With stunning coastal scenery, breath-taking views, and an enviable selection of bars and restaurants, County Antrim is the ideal location for a short break that's within driving distance.
Take a look at our itinerary below, which includes a selection of 10 things to do over a few days.
1. Drive the Causeway Coastal Route
From Belfast, take a leisurely drive along the glorious Causeway Coastal Route, which hugs the coastline and presents jaw-dropping views of cliffs and sea. There are innumerable scenic spots that are ideal for a quick pit stop to stretch the legs, admire the view and breathe in the fresh sea air. Make the most of your stops by taking in local history at the 800-year-old Carrickfergus Castle which is one of the finest examples of Norman castles in Ireland, or there’s the exhilarating Gobbins cliff path for lovers of the outdoors.
2. Glenarm’s jewels
Park up in the picturesque 17th-century village of Glenarm for an afternoon visit to the superb walled garden in Glenarm Castle (open April to October) and a delicious cream tea in the castle’s tea room. Then seek out Steenson’s Économusée in the village and watch the artisan jewellers at work – they are famous for the pieces they crafted specially for Game of Thrones.
3. Step back to medieval times
A short drive up the coast will take you to the award-winning Frances Anne and Tapestry Restaurant in the beautiful Londonderry Arms in Carnlough. Savour a meal of local specialties such as wild salmon and Antrim Hills lamb accompanied by fine wine. For a fairy-tale end to the day stay in the Barbican Gate Lodge, a medieval miniature castle overlooking the Glenarm River.
4. Walk the waterfalls
Back on the road, continue to Glenariff Forest Park for a morning walk in this spectacularly beautiful glen. Follow the idyllic waterfall trail for a moderate 1.5-mile walk, or for something a little more challenging pick the 6-mile scenic trail which rewards with panoramic views.
5. Whiskey wonders
Head to Cushendun for a tasty lunch in The Corner House and then follow the Causeway Coastal Route along the northern coast to Bushmills for a tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery. The tour reveals how the famous whiskey has been distilled for over 400 years and ends with a delicious tasting experience.
6. Bushmills village charm
Take a stroll around Bushmills village, taking in its renovated mills, period architecture and enjoying its distinct Ulster Scots vibe, celebrated in the Alphabet Angel bronze sculpture.
Portrush is a lively town which comes alive in Summer. There's beautiful beaches, surfing, ice cream parlours, fine dining and more. It's the perfect stop for a seaside retreat, with scenic walks and fresh sea air to boot. For those after an adrenaline rush head to Ireland’s largest theme park, Barry’s amusements, for some stomach-flipping action. Enjoy a meal at a top restaurant such as 55 Degrees North, which overlooks the golden East Strand beach. Afterwards catch a traditional session at the Springhill Bar or rock the night away in the Harbour Bar.
8. Cast away to Rathlin Island
First stop on day three is pretty Ballycastle from where the ferry sails over to Rathlin Island. The tiny island is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, renowned for its spectacular scenery and wildlife. Several waymarked trails offer scenic walks through its tranquil landscape and the Puffin Express takes visitors to the Seabird Centre and upside-down lighthouse for amazing views of the island’s famous birds.
9. Afternoon tea
Back in Ballycastle head in-land to Ballymena for an elegant afternoon tea at the five-star Galgorm Resort and Spa. Served until 3.30pm in the splendid setting of the River Room Conservatory, the finely cut sandwiches, miniature savouries, freshly baked scones and delicate desserts are an extra special treat.
10. Historic Antrim
For a final stop, head to Antrim town where there's a chance to see one of the best preserved round towers in Ireland. Enjoy a stroll in the award-winning Antrim Castle Gardens complete with listed historic buildings, monuments and beautifully landscaped grounds.