Northern Ireland: Causeway Capers

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Causeway Capers

Ten reasons to book a holiday in Co Antrim, by Harry Glass

Giant's Causeway

Drive the coast road
The 50-mile journey along the A2 from Larne to Ballycastle is not to be hurried – enjoy a leisurely drive and see how every twist in the road reveals another wonderful vista.

Well-placed stopping points offer views to Scotland on one side and across glorious glens on the other. It’s an excellent route for cyclists, too – particularly the stretch between Waterfoot and Carnlough.

Stop at pretty seaside towns along the way. Have a drink in Carnlough, at the Londonderry Arms, built in 1848 by the Marchioness of Londonderry and inherited in 1921 by her great grandson, Winston Churchill. Lunch in the Harbour House Tea Rooms. Visit the Glenarm Castle Estate – home to the Earls of Antrim – and admire the black and white houses of Cushendun.

Walk the walks
Antrim’s glens and coastline provide as many lovely walks as your legs can manage. The Ulster Way footpath – which runs for more than 550 miles around all six counties – is at its best in the stretch between Glenarm, Ballycastle, and the Giant’s Causeway.

Each of the nine glens is ripe for exploring, but Glenariff is said to be the loveliest. At Glenariff Forest Park there are 2,000 acres of woodland and an idyllic waterfall to explore.

Relax on the beach
Ballygally, Glenarm, Carnlough, Cushendall and Cushendun have good beaches for bucket-and-spade fun, and the Causeway Coast has vast sandy stretches of blue flag seaside heaven – among the best are Ballycastle, Portstewart and, at Portrush, White Rocks and the East and West Strands. Surfing and bodyboarding are popular. Gear can be hired in surf shops.

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

At White Rocks the chalk cliffs have been carved into strange shapes. A visit to 16th century Dunluce Castle is essential: the ruins crown a basalt outcrop 100ft high. A couple of miles west of Portrush is Ireland’s longest beach – seven mile Benone Strand.

Giant’s Causeway
These weird and wonderful basalt columns – mostly hexagonal, some 40ft high – spread out from the foot of the cliffs into the sea, with clusters rising up in organ-pipe formation. Mesmerised visitors may ponder its creation – scientific theories about volcanic activity are usually dropped (certainly by the time you’ve finished your first Guinness) in favour of the legend that the giant Finn McCool built the Causeway so he could visit his mistress on the distant Scottish shore.

There’s a 14-mile coastal walk from the Causeway along a cliff path to the ruins of Dunseverick Castle, then on to the sands of Whitepark Bay and finally to Carrick-a-Rede bridge, owned by the National Trust. This 50ft rope bridge stretches across an 80ft drop to a tiny island once used by fishermen to catch migrating salmon.

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