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Why I Love The Causeway Coast

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A few weeks ago, on the first weekend of April, I flew from London to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. I had been once before, in 2008, and had really enjoyed my time in the country. During those four days, I spent one day on a whistle-stop tour that explored the Causeway Coast, herded from one sightseeing spot to the next. It had never felt like enough.

Fast forward eight years, and I was given the chance to visit Northern Ireland again. This time, however, my entire time would be spent on the Causeway Coast, based in the little seaside town of Portballintrae. The idea of spending three days exploring this area was highly appealing; since that visit in 2008, my travel style has changed considerably, and I’d now rather take my time and see more of a smaller area than travel at breakneck speed in order to cram it all in.

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Northern Ireland traffic jam

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And so, I landed in Belfast with my friend Kasha ready to take on one of the most beautiful road trip destinations in the world. We spent the next three days driving around the coast, sampling local products, taking loads of photos, and admiring some of the most jaw-dropping and diverse landscapes in all of the United Kingdom. At the end of those three days, we both determined that we had fallen head over heels with the Causeway Coast. I’ve written a couple of these “Why I Love” posts before – see Limerick, Basilicata, and Copenhagen – and I am happy to add this region of Northern Ireland to the list.

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Ready for our road trip

So here’s why I love the Causeway Coast, and why I think it’s not only an amazing location for a UK getaway, but also a destination that deserves a lot more than a quick day-trip from Belfast.

The scenery.

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Overlooking the beach from Mussenden Temple

Hands down, some of the most dramatic and gorgeous scenery in Europe, if not the world. The Causeway Coast is famous for road trips, and it’s easy to see why. Kasha and I just kept saying to each other, “It’s so beautiful!” We were lucky enough to score a wonderfully sunny day and everything really came alive with colour, all painted in strokes of blue and green.

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Spring means lambing season!

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Mussenden Temple

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Sunset in Portballintrae

And while you can pretty much stop at any beach and be blown away, there’s no way you can visit the Causeway Coast and not visit the Giant’s Causeway. An area of tens of thousands of interlocking basalt columns, this natural landmark is either the result of volcanic activity or the result of a clash between giants – it all depends on how much you like to believe in folklore. One tip for visiting the Giant’s Causeway: make sure you have appropriate shoes with good, strong grip. The columns can be very slippery, even if it’s not raining.

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The Giant’s Causeway

Another fantastic spot is the Dark Hedges, recently made famous by Game of Thrones. My suggestion is to go very early, before the crowds arrive, and leave a bit of time in order to get the best shot… there are nearly always cars and/or people in the way!

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The Dark Hedges

The activities.

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There are a ton of hikes you can do in the area, and if you’re adventurous enough you can try your hand at surfing. There are also day trips to neighbouring islands and boat tours. My favourite activity, however, is crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which involves a lovely walk along the coast as well. If you’re scared of heights, be warned… this is probably not your cup of tea. I’m not even scared of heights and I got some pretty serious jelly legs crossing that thing.

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The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

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OK, so this poor fellow was actually doing quite well at surfing but I caught the exact moment he bailed and I can’t stop laughing at this photo. Yes, I’m going to hell. 

The history. 

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Dunluce Castle

If you are a history buff, you’ll love the Causeway Coast. As I’ve written about before on this blog, I’m not really into castles and/or ruins, but give me a centuries-old castle against the crashing waves of the Atlantic and I’m sold. Some highlights on our road trip were Mussenden Temple (complete with tons of cute sheep and an incredible beach view) and Dunluce Castle, which dates back to the 13th century.

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Not a bad view for my morning coffee

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Mussenden House

The food.

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Steak and Guinness pie at The Causeway Hotel

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Amazing chowder at The Bayview Hotel, my recommendation for accommodation in the area

I go to Ireland a lot, it seems – since moving to London less than three years ago, I’ve been three times, four if you could Northern Ireland. And while all of the UK isn’t exactly known for its traditional food selections, I’ll argue against the stereotype of “bad British food” to my last breath. Traditional food in the UK and Ireland – when done right, of course – is exquisite, filling, and warm, and rife with rich and local flavours. On the Causeway Coast, seafood dishes are the highlight, and I had lovely fish sourced from the nearby Rathlin Island as well as one of the best chowders I’ve ever had in my life.

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Dinner at The French Rooms

My favourite restaurant in my time there was The French Rooms in Bushmills, where I had one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory, topped off with – what else – an Irish coffee.

The drink.

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Which leads me to, naturally, the drinks of Northern Ireland. Long-time readers of this blog may know that I’m a diehard Guinness fan, but you may also know that I collect bottles of whiskey. A visit to Bushmills Distillery, then, was an absolute must. Even if you’re not the biggest whiskey fan, the distillery is a really interesting place to visit, and the tour teaches you all about the history of whiskey in Northern Ireland and how exactly its made.

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The distillery was kind enough to let me try their 21-year old single malt, and it was one of the nicest whiskies I’ve ever tried. I’ll be writing more about Bushmills in another post, but I’d like to thank all the people there for making our time so much fun.

If you’re looking for a great night out, definitely check out the Gas Bar at the Bushmills Inn; there’s often live music there. I’d also recommend the lounge at the Bayview Hotel in Portballintrae for a good laugh.

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The people. 

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Our amazing guide from Glenara Elite Travel, who we spent a day with. A perfect option if you are not comfortable driving or if you’d prefer to let someone take the reins for the day. 

Because Northern Ireland is a place to make friends, to feel welcome, to laugh. Honestly, I was bowled over by the kindness and openness of the people we met during our time in the area. As much as I love London, it can be difficult to make friends here, and outside of my East London community I don’t often find myself chatting to strangers. I don’t think that people don’t want to talk to each other in London, it’s just that everyone is a bit reserved about doing so. The people of the Causeway Coast, however? Not a problem.

It’s one thing for people in the hospitality industry to be helpful and kind – as everyone, from the bartenders to the baristas to the tour guides were – but it’s another thing all together to have each encounter with random people be one of warmth and friendliness. From the people we met walking their dogs on the beach to the lovely couple we sat next to at the bar to the stag party we ran into while out taking photos – everyone made us feel welcome, and everyone made us laugh. In only three days, we had so many fun conversations with so many different people, and we were smiling constantly. That, to me, more than the scenery or the restaurants or (dare I say it) even the whiskey, makes a place, and it’s why I truly fell in love with the Causeway Coast. Again, I reiterate – this place deserves more than just a quick day-trip. I urge you to give it the time it deserves.

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Many thanks to Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council for inviting me to explore their beautiful lands. A special thank you to Kasha from Lines of Escape for all of the photos of me, and for being an amazing driver! 

Why I Love the Causeway Coast

Have you ever been to Northern Ireland/The Causeway Coast? Does it seem like a place you’d like to visit?

 

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23 Responses to Why I Love The Causeway Coast

  1. Ashley April 26, 2016 at 11:04 pm #

    Great post, Brenna! I couldn’t agree more that British food is actually amazing – I’ve had some of the best meals of my life in London and Dublin. Plus, London has so much incredible international food!

    • Brenna Holeman April 30, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

      Agreed! I’m constantly eating great food here in the UK. 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Ashley!

  2. Katie April 27, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

    So fun! We had planned to do a road trip in Ireland this year for our 10 year anniversary, but then FIVE close friends/family members decided to get married all at once, which pretty much wiped our travel budget. (But I did just get back from the Dominican Republic, and we’re headed to the Oregon coast in a couple of months, which is one of my favorite parts of the U.S.) I’ll refer back to this post for when we head to Ireland *next* year — no one says you can’t do something fun for year 11, right?

    • Brenna Holeman April 30, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

      Exactly!! Year 11 it is. 🙂 I’m sure you’ll love it, Katie!

  3. Nigel Kane April 27, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    Great article about my homeland! My wife and I were up in Portstewart last weekend for her birthday and had some lovely beach walks. Visited Mussenden Temple on the Sunday….views
    don’t really get better than that! Thanks for telling people what a beautiful place this is as so many
    visitors to Ireland never go further north than Dublin!

    • Brenna Holeman April 30, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

      Thanks a lot for your comment, Nigel! You come from a beautiful place. 🙂

  4. Laura April 27, 2016 at 9:50 pm #

    Great Post!! The Causeway Coast is magnificent!

    • Brenna Holeman April 30, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

      It definitely is! Thanks for the comment, Laura.

  5. Frances Galbraith April 28, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    Thank you Brenna for showcasing our Causeway Coast, it has been a pleasure seeing it through your eyes.

    • Brenna Holeman April 30, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

      And thank you for our amazing tour, Frances!

  6. marla April 29, 2016 at 1:27 am #

    Greetings from Vancouver! I found your website today and am completely smitten with it, and you (not in a creepy stalker way). So inspirational!

    I too have visited the coast, based in Ballintoy, and LOVED it. Your post opened the memory gates and left me breathless. I’m 40 and still trying to figure out how to go about making travel a bigger part of my life, and you’ve just convinced me it’s time to get off the proverbial pot and sort things out. Thank you!

    PS. I’m a proud certificate carrying Bushmills Official Taste Tester. Ahem.

    • Brenna Holeman April 30, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

      Thank you very much, Marla! I’m glad you’re enjoying the site and it’s so awesome to hear about your renewed wanderlust. And also glad to hear that you also love the Causeway Coast!! 🙂

  7. Melissa April 29, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

    This looks so great! I need to put northern ireland on my bucketlist 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman April 30, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

      It’s such a fabulous place!

  8. Ruth April 29, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

    Giant’s Causeway has been on my to visit list for a while now… and I think this post has just pushed it a little further towards to top!

    Stunning views. Ireland is so pretty!

    • Brenna Holeman April 30, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

      I definitely think you should go, Ruth! I’m sure you’d love it. 🙂

  9. Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine May 2, 2016 at 3:17 am #

    I was so so happy my sister chose to study abroad in Coleraine, because that meant I was able to go visit here. And the Causeway Coast is seriously beautiful, I agree! My trip was really great because I was with my parents and THEY got to see people being super talkative. One of the groundskeepers at Dunluce Castle could’ve talked to them all day. It was a good first trip out of the country for them. 🙂 Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    • Brenna Holeman May 2, 2016 at 10:21 pm #

      Aw, that sounds like an amazing time! I’m so glad you enjoyed it there, too. Thanks for the comment, Amanda!

  10. Zalie May 4, 2016 at 4:54 am #

    It looks like a wonderful place to explore 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman May 4, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

      It is indeed! 🙂

  11. Taylor October 20, 2016 at 3:36 pm #

    Love your blog, Brenna! I toured around Northern Ireland last year and absolutely loved it. I hit up Bushmills Distillery as well and snagged an oddly delicious jar of Whisky Jam from there – basically allowing me to consume Whisky before noon, no big deal 🙂 Great post!

    • Brenna Holeman October 21, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

      Ha ha, that’s the best way to do it! 😉 I’m glad that you enjoyed it as much as I did…

  12. Tricia June 3, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    My grandmother was born in Gilford, County Down, not far from Belfast. Growing up, I never thought I would get to visit because of all the bombings in Belfast and that it simply wasn’t a safe place to visit. My Uncle even took a child from Belfast to live with him in the US for several summers in a program designed to get children away from the violence. I have to say, as much as I love the Republic of Ireland, a piece of my heart belongs in NI. Fair warning to anyone who goes to visit, it can be very windy and quite chilly, even in May. My husband and I spent some time exploring the Antrim Coast last year (Giant’s Causeway, Bushmill’s, etc) and stayed in a very charming B&B there. I like to bring home sand as a way of remembering a trip (low priced artwork done by locals is another), but when we stopped at the beach, the winds were whilpping at a good 40+ mph and it was possibly all of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. My dear, sweet husband actually got out of the car and braved the conditions so I could bring home a small bag of sand. while I got to take on all of the sites along the coast, my husband felt cheated because he didn’t dare look st the scenery too much as he was driving on the left on some tight, winding roads. When we did a small group tour around the Ring of Kerry in Ireland, he regretted not doing the same thing along the coast in NI.

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