Ireland, BT21 0HF
Driving time: 45 minutes east of Belfast
Copeland is a young distillery in the coastal town of Donaghadee on the eastern Co Down coast. The young team behind it built their fledgling empire in a former cinema and bottling plant in the harbour with views towards the infamous smuggling haven of the Copeland islands. Not surprisingly then, their rum releases, long a smuggler’s favourite tipple, was the first to turn heads in this small town and they quickly established their credentials in ever-growing international circles.
Their first single malt and single pot still whiskey will be released in 2024 but you can enjoy tours of their distillery and its three copper stills right now. They’ve taken a 125-year lease in the town, firmly planting roots and calling this fishing village home.
Tours: Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. Last tour 4pm. Gift shop and on street parking.
hinchdistillery.com | 19 Carryduff Rd, Lisburn, BT27 6TZ
Driving time: 35 minutes south of Belfast
Pulling its water from the Mourne Mountains, the Hinch Distillery has quickly gathered steam as it generates headlines for its award-winning whiskey and gin products. With a series of five whiskies already released, including five and 10-year-old single malts, a pot still and a small batch release, it has won favour everywhere that whiskey is poured. A recent £15 million (almost $20m) investment saw a new distillery building and bespoke visitor centre open to the public.
Its three copper stills dominate the courtyard as you approach this handsome distillery and tours include a tasting of four of their flagship whiskies. The distillery itself is located on the Killaney Estate in Co Down, near Ballynahinch, hence the name.
Tours: Seven days a week in high season. Last tour 5pm. Café, gift shop and onsite parking.