Guide To The Giants Causeway

The Giants Causeway at sunrise looking out over the basalt columns towards the sea

The Ultimate Guide of the Giant’s Causeway

The Giants Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, is a unique natural wonder and one of the highlights of Northern Ireland. It is a breathtaking sight just 9 miles along the Causeway Coastal Route from Portrush.

The Unesco World Heritage Site is situated near Bushmills on the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. It is regarded as the most sought-after tourist spot in Northern Ireland, attracting visitors from across the globe. For many tourists visiting Belfast and Northern Ireland, a tour of the Giant’s Causeway is a highly anticipated experience.

The Antrim Causeway Road is known for its stunning landscapes and is a popular destination for those interested in Game of Thrones and legends of the Giant’s Causeway. Visitors can enjoy walking the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, exploring the romantic ruins of Dunluce Castle, and visiting charming villages and towns in Northern Ireland. Additionally, Belfast offers a unique experience, including celebrating Christmas.

A view over the Giants Causeway Toward Portrush

Facts and history of the Causeway.

The Unesco World heritage Site?

The Giant’s Causeway and the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered a remarkable area of global geological significance. Each year, more than a million visitors come to witness this natural wonder on a Tour or at one of the visitor centre’s exhibition

The Causeway Stones are a promontory on the Causeway Coast comprised of interconnected polygonal basalt columns formed by volcanic activity. This section of the Antrim Coast boasts over 40,000 basalt Columns, these weathered rock formations were formed about 60 million years ago

How was the Giant’s Causeway formed?

The Causeway was formed around 50 to 60 million years ago during intense volcanic eruptions. The molten basalt lava that was thrown up through Antrim’s chalk beds formed a lake of lava. As the lava cooled and contracted, cracks formed the neatly packed columns of hexagonal stones and pillars that we see today, which are known as the 8th Wonder of the World.

Hexagonal patterns, similar to those seen at the Giant’s Causeway, can be found across the world, including locations such as the Devil’s Postpile in the US, Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa in Scotland, Swartifoss Waterfall in Iceland, and Los Prismas Basálticos in Mexico, among others.

See here for a great article on other places as spectacular as the World Heritage Site

Giants Causeway Legend

In ancient times, there was an Irish giant Finn McCool, or Fionn Mac Cumhaill in Irish, who lived in Ireland. He was known for being 54 feet tall and possessing incredible strength. Finn was married to Oonagh and resided on the Antrim Coast.

Over on a Scottish Island, there was a giant named Benandonner who considered himself to be the strongest giant in the world. He would antagonize and taunt Finn from across the waters. One day, Finn became extremely angry and threw a chunk of earth at him. Unfortunately, the chunk missed and fell into the Irish Sea, forming the Isle of Man. The hole created by the earth chunk became known as Lough Neagh.

Both Finn and Benandonner built causeways to connect Scotland and Ireland, with each giant working for weeks on their respective paths.

Finn and Benandonner met at the paths’ intersection. Finn was surprised by the enormous size of the Scottish giant. Benandonner hadn’t noticed Finn yet, so, in a hurry, Benandonner went back home seeking Oonagh’s assistance. Oonagh, being clever, disguised Finn as a baby and placed him in a large cradle. When Benandonner knocked on the door, Finn pretended that the baby was crying. Seeing the “baby,” Benandonner wondered how massive the Irish Giant Fionn must be if the baby was that huge. Filled with fear, Benandonner quickly returned home, destroying the causeway behind him so Finn couldn’t pursue him.

Where is the Giant’s Causeway?

The Giant’s Causeway is located on the Antrim Coastal Route, just a 15-minute drive from Portrush near the village of Bushmills. It is also in close proximity to Dunluce Castle and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, approximately 10 and 15 minutes away, respectively. The Causeway Coast has been a popular filming location for Game of Thrones and there are several pubs and restaurants along the route that display the carved tours from the fallen trees in the Dark Hedges.

What is a Giants Causeway tour?

A Giants Causeway Tour is a guided excursion that takes visitors to one of Northern Ireland’s popular attractions, the Giants Causeway. The tour usually includes transportation from Belfast or Dublin, a knowledgeable tour guide, stops along the Causeway Coastal Route such as Dunluce Castle or the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and an opportunity to explore the unique basalt columns of the Giants Causeway.

Tour the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast

If you want to go to the Giants Causeway from Belfast City and have rented a car, it is an easy drive. The distance is around 51 miles and it takes about an hour and a half. You can park at the Giant’s Causeway Railway Park near Bushmills Village. The tram ride to the Causeway takes 20 minutes. If you take the tram, parking is free and the ticket prices are £5.00 for adults and £3.00 for children.

Visitors have the option to park at the Giant’s Causeway Railway park for a fee of £6.00 per car per day. From there, they can easily walk to the stones without any additional cost.

What is the best time to book a Giants Causeway tour?

The recommended time to book a Giants Causeway tour is during the summer months of June through August when the weather is usually warmer and drier. It is advised to book in advance due to the high demand during this time.

What is the Causeway Coastal Route?

The Causeway Coastal Route is a scenic roadway located along the northern coast of Northern Ireland. The route features various attractions, including the Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle, and the Giants Causeway.

What other attractions are typically included in a Giants Causeway tour?

Along the Causeway Coastal Route, popular attractions such as Dunluce Castle, Carrickfergus Castle, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and the Bushmills Distillery are often included in most tours, in addition to the Giants Causeway.

How long does a Giants Causeway tour typically last?

A typical Giants Causeway tour typically lasts between 1 to 3 hours, depending on the tour company, itinerary, and any additional stops…..and how fit you are as its a long steep walking trails such as the Blue Trail

Are there Giants Causeway guided tours?

When you go on a pre-booked tour, all Giants Causeway tours are led by an experienced tour guide who will provide information about the attraction, the surrounding area, and answer any questions you may have.

There are also audio guides included in the visitor experience ticket price. These use hand held audio guides from the national trust award winning storytelling team, so can enjoy a guided tour of the visitor’s centre, world hertiage site and the four walking trails at your own pace. We highly recomend the Blue trail for discover some spectacular views of northern ireland’s visitor experience.

What is the cost of a Giants Causeway tour?

The cost of a guided Giants Causeway tour varies depending on factors such as the tour company, itinerary, and additional stops. Prices generally range from £25 per person for a basic bus tour to £100 to £300 per person for more luxurious or private tours along the county antrim stepping stones.

Full details of tours can be found here

As part of the visitor experience entrance price you can pick up an audio guide at the rear entrance to the Visitor’s centre. They are available in many languages

Giant’s Causeway Tour from Belfast

Experience the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Giant’s Causeway on a full-day trip from Belfast. With the guidance of a knowledgeable tour guide, journey through the stunning countryside of Northern Ireland by luxury coach. Finally, reach the Giant’s Causeway and marvel at the breathtaking scenery.

Day Tour from Dublin to the Giant’s Causeway

The drive from Dublin, Ireland to the Giant’s Causeway takes approximately 3 hours. Additionally, there are various tours available from Dublin that allow you to explore the Causeway Coast.

The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre

In 1986, a Visitor Centre was opened to coincide with its addition to list of Unesco world heritage sites. Unfortunately, it was damaged by a fire in 2000. However, a new state-of-the-art educational visitor centre was built and opened in July 2012.

Is there a fee to see the Giant’s Causeway or is there a way to visit for free? The Giant’s Causeway is free to visit and there is a charge for the car park at the Causeway Visitor Centre, which provides parking and access to the Centre, not the Causeway itself. You can also use the Car Park at the Giants causeway Railway for £5 and walk the 50m or so up the hill when you visit giant’s causeway.

We would recommend using a car park as the police are notorious for issuing tickets on the Causeway Road which would put a damper on your visitor experience

How much does it cost to go to the Giants Causeway? If you wish to use the Visitor’s Centre and its parking you will be charged per Adult £13.50, and per Child £6.75.

How to get into Giants Causeway for free

The National Trust Giant’s Causeway visitor centre is located approximately one mile away from the Causeway itself, and is not directly connected to it. Some visitors may mistakenly believe that parking and paying at the visitor centre is the only way to access the Causeway. It is advisable to consider alternative options as the visitor centre may not fully benefit the local community and the admission fee for seeing the Causeway may be considered excessive.

The cost of parking at the Visitors Centre is an extortionate £13.50 per person and 6.75 per child in the vehicle so it isn’t a one-off fee per car.

Hikers have the option to start at Portballintrae and walk along the coast to the Causeway, which runs alongside the tram line and Bushfoot Golf Club. You can also walk along the side of the train tracks from Bushmills

Visitors can also experience the hospitality of The Nook pub, conveniently located beside the Causeway. If requested, parking is available free of charge. We had a delightful lunch at the pub and enjoyed the cozy atmosphere of the open fire before taking a leisurely walk to the Causeway. From The Nook, it is a brief stroll to the tunnel behind the visitor’s centre, where a bus can be caught to reach the Causeway.

The final option, although not strictly free, is to buy a national trust membership. This will get you in for free along with other national trust sites such as Mussenden Temple, Portstewart Strand and more along the county antrim coast.

How long does it take to see the Giant’s Causeway?

The average time to explore the Giant’s Causeway is approximately 2-3 hours. To save energy, you can take the small bus located behind the Visitor’s Center after the tunnel. The bus fare is £1 for a roundtrip down to the Coast and back up.

Giant’s Causeway Weather

It is recommended to visit the Giant’s Causeway during the summer season, either early to late spring or early to late fall, in order to avoid crowds and experience pleasant weather. However, due to the location the weather can be changable and often windy. We have visited many times where its warm and sunny at the visitor’s centre thenonce you get passed hamilton’s seat the wind chills you to the bone. Many have been found sheltering from the wind beneath the chimney stacks or at the interpretation area

What to see at the Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway Coast route offers various hiking and walking options, including four trails within the site suitable for all abilities and ages. As you continue through the tunnel, follow the roadway down the steep slope until you reach the Stookans or Windy Gap, which is completely exposed to the elements.

The Giant’s Causeway consists of three sections: Little Causeway, Middle Causeway (also known as the Honeycomb), where visitors can observe the impressive black basalt hexagonal columns.

Giant’s Causeway, The Organ Pipes

The Pipe Organ is a rock formation located above Port Noffer, characterized by tall and straight columns that resemble organ pipes. It can be observed by following the path beyond the Causeway for a short distance.

The Grand Causeway includes the Wishing Well, Wishing Chair, and the Giant’s Gate, all of which are associated with the legend of Giant Macool.

From here, you can proceed to Port Noffer, which offers a contrasting environment characterized by its sheltered location. This area is known for its abundant bird species and vegetation.

Giant’s Causeway Boot

Visitors can climb the small slope from the Giants Boot to reach the Organ and admire the massive columns. Continuing along, they will come across the headland where the Amphitheatre, a viewing platform, is located. From this spot, one can enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Antrim and take in the views of Rathlin Island and the North Atlantic.

Did you spot the Giant’s Harp and eyes?

By taking the time to climb the steep path with 162 steps, you can access the Shepherd’s Path that leads to the North Antrim Cliff Path. Within half a mile, you will arrive back at the Visitors Centre.

Best time to visit the Giant’s Causeway?

I enjoy visiting the Causeway during the spring and fall, as it attracts a good number tourists without being excessively crowded. Additionally, I appreciate the area during January and February despite the harsh weather conditions, as the sound and sight the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the rocks is captivating.

Guide To The North West 200 Motorcycle Races 2023

Riders coming down the coast road to mILL ROAD CORNER ON THE NORTH WEST 200

Possibly the best and fastest road race in the world

Welcome to the ultimate guide to the North West 200, one of the world’s fastest road races! In this guide, we will take a closer look at the history of the Vauxhall International North West 200, the rider lineup for the upcoming 2023 race, the key riders and competitors to watch out for, the breathtaking attractions of Northern Ireland, and the latest news and updates surrounding this thrilling event.

The North West 200 is one of the world’s most exhilarating and renowned motorcycle road races, held annually on closed roads in Northern Ireland. It features several categories, with the Superbike races being the highlight and crowd-puller of the event.

Superbike races at the North West 200 feature high-powered, 1000cc versions of standard road bikes, modified for competition. These bikes reach speeds over 200 mph on the public roads that make up the 8.9-mile circuit, known for its blend of long straights, fast bends, and challenging chicanes.

The race draws the best riders globally, creating a fiercely competitive field, battling not only against each other but the challenging and unique nature of the road course. The triangular circuit runs between the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine, and Portrush, creating an electrifying atmosphere as spectators line the streets, often within inches of the high-speed action.

Safety is paramount, with stringent regulations and measures in place. Despite these, the race is known for its dangers and has seen several accidents over its history.

The North West 200 is more than a race; it’s a week-long festival of motorcycling, where camaraderie, skill, and sheer thrill come together. It draws fans from all over the world, who come not only for the Superbike races but the entire racing spectacle, celebrating a rich tradition in motorbike racing.

The North West!

The North West 200, held annually in May around the “Triangle” of Portstewart/Portrush/Coleraine, is one of Northern Ireland’s biggest sporting events and one of the world’s fastest road races. 

This is the place to go if you want an adrenaline rush. As you can be up close to the action, you can feel the wind as the bikes speed past, hear the noise reverberating through your chest, and smell those fumes, which, as any bike rider knows, just smell great.

History Of the North West 200

The North West 200 has a rich history that dates back to its first race in 1929. Over the years, it has grown in popularity and has become one of the most anticipated events in the motorcycle racing calendar. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a world-renowned road race, the North West 200 has captivated the hearts of racing enthusiasts.

See our article here on the History of the North West 200


Thursday 11th May – Race Schedule (5pm to 9pm)




Saturday 13th May – Race Schedule (9:15am to 9pm)








Tuesday 9th May – Practice Schedule (9.15am to 3.15pm)

1st Session – NEWCOMERS ONLY 09.45

2nd Session – SUPERSPORT 10.30

3rd Session – SUPERBIKE 11.30

4th Session – SUPERTWIN 12.30

5th Session – SUPERSTOCK 13.30

Thursday 11th May – Practice Schedule (9:15am to 3.15pm)

1st Session SUPERTWIN 09.45

2nd Session SUPERSTOCK 10.45

3rd Session SUPERSPORT 11.45

4th Session SUPERBIKE 12.45


The Road Races (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2014 has been approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly and received Royal Assent. The changes to the road closing legislation now give the International North West 200 organisers, in exceptional circumstances, the ability to move a practice or race day, either one day forward or one day back, giving 24 hours’ notice to the Department for Infrastructure.

Should extreme weather be forecast, the 2023 contingency days could be: Wednesday 10th May and Friday 12th, May 2023.

In lieu of using one of the above full contingency days, organisers may also extend the road closing times on Tuesday 9th and Saturday 13th May 2023 as follows:

Existing Road Closing Contingency 

Tuesday – 9.15am – 3.15pm 5.00pm – 9.00pm

Saturday – 9.15am – 7.00pm 7.00pm – 9.00pm

Any subsequent amendments to the race week schedule will be advertised to the public via the International North West 200 website, BBC NI TV & Radio and the NW200 Facebook and Twitter feed.

See the circuit maps and learn more about vantage points to watch the race. Most locations are free; you park and walk to the course. Our chosen spot is anywhere along the first couple of kilometres.

Rider Lineup for 2023

The 2023 North West 200 race is expected to feature an impressive lineup of talented riders from all over the world. One rider who has consistently dominated the North West 200 is the legendary Michael Dunlop. Known for his exceptional skills and fearless approach, Dunlop will undoubtedly be one to watch.

Exciting Superbike Race

One of the highlights of the North West 200 is the thrilling Superbike race. With speeds reaching up to 200mph, this race is a true test of skill, endurance, and bravery. The competitors push themselves and their bikes to the limit as they navigate the challenging twists and turns of the North West Coast.

What to Expect in the 2023 Race

The 2023 North West 200 race promises to be an exhilarating event filled with nail-biting moments and intense battles for supremacy. One rider who has consistently showcased his dominance in previous races is Michael Dunlop. With his unmatched experience and speed, he is expected to be a strong contender for the top spot.

Dunlop’s Dominance

Michael Dunlop has established himself as the King of the North West with his impressive track record. He has claimed victory in multiple races and continues to push the boundaries of what is possible on a motorcycle. Dunlop’s skill and determination make him a force to be reckoned with in the 2023 race.

Thrilling Superstock Race

In addition to the Superbike race, the Superstock race is another highly anticipated event at the North West 200. This race features production-based motorcycles, adding an element of relatability for motorcycle enthusiasts. The Superstock race is known for its fierce competition and close finishes, making it a must-watch for spectators.

Supertwin Showdown

The Supertwins race brings a unique flavor to the North West 200. With lightweight and nimble bikes, the competitors showcase their skills and tactics in this fiercely contested race. The Supertwins race is often filled with unpredictability and surprises, making it a crowd-favorite every year.

Key Riders and Competitors

Aside from Michael Dunlop, numerous other riders have made their mark on the North West 200. Alastair Seeley, known as the King of the North West, has a remarkable lap record of wins in this prestigious event. Glenn Irwin’s rise to success has also been impressive, and he is considered one of the top contenders in the upcoming race. The Honda Dream Team, consisting of talented riders, is also expected to make a strong showing.

Alastair Seeley: The King of the North West

Alastair Seeley’s name is synonymous with the North West 200. With a record-breaking number of wins, he has cemented his status as the all-time great of this race. Seeley’s skill, experience, and intimate knowledge of the circuit give him a competitive edge over his rivals.

Glenn Irwin’s Rise to Success

Glenn Irwin’s journey to success has been nothing short of remarkable. He has established himself as a formidable force on the motorcycle racing scene and has had considerable success at the North West 200. Irwin’s determination and natural talent make him a strong contender in any race he participates in.

The Honda Dream Team

The Honda Dream Team is a formidable group of riders who have come together to conquer the North West 200. With their collective skills, experience, and the support of Honda, this team is expected to make waves in the upcoming race. Their formidable lineup includes talented riders such as Davey Todd and Jeremy McWilliams.


  • Eight races, four exciting classes: Supersport, Supertwin, Superstock, Superbike
  • 4 hours of exciting timed practice sessions – Tuesday & Thursday
  • Thursday Night Racing – 3 Races
  • Saturday Racing All Day – 5 Races
  • Riders Meet & Greet
  • Vintage Bike & Car Run
  • Paddock Walkabouts
  • Live Music & Entertainment
  • Family Motor Festival
  • Family Fun Village
  • Miss North West 200
  • Fireworks Display


Special Offers, Grandstand Tickets, Paddock Passes and Race Programmes, will be available on the official websiteOfficial Ticket prices and sales. However, we recommend you book your accommodation now!

Accommodation for the North West 200

Tip: click the highlighted text to see accommodation options. 

As you can imagine, with such a popular annual event, hotels and B&Bs in Portrush and Portstewart get booked out quickly for North West 200 week.

Fastest Laps At The NW200

Weather conditions since 2010 have also been inclement, more often than not, but 2016 finally saw perfect weather conditions, so the outright lap record was broken, unsurprisingly. Whilst the Superstock race saw a number of riders set their personal best laps, quicker than what they did in the Superbike race, it was the latter where the outright lap record was set with Michael Dunlop’s dominant victory seeing him lap at 123.207mph, half a second inside Josh Brookes’ old mark.

Despite superb weather in 2018, neither the Superbike nor Superstock lap records but after two years of various movements within the fastest 25 riders, records were finally broken in 2022 when racing resumed after two tears being missed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dunlop’s outright lap record was convincingly broken by no less than five riders with Peter Hickman claiming the record with a stunning lap of 124.799mph in the opening Superbike race. That means he now holds the unique record of being the current outright lap record holder at the NW200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix.

With good weather in 2022, lap records were broken in every class, a sign of motorcycle development in the hiatus with eight of the fastest 25 times coming in the year. Richard Cooper went from the fastest newcomer in 2019, with a speed of 120.659mph and 24thfastest on the charts, to the third fastest rider of all time. Davey Todd was another big moving going from 19th quickest to fourth.

Top 10 riders have now lapped the course at more than 120mph.

1 Peter Hickman 1000cc BMW 2022 Superbike 4m18.753s 124.799mph

2 Glenn Irwin 1000cc Honda 2022 NW200 4m19.048s 124.656

3 Richard Cooper 1000cc Suzuki 2022 NW200 4m19.280s 124.545

4 Davey Todd 1000cc Honda 2022 Superbike 4m19.344s 124.519

5 Dean Harrison 1000cc Kawasaki 2022 Superbike 4m21.572s 123.454

6 Michael Dunlop 1000cc BMW 2016 Superbike 4m22.095s 123.207

7 Josh Brookes 1199cc Ducati 2022 NW200 4m22.236s 123.141

8 Alastair Seeley 1000cc BMW 2017 Superstock 4m22.755s 122.898

9 Lee Johnston 1000cc BMW 2022 Superstock 4m22.764s 122.894

10 Ian Hutchinson 1000cc BMW 2016 Superstock 4m23.175s 122.702

Camping At The NW200

Suppose you are into camping or have a caravan/campervan. In that case, you can take a spot for the week in the official event campsite for £300, including two paddock passes. Note that there is no electric hookup. See more information about the official campsites.

There are also 

Highview Holiday park

Highview Holiday Park in Portrush is a family-friendly camping destination. Offering caravan and tent sites with picturesque views, it’s a stone’s throw from beautiful beaches and local attractions. Amenities include electric hookups, laundry facilities, and a play area, making it an ideal base for the North West 200 and the Causeway Coast.

Maddybenny Farm Campsite

The Maddybenny farm is nicely tucked in behind the track just north of Portrush and with views over Portrush and Scotland. It has 10 hardstanding pitches on gravel for caravans and motorhomes, plus 14 grass tent pitches (some also suit caravans). 

There are 16 electric hookup points too. Set in picturesque surroundings, with mature gardens and plenty of free-range hens, ducks and guinea fowl. Dogs allowed. 

It’s an ideal place for a family holiday, and the campsite has just been enlarged, giving campers the luxury of lots of extra space.

This is where visitors can enjoy a quiet break within easy reach, The North West 200 Track.

Juniper Hill Caravan Park

Juniper Hill Caravan Park in Portrush is strategically positioned for the North West 200 motorbike race. With stunning coastal views, this well-equipped site offers caravan pitches and modern facilities. Its proximity to the race circuit and local amenities makes it a favoured choice for spectators and race enthusiasts looking for a convenient and scenic stay.

Several spots can be found on This Irish Camping Site, such as Wild CampingAire de Service and other places to camp or Glamp in Northern Ireland.

Another option is to make your way to a neighbouring town and, ideally, one well connected by public transport since parking around Portstewart or Portrush that week can be tricky, especially with road closures.

Train links: Portrush and Coleraine have a train service that, although relatively infrequent, is only 10 minutes or so. If you can’t find cheaper accommodation in Coleraine (it is pretty limited as I write this), you can easily catch another train either up the line towards Derry~Londonderry (try Castlerock) or down the line towards Belfast (try Ballymoney).

Bus links: While busses may be impacted by road closures and congestion, you can catch a bus from Portrush (usually hourly), which travels along the coast stopping at towns such as PortballintraeBushmillsBallintoy and Ballycastle. This option works well if you are travelling with family who are not keen on motorsports and prefer sightseeing, a trip to the Bushmills distillery or beach life.



Guide to Coleraine

Seen as the informal capital of the Causeway Coast on the northern coast of Northern Ireland, Coleraine has great historical significance and provides all the modern amenities you may need. 

According to the 2011 Census, the population of Coleraine was 24,634.

Coleraine is usually bustling during the day but becomes quieter at night. The towns of Portrush and Portstewart are nearby and collectively form an area called “The Triangle”, known for its nightlife.

The town is busy all year round and is thriving as it is a favourite destination of many International and National visitors who visit the Causeway Coast. Coleraine is also very close to many of the world’s most impressive pristine beaches, natural attractions, and coastal views.

In the 1960s a Coleraine was chosen as the location for a new university campus, as part of what has become the new Ulster University, the first outside of greater Belfast. This brought and continues to bring many students to the area each winter to the causeway coast and glens areas. They mostly stay in Portstewart or on the University Campus, as such a railway station was built opposite the east entrance.

What Does The Name “Coleraine” Mean?

 Cúil Raithin or Coleraine means “Nook of Ferns” and St Patrick gave the town its name. It is home to 25,000 inhabitants and the peaceful town lies on the longest river in Northern Ireland, the River Bann.

Coleraine Town Centre – The Diamond Centre

Coleraine Diamond

The official town centre is known as ‘The Diamond Centre’ and this area is usually bustling with people. The impressive sandstone Town Hall was built in 1859. Also known as ‘Tidy Town,’ Coleraine has won several awards and there are numerous of places to sit and watch the world go by among the dazzling floral displays.

Shopping in Coleraine

Shopping in Coleraine is pleasurable and safe due to the town centre only being open to pedestrians. Several high street chain stores have shops in Coleraine and this is supplemented by many cafes, independent local businesses, pubs, and restaurants. The locals love the two independent department stores, Dixons and Moores, as these provide great all round shopping for everyone. They each have a restaurant and have been part of the local scenery for many years.

Culture and Leisure

There are many opportunities for both outdoor and indoor leisure pursuits. There is a leisure centre in town that is open 7 days per week and offers a gym, pools, sports hall, café, and health suite.

In Coleraine, you can indulge in many forms of outdoor activities, including swimming, soccer, gliding, cycling, fishing, water sports, archery, sky diving, rugby, climbing, snorkelling, tennis, clay pigeon shooting, athletics, surfing, diving, bowling, putting, golf, boating, orienteering, and pony trekking.

A choice of three main local parks may be visited, and each offers something different for visitors. There are also many coastal, inland, parkland, and forest walking trails around Coleraine.

The Arts and Entertainment

The North Coast’s Premier Entertainment Centre, Jet Centre is a hugely popular local attraction. It is situated over the new bridge, on the road west to Londonderry and just off the roundabout. This indoor complex offers entertainment for children and adults alike. The centre features ten-pin bowling, multiple cinemas, a pool hall, a diner, and an amusement arcade.

Jet Centre is also home to ‘Alley Cats,’ a massive indoor climbing play park with nets, ropes, balls, and slides, offering endless thrill possibilities for children. You will also be able to enjoy a cuppa and relax whilst being right next to the action.

One of Northern Ireland’s oldest professional theatres, Coleraine’s Riverside Theatre, is well-loved and known. It offers world-class entertainment as well as Outreach, an excellent youth drama programme.

The theatre is operated jointly by the Borough Council and the University of Ulster, and several excellent, well-known actors have at some stage performed there. These include one such local hero, James Nesbitt. In 1978 he gave an exceptional performance in Oliver as Fagin, and his international career continues to go from strength to strength.

Coleraine Tempestuous History

Coleraine and the surrounding area have significant historical value as it is the first known settlement of humans in Ireland in about 5935 BC. At the start of the 17th century, it also became the first town in the ‘Plantation of Ulster’. As you explore the area, you will find plenty of evidence of this uncommon heritage.

Coleraine’s pre-plantation history is turbulent. At the time, Ireland was divided into kingdoms which were each governed by a Chieftain. Due to the clashes of Coleraine’s clans, the town was settled many times over the years.

In 1607, King James 1 colonised Ulster after the Flight of the Earls in what was known as ‘The Plantation of Ulster.’ The Honourable Irish Society’ was then formed to fund the building of a new fortified town. They were enticed by promises of timber and salmon fishing.

Coleraine Potted History

Mountsandel is a Mesolithic site that is dated from about 5935 BC and it contains some of the earliest evidence of human settlement in Ireland. Saint Patrick named the town after he was offered a piece of ground covered by ferns to build a church. A potted history of Coleraine can be found by visiting Coleraine Potted History

The Troubles

Coleraine in CountyLondonderry Northern Ireland saw 13 fatalities during the Troubles, ten resulting from two car bomb explosions with contrasting contexts.

On June 12th 1973, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a car bomb on Railway Road without providing an adequate warning. As a result, six Protestant civilians in their 60s and 70s were tragically slain. The second most deadly incident happened two years later, on October 2nd 1975; all four fatalities, in this case, were members of the loyalists.

Two civilians without links to paramilitaries were among the three people shot and murdered in Coleraine. Danny Cassidy, a Sinn Féin electoral worker, was identified as one of them. At the same time, the other two were believed to be targeted by the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the UVF.

Coleraine Today

Coleraine is nowadays an affluent large town that is accessed easily by bus, train, and car. As the town utilises a one-way system everywhere, the traffic moves smoothly and there are ample parking opportunities.

Coleraine has abundant walking trails, both in the town itself and in the surrounding parks, beaches, forests, rivers, and rocks. The world-class cycling tracks include the National Cycle Network, which opened in May 2001 and crosses the Millennium Bridge.

As the Atlantic Ocean and the River Bann are easily accessible, many types of water recreational pursuits are possible. Coleraine is a big town and is ready for City Status. It is also near Portstewart, Portrush, Castlerock, Bushmills, Ballycastle, and Portballintrae and within a few minutes drive to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, the Mussenden Temple, and Dunluce Castle.


Coleraine, located close to the Causeway Coastal route, that attracted more than two million visitors annually.

Castlerock, a small village located northwest of Coleraine, is home to a beach which continues from the one found at Portstewart, separated by the mouth of the River Bann. 

Portrush and Portstewart are just a few miles north of the town and are the main tourist attractions in the area. With a number of spectacular, Blue Flag, beaches, promenades and of course the famous Barrys (now Currys) amusements. 

Mussenden Temple is also not far away. Frederick Augustus Hervey constructed the latter in the 18th century and has views of County Donegal and Scotland. Downhill House, the residence of Hervey and managed by the National Trust, suffered disrepair after WWII.

The Giants Causeway, The region is also home to the Giants Causeway a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Carrick -a rede – The Ropebridge is only a few miles away on the Antrim Coast road and is a spectacular site to see.

Dunluce Castle – Th ruins of this Irish castle are know far and wide through its setting in many movies, tv programs and even music videos.

The North West 200

The Causeway Coast plays host to one of the fastest road races, in the world, the ‘North West 200’ every May. The public roads between Portstewart, Portrush, and Coleraine get turned into high-speed (up to 200 miles per hour) tracks, and it is one of the last of its kind in Europe.

The race is unbelievably thrilling to watch, and standing next to the roads presents the best views of the powerful bikes speeding by. The event makes for a busy time at the Causeway Coast, as an additional 150,000 people come to watch Ireland’s biggest outdoor sporting event every year.

Places of interest

The east side of the town is characterized by Mountsandel Forest, containing the ancient site of Mount Sandel fort. This has been identified as the oldest site of human settlement in Ireland, containing wooden houses dating back to 7000 BC. The fort can be reached through the Mountsandel forest near Coleraine Courthouse or another located two miles south of Mountsandel near the village of Loughan.

There is a Town tour, funded as part of the 400 year celebrations of the town by causeway coast and glens district council, with all of the historical buildings that can be found here

Mountsandel Fort

The remains of Mountsandel Fort can be found in the middle of the magnificent Mountsandel Forest. Now declared a State Care Historic Monument, the Fort dates back to 7000BC and the early Iron and Mesolithic Ages. It is located at the edge of a steep river bluff that drops into the River Bann on the side of the river opposite to the town.

Mountsandel Wood

Mountsandel Fort can be reached via a 2-mile walking trail. As the trial is circular, either the upper or lower or path can be taken along the banks of the River Bann and through the forest.

Coleraine has been frequented in the past by Neolithic and Mesolithic man, Saints, Vikings, Norsemen, Chieftains, Barons, Earls, heroes and Rebels. Man has known for thousands of years that Coleraine is a stunning place to live!

Phoenix Peace Fountain

In Anderson Park the Phoenix Peace Fountain can be found for public enjoyment. Originally a gift from the USA, each symbol on Phoenix Peace Fountain has a specific meaning. To be able to read the full dedication on its six base platforms, you’ll have to walk completely around the fountain. The world famous Giant’s Causeway ancient rocks’ hexagonal shapes can be recognized easily.

The modern commercial harbour and Marina is a mile from town, in the direction of Portstewart and slightly off the main road. It offers excellent facilities that include powered moorings for sailing of all kinds as well as fishing, water skiing and canoeing. There are also 7 championship golf courses within a few miles of Coleraine.


Coleraine was the headquarters of the Coleraine Borough Council until 2015 when it was merged into the Causeway Coast and Glens District Council. The latter is currently based in the former Coleraine Borough Council headquarters.

The East Londonderry constituency for Westminster Parliamentary and Northern Ireland Assembly elections comprises the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council area and the adjacent County Londonderry, even though parts of this constituency are located in County Antrim.

In 2014, the residents elected 3 councillors from the Democratic Unionist Party, 2 from the Ulster Unionist Party, 1 from the Progressive Unionist Party, 1 from the Northern Ireland Conservatives and 1 from the Social Democratic and Labour Party.


Coleraine’s climate is maritime, featuring cool summers and mild winters. The nearest Met Office weather station used to be at Ulster University Coleraine, but no records are available anymore. The nearest observing station is Magilligan, roughly 5 km away or the Giants Causeway roughly 9 km away. Rainfall typically peaks over 100 mm in October, while May has the lowest average of under 60 mm.




Ballycastle County Antrim in Northern Ireland is a small town nestled in Antrim County. Ballycastle lies between ancient rocks, forests, and glens. The town has five thousand inhabitants, and it is the Causeway Coast’s Eastern Gateway to the Causeway Coastal Route.

Eastern Gateway of the Causeway Coast

The town of Ballycastle is a popular tourist destination located 47 miles north of Belfast along the causeway coast, often known locally as the Antrim Coast, and 19 miles East of Coleraine.

It is a perfect base for a Causeway Coast Holiday on the northern coast of Northern Ireland and is also a top-rated day-trip destination.

Auld Lammas Fair

Its age-old Auld Lammas Fair has made Ballycastle famous, and the festival celebrates the harvest. In August, the festival, which dates back to the 17th century, attracts more than 150,000 visitors from Northern Ireland and elsewhere to historic Ballycastle.

With hundreds of market stalls that offer all kinds of hand-crafted pieces, produce, and artisan wares, the Ould Lammas Fair is an exciting event to explore. The harvest is celebrated with the music of all locations and types, delicious food choices, sweet and savoury, and many other fete festivities.

Baile a Chaistil

The Irish name of Ballycastle is ‘Baile a Chaistil’, and it means the ‘town of the castle’.

Ballycastle Strand

Ballycastle Strand

The Blue Flag Ballycastle Beach (Strand) offers excellent views of the Mull of Kintyre and Rathlin Island just off the shore. Ballycastle Strand is slightly less than a mile long and is perfect for water sports, swimming and surfing. It is close to Ballycastle town, making it is very popular with both visitors and locals. Although there is no seasonal lifeguard service at Ballycastle Strand, the beach is safe for swimming.

The West side of the beach begins at the Ballycastle Marina’s pier, where the Glenshesk River flows into the ocean. The Ballycastle Seafront is an exciting mixture of graciously rounded landscaped gardens running from the Marina to the Foot Bridge that crosses the Glenshesk River and leads to the main beach.

The Eastern end of the beach is at Pans Rock. This fascinating rocky outcrop juts out to the sea and is famous for fishing and rock climbing.

The Ballycastle Golf course offers a championship course with 18-holes and is open to both non-members and members around the year.


Ballycastle’s heritage is vibrant, and there are more than 50 buildings listed within the ‘18th Century Conservation Area’. The Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland describes Ballycastle as having the biggest of traditional shop frontages in Ireland. ( (pdf)

One can easily walk around for hours to experience Ballycastle’s rich past by visiting its well-preserved old buildings. This experience is unequalled anywhere else in Ireland. Located behind The Diamond, the heart of Ballycastle Town, the Georgian sandstone Holy Trinity Church can be found. It was built between 1752 and1756 and features sundial and clock spire faces.

Another building of interest is the Ballycastle Market House. This two-storey building dates back to about 1830.

The Ballycastle Museum contains loads of historical information about the town and is open to the public every July and August.

Historic past

Although mostly ruins, declared a State Care Historical Monument, Kinbane Castle is 5 kilometres from Ballycastle by the edge of the ocean on the road leading to Ballintoy Colla MacDonnell built the castle in 1547.

Bonamargy Friary, as Ballycastle Friary is also known, was established in 1485 and declared a State Care Historic Monument. Bonamargy Friary and the graves found there, such as several of the Earls of Antrim’s graves and that of Sorley Boy MacDonnell, have great historical significance. The Friary is situated on the edge of Ballycastle’s Golf Course, on Ballycastle and off Cushendall Road. From there, it is only a short walk to Ballycastle’s seafront.

There are many natural wonders in the area of which Fair Head is one. This impressive headland rises out of the bay and is 643 feet high, making it a significant rock-climbing location, apart from offering outstanding natural beauty. The National Trust owns much of Fair Head’s areas and conserves its natural beauty.

The 1695 feet high heather-covered Knocklayde mountain offers breathtaking views over Ballycastle, Fair Head, Scotland, and Rathlin Island.

Ballycastle Marina

The Ballycastle Marina is Blue Flag rated, and the Ballycastle Harbour is still operating. The Marina is one of only 2 in Northern Ireland with this prestigious accolade. The Marina started in 1999, is situated within the inner harbour and has 74 berths. Toilets and parking are available, and the Ballycastle Visitor Information Centre is also located at the Marina.

Rathlin Island Ferry in County Antrim

The Rathlin Island Ferry Company currently operates between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle.

As the only inhabited offshore island of Northern Ireland, Rathlin has a population of just more than 100 inhabitants. Home to thirty different bird species, it is a Special Area of Conservation and is popular with Bird Watchers. Rathlin Island is the northernmost point of the Glens Area of Outstanding Beauty and the Antrim Coast.




Castlerock is a small seaside village 5 miles west of Coleraine and the Western Gateway of the Causeway Coast route on the north coast of Northern Ireland. It is a perfect blend of the present and the past. This town has less than fifteen hundred inhabitants but attracts many visitors in season due to a variety of places to visit being nearby, a naturally beautiful landscape, and great amenities.

Natural Beauty

Castlerock is an area of outstanding natural beauty and it starts at the lower River Bann estuary, 5 miles west of Coleraine in the direction of Londonderry and Limavady. 

It is within the Benevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is surrounded by nature in many forms.

There is a small selection of tea shops, local shops, pubs, and restaurants, as well as a Community Centre and Village Green in the heart of the town.

The exceptional Blue Flag beaches at Benone, Downhill, and Castlerock, and the excellent championship golf course draws flocks of visitors each year.

Castlerock’s Heritage and Architecture

Castlerock’s remaining architecture clearly demonstrates its Settlement History. A Heritage walking tour in town showcases many late 19th century buildings including The Villas (1860), the Presbyterian Church (1880), Castlerock Train Station (1853), Twelve Apostles (1882), and Christ Church (1882). The Tunnel and Railway were constructed in about 1845.

The famous row of houses known as the “Twelve Apostles” is located above the beach. They are quite small but cute inside, and several have been renovated and extended at the back to take advantage of the magical location.

Hezlett House, One of Oldest Buildings in

Northern Ireland

When driving to Castlerock via the main A2 turnoff, the 17th century Hazlett House can be seen one mile south of the town on the corner of Sea Road.

This is an amazing example of a well-preserved Thatched Cottage. At Halloween each year, the ancient cottage is transformed into a scary haunted house.

Hazlett House is now owned by The National Trust and visitors can step back in time as they explore the well-manicured cottage grounds and the inside of the cottage to experience what life was like in the late 1600s. This is one of Northern Ireland’s oldest buildings and hot drinks and snacks are offered at the reception area. 

Castlerock Beach and The Promenade

Catlerock Strand

Castlerock beach with its golden sand is slightly less than a mile long, and the fresh air, breathtaking views, and friendly people make it well worth visiting. Castlerock’s sand dunes lie west of the lower River Bann estuary, with Portstewart Strand located on the other side of the estuary.

The Rural Beach Seaside Award was awarded to Castlerock Beach in 2014. The award is based on the 15 criteria to ‘Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful’.  This environmental charity aims to make Northern Ireland a more pleasant and cleaner place in which to live.

Castlerock Beach is beautiful and the perfect environment to play with the kids, canoeing, surf, swim, fish, ride horses, and more. Parking and toilets are available and dogs are permitted at certain times of the year. Seasonal RNLI beach lifeguards are available from June 1 to September 15.

The Promenade offers opportunities to cycle and walk while enjoying the views of the Donegal hills. A winding walk down to Castlerock Beach is also available from Donegal hills. Exploring the small bays is a perfect way to reach the Promenade and main Castlerock Beach, whilst you can also climb rocks and fish in rock pools along the way.

Downhill Forest

Maintained by the National Trust, Downhill Forest is located to the South East of Castlerock. The forest consists of 80 hectares of mixed woodland and is the perfect place to walk or orienteer at the permanent course. The Forest Café provides refreshments along the way.

C S Lewis

It is interesting to know that C. S. Lewis, the author of the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Lion, and other classics, as a young child spent many holidays at Castlerock travelling from Belfast. It is very easy to envisage that his imagination was sparked by the majesty, myth, and heritage of the surrounding environment.

Historical Significance

Close to Downhill Estate’s second entrance, you will find School Lane where you can take a leisurely stroll through the grounds of the ruined home originally owned by Frederick Augustus Hervey. The historical Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demense were built in the late 1700s by the 4th Earl of Bristol high on the cliff tops in glorious surrounds overlooking the north Atlantic Ocean.

The Mussenden Temple sits perched right on the cliff’s edge with unparalleled inland, cliff, and coastal views. A visit here will be a treat for all your senses rich and will stay with you for the rest of your life. It is an amazing experience to stand in the spectacular circular stone building virtually hanging over the edge of a 280 ft. towering cliff.

Although the House is in ruins, mainly due to a fire in 1851, there is still enough to see to enable you to imagine the grandiose life in this Stately Home of its time. The National Trust has supplied numerous informative signs to help visitors paint the picture. There are breathtaking 360-degree views from this gorgeous location.

Downhill Demesne

Downhill Demesne, sometimes called Downhill House, is a spectacular mansion built by the eccentric Earl Bishop in the 18th century. Majestically located within open grounds it is a great destination for a day trip. The sheltered gardens of Hezlett House are perfectly suited for a leisurely, enjoyable picnic.

Mussenden Temple

On the edge of the cliffs that look over Downhill Strand, a circular stone building called Mussenden Temple is located. It is near Castlerock and within Downhill Demesne’s grounds. The Temple is open to the public around the year during the day and is run by the National Trust. Built in 1785, the temple first served as a library and its walls were once lined with bookcases.

Castlerock Golf Club

Castlerock Golf Club overlooks more than half of the dunes and main beach.

Castlerock is a championship course and is rated one of ‘Ireland’s finest’ courses. It was founded in 1901. The Golf Course is a peaceful haven set in the naturally beautiful landscape and offers 9 holes on the Bann Course and 18 holes on the Mussenden Course.

A Pro Shop, Clubhouse, Bar, and Restaurant are also available.

Castlerock by Train

The peaceful and relaxed holiday destination of Castlerock can be reached by train, either from Londonderry or Coleraine. The train station was opened in the mid-19th century and was one of the main catalysts for the growth of what was once only a tiny fishing hamlet.

The trip from Londonderry to Castlerock by train is amazing, and it passes spectacular views of Inishowen, Donegal, and stunning scenery alongside Lough Foyle.

Just before arriving at Castlerock Train Station, there is a long tunnel ride through Tunnel Brae. This is a unique and spectacular train ride and to a fortunate few, it’s their daily commute. A regular public bus service is also available.

Downhill Beach

Downhill Beach is below and to the west of Mussenden Temple and is the beginning of a seven miles strand of dunes and sand and going all the way to Magilligan Point, where it ends at Benone Strand. This beach is one of Ireland’s longest and it has been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag award.

It stretches all the way to the ferry at Donegal, Magilligan Point, and Lough Foyle. It is possible to drive right onto the beach and park.

A walk near the west side of Tunnel Brae will take you towards Mussenden Temple high on the clifftop. If you’re fortunate enough, you may even see a train come speeding out from the tunnel. It’s an experience not easily forgotten.

Benone Strand

One of the most popular beaches on the Causeway Coast, Benone Strand, not only attract locals but also visitors. The Benone Strand’s golden soft sandy beach stretches out for seven miles and offers spectacular views of Donegal and Benevenagh Mountain. Downhill and Mussenden Temple are in one direction with Lough Foyle and Magilligan Point on the opposite side.

Lough Foyle and Magilligan Point can be reached via a leisurely walk along the peaceful and stunning beach.

This beach is also great for adventure sports like Kite Surfing, Jet Skiing, Surfing, and Gliding. During the high season from July and August, a lifeguard is on duty. Dogs are not allowed on Benone Strand between May and September, but horse riding is available at certain times. Fishing, Canoeing, Cycling, Swimming, and Walking are available all year round.


The Magilligan area has both conservational and historical significance. Magilligan Point’s Martello Tower is an example of the small defensive forts that were built during the 19th century to defend against a possible attack by Napoleon’s forces. This 32 square mile reserve is adjacent to Lough Foyle.


portstewart prom from harbour hill at dusk


Portstewart in Northern Ireland is a classy tourist destination on the north coast with a gorgeous harbour, a spectacular beach, the championship Portstewart golf club, promenade, great cafes, parks, restaurants, outdoor swimming pools, and ice cream parlours, as well as a children’s pleasure beach and sand dunes to explore.

Portstewart has many places to relax while watching the world go by and is one of the major tourist attractions on the Causeway Coast. This seaside Port on the north Antrim coast was well loved in the Victorian era, and it has managed to retain both its public appeal and heritage.

Not many golf clubs in the British Isles have 3 course, but Portstewart County Londonderry is one of them.

Peaceful Haven

Portstewart Pom from the Big Wheel

Portstewart is a beautiful Seaside Town on the north coast of Northern Ireland in the county Londonderry and there is plenty to do for the whole family. This gorgeous holiday destination gets lots of visitors who love to spend time on the Causeway Coast but are looking for a more peaceful sanctuary. The relaxed atmosphere provides a pleasurable escape from the everyday hustle and bustle.

Despite the peaceful atmosphere, there is lots to do in Portstewart for both adults and children and in the summer months, parking space close to the town centre is at a premium as the locals flock in to spend some time at the Promenade.

Portstewart Crescent

Portstewart Crescent is just off the Promenade and it has been recently been refurbished. There is a fair amount of parking close by. The outdoor play area provides hours of fun and offers a boating lake, paddling pools, paddle board, fountain, park, shops, karting, bandstand, and cafes. There is also a viewing area with plenty of outdoor covered seating.

The first of its kind fountain in Europe, comprises 33 small water jets which are arranged in three rows of 11. The water pulses to the beat of the music and this creates a captivating light, water, and music show.

Dining and Entertainment in Portstewart

Portstewart has many eateries. On the Portstewart Promenade, the well-known Morelli’s serves award winning ice cream that is absolutely delicious and is available in many mouth-watering flavours. A Knickerbocker Glory is totally impressive. Morelli’s is open daily from 9 am until 10 pm and hot food is served until 8pm. Morelli’s has been founded in the early 1900’s and it is very popular with visitors to Northern Ireland and locals.

The Anchor Complex is the centre of Portstewart nightlife scene and it features the Aura Nightclub, Anchor Bistro and Anchor Bar, often visited by tourists and locals alike.

Dancing is available upstairs at the Havana Night Club, or you can enjoy a drink in the bar and dine in the restaurant at Shenanigans on the Promenade.

The Flowerfield Arts Centre is the first Arts Centre that was established in Northern Ireland, and it hosts great concerts and creative events.  The Arts Centre has Art Exhibitions around the year and offers a substantial range of arts and crafts courses for children and adults. These include dying, jewellery making, calligraphy, weaving, and much more. It is set in a Victorian Mansion that has a colourful history and was built in 1855.

Old O’Hara Castle

Old OHaras Castle

Built in 1834, O’Hara Castle now functions as Dominican College, and the building provides an impressive backdrop as you look out over the golden sand dunes to the Atlantic Ocean from the Portstewart Promenade. The waves crashing over the black rocks is a truly impressive sight.

The cliff path forms part of the Causeway Coast Way, and come be taken from Dominican College to the Portstewart Strand and provides some of the most stunning coastal views in the world’s. Soak up the amazing vistas of the River Bann estuary, the beach, Donegal, Lough Foyle, and Scotland in the distance.

Portstewart Strand

Portstewart Strand at Sunset

The strand at Portstewart lies on the Atlantic Ocean, is 2 miles long and this Golden Sand Beach is Blue Flag certified and is one of Northern Ireland’s finest beaches. The prestigious Blue Flag award is earned be beaches that meet the highest standards for safety, water quality, and environmental information and education.

Portstewart Strand’s Western boundary is at the River Bann estuary, while the Portstewart Golf Club forms the Eastern boundary. Portstewart Strand is run by the National Trust and it is one of Northern Ireland’s most visited.

Its inherent beauty and pristine waters make Portstewart Strand perfect for swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, and fishing. You can also jog, take a stroll, ride horses or take a walk with your dog. It is simply amazing to wander through the sand dunes.

Access by car is right at the beach, which makes things much easier, especially if you have kids with you. You can set up your picnic supplies from your car’s boot, bring any gear you want without lugging it around, and even enjoy a covered siesta with priceless views.

Although you have to pay to bring your car to the beach in high season, it’s well worth it. National Trust members get parking for free.

There is also a shop that sells beach related equipment, hot drinks, and ice creams. The Mussenden Temple, another attraction on the Causeway Coast, can be seen from Portstewart Strand standing high and majestic on the awe-inspiring cliff.

The Guide to Bushmills


Bushmills Village

Bushmills is a small village on the North Coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Bushmills gets its name from the River Bush, which runs through the village and to a large watermill that was built there in the early 17th century.

Bushmills is classified as a village by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). On Census day (27 March 2011) 1,293 people were living in Bushmills.

Of these:

20.4% were aged under 16, and 21.5% were aged 65 and over

46.6% of the population was male, and 53.4% were female

How to get there

Bushmills lies just 6 miles (9 km) east along the Causeway Coastal Route, past Royal Portrush Golf Course and Dunluce Castle.

From Belfast is around 60 miles (97 km), 11 miles (18 km) from Ballycastle and 9 miles (14 km) from Coleraine.

By Car

The easiest way to get there is via car, which will take around 15 minutes; however, there are several viewpoints such as White Rocks Beach, Magheracross and Dunluce Castle that we recommend you stop and take in the fantastic scenery.

From Belfast and Dublin, the best way is to follow the A2 Causeway Coastal Route, which snakes its way along the coast through some of the most spectacular scenery in Ireland. This route as you can see on the Map Below takes around 2 hours direct…. but its worth taking longer to stop along the way

A screenshot of google maps showing two routes you can talke to get to bushmills from Belfast

However, you can drive straight from Belfast up to the M2 then A26 north towards Ballymoney, turning off at the Portrush Road Roundabout taking the third exit onto the B62 (Ballybogey Rd). Once on the Ballybogey road follow it for 6.7 miles and take a right onto the Priestland Road. Follow this until you get to Bushmills.

Public Transport

From Portrush, you can take the Translink 172 or 402 (Ballycastle) bus from Dunluce Avenue. It takes around 20 minutes and drives along the coast. You can find the timetable here.

If you are coming up from Belfast or Dublin, then one of the simplest ways to get to the castle is by taking a train. You can take a train from Dublin Connolly Station (The Enterprise)  Changing at Belfast Lanyon Place LINK TO TIMETABLE. The train from Dublin to Belfast is around 2 hours and from Belfast to Portrush is approximately 1.5 hours.

You will then have to either get the bus from Dunluce Avenue or take one of the plenty of Taxis  just outside the station.


Walk NI Map Portrush to BushmillsYou can, of course, walk the Causeway Coastal Way from Portrush to Bushmills along the coastal path through Whiterocks Beach, Past Royal Portrush Golf Club, Dunluce Castle and through Portballintrae.

It’s around 7 miles and takes approximately 2.5 hours depending on how many stops you make along the way to take in the scenery.

You can find out more about this walk on the Walk NI Website


An image of bushmills from the 1920s looking north towards the market square

Bushmills village, was initially known as Portcaman, can trace its heritage back to Norman times (1150-1520). The Normans of Bushmills divided the lands into structured deaneries and parishes, each with its church.

The River Bush runs through Bushmills acted as a natural boundary between the parish of Portcaman on the western bank of the river, and the parish of Billy on the Eastern bank. In the mid-1600s, owing to the abandonment of Dunluce Castle and its neighbouring village, Portcaman and Dunluce Parishes merged.

With the development of more advanced use of water-powered industry from the 1600s, the village expanded and developed and the village gained its new name reflecting this. From historical documents, Bushmills was said to have at least seven working mills on the river Bush – corn mills, flax mills, paper, timber and a spade mill – and at least five distilleries.

In the 1690s, with the “Discovery” of the Giants Causeway by Frederick Hervey, Bishop of Derry, owner of Mussenden Temple and Downhill House, and later by Sir Richard Buckley  who presented to the Royal Academy, Bushmills became a gateway and stopping point for eager visitors on their way to see the magnificent grandeur of the Causeway.

With the increase in visitors came a rise in stature of the village. Bushmills by the mid-1800s had at least three hotels, busy livestock and produce market and a thriving distillery. The Macnaghten family built much of the village including the Clock Tower and Market Square, Kane’s Commercial & Family Hotel, The Court House and the new bridge.

An old image of the Bushmills to Giants Causeway Tram outside the Causeway HotelThe world’s first hydro-electric railway came to Bushmills, in 1883, link Portrush, by now a fashionable seaside resort with its railway line to Belfast, and the village.

Ironically, due to the railway line from Portrush extending to the Giants Causeway, Bushmills was now bypassed, and the hotels and local trade went into rapid decline.

With the increased prominence of steam, gas and electricity power, enabling the industry to have their factories closer to the suppliers, the use of water power started to wain, meaning the village was left to rely on the success of the ‘Old Bushmills’ Distillery.

It wasn’t until recent times that tourism began to re-emerge as a significant benefit to the town.

Fortunately for Bushmills, the village suffered very little from unsympathetic property developments of the late 20th century, primarily due to Bushmills being officially designated as a Conservation Village with nearly 90 listed buildings.

Places of Interest

Shell RowAn image of Shell row in bushmills looking up towards the Bushmills Inn and the centre of town

This quaint row of seven cottages on the way out of Bushmills towards the Giants Causeway was built by the Macnaghten family, in 1820, specifically for the families of the workers on the Dundarave Estate.

An image of the window lintel from Shell Row in Bushmills supposedly from the giants causewayIf you look closely at the windows, you may notice that uniquely, under each window the lintel is made of a hexagonal column of Causeway Stone, thought to be from the Giants Causeway. A couple of the cottages also have stones outside the front door.

Over the years the Shell Row Cottages have been home to many workers and former worker for the Mcnaghten family and their nearby estates, including nail makers, farm hands and mill workers, today they are all privately owned.

In April 1928, the cottages hit the headlines when a curious incident occurred.

Mrs Eliza Joab, a laundress for Miss Macnaughten of Runkerry House and Lady Macnaghten of Dundarave House, was ironing clothes using a new petrol iron when it suddenly went on fire.

She threw a piece of heavy cloth on the iron which also ignited. In a bit of a panic she ran out into the yard to get a wet sack, the moment she left the kitchen, there was a tremendous explosion sending the iron through the roof damaging the ceiling and roof slates as well as blowing out the window of the back bedroom — fortunately Miss. Joab who was severely shaken by the experience was unharmed but refused to use a petrol iron for a while.

The Bushmills Railway

The Bushmills to Giants causeway tram or train at the Giants Causeway Station

The Bushmills Terminus is on Ballaghmore Road, opposite Bushmills Primary School. William Traill of Ballylough pioneered the Tramway and engineered by the Siemens Company; this was the worlds first public hydro-electric Tramway.

Powered by the River Bush, the line opened in 1883 between Portrush and Bushmills with a later extension to the Giants Causeway.

The Tram operated on its original route until 1949, when it closed. It reopened in 2002, however, now only runs between Bushmills and the Giants Causeway.

You can find out more about the Bushmills Railway Here

Alphabet Angel

Image of the alphabet angel in bUSHMILLS

The Bronze sculpture, behind the visitor information centre, was created in 2004 by the artist Ross Wilson working with members of the local community. It represents the currency of language and the unique local tongue (dialect) of Ulster-Scots. It was the first public bronze sculpture created to celebrate the Ulster-Scots dialect anywhere in the world.

The Sculpture has a plaque at its base to describe the meaning of the various parts of the Sculpture.

An image of the plaque below the alphabet angel in bUSHMILLS

The paving stones leading up to the Sculpture also have an Ulster-Scots poem inscribed in them.

The Poem reads

Here A stan Lukkin tae this

waitin Ian Whar yince a hirdin weetchil stud

Loast a wee atween dreams an sa

Or dreamin sa Streetchin braid afore him anither ree

Anither flock braid-gethered thranger far

This Ian that cried the dreamer bak for This is hame

James Fenton

The Market Square

Bushmills main-street-toll-and-tower-visitportrush

As part of efforts to improve the villages staus, a market was established in 1827. The square itself was built around 1840 by William Henry Macnaghten and was designed to be the focal point of the new town.

The Market Square, considered to be substantial at the time, had two gates facing towards the street along with covered areas in behind to protect goods like grain during wet market days. Grain, linen yarn, pork, poultry, eggs, milk, vegetables, butter and livestock, were all available at the markets.

Two markets took place each week during the 19th century, a primary market every Tuesday and a smaller market on a Friday. In 1833 a linen market opened but was not successful and subsequently closed.

The town also held four annual fairs March 28th, June 28th, October 22nd and December 12th. These were held out on the street in front of the square. A Hiring Fair also took place twice a year. Men, women and children would come to the twice-yearly Hiring Fairs. Here they line up and offer their services as labourers and domestic servants; many would find employment on local estates, farms and farm homes.

When the Tram opened in 1883, the line ran down to the market square and facilitated the carriage of goods to the harbour at Portrush. Grain, butter and other products would be shipped weekly to England and Scotland.

The Clock Tower

An image of the Clock Tower in the Market Square Bushmills

In order, perhaps, to give the town a bit of gravitas Francis Macnaghten erected the Clock Tower in 1874 on the edge of the Market Square.

It is modelled on classic Irish round towers which were common at monastic sites such as those on Devenish island and Glendalough. John Hall built the tower and today is one of the iconic Bushmills landmarks. An alcove which exists on the front of the tower  once contained a water trough for horses. Before the early 20th century the elegant conical roof of the original tower was replaced with a plainer tapered.

The War Memorial

The Bushmills War Memorial in the market sQUARE WITH THE CLOCK TOWER IN THA BACKGROUND

The Bushmills War Memorial entitled, Situated in the centre of Market Square designed and created by well known Victorian sculptor Charles Leonard Hartwell RA, FRBS, RBC (1873-1951).

The Petty Session District Court of Bushmills raised over £3000 to fund this memorial to the men of the town and surrounding district, who lost their lives in the Great War (1914 – 1918). Before its unveiling in Bushmills, the Sculpture had been on exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. Lady Macnaghten unveiled the statue on November 5th 1921.

Bushmills-War-Memorial-palque-to-Robert-Quigg-VCA plaque at the base was later added to the foot of the memorial in honour of Robert Quigg (1885-1955) who was a recipient of the Victoria Cross for at the Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916.

Today a sculpture of Robert Quigg stands opposite the Bushmills Inn that was unveiled in 2016 by the Queen. You can find out more about Robert Here.

The Courthouse

The front of the old bushmills courthouse

The Old Court House stands on Main Street with its distinctive columnar portico and dominant presence. The Macnaghten family of Dundarave Estate built the Courthouse in 1834, to serve as the Petty Session Court for the district and a symbol of authority in the area.

The building contained a courtroom, cells and police apartments above. The Courthouse served for over 100 years as a Petty Session Court until it became a private residence in the middle of the 20th century.

The old doorway has seen the passage of endless people, answering summonses, seeking justice or merely to witness the court goings on. Most cases heard here were local misdemeanour’s. More severe or ambiguous cases would have a preliminary hearing here and then be passed on to the Crown Courts.

The range of crimes dealt with in the 1800s echoed the poverty of the rural areas. Through the Petty Session reports of Bushmills, we can take a look into the past, beyond the individual cases and into the places, characters and colour that made up everyday life in the village.

From these records, we can see that living conditions then were barely sufficient with homelessness dispossession commonplace. Crimes like poaching, begging, lifting fallen timber, or stealing bread or a free-range chicken were usual.

The last person to live in the Courthouse lived on the ground floor in the early 1960s. A resident fondly remembers her image thus: ‘I remember her standing at the front door in the gathering dusk, her slight figure silhouetted against the oil lamp in the hall behind. No doubt she often wondered what would become of the old place.

Klondyke Terrace

Klondyke Terrace Bushmills

This quaint row of terraced houses was built at the beginning of the 1900s and named after the Klondyke region of the Yukon in North-Western Canada where Gold was discovered in 1896. Funding for the construction of the Terrace came from gold found in the Klondyke, reflecting the widespread emigration and settlement of local people in that area.

The Mills

Currys Mill

An image of cURRYS mill with water wheel on the River Bush in Bushmills

Formerly and locally known as Curry’s Mill, the Mill was named after a former owner James Curry. The Mill is believed to date from circa 1816 and consists of two buildings, a three storey random rubble Mill building and a two storey double Kiln Building with a red brick lean-to at the northern end.

The Corn Mill remained in operation until the early 1950s and in the 1990s was converted to a private residence. In 2012, with assistance from the Bushmills Townscape Heritage Initiative, the Kiln was also converted to residential use, and the Mill Wheel rebuilt.

An Ordnance Survey map of 1832 shows two buildings, one being the existing Kiln building and the other being a building on the site of the primary Mill itself. As the Ordnance Survey map of 1857 has a different configuration the original Mill, which was running parallel to the Kiln and not at 90 degrees as it is now, it must have been replaced before 1857.

Though the Kiln appears to be the same on both the 1832 and 1857 Ordinance Survey maps the stonework variation between both ends would suggest that both parts were built at different times.

The kilns were located on the ground floor with red brick furnaces. There was a very steep single open staircase to the first floor where there was an external door to take the grain. The grain would have been spread out on perforated iron square plates, the perforated holes allowing the heat from the furnaces in the two kiln rooms below to permeate through. When dry, the grain was shovelled into rectangular wooden shutes for collection in sacks below.

The red brick lean-to was a later addition and did not appear on the 1902 Ordnance Survey map. It was used as the Mill Office and had its fire and chimney stack in the corner. Behind the Kiln, the building is the Salmon Fishery which was the site of a Scutching Mill (Flax) that was operating at the same time, part of this old Mill now forms the main central block of the fishery building.

Palmers Mill

am image of Palmers Mill in bushmills. The mill sits on the River Bush and has a wheel attached

Palmer’s Mill, sitting on the eastern bank of the River Bush, is also named after a former owner, acquiring its current name in the 1920s. Palmers Mill is thought to have built between 1825 and 1850. The Mill continued to operate as a corn mill and Kiln for over 100 years until the 1960s when it fell into disuse.

It is believed that an older water powered buildings stood on the site of the current Mill beside a ford that would have been the main crossing point into the village until the construction of the bridge over the River Bush.

The present owners Sam and Jan Huey took on the massive task of completely restoring the old Mill to the condition you see today complete with a fully working water wheel and associated interior mechanisms.

The Mills in Bushmills have always played a significant part in the history of the village. At one time there were at least seven in operation along the river Bush, between the Walkmill Falls and St Colums Rill at the bottom of the town. Directly behind Palmer’s Mill, was another water wheel which powered a Saw Mill run by James Dean.

The Smiling Cow

The smiling cow is a art project completed with the help of local students and catalonian students. it sits next to the river bush

The Smiling Cow was created through community and relationship building workshops with young Catalonian students from Spain, who were staying in Bushmills to better their English, and the Bushmills youth club.

Both groups shared each other’s national identity and culture through a cross-community project. The smiling cow idea won in a competition decided by the young people.

The cow contains symbols which are connected to the heritage, history and culture of Bushmills. You can see all the elements that have made Bushmills what it is today including the Distillery, Dunluce Castle, the Giant’s Causeway, the Salmon, Market Square, War Memorial and the Corn Mills which gave the village its name. The smiling cow is a welcoming symbol, welcoming visitors from all over the world to this Conservation Village.

Bushmills Distillery

Old Bushmills dISTILLERY

Well, we couldn’t write about Bushmills without mentioning the wee distillery at the top of the hill.

Bushmills and the surrounding area has had a long history of distillation. It is said that, as far back as 1276, A Sir Robert Savage, possibly the one of the Knights Templar and Archbishop of York, before leading his troops into Battle, fortified them with “a mighty drop of acqua vitae”.

Although stories and records are dating back further, it wasn’t until 1608, that Sir Thomas Phillips (An Irish adventurer) was granted a licence by King James I (James VI of Scotland) to distil whiskey in Bushmills.

“for the next seven years, within the countie of Colrane, otherwise called O Cahanes countrey, or within the territorie called Rowte, in Co. Antrim, by himselfe or his servauntes, to make, drawe, and distil such and soe great quantities of aquavite, usquabagh and aqua composita, as he or his assignes shall thinke fitt; and the same to sell, vent, and dispose of to any persons, yeeldinge yerelie the somme 13s 4d”

Hill 1887

The company that we know today as Hugh Anderson only established the Bushmills Old Distillery Company in 1784. Bushmills was not always as popular as today, suffering many lean years with several periods of closure, there is no record of the distillery being in operation in the official village records both in 1802 and in 1822.

In the late 1850s, the distillery was bought by Jame McColgan and Patrick Corrigan two spirit merchants from Belfast; forming a limited company 1880. In 1885, a fire destroyed much of the original Bushmills buildings, but the distillery was swiftly rebuilt.

an image of the SS Bushmills owned by the Old Bushmills Distillery but showing it when it was wrecked near Wales

In 1890, the SS Bushmills, steamship owned by Bushmills Distillery, sailed across the Atlantic on its maiden voyage to deliver Bushmills whiskey to the Americas. It called twice on the eastern seaboard at Philadelphia and New York City, before heading on to Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan. Sadly she ran aground and was wrecked on Nimrod Rock, Penrhos Bay, Anglesey on the 11th January 1911 when on passage from Liverpool for Cardiff in ballast. She was refloated on the 26th August 1911 and broken up Llanerchymor. Read more at HERE

The golden years between 1880 and 1920, Old Bushmills’ ‘celebrated malt whisky’ wins numerous prizes in international spirits competitions, including the ‘only gold medal for whiskey’ at the Paris 1889 Expo. North America was a massive market for Bushmills and most other Irish Whisky producers and this time. Prohibition in 1920s America came as a massive blow to the Irish Whiskey industry; however, Bushmills managed to survive. This was primarily due to Bushmills’ owner at the time, Samuel Wilson, who predicted the end of prohibition and had taken a gamble on buying the distillery at the start of the ban to store large quantities of whiskey ready to export to the United States.

World War II halted production as Allied troops were billeted at the distillery. Meanwhile, in Belfast, a bomb hit the head office destroying all the archives. After the Second World War, Isaac Wolfson bought the distillery, who then in 1972, sold it to Irish Distillers, who at the time controlled the production of all Irish whiskey.

Since then the distillery has passed through ownership by Pernod Ricard in 1988 and then Diageo in 2005.

In 2015 Jose Cuervo got a fantastic deal by swapping some a half share in some tequila brand for control of one of the finest producers of whisky in the world, we don’t know who it was, but you can be sure they are toasting that deal with a Wee Toddy of Bushmills finest.

In May 2008, the Bank of Ireland issued a new series of sterling banknotes in Northern Ireland which all feature an illustration of the Old Bushmills Distillery on the obverse side, replacing the previous notes series which depicted Queen’s University of Belfast.

The Bank of Ireland Five Pound £5 Note featuring the Old Bushmills DistilleryThe Bank of Ireland ten Pound £10 Note featuring the Old Bushmills DistilleryThe Bank of Ireland twenty Pound £20 Note featuring the Old Bushmills Distillery

PS There is £50 note….but we couldn’t get hold of/afford one of those. lol.

Best Places To Eat in Bushmills

Bushmills is often overlooked by those travelling along the Causeway Coastal Route, to the likes of the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede and Portrush without stopping, and we feel this is a mistake, as there are some fantastic places to eat in the village.

We’ve compiled a list of the Best places to eat.

The Bushmills Inn

tHE award winning bushmills in and beer garden

If there is one place that is going to persuade you to stop overnight in Bushmills, it’s the Bushmills Inn.

This multi-award winning former Coaching Inn, dating back to the 1600s, is a 4-star boutique Hotel and Restaurant is steeped in history. The 4 star Bushmills Inn blends unique rooms, beautiful grounds, stunning architecture and lovingly restored modern facilities that pay homage to its rich Irish history.

From inglenook turf fires to hayloft snugs, there’s something to find behind every door.

It’s has a cosy bar with the real fire (lovely after a windswept trip to The nearby attractions) that regularly hosts traditional music sessions… the inn even has its secret library and fantastic outdoor area…..apparently they have amazing Espresso Martini.

As an extra treat, they even host their cinema on special occasions.

Address: 9 Dunluce Rd, Bushmills BT57 8QG

Mick’s Coffee Shop

The front of mIKES coffee shop and diner in bUSHMILLS

Mick’s is one of the best places on the Causeway Coastal Route for a fry up, however, as one of the surprising and delicious secrets is that one of the owners is originally from Thailand, therefore does some of the best Thai meals around; always check out the daily Thai special.

Address: 65 Main Street, Bushmills BT57 8QB, Northern Ireland

The Copper Kettle

The Copper kettle Coffee shop on the market square in bushmills

If you are looking for a real Ulster Fry ( pancake ..yes pancake, soda bread, bacon, egg, sausage, potato bread (known as fadge locally) and either tomato or beans, then this is one to stop at.

In our short experience, if your not in by 10 on a Saturday morning, then you may struggle to get a seat as its very popular with cyclists and locals, who seem to have the serving times down to a tea before there’s a mass exodus along the coast road and the scrumptious lunchtime food served up by Carol and her staff.

This is a friendly, comfortable café situated on the corner of the market square on the road from Dunluce Castle to the Giant’s Causeway. Stop off and fill up ahead of your next activity.

Address: 57a Main St, Bushmills BT57 8QA

The French Rooms

tHE french Rooms Cafe and restaurant bushmills

On the Mains Street of the village, opposite the Visitor information centre and handy for the park and ride to the Giants Causeway, a recently opened and refurbished guest house, the French Rooms, is a pleasantly relaxed, informal and friendly licensed café/restaurant offering simple French-inspired and elegantly presented dishes priced for regular visits and not just for special occasions. You have to try Stella’s sourdough French toast and homemade scones with local jam… Amazing!

Or you can enjoy a cup of the best-pressed coffee (approved by the inlaws!) tasted in a long time; this will pick you up and give you a kick start for a wander around the local art galleries.

Address: 45 Main St, Bushmills BT57 8QA

Tartine at the Distillers’ Arms

Tartine at the Distillers arms in bushmills

Gary (the owner/head chef), Stephen (his main sidekick in the kitchen) and Paul (the restaurant manager) have created a physically beautiful space, glamorous yet welcoming, stylish yet comfortable.

The food exceeds all expectation that even the high standards that we roll out. , Gary and his team produce some of the best food along the Causeway Coastal Route, using the local, award-winning produce in ways that induce a Pavlovian Response upon hearing the name.

Gary Stewart, Tartine, has won many awards including Restaurateur of the Year, Northern Irish Tourism Award for Best Food Tourism Experience, is listed in the Georgina Campbell Ireland Guide and is current all-Ireland Chowder champion….so may be worth a try of the chowder.

Address: 140 Main St, Bushmills BT57 8QE

Mini Maegden


It’s not often anyone recommends visiting a converted campervan for quality food. However, this teeny, tiny little camper van is worth more than a mention. Parked up close to the village, across from the Giant’s Causeway it is a food lovers heaven.

Grilled cheese sandwiches with loads of local artisan fillings and homemade pickles make this for a delicious and filling choice, especially after the brisk walk down to the Giants Causeway and back.

The two girls who have set it up (the ‘maidens’ of the name; the ‘mini’ will become apparent when you see the van!) are ex-teachers who wanted to fill people’s stomachs instead of their heads. How glad are we that they did!

Sourdough bread, fantastic local cheeses such as Young Buck, Dart Mountain Cheeses, Cavanbert, etc. are paired with award-winning meats such as Corndale Farm charcuterie, Broughgammon Farm goat, etc.

Inventive, delicious veggie alternatives are generally served, too. The pickles range from sharp and sweet to seriously spicy – all of them a perfect match to the oozy delights of the grilled cheese.

Address: 29 Causeway Rd, Bushmills BT57 8SU

Coopers Deli

The front of Coopers deli in bUSHMILLS

Coopers Deli is a takeaway Sandwich Bar, that takes its name from being run by the family that has produced four generations of Coopers to Bushmills Distillery. Run by Fiona, they offer a selection of freshly made sandwiches, Subs, Paninis and the foot long panini dog. We really recommend you try the Pulled Pork served on a Brioche Bun with lettuce, onion, peppers, bbq sauce, cheese & slaw… delicious! You can also replace the pork with pulled chicken, beef or even locally source Broughammon Goat. All our meat is from the local Butcher. Almost all of the Jams & Chutneys are homemade from fruit picked from Fiona’s own organic orchard. If you are passing in the evenings, then you really have to try the Pizzas, and pasta dishes all served from 5-9pm. It is made fresh to order.

We also stop in as she makes a fantastic cup of tea with a selection of scrumptious tray bakes.

Address – 57a Main St, Bushmills BT57 8QA

Ground Expresso


Adjacent to the Cenotaph, set behind the clock tower. It is often missed when driving through the village. However, Ground offers a brilliant local coffee experience, and they are excellent in their quality of service, coffee and food.

They have a great selection of coffees and teas to chose from and key for us, a space at the back filled with kids toys to keep allow us to have a hot cuppa for once.

The outside seating is lovely in the sunny weather, to enjoy a spot of people watching while enjoying a cup of tea and warmed cinnamon bake (highly recommended)

Address – 64 Main St, Bushmills BT57 8QD

Creative Gardens (one for parents)

Creative gardens Cafe and outdoor kids play area bushmills

Situated just outside the village, and easily missed, is Creative Gardens Centre. Aside from being a great place to pick up all things gardening. They have a great cafe attached to it. You have to walk through the centre to get to it, but it’s worth the walk, as they serve great food and drinks.

However, the best thing about Creative Gardens is their outdoor undercover kids eating and play area. A vast area with kids climbing frames, slides, play tractors and all within easy viewing of parents at their tables. No matter what time of year you visit Creative Gardens, its a pleasant experience thanks to the overhead heaters…also great to use to dry out.

Address – 88 Ballyclogh Rd, Bushmills BT57 8XA

Broughgammon Farm

Broughammon Farm

Another recommendation that’s just outside the village on the way to Ballycastle is Broughgammon Farm. It’s only open at weekends and is run by the Cole family. They serve a great selection of Teas, coffees and tray bakes in a converted barn with roaring wood burner and rustic feel.

They are multi award winners for a number of things including

– Irish Food Writers Guild Awards 2019: Environmental Award

– Great Taste Awards 2016: 2-star award for Goat Bacon

– Best Snack (goat tacos) at The British Street Food Awards 2016

– Highly Recommended (2nd Place) at The British Street Food Awards 2016

However, the main reason to visit (aside from getting to visit the goats) is the well-stocked farm shop, full of Broughgammon fresh meat (Cabrito Goat), local produce, garden and foraged veg along with country crafts. Broughammon also hosts a number of Artisan masterclasses, butchery classes and seasonal courses throughout the year.


– a flash in the pan

– the hip chip

– China Garden

– the cods way

– Yi House

Bushmills Food Tours

If you love your food and want to fit as much into your trip as possible but don’t know where to start then, we would recommend a food tour.

Caroline at Irish Feast offers local, award-winning food & drink tours in the often overlooked Bushmills, Ballycastle and even on Rathlin Island.

Join this enthusiastic guide and stroll around Bushmills, visiting six unique eateries, while being introduced to the passionate people who grow, catch, make and bake this amazing local food.

Irish Feasts’ experience is set apart from your usual guided tour apart as she doesn’t just walk you around the village from stop to stop, but also points out little oddities you would probably miss otherwise.

On this tour, you’ll hear about locally sourced foods from the producers, chefs and shop owners themselves. They dive into the history and culture of the nearby coastline and countryside.

The one rule of Carolines is – come hungry!



The Giants Causeway

The Giants Causeway is only 2 miles from the village.

Read our Guide here


Carrick-a-rede Ropebridge is 4 miles from the Village of Bushmills. Its owned by the national trust and takes a brave soul to cross it, 100ft above the crashing waves, and onto the island.

Read our Guide here


Ballintoy is situated in one of the most picturesque parts for the Causeway Coastal Route between the Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The area around Ballintoy has some exceptional walks, through amazing scenery that is steeped in local history. A short walk from the village is Whitepark Bay, one of the earliest settlements in Northern Ireland, with Portbradden on one side and Ballintoy Harbour (famous now for Theon Greyjoys Landing in Game of Thrones)

The Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges are an avenue of ancient beach trees that over hang the old entrance road to Gracehill House. They have recently been made famous as The North Road in Game Of Thrones

Read our in depth guide


Portballintrae is a quaint fishing village, set just outside of Bushmills and only minutes from the Giants Causeway and Dunluce Castle. This seaside destination is just like stepping back in time, with is an old coastguard station, Runkerry house and beach.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle is situated just a few miles along the coast towards Portrush. The Castle is perched on a craggy outcrop and has been made famous recently by the HBO TV Series Game Of Thrones.

We’ve compiled an awesome guide of Dunluce Castle for your here

So there you have it, we hoe that this has been useful for you in planning your trip. Wed love to hear about it, why not tag us on Twitter  (@VisitPortrush) or Instagram (@VisitPortrush) when you are here

Mussenden Temple & Downhill Demense

Mussenden Temple

Mussenden Temple is located in the stunning surroundings of Downhill Demesne on the North Coast of Ireland, not far from the small town of Castlerock in Co. Londonderry. The Temple itself sits precariously on the edge of towering 120ft cliffs overlooking Loch Foyle towards Donegal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Mussenden Temple and its surrounding views are among some of the most photographed scenes in Ireland. The Temple itself was for many years, under threat of being lost to the sea due to the erosion by the Atlantic Ocean of the cliffs on which the Temple stands, bringing it closer to the edge and ruin. It was once possible to drive around the Temple in a carriage. The National Trust, as caretakers of the estate, then carried out cliff stabilisation work in 1997 to prevent the loss of this iconic building being consumed by the sea.

The main buildings, Downhill House, along with Mussenden Temple have all the hallmarks of an 18th-century aristocrat’s neo-classical residence. The Temple itself is more of a vanity building, built in 1785 by The Lord Bishop of Derry, Frederick Hervey, as his private library.

The building it is thought was based on Bramante’s Tempietto  (resting place of Hugh O’Neill, on Rome’s Janiculum hill, itself is inspired by the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli near Rome. Micheal Shanahan, the Cork-born architect, who accompanied the Earl Bishop on one of his many visits to Italy, is thought to have designed and built the Temple.

It also serves as a memorial to the Lord Bishop’s young cousin, a Mrs Frideswide Mussenden. Mrs Mussenden, a young mother, died at the age of 22.

The inscription that runs around the building reads:

“Suave, Mari Magno turbantibus aequora ventis

e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem.”

Which translates as

“Tis pleasant, safely to behold from shore

The troubled sailor, and hear the tempests roar.”

The quotation is from Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, 2.1–2.

Downhill Demense

The main Downhill House was built by the Earl Bishop in the 1770s. After his lordship’s death in 1803, his properties went to his heirs, the Bruce family. The house suffered significant damaged in 1851 by a fire that almost entirely destroyed the library and nearby parts of the House. Bishop Lord Bristol had amassed an extensive collection of art, which was kept at Downhill. The fire destroyed many works by artists such as Correggio, Dürer, Murillo, Rubens and Tintoretto, although it was reported that most of the paintings had been saved.

Downhill House was restored following the fire between 1870 and 1874 under John Lanyon, the son of famous architect Charles Lanyon, who maintained many of the original features.

During World War Two, the Downhill was used to billet RAF servicemen and women. The Bruce family continued to own the house until 1946; by 1950 however, it had been dismantled and the surrounding land sold. The house was acquired by The National Trust in 1980; the temple had become a Trust property in the 1940s.

After the various mishaps, the National Trust acquired the buildings during the mid 20th century. They provide us with a fascinating window into the past. Downhill House is now a ruin, but the Mussenden Temple is in good shape. We can see a digital reconstruction of both the interior and exterior of these two buildings here.


Frederick Hervey was born in 1730. As the third son of the 2nd Earl of Bristol, he didn’t seem likely to inherit titles or property. Therefore, he entered the Anglican church as a career option and became the Bishop of Derry in 1768. After the death of his two childless elder brothers, the Earldom of Bristol passed to him in 1779.

As Bishop of Derry, he had a liberal attitude to other faiths. He believed the future of the Crown depended on fostering good relationships with all communities. He won the respect of the Catholics and the Presbyterians. He oversaw his diocese while building neo-classical mansions in Downhill and Ballyscullion.

On trips to Europe, he acquired valuable works of art to display in his magnificent homes. He also developed his ancestral property at Ickworth in Suffolk.

His marital relationship soured. He appeared to enjoy the company of Mrs Frideswide Mussenden, his Lisburn-based cousin. The unlikely friendship raised a few eyebrows, but it was probably platonic. Mussenden Temple became Mrs Mussenden’s memorial after her demise in 1785, while still in her early twenties.

Although the Earl Bishop built grand houses and collected high art, he didn’t neglect his parish work. Overseeing and leading his diocese, he carried out building works and organised pensions for retired clergymen. He gained popularity with people of all communities. People appreciated him as someone who provided employment and encouraged prosperity.

He also studied the natural phenomenon of the Giant’s Causeway as a volcanic site. He was the first to bring it to the notice of the Royal Society. He was the first prominent personality to popularise the now famous tourist attraction. Downhill House would have basked in his reflected glory.

While the main Downhill House has become ruined over the years owing to unfortunate circumstances, the estate still contains attractive features that are worth a look, here are some of the other areas to have a wander around.

The Bishop’s Gate

Bishops Gate Downhill Demense Mussenden Northern Ireland Visit Portrush

The Bishop’s Gate has an impressive Gothic gate lodge, it is also the main entrance to the Walled Gardens and the Black Glen. Have a look at the symbolic carvings, including a bishop’s mitre and several cow skulls.

The Black Glen


This small arboretum is home to a wide variety of trees and is a lovely place to walk, especially to get away from the winds on the cliff-top. See whether you can spot the fish pond, and the statue of the Earl Bishop’s brother – especially his head, no-one has ever found that.

Lion’s gate

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Topped by stone snow leopards – they’ve recently been restored and now roar in their former glory. This is one of two entrances to the property.

Lady Erne’s Seat

No one quite knows what this was initially, Is it a mill of some sort, or perhaps the summer-house of the bishop’s daughter Mary? Either way, it’s a lovely quiet spot from which to see the sea, a fitting reward for the climb up from the Black Glen.

The Bog Garden

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This fantastic garden close to the Bishop’s Gate is home to an extensive variety of flowers, including some stunning irises. The garden was first created by Lady Bruce in 1910.

The Mausoleum

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Really a cenotaph – an empty tomb built as a memorial for the Earl Bishop’s brother, George Hervey. See if you can find the statue of George that was blown off the roof in the Big Wind and now lies in the grounds.

The Mausoleum from The Earl Bishop Trail on Vimeo.

Dovecote and Icehouse

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The round building next to the walled garden has a dovecote above, which supplied meat for the Earl Bishop’s table, and an ice house below, for keeping food fresh. The ice was cut at a nearby pond in the winter. You can walk around and through it….but watch out for the doves.

The Walled Garden

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Like many great houses, Downhill has a walled garden. This once provided fruit, vegetables, and even flowers for the Earls. Now it houses sheep and apple trees. You can get access to the dovecote. We recommend its sheltered lawns that are perfect for a picnic.

Myths & Legends about the Main House

One of the biggest myths about the history of the Downhill Demesne is the notion that the Earl Bishop and Frideswide Mussenden were lovers.

According to popular legend, they trysted in the Temple. There’s a copy online of the painting of the Earl Bishop with a young girl, allegedly ‘Miss Mussenden’. But, Frideswide Mussenden was Mrs Mussenden née Bruce.

The Bruce family were cousins of the Earl Bishop. Frideswide’s brother, Rev. Henry Bruce, represented the Earl Bishop in his absence from Derry. The painting is officially listed as being that of the Earl Bishop and his granddaughter, Lady Caroline Crichton. The girl looks so young, it’s inappropriate in modern times to consider the pair as a couple. The cousins had a 30 year age difference.

The Bishop was eccentric and often behaved unusually for a priest. He would allegedly scatter flour on the floor outside the Downhill bedrooms at night so he could check who had been visiting other bedrooms. Could this be true?

The Bishop had a remarkable collection of art, and it’s said that much of it was destroyed in a fire. The truth is that most of the collection was saved, even if some pieces were not. Other pieces were lost when the Earl Bishop tried to shift them from the continent to Ireland after purchase.

Owing to Napoleonic activity, there was political turmoil in Europe. The Earl Bishop was even arrested and imprisoned as a British spy.

The Earls plan for his two Irish houses was to make them galleries for his art collections. Downhill housed an extensive collection of art and served as the Earl Bishop’s summer home.

Architect Michael Shanahan built the house in neoclassical style. But the design seems to show influences of Charles Cameron and James Wyatt too. So perhaps they had some early input into this design.

Game of Thrones – The Role it Plays in Downhill Today

The hugely successful HBO drama Game of Thrones has given renewed and broader exposure to the Downhill Demesne. The property and its surroundings provided a backdrop for outdoor shoots of selected scenes in Season 2 of the fantasy drama.

Episode 1 contains a particularly memorable scene featuring the characters Melisandre and Stannis on Downhill Beach, Mussenden Temple was instrumental in filming the Downhill Beach scenes. The building, which overlooks Downhill Beach, provided an excellent viewing point for the film crew. It enabled them to record the scenes filmed at that location.

In the series, Downhill Beach becomes ‘Dragonstone’. This stunning seven-mile stretch of sand, overlooked by mysterious 18th-century ruins, provided a perfect atmosphere. It blended seamlessly into the fantasy world of this ‘sword and sorcery’ drama.

This is where Stannis Baratheon pulled out the flaming sword. It’s where Melisandre chanted ‘the night is dark and full of terrors’. When visitors reach this place, they look around and see what else this location has to offer.

Nowadays, visitors can enjoy many beautiful and scenic walks in the area. Lord Frederick Hervey, the Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, was the first to put this beautiful corner of Earth on the map. But in the digital age, Game of Thrones has catapulted this otherwise little-known spot into a bright future. Game of Thrones has rediscovered this gem, and the world is coming around to check it out. Don’t miss visiting this charming spot, so rich in history and backstory.

How to Get There via Car and Public Transport

Downhill House is a joy to visit. it’s situated in the peaceful rural countryside of Co. Londonderry, between the seaside village of Castlerock and Coleraine.

From Portrush, the easiest way to get to Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demense is by Car. The Temple, which can be seen from the Harbour on clear days, is only about 6 miles as the crow flies from Portrush. The trip takes about 25 mins. Leaving Portrush heading for Coleraine, once in Coleraine follow the Signs for L’Derry and Castlerock. Once you cross the River Bann, turn right at the second round about (you should have passed a retail park on your left), follow the “Greenhall Highway” and over the next roundabout, once you reach the T junction turn left onto the A2 and follow the signposts for Castlerock. There are brown signposts follow these.

However, if you are looking for a scenic route, then we recommend that you follow the A2 (Causeway Coastal Route), it will take you along the coast to Portstewart, along the river Bann, via Coleraine and through Castlerock. Both Portstewart are worth a stop for the many Cafes.

From Belfast and Dublin, a combination of the M2 and the A26 can help a motorist reach Coleraine from Belfast in about an hour and 10 minutes.

Public Transport

From Portrush you can take the bus (140 or 402) to Coleraine, or the train as they stop in the same terminal. Then change onto the (134) Limavady Bus. There is a bus stop just across the road from the main entrance. The whole journey will take around 45mins to an hour depending on connections.

From Belfast & Beyond

You can also take a bus to Coleraine from Belfast’s Bridge Street. It takes one hour and 40 minutes. The Coleraine bus goes every hour from 6am to 9pm monday to Saturday (Sunday is a reduced timetable). After arriving in Coleraine, there is a bus from Coleraine to Castlerock (see above)

By Train

The train is another great option. The Belfast-Derry train goes every hour (Mon-Sat…Sunday is a reduced service). From Belfast, or Dublin via the Enterprise, you can get off at Castlerock Train station. Castlerock is around 2 km from Downhill Demense and Mussenden Temple. From the train station, you can get the bus (see above) a Taxi (around £7) or, if you’re willing, you could walk the two-kilometres in around half-an-hour, it is a nice walk and there are some stunning views north to donegal and, more importantly, Portrush.

Guide to Dunluce Castle


Guide to Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle is the iconic ruin of a medieval abandoned castle set on the top of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the Causeway Coast Route just 2 miles east along the coast road Portrush, close to both the Giant’s Causeway and Old Bushmills Distillery. 

Dunluce Castle has featured in the HBO series Game of Thrones, as the House Greyjoy…..although looking slightly different thanks to CGI. The dramatic setting is surrounded by steep cliffs that drop-off on every side towards the crashing waves of the North Atlantic, meaning the only way to visit Dunluce Castle is by crossing a bridge from the mainland.

Dunluce Castle as used in Game of Thrones

Dunluce Castle History

Evidence from archaeological digs around the castle that’s Dunluce Castle has had a long and tumultuous history. From an early Irish fort or stronghold built for nearby Christian and Viking settlements on or near the current site to the backdrop of many modern TV and film productions. 

The earliest written record suggests the first Castle at Dunluce was built around the 13th century, by the powerful Richard óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster. Richard de burgh was a close friend of Edward the 1st of England, however, his daughter was married to Robert the Bruce King of Scotland making him Maternal Grandfather to David King of Scotland.

The earliest ruins left standing today are from around the early 1500s, when Dunluce Castle served as the seat of the MacQuillans. The castle was the centre of power for their Gaelic Lordship, the area of North county antrim known as The Route. this area extended from the banks of the Bann, near present day Coleraine to the River Bush, near Bushmills.

Dunluce Castle from the Car Park

The first documented owners of the castle were the MacQuillan family in the early 1500s but were taken over by the MacDonnells in the 1550s, a Scottish settlers descended from the Scottish Clan MacDonald, after numerous battles.

The ambitious MacDonnell clan soon became the dominant family across the North Antrim, from the Antrim Glens to what is now Belfast. Although thought this time Dunluce Castle bears witness to the many conflicts they had with the surrounding families and clans.

After the Glens of Antrim were seized by famous warrior chieftain Sorley Boy MacDonnell (Scots/Irish – Somhairle Buidhe), upon the death of his older brother of the James MacDonnell (or MacDonald) the then 6th Clan Chief of the MacDonalds of Antrim, he claimed the Castle as his base and set about developing it in the Scottish style.

This was paid for in the main through the looting of the Girona, a Gallion of the Spanish Armada, that was wrecked in a storm on the nearby rocks. The cannons of the ship were kept and can still be found in the Gatehouse today (although when we visited in Feb 2023 they were being refurbished)

Dunluce Castle Bridge and Gatehouse

The Earls came into conflict with not only the surrounds in families both the feuding mcquillan clan and others, but also the crowns of Scotland and England, who concerned about the growing power of the macdonnell clan, sent Sir John Perrot, the then Lord Deputy of Ireland, to deal with the threat. He Successfully besieged Dunluce Castle and took the Town of Dunluce

However, Dunluce Castle continued to be held by the descendants of Sorely Boy, through his fourth son, who was bestowed the title of Earl of Antrim by King James 7th/2nd, due to Sorley Boy swore allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the 1st of England. 

During the Cromwellian period, Dunluce castle and its surrounding lands were granted to soldiers who had fought for Cromwell in his Irish campaigns. Like many Irish castles of this time, the new occupiers could not afford the upkeep of such a large building and the ruined castle fell in to disrepair and was pillaged for stones for buildings elsewhere.

Later Dunluce Castle and its surrounding lands were regained by Randall MacDonnell following the restoration of Charles 2nd to the English throne in 1660, and Dunluce Castle was reoccupied. However, its time as the main residence of the Clan MacDonnell was coming t can end.

The Castle itself was lived in by the Earls of Antrim until around 1690 when following the Battle of the Boyne the clan MacDonnell was impoverished due to their allegiances.

The current Earls of Antrim have their seat at nearby Glenarm Castle in Cushendall.

Glenarm Castle home to the earls of antrim
Glenarm Castle, Cushendall

Dunluce Castle is still owned by the MacDonnell family, however, is now in the care of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, as one of its monuments under state care since 1928

History of Dunluce Town

The rich history of Dunluce castle is only one element of your visit to the area. Following major archaeological excavations, significant remains of the “lost town of Dunluce”, which was razed to the ground in the Irish uprising of 1641 were found.

Artists impression of Dunluce Castle and old Dunluce Town
Artist’s Impression of Old Dunluce Town and Dunluce Castle

Lying immediately next to the Castle, the long abandoned Dunluce town (or Dún Libhse in Irish) was built between 1600 and 1610 by Randall MacDonnell, the first Earl of Antrim, and as such pre-dates the official Plantation of Ulster. The small town is said to have had the most revolutionary housing in Europe when it was built, this included indoor toilets which had only started to be introduced around Europe at the time, cobbled streets and a complex street network based on a grid system. 95% of the town is still to be discovered.

Visit Dunluce Castle

The Visitor Centre

Even though there are plenty of attractions in Northern Ireland, this is one of our favourite destinations. Dunluce is a great place to enjoy the history of Ireland and to take in the beautiful scenery of the land. 

Opening Times

February to November: Daily 9.30am to 5pm. 

December & January: Daily 9.30am to 4pm. 

Last admission 30 minutes before closing.

Dunluce Castle Tickets

Adult (18+ years) £6.00 per ticket

Child (5 – 17 years) £4.00 per ticket

Children Under 5 Free

Concession*£4.50 per ticketFamily*£18.00 per ticket

Group rate available for 15 adults (+1 tour guide free) £4.50pp

Annual rates are also available; Adult – £12, Child 5 -17- £8.00, Concession* – £9.00 & Family Pack* – £36.00 

*Concession – 65+, Students (18+with official student card), disabled, unemployed citizens
*Family – Up to 5 people (including up to 3 adults)

It should be noted that as this is under the protectorate of the NI Government National Trust cards are not accepted.

It is a fantastic place to listen to stories from the Game of Thrones, Led Zeppelin, and C.S Lewis. It is excellent for visitors of all ages, we recently took our 5-year-old and his friend who had a blast….although be wary of taking them down to the Mermaids cave, its a lot of steps to carry a 5 year old back up.

Inside the Visitor Centre

You can enjoy the audiovisual presentation, friendly greetings, and a walk around the dramatic history of the castle. You get the chance to learn about its fascinating history. 

There is a trail that takes around 40 minutes to complete, this can be done with the assistance of guides or through one of the multilingual headsets. You can now even download an app tour to your phone.

The Dunluce Castle Tour Guide

Views from and around the castle are stunning. The Ocean vista which stretches as far as your eyes can see and the cliffs are equally beautiful. On a clear day, you can see the Scottish Island of Islay (Famous for its whisky) and Inishtrahull Lighthouse, off the Donegal Coast. If you want a bird’s eye view, you can stand on an existing tower.

Tour of the Castle

The Stables & Lodgings

Dunluce Castle Lodgings

Built to house the lords horses, visitors and staff, this building appears to have been divided into various rooms of different sizes., each containing a window and fireplace. The inner wall has collapsed giving you a view into the ground floor. The north end was gallery rom with a balcony overlooking what would have been the castles private gardens and bowling green. These are still visible through the windows. This area also home t the stone merchants houses

The Bridge

The Bridge at Dunluce Castle From The Gatehouse

While the present castle is accesses via a wooden bridge, which sits onto of the masonry arch built in the 17th century, there was originally a wooden drawbridge. When you cross you can get amazing views of the dramatic coastal cliffs and on the eastern side can be seen natural sea cave that boats could enter on calm days. This is the only natural harbour.

The Gatehouse

The Gatehouse at Dunluce Castle from the bRIDGE
The Gatehouse

The imposing gatehouse was originally built by the MacQuillans, then modified substantially by the MacDonnells in the mid 1500s in the Scottish Baronial Style with two large drum towers. You can see an etching on a stone of a medieval Scottish galley (ship), which serves as a reminder of the sea connection with Scotland and Ulster.

The Manor House

The Manor House Dunluce

The Manor is the main residence of the Lords entire family. The remains at Dunluce are an excellent example of a Jacobean mansion that was built by Randal MacDonnell in around 1620. There is staircase that would have lead to first floor and the MacDonnells private quarters would have been. From excavations it is believed that this grand house was built on the site of an earlier building probably used by the MacQuillans.

The View From The Manor House Main Window

Two Towers

From every angle the castle is dominated by the two towers on the eastern side of the building. Both towers were built at the same time by the MacQuillans. They were built in the Irish style with a ground floor roof vault. You can still see the imprint of the wicker thatch that was used during the construction of the vault. Both towers were upgraded throughout the years to reflect their purpose, defending the castle, with the MacDonnells adding gun loops.

The Kitchen and Inner Ward

Under the castle, there is a hidden cave. Even though you cannot get into it, it is a sight to behold.

Some local companies offer guided tours of Dunluce, here are just some of them.

Myths & Legends

Legend has it that at some point, part of the castle kitchens fell into the sea one stormy night. It says that the wife of the castle’s owner did not want to keep living there after this and only a boy survived from the kitchen staff. The legend does not seem to be true since the castle’s kitchen is still in place. It is possible to see the entryway fireplace and oven. The north wall of the palace collapsed and fell into the sea in the 18th century. The other walls are still intact.

The Kitchens

In 1534, a child in the McQuillan family was said to have seen the figure of a woman in a white dress on the edge of the cliff. The woman is supposed to have been looking out at the ocean. The little boy reported that he saw the woman disappear into the wind. No one believed him primarily because he and his elder sibling went out the next night and saw nothing.

In the early 1550s, something similar happened. People claimed that they saw a woman in a white dress walking down the to shore close to the castle. There were numerous claims that the castle was haunted until one time when a member of the McQuillan family walked to the beach and attempted to speak to the ghost. The woman was never seen again.

Dunluce Castle on Film and TV

If you have watched the favourite HBO series Game of Thrones, you may be interested in touring the beautiful, rugged location on the causeway coast.

The beautiful ruins of the castle appeared as the exterior of the Iron Island stronghold which is the seat of the House of Grejoy. Some residents of the castle include; Yara Grejoy, Balon Grejoy, and Theo Grejoy. You can see it in seasons two and six.

The Castle was also mentioned by admirers of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.’ Many viewers believe the castle to be the inspiration for Cair Paravel, the seat of the kings and queens of Narnia.

The HBO Series has attracted visitors from all over the world more recently; however, the castle has been a tourist attraction for centuries. The landscape has always been an inspiration for creatives of romantic plotlines. As the poet Robinson Jeffers put it,

‘No spot of earth where men have so fiercely for ages of time

Fought and survived and cancelled each other,

Pict and Gael and Dane, McQuillan, Clandonnel, O’Neill,

Savages, the Scot, the Norman, the English…’

How to Get To Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle is only around 2.5 miles from Portrush along the Causeway Coastal Route (A2). Therefore, its quite easy to get there in many ways.

Getting there by Car.

If you are visiting the Dunluce as part of a more extended day trip, then taking the car is the easiest option. Just head east past Royal Portrush Golf Club, along the A2 (Sign posted for Bushmills/Ballycastle). There is a small car park a short walk from the Castle, next to the Wee Cottage Cafe.

Coming from Belfast or Dublin in the car you have two options, the quickest is to follow the A26 north from Belfast, turning off at Portrush Road Roundabout, in Ballymoney, onto the B62 (Ballybogey Road) signposted Portrush/Bushmills. After 9.5 miles turn right (east) at the Royal Court Hotel onto the A2/Causeway Coastal Route. Follow this road for a mile.

NOTE: do not trust your SatNav….a number of times we have been taken along singletrack back roads, where the only views are high hedges, sheep, cows and grass!

The second option is to follow the Causeway Coastal Route along the North Antrim Coast. This is one of the most excellent driving routes in the world.

The address is

87 dunluce road


County Antrim

BT57 8UY

Northern ireland United Kingdom

By Public Transport

From Portrush, you can take the Translink 172 or 402 (Ballycastle) bus from Dunluce Avenue. It takes around 15 minutes and drives along the coast. You can find the timetable here.((insert the timetable))

If you are coming up from Belfast or Dublin, then one of the simplest ways to get to the castle is by taking a train. You can take a train from Dublin Connolly Station (The EnterpriseChanging at Belfast Lanyon Place . The train from Dublin to Belfast is around 2 hours and from Belfast to Portrush is approximately 1.5 hours.

You will then have to either get the bus from Dunluce Avenue or take one of the plenty of Taxis just outside the station.

Even though the castle is not accessible by wheelchair, the surrounding site is beautiful. The coastline and surrounding scenery are stunning. There is a car park and a visitor centre on-site.

On Foot

You can, of course, walk from Portrush to Dunluce Castle. The walk takes you along the East Strand Beach, past the enormous dunes that lead up to Royal Portrush Golf Club, to Whiterocks Beach, so named after the stunning limestone cliffs. You will then emerge on the road near the Royal Court Hotel onto the A2 Causeway Coastal Route. From here walk along the footpath, stopping to take in the views of Portrush, The Skerries and Dunluce Castle from Magheracross View Point. You will be able to see the Castle a short walk further on.

You can see details of a longer walk from Portrush to Bushmills on the Walk NI website here

Let us know what you think of this guide, have you been and know of something that could be added, or are you going and want to know more?

Leave a comment below and will get right back to you, or contact us on social media.

A Guide to Carrick A Rede RopeBridge


Carrick-A-Rede Ropebridge

Carrick-a-rede is a famous footbridge located near Portrush on the North Coast of Northern Ireland.

The name Carrick-a-rede is from the Irish Carraig a’ Ráid meaning “rock of the casting”.

The footbridge connects a tiny rock island called Carrick-a-rede to the mainland, therefore, earning the name Carrick-a-rede footbridge.

Carrick a rede has had a bridge for over 350 years ago, initially built at the start of each fishing season with slates of wood strung up with just one guide rope.

No one lives on the island; however, there is a small bothy and workshop previously used by the local salmon fishermen who used it for shelter and to land their catch. For many years the sole function of the bridge was to transport men on and off until the salmon population dwindled to a point whereby it became unviable to make a living from fishing. Sadly 2002 was the last season (which runs from June to September) that was commercially fished, where the annual catch was just over 300, which was the average catch per day in the 1960s.

The current bridge is now owned by the National Trust and was built by Heyn Construction in 2008 at a cost of £16,000 ($21,000). Whereas the original bridges were made of rope and wood, the current bridge is built of steel wires ropes and Douglas Fir wooden slats along the path. In terms of dimensions, the new bridge is 66 ft long and is suspended 100 ft above crashing waves and rocks. The bridge can support up to 10 tonnes of weight…..more than enough to support the 8 visitors limit that the wardens allow at any one time.

If the weather is turbulent, the gates will be closed off for safety purposes, therefore, before visiting the area check on the weather. You can also check on the dedicated Twitter (@NTCarrickarede) site for the most up to date information. Most tourists tend to avoid it during the rainy and windy days, so it may the best time to go if you want it all to yourself.

From speaking to the local guides, occasionally visitors go over and they are afraid to come back across the bridge due to the wind swaying the bridge. Therefore, their only option is to be ferried back from the island to the mainland via a boat. There are the people who land on the island using helicopters, but this is a rare occurrence happening once or twice in a year.

If you want to get an alternative view of the Rope Bridge, there are sailing and kayaking tours that will take you under the bridge. When the tide is unusually low, you can even walk under the bridge.

These tours are ideal for exploring the rarely seen caves, which were made famous in the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Sunset at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim this week. Photo by Tim Johnston.

— Barra Best (@barrabest) 4 May 2017

The journey to the bridge is not ideal for people with mobility issues, not because of the bridge itself, but the path leading up to the bridge is essentially an uneven gravel path…and then there are the steps at the end.

If you can master the courage to descend down the steps and walk across the bridge, which only takes a few minutes, you will be rewarded with spectacular views. From the island, you will be able to see Rathlin island, Ireland’s only inhabited offshore Island, and even Scotland. You will also get to enjoy the flora found on the island and breathtaking views of a clear blue sea.

When you arrive in the area, there is a car park, and if you feel a bit chilly after hiking your way to and from the bridge, then there is a tea room where you can have some of the best tea in that part of Ireland.

How Much Does it Cost?

Carrick-a-rede is open all year round and is free for those who just want to walk along the coastal path see the bridge close up or, however, if you’re going to cross onto the island you’ll need to purchase a ticket.

As the bridge can get very busy at times (it had over 450000 visitors last year) the National Trust has started to operate an online timed ticketing service. Visitors are able to purchase tickets from 09.30, with the latest ticket sale at 18.15 during peak season.

Tickets cost

Adult Ticket £9.00

Child Ticket £4.50

Family Ticket £22.50 (2 adults and up to 3 kids)

National Trust Members and Touring Pass holder are free…but still have to book.

You can book online here 

Carrick-a-Rede on Film and Tv

The HBO Fantasy series based on Goerge R. R. Martins Novels, Game of Thrones, has filmed a number of their scenes on the island. Most of the scenes are in the second season.

Carrick a rede was the land referred to as Storms End located in Stormlands. The land had one of the strongest castles in the realm and was under the control of the House Baratheon. In the game of thrones, the producers made storms end the regional capital. Carrick at rede island featured in season 2 episodes below.

Episode 3: What is dead may never die – this is when Catelyn Stark arrives in Baratheon’s camp during a tournament that was won by Brienne of Tarth. Later Baratheon shows off his army of 100,000 strong men willing to fight to the death for him. You can see the Larrybane Quarry next to Carrick-a-rede and the making of that episode here

Episode 4: Garden of bones – this is when Little finger arrives at Renley Baratheon’s camp as a political envoy to try and gain his trust

  • King Stannis also arrives at stormlands and heads to Renley’s Baratheon’s camp to ask Renley to relinquish his claim to the throne and serve him
  • Ser Davos takes the red priestess via boat to some caves near Renleys camp where she gives birth to a shadow creature

Episode 5: The Ghost of Harrenhal – this is when Renley Baratheon is killed by the shadow creature born by the high priestess and his army divides after his death.


Carrick A Rede island is one of the best examples of a volcanic plug in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Erosion by the Irish Sea/Sea of Moyle has exposed the neck of this old volcano.

The violence of the molten rock punching its way through the soft chalk 60 million years ago can be seen through the presence of geological evidence such as Tuff, Explosion breccias, explosion bobs and grey volcanic ash in the layers of the rock of the Island and surrounding.

Along the whole North Antrim coast, that forms much of the Antrim plateau, the characteristic Ulster Chalk is topped by basalt cliffs. At Carrickarede, the ancient volcanic pipe has left dolerite, a more robust rock than basalt, which erodes more slowly. Behind the dolerite, to the south, the vent is filled with pyroclastic rocks that break down more easily, mostly a coarse tuff agglomerate. The combination of the hard rock out front and the softer rock behind, with long-term erosion by the waves, has eventually left this small island.

The island has Large caves which can be seen best during low tide. It is assumed that at some point the caves were used to serve as boat builders homes. They also provided shelter for fishing vessels during stormy weather.

The natural sea surrounding the area has blue waters that sometimes turn green making it an area of particular interest. Unique flora and fauna cover the island. It has a lot of bird colonies that play an essential role in the area’s ecology. Example, Razorbills are birds that live the island and only come back when it is time to mate and nest. The cliffs of the island are covered with birdsfoot trefoil and thrifts that give the island a paradise-like look.

How to Get To Carrick A Rede

There are several routes you can take to get to the National Trust Carrick a rede rope bridge. It’s important to note that the bridge opens at 9:30 am, and the ticket sales stop at 5:15 in the afternoon that’s 45 minutes before the closing time. In some circumstances, the closing time may be changed due to tourist traffic. In the summer the closing time is extended to 7:00 pm because it is the peak season while in the winter the closing time can be as early as 3 in the afternoon, this can be due to the severe weather conditions or lack of tourists wanting to cross the bridge.

Carrick a rede is located only 15 miles (around 20 minutes) from Portrush and 60 miles (around an hour) to the north of Belfast. For ease, most tourists are guided to the area by a tour guide at a small fee.

Public Transport

Bus – visitors who are not familiar with the area can head out on the bus from Dunluce Avenue and take the 402(a) or 172 also known as the causeway Rambler. A timetable for this can be found here. From Belfast, visitors can take the 218 Goldline Bus (or the train as they stop in the same place) to Coleraine and then get the 402 or 172 Bus as above.

Car – Carrick-a-rede is only a short 15 mile or 20-25 minute drive along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route (A2)from Portrush, passing the Giants Causeway, The Dark Hedges and Dunluce Castle. Driving from Belfast will take around 1 hour 10 minutes depending on the traffic to cover the 60 miles. First, you will have to take the M2 route, then switch on to the A26 until Cloughmills and then switch over to the A44 (Drones road which switches onto Maghermore in Capecastle) to arrive at the park.

If you have a bit more time, then we recommend you take the Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast to Portrush. This is one of the best driving routes in the world. You can find out more about it here.


The fastest way to access Carrick-a-rede is by using one of the airports around Belfast.

Belfast International Airport (BFS) – this is an international airport approximately 20 miles away from the Belfast city centre. From the airport take the 300 Airport Express Bus to Belfast City centre, the journey takes about 40 minutes. You can also hire a taxi.

George Best Belfast City Airport (BHD) – this is situated two miles away from the Belfast city centre. It is a relatively small airport that deals with domestic flights. From the Airport take a cab to the Belfast city centre where you can choose one of the causeway rambler buses.

From Dublin

The best-known way to get to the bridge from Dublin is by driving yourself, it will take around 3 and a half hours from the city centre. If you don’t fancy driving or want to take the opportunity to see as much of the scenery as possible, then it is best to take one of the many tours that operate daily from Dublin.

You can find out more details about them here

Well, that’s it, our guide to Carrick-a-rede Ropebridge, we hope you find it useful in planning your trip. If you have already been let us know how it went and if there is anything that we have missed. We will continue to update this page as we get more information.