County Antrim

The prettiest part of Northern Ireland, home to the Giant's Causeway, crumbling castles, the Bushmills Distillery, and more

Co. Antrim has two sides. In its southeastern corner sits the largest city in Northern Ireland, Belfast.

But along its northern edge stretches very best bit of all of Northern Ireland, the coast of Co. Antrim.

The Antrim Coast

From the terribly scenic ruins of 13th century Dunluce Castle, crumbling nobly atop the sea cliffs and once the seat of the proud MacDonnell clan that ruled Antrim, to the vertigo-inducing Carrick-A-Rede bridge, swaying with every breeze and footstep 25m (80 feet) above the crashing North Atlantic so that workers (and thrill-seeking tourists) can cross the 20m (65-foot) gap to a salmon fishery on a tiny island just off shore.

The Antrim Coast’s marquee sight is the Giant’s Causeway, a spectacular bit of geological oddity where the waves have slowly uncovered and polished smooth a large swathe of upright, hexagonal basalt columns from a volcanic eruption some 60 million years ago.

Hardy wildflowers grow in the cracks between these magnificent rock pillars, stair-stepping and organ-piping around three peninsulas. Local legend says that this was one end of a bridge built across the waters by hero Finn MacCool so he could visit his beloved on the Scottish isle of Staffa (where, if anything, the matching basalt columns are even more impressive).

You can warm up from the chilly coastal winds by turning inland to tour the eponymous whiskey distillery in the village of Bushmills. Its whiskey-making grant dates back to 1608, but that was probably just a Plantation-era reaffirmation of a whiskey-making operation on this site since at least the early 15th century.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in November 2014.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.