Antrim, Northern Ireland bleg

by on March 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm in Travel, Uncategorized | Permalink

That is the part of Northern Ireland along the northern coast, renowned for its scenery.  What is the best way to drive there from Dublin, and what is best to see along the coast?

GIANTS-CAUSEWAY-Image-4-Causeway-3

I thank you all in advance for your guidance, and your extreme intelligence and humility.

1 Damien March 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Dublin -> Belfast via main motorway roads; head north from Belfast on the coast road. One of the most scenic drives in the world, but take your time.

http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/causeway/

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2 Brendan Dugan March 6, 2017 at 1:52 pm

I visited in 2014. The coast up there is beautiful. We took the standard drive through Belfast – M1 – A1 – A2 – A44. We stayed at a B&B in Ballintoy. Things to do – the causeway is spectacular, the rope bridge down the road is touristy but also spectacularly scenic, Bushmills Distillery is close by and there are a bunch of ruined castles on the coast that you can check out for free if you are willing to hike around a bit (i especially liked hiking out to Dunseverick Castle).

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3 Charlie March 6, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Watch the closing times at the Causeway. I missed seeing it because I spent too much time at Bushmills.

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4 John March 6, 2017 at 1:55 pm

About a decade ago I walked from Derry to Belfast, got good and lost a few times, and came across some interesting places and people. Off the top of my head, I highly recommend exploring the Glens of Antrim, which is probably NI’s most beautiful natural feature (I found Giant’s Causeway a bit underwhelming by comparison, but worth it for pondering the geology of it). There are nine glens, the most famous of which is Glenariff (for good reason). The Glenariff Forest Park is probably the most convenient way to experience it.

If you are up for some long walks/hikes, I recommend The Moyle Way. If you haven’t yet booked accommodation and will be in the vicinity of Carnlough I can recommend the Londonderry Arms, which was once owned by Winston Churchill and whose friendly staff took pity on a sore-footed traveler despite being all but fully booked when I turned up. I had a great meal at The Cellar in Ballycastle.

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5 Sam the Sham March 6, 2017 at 4:42 pm

While in the merry month of May from me home I started,
Left the girls of Tuam so sad and broken hearted,
Saluted father dear, kissed me darling mother,
Drank a pint of beer, me grief and tears to smother,
Then off to reap the corn, leave where I was born,
Cut a stout black thorn to banish ghosts and goblins;
Bought a pair of brogues rattling o’er the bogs
And fright’ning all the dogs on the rocky road to Dublin.

Wack fo la de da!

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6 Aidan March 6, 2017 at 2:10 pm

North Antrim really is a beautiful and hugely under-visited part of Ireland. Good choice. I’d say just drive along the coast road and stop off anywhere you like the look of. If you fancy taking a break for food on your way up from Dublin, Carlingford is a pretty little place right on the border. I always make a point of stopping off here for seafood chowder, oysters and Guinness every time I’m back visiting my parents: http://www.pjoharescarlingford.com/ If you want to take a look at Belfast, or find out a bit more about the Troubles, I would definitely advice a black taxi tour: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186470-d565147-Reviews-Official_World_Famous_Belfast_Black_Taxi_Tour-Belfast_Northern_Ireland.html you’ll learn a lot. They make a point of taking you to both Catholic and Protestant areas and all the guides are local cabbies who know what they’re talking about. Have fun.

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7 Mark Bailey March 6, 2017 at 2:26 pm

As some of the others have stated.
Take the motorway from Dublin to Belfast (where you should stay for a day or two as there is lots to see) and take a Black Taxi tour.

Drive along the Causeway Coast Road (where Carrickfergus Castle and the Gobbins footbridge in Islandmagee are worth seeing in the South, Glenarm & Carnlough in the middle and Bushmills & the Giants Causeway in the North – https://www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/tourism/things-to-do/causeway-coastal-route/ and http://www.visitcausewaycoastandglens.com )

If you have time carry on round to Derry/Londonderry which is well worth a visit.

(I moved to East Antrim in 2000 and it is a great part of the world)

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8 David March 6, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Driving north from Dublin, worth seeing Newgrange
http://www.knowth.com/newgrange.htm.
Carlingford is a pretty old town which takes you on the coastal route just south of the border.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlingford%2C_County_Louth
Taking the coastal route via Newry, Rosstrevor and Newcastle or over the mountains is wonderful also.

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9 Thomas Bashford March 6, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Newgrange is amazing as is Knowth nearby, but both feel a little sterile from the works to preserve and present the rock carvings. My favourite has always been Dowth, ruined by the British Israelites who hauled away the middle of the mound in their search for the Ark of the Covenant, then left to return to nature, overgrown. You can sense how these old, old tombs slumbered through millennia.

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10 Bónapart Ó Cúnasa March 7, 2017 at 2:36 am

Staying with the theme of taking the slow route to the border, Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice are both outstanding examples of early Christian monastic settlements. The scenery along both sides of Carlingford Lough is worth the detour. And the Mournes and Strangford Lough are a lovely way to take a leisurely road to Belfast.

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11 psmith March 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Mid-Antrim 150–real roads racing, the greatest motorsport in the world. Cancelled for 2017, but supposed to be back for 2018. I certainly hope so.

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12 psmith March 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Come to think of it, there’s also Armoy. Which is running this year, though not till July.

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13 Hoosier March 6, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Agree with all of the takes on sites along the Antrim coast. You may want to stop in Portrush too. It’s a typical British seaside resort town, kind of like Blackpool but I think a bit nicer. If you golf it has one of the best courses in the world and will be hosting the Open in a few years.

If you have time, I did a spectacular hike along the cliffs on the coastline starting at Whitepark Bay (the hostel there is a peaceful place to stay with nice views out over the bay) that ended at the Giant’s Causeway. The causeway itself isn’t that incredible a site, but arriving there by foot over the coastal trail enhances the experience. You’ll also meet a lot of locals walking their dogs and the like who are usually happy to talk with visitors. This hike and many others are on the walkni.com website.

It’s fascinating to visit the unionist supporting areas. You know you’re there by the explosion of union jack flags everywhere. I described it as being like the 4th of July on steroids in terms of all the flags you see. Bushmills was one town outside of Belfast where this was particularly striking.

Definitely find time for Derry, but I think you’ve already blogged about this so I’m sure you’ll visit.

I think you’ll enjoy your visit. It’s non-touristy compared with the rest of Ireland, but you still have the beautiful scenery, great Guinness, delicious fish and chips and friendly locals.

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14 Rock Lobster March 6, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Since nobody else has said it, Dunluce Castle is right by Giant’s Causeway along the coast, and definitely worth stopping for. I was there in December 2015 and it was just us and one other family. I’m sure it’s more crowded depending on time of year, but it was quite beautiful and serene at the time.

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15 Toms March 6, 2017 at 6:32 pm

I’d be interested in how you get on. Yes it is really beautiful, but beyond that it can feel a bit depressing. You’ve probably got a sense of this from the thinness of the recommendations in the causeway/north Antrim area so far. Sure the golf and whiskey are good, if that’s what you’re looking for (something tells me not).

The food is almost uniformly terrible. I mean potentially really awful. Your best chance of some decent food in North Antrim is probably Portstewart. I’ve not been to Harry’s Shack but that has some good reviews, I’d be heading there. And there are some ok places along the seafront there. But otherwise, well, I hope you like fish and chips.

Best of luck.

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16 Ray Lopez March 6, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Keep your eyes on the road when driving, or if you insist on sight seeing, pull over. Like the California PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), or Maui’s coastal highway, both of which I’ve traveled, you must, if you are driving, keep your eyes on the road, even if you see whales breaching (as I did). Lots of people every year drive off the cliff not watching the roads. Same for Greek mountain highways (which often have no guardrails) same for Peruvian Antes mountain highways (both of which I’ve also traveled).

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17 Gregory Blake Johnson March 6, 2017 at 9:51 pm

i can’t remember the exact route I took, but driving in Northern Ireland was amazing. had a terrific ribeye steak at The Harbour Bistro, a restaurant in Portrush, Northern Ireland. i always thought ribeye was overrated until that steak.

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18 Mark March 6, 2017 at 10:09 pm

I was there in 2014. The driving is easy but under no circumstances let them upsell you at the rental car counter. Get THE smallest car you can fit into AND get all the insurance they sell. US credit cards will not insure US drivers in Ireland because of the high frequency of damage.

Enjoyed Giant’s Causeway. Went to Bushmill’s, but, unless you’ve never seen how whiskey is made, isn’t worth the time. You should also know that Bushmill’s was founded based on a monopoly awarded by King James I to reward an officer who killed hundreds of women and children in addition to combatants, a fact they won’t tell you on the tour. Nor should you bring it up. Seriously.

“The Plantation of Ulster” by Jonathan Bardon is a good recent book relevant to that area.

I am not a fan of Game of Thrones but it’s shot in Antrim and there are lots of tours of the locations.

Antrim is a big golf destination.

The thing about travel in Ireland is there aren’t a ton of specific cultural and historical sites that are must-sees. It’s really the people and the scenery and the craic.

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19 Mark March 6, 2017 at 10:19 pm

Forgot to mention we stayed and ate at Bushmills Inn and it was fine, nothing special in either respect.

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20 A.G.McDowell March 7, 2017 at 12:48 am

UK mainland insurance companies don’t offer the same deals to customers in N.Ireland as they do on the mainland, either. Traffic enforcement has historically not been a high priority (or even very practical) and there is a tradition of learning to drive informally in fields with tractors or off-road motorbikes, and of herding livestock along roads.

Ulster’s contribution to world cuisine is the “Ulster Fry” which is probably most healthfully appreciated from a distance. You may be able to get fresh-caught seafood. An excellent cook’s favourite meal was scampi at The Lobster Pot, Strangford village. That is on the east coast, but would be handy if you were visiting Castleward, a large National Trust property with Game of Thrones links.

The Game of Thrones people seem to have had the pick of N.Ireland, so there may be something to be said for following along in their footsteps, even if you have never heard of or don’t care for the series.

There are no areas of N.Ireland in which being obviously American is a disadvantage, even – or especially – as a stereotypical American tourist. There are probably still a few areas where you may feel uncomfortable if you are mistaken for English.

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21 Some Guy March 6, 2017 at 10:52 pm

Wow, that’s beautiful. Enjoy!

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22 Jim March 6, 2017 at 11:51 pm

The coastal road from Ballycastle all the way around to Portstewart is a real gem. There are a few sites such as Dunluce Castle dotted along it, and beaches including White Park Bay and Whiterocks. Listen out for the Ulster-Scots dialect if you’re around that area.

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23 Gj March 7, 2017 at 2:55 am

Drive along the tiny coastal roads. So beautiful!
The Causeway is a mass tourist attraction with busloads of groups coming in from Belfast and Dublin alike. Arrive as early as possible (sleep close by) to really get to enjoy the place. Do note (as most miss it) that the National Trust has a long cliff path on the right-hand side. Few people take it yet I found it incomparably more sublime than the causeway itself (and it actually boasts some of the same granite structures).
If you want to enjoy the wilder cliffs along the coast and truly experience the sublime (as in “feeling tiny facing the power of nature”) go to Fair Head. But only if you have good boots and a good coat. Expect a lot of bog, few signs to guide you and a lot of wind. And sheer beauty.
I would have recommended the recently reopened Gobbins Cliff Path (http://www.thegobbinscliffpath.com/) but it appears to be closed until Summertime.
Enjoy!
(Oh, and don’t leave anything visible in your car in any tourist site. Rental cars are the first targets.)

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24 Matthew Brown March 7, 2017 at 8:42 am

-budget much more time than you’d expect for the Giants Causeway, if you have any interest in earth science.
-budget for lots of unplanned stops along the coastal drives, with some serious leg-challenging hikes to ruins, always worth the sometimes significant effort required
– the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is as touristy as you’d think but surprisingly worthwhile, leave time for relaxing and absorbing the view on the other side. It’s regularly on lists of world’s-best foot bridges and I was glad I was forced by my travel companion to overcome my reluctance to indulge the tourist-trap nature of it to go.
-do go as far west as Derry, if you haven’t been, walking along the top of the old city wall is surpringly fascinating and yields continuously surprising leftover signs of The Troubles; facinating urban archaeology from the 10-foot level
-the distillery at Bushmills is much more interesting and tangible than, for example, the over-structured Guinness facility in Dublin. I spent the whole time thinking “American lawyers would kill this place in a week…”
-of course you already know this, but I was continuously amazed by the inviting quality of the company of random locals.
-if your schedule allows a few hours at the Newgrange archaeological site north of Dublin on the way up, that is worthwhile, even though the experience is over-structured for a country where you can freely wonder through so many other more recent ruins.
-depending on your time/geographic constraints the costal drives west of Derry are even more remote and naturally splendid….

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25 Fergus M March 7, 2017 at 10:09 am

As others have said, definitely go via the County Antrim coast; the glens are spectacular. The Giant’s Causeway is worth a visit, as is Dunluce Castle. There are a variety of picturesque villages around the North Coast, especially Ballintoy and Portbradden. Whitepark Bay is perhaps the best beach, and is usually pretty quiet. The Dark Hedges are sadly past their prime but are actually more popular than ever with tourists thanks to Game of Thrones.

The Ramore restaurants (there are several under the same owner around Portrush harbour) are renowned locally for good, cheap food. The Bushmills Inn and the French Rooms (also in Bushmills) are two other good places for food.

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26 Colin March 7, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Tyler,

The Causeway Coastal Road is the best scenery from Dublin to Belfast, and doesn’t receive the same level of traffic, which might appeal.

Carlingford is a nice, scenic town in north Louth, near the border and Fitzpatricks is a good place for food nearby (Joe Biden stopped there last year). I know you appear to be increasingly wary of your inner economist and avoid the likes of tripaviser for recommendations, but it is generally quite accurate and the food competition not good enough to not use it, in my view. We have invested our time in perfecting drink instead. Cavan is also an interesting border area, which you might like to prospect the Brexit mood.

As others have said Antrim is very scenic and can I add in County Down as well. You could visit the Saint Patrick Center as a way to see the country. It has an interesting religious history, which you can appreciate is relevant to both countries.

Lastly, if you want to really avoid taking the complacent accommodation option you are welcome to stay in my place. I have a few rooms on airbnb but not on the site at present. I have an intensive pig farm and coming forward with the climate friendly version in 2018, along with opening up to food tourism, within which I will make the for eating (an appropriate amount) of meat. (I am aware of what I have just said.).

I’m 5 five minutes from the motorway, 10 minutes from Newgrange and 40 minutes from Dublin airport.

Have a great few days.

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27 Isaac Martin March 7, 2017 at 4:15 pm

I was there in 2014 and wrote two blog posts: http://sbfvisa.com/wordpress/?p=201 and http://sbfvisa.com/wordpress/?p=190
Both in Spanish, but I think you understand the language.
Beautiful coast. Enjoy.

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28 Joe Kristan March 7, 2017 at 6:10 pm

So no visit to County Tyrone? It seems like it would be appropriate for Tyler.

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29 Blades March 7, 2017 at 10:49 pm

This is very timely, because I’m going on a golf vacation there April 24-29. If anyone would like to recommend great places for seafood or other meals, I would appreciate it!

The British open will be held in 2019 at Royal Portrush. There is a tremendous amount of excitement about this already; essentially the course is sold out, which is highly unusual for that time of the year.

And Tyler, I’m sure that golf is not your thing, but if you haven’t seen a links course, it might be interesting for you to see Portrush. This is the kind of ground (links land) that the game was invented on more than 560 years ago, and far different from what you probably have in mind about the way a golf course looks.

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30 steveslr March 8, 2017 at 2:37 am

Royal Portrush in Antrim and Royal County Down on the east side are the most famous golf courses of Northern Ireland.

It’s an interesting question, however, whether non-golfers can “see” a golf course. Golf courses are some of the largest art works in the world, but they seem to be effective invisible to non-golfers.

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31 blades March 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm

stevesir, yes, I almost mentioned Royal County Down, but it’s not in Antrim, and I assume not on the fastest way there. But it’s on everyone’s world top 10, and part of it is the natural beauty of the location

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32 bjg March 8, 2017 at 12:25 pm
33 blades March 8, 2017 at 1:56 pm

bjg, wow, beyond my dreams. The gang will be stopping here. Tyler, make sure to read this review.

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34 Darragh March 8, 2017 at 10:12 pm

If you’re going to Ireland Tyler and have time, continue on a bit and go to Donegal. I’ve been to the Inishowen Peninsula many times and it’s gorgeous and a bit out of the way from the usual tourist traps. It’s probably an extra 1-2 hour drive from the Giant’s Causeway but there is a boat that shortcuts the route across Lough Foyle.

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35 blades March 10, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Probably no one still reading but…any recommendations for N. Ireland music? Van Morrison obviously. Any others?

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