Explore the hidden landscapes of Northern Ireland and find out exactly what lies beneath your feet on a fully guided bespoke geology and landscape tour. Tours run all-day, seven days a week and cover all of Northern Ireland’s natural landscapes. With some of the most diverse geology in the world ranging from ancient volcanoes to tropical seas, from searing hot deserts to icy wastelands, and everything in between, there is no better place to discover how nature has shaped the world around us.
Between Rocks And Hard Places Landscape Tours are organised and operated by the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland. With over 20 years of experience in landscape tourism, the survey has been at the forefront of producing tourism material to encourage people to take a closer look at our landscapes, and to fully appreciate just how special Northern Ireland really is.
Our professional and fully-trained staff provide a relaxed guide to the Northern Irish landscapes, offering at the same time an insight in to how geology has not only shaped our landscapes but also influenced archaeology, history, folklore and plants and wildlife. This fully integrated approach makes for an inclusive tour suitable for those interested in all aspects of natural and cultural heritage.
Whilst we offer a fully bespoke service, some suggestions for tours include:
Located just 20 minutes from Belfast, the Ards Peninsula is famous for its drumlin landscapes. But there’s plenty more to see as you drive alongside the picturesque Strangford Lough before returning along the rugged Irish Sea coast. Along the way you’ll see evidence of when the two halves of the island of Ireland were completely separated by a vast ocean, the striking ancient volcanic hill of Scrabo, as well as some world class examples of how much havoc the ice sheets wreaked on the landscape.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
The city of Belfast can trace its history back as far as the Bronze Age, over 5000 years ago. The city itself was ideally located in a sheltered location surrounded by the Belfast Hills and the Castlereagh Hills, at the marshy crossing point where both the River Lagan and the River Farset met, and with easy access to the deep waters Belfast Lough. The landscapes of Belfast have now changed beyond all recognition, with even the River Farset now covered beneath Belfast City Centre. Join us on a tour to find out the hidden landscapes of Belfast, and how these have changed over the past 5000 years to give us the city that we have today.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Deservedly called one of the best coastal routes in the world, the Causeway Coast covers a time period stretching right back to over 600 million years ago. The journey starts off just north of Belfast in Larne with Northern Ireland’s very own Jurassic Park making it a fossil-hunters paradise. As you follow the coast, evidence of warm tropical seas, extinct, explosive volcanoes and massive ancient rivers can all be seen, with a staggering variety of rocks and landscapes in a very short distance. The tour concludes at the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, awarded this prestigious title due to the unique universal value of the geology of the site, and now visited by nearly 1 million people every year!
Suggested duration: All day
Situated in the west of Northern Ireland, Fermanagh is only 80 miles away from Belfast, but the pace of life is a world away. You’ll get to see the famous Fermanagh Lakelands, so called due to the hundreds of individual lakes (most of which were carved out by glaciers) found within the county. The tour will include a journey through the UNESCO Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, the first cross-border Geopark in the world. The journey will include a walking tour of the famous Marble Arch Caves, a visit to Cuilcagh Mountain Park, known for its limestone landscapes, as well as to Lough Navar Forest where you will see the Magho Viewpoint overlooking the glacial valley of Lower Lough Erne and undoubtedly one of the finest vistas in Northern Ireland.
Suggested duration: All-day
Mourne Mountains and Slieve Gullion
The Mourne Mountains and Slieve Gullion are located in southern Co. Down, approximately 45 minutes drive from Belfast. Formed over 55 million years ago, both the Mournes and Slieve Gullion tell the story of a series of intense earth movements which, in the case of Slieve Gullion resulted in explosive volcanic activity. You will get to discover many of these landscapes but also see how the area’s geology has led to a rich cultural heritage dating back to the Neolithic period, and how it has influenced the types of land use ever since.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
One of Northern Ireland’s best kept secrets, the breathtaking Sperrin Mountains can be found in the north-west of the country, taking in parts of Co. Tyrone and Co. Londonderry. Formed over 450 million years ago, these relatively small mountains would have once been the same size as the Himalayas, forming as the result of the two halves of Ireland crashing together! The Sperrins are a fantastic place to see the impact that the Ice Age had on the landscape, with impressive glacial features seen at every turn but perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the Sperrins landscape is the hidden gold that the rocks contain. Now mined and sold as Irish Gold, you also will get the chance to pan for gold yourself.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
The largest sea lough in the UK, Strangford Lough is surrounded by a vast array of landscapes ranging from the rounded drumlin hills formed as the ice sheets retreated at the end of the last Ice Age, to the craggy islands made up of rocks that would have formed at the bottom of a deep ocean over 400 million years ago. Your journey will allow you to circumnavigate the Lough, including a trip across from on the ferry from Portaferry to Strangford, taking in not only the rocks and landscapes but exploring how these have influenced the rich archaeological history in this area.
Tours are suitable for any size of group and for any time limit ranging from 2 hours to a full-day. We use small coaches (seating up to 29 people) for a more personal experience and all refreshments can be catered, always using locally sourced, sustainable produce.
Between Rocks and Hard Places Landscape Tours
Geological Survey of Northern Ireland
Upper Newtownards Road
Telephone +44 (0) 28 9038 8460