A Visit to The North Irish Coast
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A Visit to The North Irish Coast

A trip to the top part of county Antrim is a must if you love the sea, coasts and historic sites. The bays and inlets are unique and seem to speak to you, just like the call of a mermaid.

Ireland is a magical place for a holiday, (apart from the weather). The atmosphere is great, the locals friendly and there are outdoor activities, historic sites, museums, to nightlife, and wildlife. All within a short space.

Ireland is astoundingly beautiful with so many meaningful places to visit they would fill many books, (and indeed have).

This is a sample of what you can see and do if you visit the mythical Emerald Isle, but more specifically the north Antrim Coast.

A trip to the top part of county Antrim is a must if you love the sea, coasts and historic sites. The bays and inlets are unique and seem to speak to you, just like the call of a mermaid.

This journey starts in Ballycastle and travels west, although it can be done the other way round.

Rathlin Island

Taking the ferry from Ballycastle, (where Marconi made his first overseas radio transmission), to Rathlin Island, guarantees you an unlimited number of seals. The harbour in Rathlin is full of seals and the surrounding rocks are usually so full, there is no space left.

Ballycastle

Fairhead

Back in Ballycastle and well worth a visit is Bonamargie Friary. This was built in the thirteenth century and comes complete with a beautiful old graveyard looking out over the sea. Although somewhat sad, walking through the Celtic Crosses used as headstones reminds you of times gone by. There is also a dramatic and imposing headland called Fairhead, and if you look closely at the cliff face, there seems to be a clock face showing the time as “10 to 2”.

There are a number of pubs on the main street, (there really is only one street), and on Thursday nights, in the pub with the red door, local musicians assemble to play traditional Irish music. (Some musicians even came from far away to take part and it is not unheard of to see a famous person playing there among the locals.) Nothing is premeditated, anyone has an instrument joins in, and free sandwiches are offered in winter and a bar-b-que in summer.

Carrick-a-Rede

A ten minutes drive along the coast is Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This is a chillingly high, 80 feet, rope bridge spanning the mainland and ending on a small island. Local fishermen initially built this to allow them access for fishing. It was up in spring and removed it before winter started, partly to avoid it being damaged, and also since crossing in winter with high winds was too dangerous. Many tourists cross this bridge and having braved it once, are too frightened to return. A boat or helicopter has to be dispatched to pick them up, so think carefully before starting to cross it! This was taken over by the National trust in recent years and the bridge was built more robustly, but it still catches some people out.

Ballintoy Harbour

Moving on a short five minutes, you come to Ballintoy Harbour, a charming little harbour with rocks that are perfect for climbing and sitting on. From there you can contemplate the sea, Rathlin Island and Scotland, (on a good day), in peace and tranquillity. If you are fortunate the local seals willput on a show.

Whitepark Bay

Leaving the harbour behind you can walk for miles along the coast until you come to Whitepark Bay. (You can also drive there, but the walk from the car park to the sea is nearly as long.) This is a long, curving, stretch of white sand and ancient dunes. One of the first places in Ireland where man settled, the views are breathtaking, and there is even a convenient Dolmen on the nearby hills.

Giant’s Causeway

Fifteen minutes further driving leads you to the Giant’s Causeway. This is free to visit, but there is a hefty car parking fee unless you leave the car a distance away and walk. The rock formation is roughly one mile downhill from the shop and cafe, and there is a bus service with a small charge for those who do not feel like the walk. This phenomenon is about one mile wide and eight miles long , and has around 40,000 square, pentagonal, hexagonal, heptagon and octagonal stone columns. Some of the shapes have been given names according “what the giant used them for” and include; the Giants Organ, and the Wishing Chair. Irish legend has it that, a giant built this road so he could get to his loved one, (also a giant), in Scotland.

Bushmills Whiskey

Leaving the coast for a few short miles and heading inland for ten minutes or so, you come to the Bushmills Distillery and town. This town was first founded in the 1600s and the locals made a water mill powered by the fast flowing River Bush and used this for the distillery. (whether this was first used to make illegal alcohol is not known). The official date for Bushmills Whiskey is 1885, and the distillery is “the oldest licensed Distillery in the world”. Local legend says that illegal Whiskey was made there from as far back as 1400.

Dunluce Castle

Rejoining the coast five minutes further on you come to Dunluce Castle, often described as “one of the most romantic castles in Ireland”, and “floating on the edge of a high cliff top, it is hard to refute this. Dunluce Castle is first mentioned in the fourteenth century, but it is believed to be constructed on the site of an older fort, and no one knows exactly how old this site really is. Regrettably all that is left is a ruin, (the kitchen fell into the sea during a dinner party), but it is still interesting and well worth a visit nonetheless.

Mussenden Temple

A thirty minute car journey places you at Mussenden Temple, built in 1785. This is a small, circular structure, officially built as a library, and based on the Temple of Vesta, (House of the Vestal Virgins) However some local legends say it was to house the owners mistress. The owner was Frederick Augustus Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, and Bishop of Derry.

Belfast and Londonderry

Both Belfast and Londonderry have much more to offer than is included here, but that would necessitate another piece of writing, and this is really intended to be the coast.

Belfast, one and a half hours drive from the coast, boasts a huge selection of night life, from typical pubs to gourmet restaurants, concerts, theatres and night clubs. It was also where the famous, or infamous Titanic was built and the ship yard that made this gargantuan ship, is still there.

Near Belfast is The Giant's Ring, a 5,000-year-old Henge, (a Neolithic bank with a ditch inside it), and Belfast itself dates back to the Bronze Age.

Londonderry, AD75, offers everything a city has and more. The main street runs downhill to the sea and there are some interesting alleys with old shops and cafes and the ancient city walls are generally in good shape and hold a fascinating history.

Note: In Ireland most B&Bs quote prices “per person sharing”, so if the price is £50, find out if that is for the room, or per person. Also find out about hotel prices - they often cost about the same and are more comfortable.

Everything in Ireland is surrounded in legend, so talk to local people as possible as these stories are worth hearing. They are fascinating and can even seem true, it depends how you look at things.

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Comments (11)

Well written piece of work . . . Voted up

It seems to be a very beautiful place. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.

Voted up. Reading this made me want a vacation. Now. :)

Well done and I would not cross that rope bridge!

Nice tour. I would love to go to Northern Ireland.

A very picturesque area to visit.

A very good article, worth reading.

Thank you for the information.voted!

Ranked #3 in Geography

Wow, I was mesmerized, especially with the rope bridge and castle...

Ranked #7 in Geography

Thank you all. It is an amazing area and so much all in a small area.

Heather Ann Witt

This is one of the few countries in the northern hemisphere I have not been to. I should put that right

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