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Last weekend I was given the opportunity to go on a fam (familiarisation) trip up North by the lovely folks at Causeway Coast and Glens tourism. I even brought my mam and sister along with me. Which, I guess, could sound like a nightmare to some people, but not me. I didn’t get this travel bug from nowhere, it’s very much an inherited gene.
But that’s enough about me, what about the Causeway Coast and Glens?!
What To See
The Causeway Coast and Glens cover 1796 km² of Antrim and Londonderry. Essentially the majority of the northern part of Northern Ireland. Which means it has all the great views of Scotland on a clear day, along with many other sights. Here’s some of the “must-see” locations. Oh, and if you’re a National Trust member you’ll get free entry into most of the following.
Mussenden Temple: A temple gifted from an earl/bishop to his niece to celebrate her marriage to Mr.Mussenden. It’s precariously set on the edge of a cliff which gives it views of ocean and beaches on one side, and a ruined castle on the other. If you’re thinking about getting married on the Causeway Coast, this would be a good spot.
Portstewart Strand: A beach where you can park your car on the sand, chill out, catch some waves and then grab a coffee (at Harry’s Shack) to warm you back up again. The kind of place that locals come to for breakfast/coffee and a stroll on Sunday mornings.
Dunluce Castle: A medieval castle set on a cliff by the sea. Full of history and ghost stories (listen out for the banshee wail). It is thought to be the inspiration behind the castle in C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.
Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge: This is one of my favourites. It’s not for everyone. Apparently people stopping in the middle of the bridge, paralysed with fear, is a daily occurrence. However, braving the bridge is well worth it! Bring your camera, the views from the island are extremely photogenic.
Giant’s Causeway: Now, in all honesty, this is not my favourite sight on the Causeway Coast. It’s constantly crowded. So much so that it’s nearly impossible to get a decent photo. And, well, it’s just not quite as Giant as you might expect. That being said, if you’re a geologist then you’ll probably love it. For me it’s really more of a bucket-list item, something to tick off.
Bushmills Distillery: Even if you’re not into whiskey this is worth seeing. They still produce everything on site and the tours are very informative. Their whiskey tasting sessions might even convert you to a whiskey drinker!
One of the best ways to see all of these is by taking a road trip. Check out my friend Milou’s guide to driving the causeway coastal route.
This is the Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland, celebrating it as a culinary destination for foodies from around the world. The Causeway Coast and Glens are no exception. So let’s get to the important part, the food. I’m no foodie, so don’t hold your breath for mouth-watering descriptions. Here’s some of my favourites.
The French Rooms: This is a restaurant on the main street of Bushmills. It’s done up in a provincial French style (oddly enough). The food is fresh, organic and local. I will say that there was only one vegetarian option on the menu, which didn’t give me a lot of choice. But overall this place was wonderful, and extremely popular. Definitely visit if you’re in the area.
Bushmills Restaurant: The food here was rich and filling. My sister had the steak and was full of praise for the chef. I had a bit more choice here and ended up having the celeriac, I didn’t leave a scrap on my plate.
Ballycastle Food tour: This trip really gave us a taste for local produce and what Ballycastle has to offer. We basically ate non-stop from 10am to 1pm. From pear and almond scones to seafood chowder, Caroline will help you push your tastebuds’ boundaries. I HIGHLY recommend this!
Bushmill’s Inn: If money is no issue and you like a bit of old-fashioned luxury then this is the place for you. I stayed in the Master Distillers Suite (complete with four poster bed) while my mam and sister had the Garden View Suite. Well, that’s not entirely true, I swapped and let my mam have the fancy bed on the second night #bestdaughter. A full review of the Bushmill’s Inn is coming soon!
AirBnB: This is a very valid option if you are on a tighter budget. Caroline (from the food tour) even runs her own in Ballycastle. If you want to sign up for AirBNB, use my link (here) as it’ll give you £19 off your first stay.
Glenara Elite: Frances provides day trips around the causeway coast that are very reasonably priced. Her bus is a sixteen seater so the groups will always be small. She knows all the best local spots and will pick you up from wherever it is you’re staying (within reason of course).
Private Guide: We had two local guides at different stages of our trip. The first was Mark Rodgers of Dalriada Kingdom Tours who was wonderfully knowledgeable and had an incredible walking stick. The second was Caroline Redmond (the same lady from the food tour). You’ll find her FB page here. We learnt a lot from both Mark and Caroline. They specialise in different areas so check out their websites and see what suits your trip best!
Causeway Historical Costumes: A lady named Bertha was the absolute HIGHLIGHT of my trip. This woman creates historical costumes and gowns from all sorts of fabric, sometimes even her own curtains. Each gown takes at least 2.5 days to complete. You can hire the gowns for a photo-shoot across the road at Dunluce castle (see evidence above). My sister and I felt like we had just stepped off the set of Game of Thrones. This is a MUST-DO for anyone visiting the Causeway Coast and Glens.
See For Yourself
Here’s a video I made during my trip so you can get a better idea of what the Causeway Coast and Glens are really like.
Right, well I think that’s enough from me! BUT if you need some more info I’ve listed some useful links below.
- Causeway Coast and Glens tourism website
- Discover Nothern Ireland website
- Causeway Coast & Glens Food Network
** This trip was sponsored by the Causeway Coast and Glens Tourism Board. However, the opinions expressed in this article are, as always, my own. A girl can’t go visiting everywhere on a writer’s salary after all 😉