In tribute to the place of my childhood, I have decided to write my first travel article on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. Growing up in the small seaside town of Portrush, I was frequently treated to the annual influx of holidaymakers who would thrive to the town between March and September. However the town wasn’t my only stomping ground. Blessed to have grown up along this enchanting stretch of coastline, weekends would often see the family up-sticks, for an excursion along the route. Below I have written up a brief pocket guide to Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast.
Portrush acts as a gateway, to the rugged coastal drive that winds its way along the cliffs. Follow the route south towards the town’s world-ranking Royal Portrush golf course, from which you’ll by-pass the sandy dunes of the White Rocks strand and weave you’re way towards the ancient ruins of Dunluce Castle.
Note: take care when driving round the bends, especially at dark and be prepared to make a sharp left on approach, if visiting the castle.
From the castle, the coast road will lead you through to the quaint village of Bushmills, home to the world renowned Bushmills Whisky. You can tour the old distillery and taste a sample of the popular tipple. The village also houses the Bushmills Inn, a luxury hotel with a cosy and welcoming atmosphere. It is worth stopping by to try their locally sourced menu or enjoy a relaxing overnight stay. The establishment even has its own premium cinema hidden within its white-wash walls.
Bushmills is just minutes from the neighbouring village of Portballintrae, which offers a broad length of sandy beach on which to stretch those muscles and breathe in the cold Atlantic air. Bushfoot Strand is also much more secluded than those beaches found in popular resorts such as Portrush. Portballintrae also offers a sea-view accommodation at the Bayview Hotel. The hotel also hosts the Porthole Bar and Restaurant on the ground floor. The lounge boasts harbour views and serves as a nice place to stop and enjoy a coffee or afternoon tipple.
Note: from Bushfoot Strand, there is a walking route that leads on to the next notable destination if you fancy a refreshing alternative to a four-wheel drive.
Once suitably refreshed, continue to make your way along the sign-posted route to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as the Giant’s Causeway. Explore the site of the extinct volcano, which helped to form the peculiar hexagonal stones of which the site is famed for. Look-out for the peculiar features that can be found within the surrounding rock, each item embedded deep in local folklore. Learn the mythical story of Finn McCool and much more throughout you visit to the site.
Last but not least, is a visit to Ballintoy Harbour. Follow the winding road down, to the harbour alcove beneath the cliffs. The rugged landscape that adorns the shore beyond the harbour, proves an enchanting place for artists and walkers alike. It’s even inspired global producers, having famously been utilized for HBO’s fantasy hit-series Game of Thrones.
Note: due to its new found fame, you may find that the road leading to the harbour from Ballintoy village is temporarily closed off for filming.
Only metres down the road lies the thrill-seeking site of Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. Suspended 100ft above the Atlantic. Dare to cross the rickety bridge and you will be rewarded with panoramic views over the Causeway Coast and beyond to bonnie Scotland.
Next to Carrick-A-Rede sits a green hillock, which takes you over to the seaside town of Ballycastle, which stands as a gateway to the mythical Glens of Antrim that lie waiting ahead. However these stunning vales deserve a post of their own, so for now the journey terminates here.