Categories: things to do

Northern Ireland has just under two-hundred-and-fifty miles of coastline packed full of natural beauty, scenic drives, and stunning beaches. Whatever you’re on the lookout for, be it thrills or just the chance to chill, a short coastal break with friends or family will surely fit the bill. 

From Portrush to Bushmills 

Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures in life that make it all worthwhile. This corner of the world is dotted with scores of delightful, clean, and often empty, beaches where you can let yourself go and feel the sea breeze brush off the cobwebs. Portrush is one of the finest and most popular, but you will still often feel like you have the place to yourself. There’s plenty to do for surfers, swimmers and those with a taste for ice-cream while fine diners should book for a meal at 55 Degrees North. This spot offers quality cooked breakfasts and also caters for lunch and dinner.   After you’ve filled up here, walk it all off along the East Strand Beach which sits below the restaurant. 

The nearby Whiterocks Blue Flag beach is a golden spectacle and a great place for a swim while the well-known Benone Strand, also great for a paddle, offers seven miles of soft sandy beach with spectacular views of Binevenagh mountain and the mysterious Mussenden Temple

As evening melts over the horizon, pop into the Harbour Bar in the Ramore Complex for a nightcap before putting the head down at Blackrock House. (Winner Best B&B/Guest House at the Giant Spirit Awards 2022). This award-winning oasis of calm is minutes' from the famous Royal Portrush Golf Course and a great place to see some of the area's sites. Both Dunluce Castle and The Giant’s Causeway are minutes from here and are certainly not to be missed.  

The famous Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to local legend it was built by the famous Finn McCool and these forty-thousand perfectly-formed paving stones were part of a bridge to Scotland that he used to get there to challenge a rival. Scientists suggest there might be another explanation, such as volcanic activity, but we’ll leave that debate to you. 

From one bridge to another, a visit to the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge is a definite for the Northern Ireland bucket list. Constructed to help local fishermen cross to the island, the bridge is over two-hundred-and-fifty-years-old.  (The site is currently closed for bridge replacement but will open temporarily over Christmas, with bridge crossings from 27 December 1 January. Online booking is recommended in advance.  The rope bridge will then close again until mid-February. The site car park will be open at weekends for visitors to walk this section of the Causeway Coastal Route, with a £5 charge for car parking, free for National Trust members and local pass holders.)

You might be inspired enough by the tales of fishermen to board the Catch & Sea Tour in nearby Portstewart. There is real reward here for early risers who take the Breakfast Fishing Tour. Not only will you catch and later cook your own breakfast but you’ll get a different view of the stunning coastline. 

After all this adventure, you’ll be needing a strong tipple. Luckily, the oldest working whiskey distillery in the world is only down the road. Old Bushmills Distillery has been distilling their uisce beatha here for over four centuries. Find out how they do it on their distillery tour which, of course, includes samples of their fine produce. Bushmills itself is a lovely town and home to one of the quirkiest places to eat and sleep in the area. Bushmills Inn Hotel (4*) boasts fresh food, comfortable rooms and lots of cosy crannies to rest and restore the body in. 

From Cushendun to Carrickfergus 

Why not start the next part of your stay with a visit to the idyllic waterfall trails in Glenariff Forest Park. This place is utterly enchanting and just the ticket after your night out in Bushmills. Eagle-eyed fans of a certain Game of Thrones® are bound to recognise some of the nearby locations. 

There are nods to the famous series in many corners of this area. Mary McBride’s in the scenic coastal village of Cushendun, has a special door made from the fallen trees of the nearby Dark Hedges. But you won’t be coming here for that necessarily, you’ll be coming for a pint and a bit of craic. And this beautiful little pub also has the Little Black Door restaurant just next door. Just a short stroll from the village, you’ll find the famous Cushendun Caves which though around for four-hundred-million years only recently became famous due to their appearance in… you guessed it, Game of Thrones®. 

Travelling east don’t miss the nearby Cranny Falls and the much-loved local nature walk that leads to the coastal village of Carnlough. Those who take their water with a good splash of salt will be now itching to get the famous The Gobbins cliff walk - yes cliff walk! Originally built in 1902 by railway engineer, Berkeley Deane Wise, these paths, steep narrow steps and striking suspension bridges offer spectacular views along the coast of the Islandmagee peninsula. 

After a day so full of castles and thrones you’ll need a little bit of the royal treatment yourself and at Culloden Estate and Spa (5*) you’ll surely find it. Overlooking Belfast Lough, this place has to be one of the most idyllic locations on the whole island. Indulge yourself in the hotel spa before settling down for dinner in the Vespers Restaurant or Cultra Inn - two very different and quality dining experiences. 

From Castle Ward to Newcastle 

The splendid grounds of Castle Ward in County Down offer thirty-four kilometres of trails and walks to choose from here. The newly reopened magnificent 18th Century mansion house is worth walking around itself, offering a variety of different decorative styles and wonderful views out over the grounds and Strangford Lough. The Castle Trail leads you all the way to the 16th Century Audley’s Castle, from where you can survey the entire landscape below and the lough beyond. Other trails here will lead you through wildlife refuges that are thick with butterflies, dragonflies and a wide variety of native and migratory birds, in a magnificent parkland setting. 

It’s said that Saint Patrick himself drove the unwelcome serpents into sea and while we can’t say for sure that it happened here, there has always been a hive of activity around Strangford Lough making it as likely a spot as any. Today, you’ll find plenty to do here, including a chance to Glide with the Tide with John Hubbucks and his team of expert kayakers. John knows the Lough like the back of his hand and will guide you and your crew through its crystal-clear water, islands and inlets. For something a little bit different why not try a Sunset SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) with Outdoor Concepts. This two-hour experience is designed for people of all levels and promises a chance to relax and enjoy the great outdoors in the company of friends and over two-thousand marine species that live on the Lough. 

By now you’ll be needing another kind of sup and we’ve got just the place. The Bucks Head Inn in the village of Dundrum is renowned for its imaginative menus which change with the seasonal availability of their locally sourced ingredients. Two things that never change are their warm welcome and comfortable rooms which are always guaranteed. 

Northern Ireland’s coast is dotted with great beaches and this part is no different. The five-mile Newcastle and Murlough Beach is a fine stretch of sand that is hugely popular for walkers, swimmers and sunbathers. It does get busy on fine days in summer but such is its size that you should have no trouble finding a little piece of your own.  

Alternatively, Tyrella Beach and dune conservation area is a smaller and more private spot within Dundrum Bay offering just two miles of flat sandy beach. There are, however, twenty-five hectares of mature dunes offering scenic walks and something a little different. 

Why not finish off your break with a visit to Tollymore Forest Park in the heart of the Mournes. Walkers can choose from four trails of varying lengths and difficulties. Keep it short and sweet, on the half-mile Arboretum Path past some of Ireland’s largest trees or stretch yourself a little on the three-mile River Trail along the Shimna River. There are of course bigger challenges, and you might need more time to tackle the eight-mile Mountain and Drinns Trail through the Mournes or the mammoth twenty-six-mile Mourne Way. 

After one of these short coastal breaks to Northern Ireland, we’re pretty sure you’ll be back soon enough. And we look forward to seeing you again.  Northern Ireland has just under two-hundred-and-fifty miles of coastline packed full of natural beauty, scenic drives, and stunning beaches. Whatever you’re on the lookout for, be it thrills or just the chance to chill, a short coastal break with friends or family will surely fit the bill. 

55 Degrees North
Café
55 Degrees North

55 Degrees North is a Modern Family run restaurant established in 2005, set in the heart of coastal Portrush with breathtaking views overlooking the Skerries Islands, East Strand and Scotland. There is also a Bistro and Coffee Shop downstairs.

East Strand Beach
Beach
East Strand Beach

Golden sandy beach with views of The Skerries and Causeway headlands.

Whiterocks Beach
Beach
Whiterocks Beach

Awarded the prestigious Blue Flag Award again in 2020, Whiterocks Beach has become a favourite with locals and a must see destination for international visitors.

Benone Strand
Beach
image of beach with cliffs and sea in the backgound. Welcome has been carved into the sand with 2 visitors hardstanding behind the mesaage.

Benone Beach, multiple recipient of the European Blue Flag and Seaside Award, is a must-see when visiting the area. With seven miles of golden sand and a magnificent back drop of mountain and cliff scenery and stunning views across to Donegal.

Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne
The National Trust
Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne

Mussenden Temple is located in the beautiful surroundings of Downhill Demesne near Castlerock in County Londonderry. Awe inspiring views, colourful gardens and woodland walks.

Ramore Restaurant
Restaurant
Ramore Restaurant

Renowned for its fantastic tasting fresh food and lively atmosphere. A modern and innovative decor and menu to suit all tastes. Open seven days a week.

Blackrock House
Bed & Breakfast
Blackrock House

Blackrock House offers boutique 5* B&B accommodation that fuses modern style with authentic coastal living so you stay by the sea in style! Guests will enjoy sweeping views across sandy beaches, windswept headlands and the Atlantic Ocean.

Royal Portrush Golf Club
Golf Course
Royal Portrush Golf Club

Founded in 1888, the legendary Royal Portrush Golf Club has two Championship Courses - the renowned Dunluce Course and the smaller, but equally enjoyable Valley Course. Proud Hosts of The 2019 148th Open Championship .

Dunluce CastleDunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle is located dramatically close to a headland that plunges straight into the sea, along the North County Antrim coast.

Giant's Causeway
The National Trust
The basalt stones at the giants causeway stretch into the sea

Follow in the footsteps of giants at Northern Ireland's iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site. The basalt columns of the Causeway landscape were left by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago. All visitors are encouraged to book Visitor Experience tickets online in advance of arrival onsite.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The National Trust
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge is currently closed until Tuesday December 27, 2022. The site car park will be open at weekends for visitors to walk this section of the Causeway Coastal Route, with a £5 charge for car parking, free for National Trust members and local pass holders.

Old Bushmills Distillery
Distillery
Old Bushmills Distillery

In 1608, in Bushmills, a legend was born. In that year, King James I granted a very particular licence to this small village, just a few miles inland from Ireland’s rugged north coast. The licence gave Bushmills the right to distil whiskey. Today, Bushmills is home to the oldest licenced whiskey distillery in the world.

Bushmills Inn Hotel
Hotel
Bushmills Inn Hotel

The Bushmills Inn is a luxury Hotel with an AA Rosette restaurant in the heart of Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. One of Ireland’s most well known luxurious hotels, The Bushmills Inn boasts open turf fires, gas lights and hidden nooks & crannies.

Glenariff Forest Park
Forest Parks
Glenariff Forest Park

Glenariff, the Queen of the Glens, is one of the nine Antrim Glens in Northern Ireland. Glenariff Forest Park covers over 1,000 hectares with planted woodland, lakes, outdoor recreation spaces and conservation areas.

Mary McBride's
Bar
Mary McBride's

Mary's is a traditional Irish pub with lots of history and stories to be told. Come along and enjoy a homemade meal and a pint of Guinness. Our menu offers something for everyone whether it's our steak and Guinness pie or our delicious cock and bull.

The Dark Hedges
Natural Feature
The Dark Hedges

This beautiful avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century and have become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland.

Cranny Falls
Walking & Hiking
Cranny Falls

A gentle walk uphill

The Gobbins
Visitor Centres & Museums
a male and female at the entrance of the Gobbins Cliff path

On the thrilling Gobbins Experience, nature isn’t content to just sit back and be admired. It completely engulfs you: from the all-enveloping Irish Sea winds and the dolphins dancing off the coastline.

Culloden Estate and Spa
Hotel
View of the hotel and landscaped grounds on a bright sunny day

Standing high on the wooded slopes of the Holywood hills, overlooking Belfast Lough and the Co. Antrim coastline, is the magnificent Culloden Estate and Spa, one of the most prestigious 5 star hotels in Northern Ireland.

Castle Ward
The National Trust
Castle Ward

Discover a place of contrasts and creativity at Castle Ward, an eccentric 18th century mansion and estate looking out over the tranquil waters of Strangford Lough in County Down.

Audley's Castle
Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings
Audley's Castle

The castle dates probably from around the 15th century, but the early history is unknown. This site was used for filming a scene for Game of Thrones®.

Outdoor Concepts (NI) Ltd
Climbing
Outdoor Concepts (NI) Ltd

Outdoor Concepts has built up one of the most successful outdoor adventure companies in the UK and Ireland. This has been achieved by using the highest standard of equipment and by selecting and training an exemplary standard of caring, highly ...

The Bucks Head Inn
Restaurant
The Bucks Head Inn

The Bucks Head Inn is situated in the historic village of Dundrum. Renowned for its warm welcome chef/proprietor Alison Crothers has combined local produce with modern and imaginative menus which have gained many awards.

Newcastle and Murlough Beach
Beach
Couple walking on Murlough Beach, Newcastle

This 5 mile stretch of golden sands is still the essence of the resort and is hugely popular for swimming, sunbathing and other forms of recreation.

Tyrella Beach
Beach
View of Tyrella Beach

Tyrella beach and conservation area is a small, enclosed dune complex within Dundrum Bay. It is a wide, flat, sandy beach two kilometres long and backed by 25 hectares of mature dunes in a conservation area.

Tollymore Forest Park
Forest Parks
Tollymore Forest Park

Oak wood from Tollymore Forest Park was used for the interiors of the White Star liners which included the Titanic. A walk along the Shimna River is marked by many curiosities, natural and artificial - rocky outcrops, bridges, grottos and caves.