Categories: County Antrim

For a short, but perfectly formed break away, there’s no better place than County Antrim. So say goodbye to Belfast city - just for now – and turn towards the open road. And what a road it is. 

Snaking, in a friendly sort of way, along the Antrim clifftops, the Causeway Coastal Route is one of the world’s greatest and most exhilarating drives. At every turn there are views that take your breath away and, thankfully, scenic spots where you can stop and get it back again.

In fact, if you ever wondered where the phrase ‘cliff-hanger’ comes from, this is the trip during which you find out. Jaw-dropping views and an adrenaline-inducing drop to the sea below make this trip a real contender for eighth wonder of the world.

A castle by the lough

Of course, you’re never far from something new to explore in Northern Ireland, or things to do in County Antrim for that matter. 

Carrickfergus Castle, while not exactly new – it is 800 years old – does have a new roof. This imposing Norman castle on the northern side of Belfast Lough has had a busy past, being besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French.

Walk The Gobbins 

Hard hats and walking boots are required if you’re to tackle The Gobbins. It’s a meticulously constructed network of undersea tunnels, bridges and walkways that hugs – or perhaps clings to – the dramatic cliff face. And after a guided two and half hour walking tour, you’ll have earned a sit-down.

Cream tea in Glenarm

The castle in this pretty 17th century village has both a stunning walled garden and a tearoom. Take your time exploring all its delights, before heading to visit artisan jewellers Steenson’s Économusée in the village. You may recognise some of their pieces from Game of Thrones.

Dinner at a hotel once owned by Churchill

A leisurely drive up the coast brings you to the quaint fishing village of Carnlough and the Londonderry Arms Hotel (3*), which was once owned by Winston Churchill. Their award-winning restaurants, Tapestry and The Frances Anne are perfect for dinner. 

Walking on water(falls)

A Waterfall Walk through the woodlands of Glenariff Forest Park is an unimaginably beautiful start to the day, with options for a gentle stroll or something more challenging. And you can’t leave Northern Ireland without discovering what it is that makes our whiskey so special. A post-lunch trip to Bushmills Distillery will give you all the answers. Or at least the ones they’re willing to share.

Coast to coastal towns 

This part of the coast is dotted with pretty towns and villages, and stunning places to stay. The coastal town of Portrush is a favourite with families and, of course, kayakers, surfers and paddle-boarders. 

If you prefer overlooking the water to being in it, 55 Degrees North is the perfect compromise. A restaurant so close to the sea, you can almost touch it.  And after all that sea air, the Royal Court Hotel (3*) or the Adelphi Guesthouse (4*) make a perfect resting place.

All aboard for Rathlin Island

Ballycastle is the jumping off point for a ferry trip to Rathlin Island and its upside-down lighthouse. An area of outstanding natural beauty, it’s a bird watchers paradise. Catch the Puffin Express to the Seabird Centre – just don’t expect peace and quiet. The sights and sounds of thousands of puffins, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes in full flow can be a shock, and a delight, to the system.

If all that fresh air has made you peckish, it’s back to Ballycastle for an elegant afternoon tea at the Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort (4*).

Next stop Antrim Town

With a final stop in Antrim Town, and a visit to the Round Tower and the award-winning Antrim Castle Gardens, it’s back to Belfast and the city sights. Or on to more adventures elsewhere. 

Because there’s always somewhere new to go in Northern Ireland. And it’s never very far away.