Galway, Ireland’s popular western hub, is 202 miles (325 km) from Belfast. Despite the distance, it’s fairly easy to visit the two cities within the same trip. The fastest and most convenient way to make the journey is by self-driving or private transfer. And thanks to Ireland’s extensive highway network, the drive is just about four hours.
If you have extra time to extend your trip, this 10-day itinerary features both the capital city of Dublin and the highlights of Northern Ireland.
If you prefer public transportation, both the bus and train offer regular departures and connect in Dublin. Trains arrive in Belfast in about 5-6.5 hours, while buses—public and private—take about six hours.
By Rental Car or Private Transfer
Duration: 3.5 - 4 hours
The quickest and most convenient way to make the trip is by rental car or private transfer. Even if you’re not familiar with driving in Ireland, the route is fairly straightforward as it follows major roadways all the way to Belfast. You’ll stick to the M6 highway as you leave Galway and drive through the heart of the Midlands region. If you need a spot to grab coffee or lunch, the riverside city of Athlone is a great option. The 6th-century Clonmacnoise Monastery is just off the road and worth the visit.
After you reach the small town of Tyrrellspass, you’ll transfer north to road N52 which bypasses Dublin to reach the M1 highway. Once on highway M1 (which becomes the N1/A1 highway at the border) it’s a straight shot to Belfast. If you're interested in a day hike, Ravensdale Forest Recreation Area is conveniently set just off the highway and offers leisurely trails. Another great detour is the Cooley Peninsula. After you pass Dundalk, you can veer right on the coastal route and stop in picturesque Carlingford for a coffee.
Duration: 5 - 6.5 hours
Ireland’s train network isn’t huge, but it’s possible to travel between Galway and Belfast in 5-6.5 hours. The downside to the train is that you’ll connect twice in Dublin: once at Heuston station and again at Connolly station. The second connection tends to be at least 45 minutes, allowing you some time to grab a snack or coffee.
Although not mandatory, seat reservations are available. If you can snag a seat next to the window, you’ll especially enjoy the views of the Irish countryside.
Duration: 6 hours
The bus is an excellent budget-friendly option. Bus Éireann—Ireland’s regional coach service—offers about five departures each day, connecting once in Dublin. Note that some routes arrive and depart at different stations in Dublin, requiring a 15-minute walk or 5-minute taxi.
Private companies such as Citylink and Aircoach can be combined in two legs: Galway to Dublin and Dublin to Belfast. Perks of private companies include lower fares, plus onboard wifi and toilets.