While enjoying our recent visit to the award-winning Galgorm Resort & Spa near Ballymena (see post HERE), GG and I took the opportunity to take the short drive to the north Antrim coast to explore part of the Causeway Coastal Route.
It wasn’t entirely new to GG who covered quite a bit of the Northern Ireland countryside while being educated in Belfast many moons ago, but it was totally new to me. And my first glimpse of The Causeway Coast was on a beautiful, bright, sunny but cold day in February. The Causeway Coastal route stretches for 120 miles from Belfast Lough to Lough Foyle and has been named the number one region in the world to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet. We only took in part of it, but we were blown away by its natural beauty.
Our first port-of-call was Portstewart, an attractive seaside town notable for an amazing long strand (overlooked by the imposing local Golf Club) where I had a lovely brisk walk, while GG took some photos.
A few miles further along the coast was Portrush, a very touristy-type of town which would be very busy in the summer months, I imagine. It boasts the Royal Portrush Golf Club, a links course that has hosted many big events and will be the venue for The Open Championship next year.
From there, our next stop was the medieval Dunluce Castle which clings to a headland that plunges straight into the sea, for a quick photo opportunity, where hubby took a pic of me taking a photo.
Next stop was to Bushmills where we indulged in an excellent tour around the famous Old Bushmills Whiskey Distillery and learned a lot about the distilling process as well as sampling some fine produce! It seems that American whisky (bourbon) is distilled just once, Scotch is distilled twice but Irish has a three-step process which makes it even smoother. I am not a whiskey drinker but I loved the complimentary cocktail, with whiskey as its base, which we got at the end of the tour.
It was a wonderful day to see Northern Ireland’s first UNESCO Heritage Site, 40,000 basalt stone columns left by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago! Local tradition has it that Finn MacCool threw them in and there are plenty of other stories to keep the youngsters entertained. Graham remembered visiting the causeway about 50 years ago and driving right up to it. Now, run by the National Trust, it has a very impressive Interpretative Centre and we opted for an audio guided tour (as opposed to a tour guide) included as part of the entrance fee.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
I don’t know if you can see the rope bridge in the photo below, but it was too late in the day to walk down to it, so we decided to leave it for another visit. According to some friends, it is definitely worth doing, but only if you have a head for heights.
I was very impressed with this natural phenomenon, an avenue of beech trees planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century at Stranocum, near Ballymoney. Some of you might recognise it from ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 2 Episode 1 as the filming location for The King’s Road, and now a major tourist attraction. We covered quite a lot of ground in one day and headed back to Galgorm to enjoy a gin and tonic and dinner.
The following day we spent a few hours at the resort and when we checked out headed to Bellaghy. As a former English teacher, I really enjoyed the excellent arts and literary centre ‘Seamus Heaney Homeplace‘ dedicated to to the legacy of Irish Nobel Literature-winning poet and can also recommend the little cafe where we had a delicious bowl of soup before heading back to Dublin.
Pre-blogging days, we visited The Titanic and Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast, both to be recommended, and plan on visiting Derry next, as we continue our exploration of Northern Ireland! And we might just do the entire Causeway Route starting in Belfast and drive in the other direction; it will be a totally different experience.
For more information, check out www.discovernorthernireland.com