Cushendun Bay in County Antrim, Ireland.
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Road Trip: Ireland's Antrim Coast

The most extraordinary stretch of countryside in Northern Ireland, Antrim's attractions include the awe-inspiring Giant's Causeway, the picturesque Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and the Old Bushmills Distillery. We recommend that you start in Carrickfergus (p 410) and then drive along the A2 coastal road heading northwest. The entire journey is manageable in a long day, but we prefer to take twice as long, with a picnic basket in the trunk and a camera on our laps. It's the sort of drive you want to savor.

Photo Caption: Cushendun Bay in County Antrim, Ireland
Cranny Falls waterfall in County Antrim, Ireland.
michaelloudon/
Carnlough
The coastal drive meanders for about 20 miles under bridges and stone arches, passing crescent bays, sandy beaches, harbors, and huge rock formations, to this quiet village with a glassy harbor and a few good restaurants. If you've got the time, you can climb the white stone bridge on the waterfront and walk along a footpath for about a mile to the Cranny Falls waterfall.

Details: On the A2 coast road

Photo Caption: Cranny Falls waterfall in County Antrim, Ireland
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Sheep grazing on a hillside in Cushendun in County Antrim, Ireland.
john_f
Cushendun
As you arc around the northern headlands, the road passes through the National Trust village of Cushendun, with its tea shops and perfect Cornish-style cottages. It's a good place to stop and take pictures before heading on down the coastal road again or, if you want amazing views, the Torr Head Scenic Road.

Details: On the A2 coast road

Photo Caption: Sheep grazing on a hillside in Cushendun in County Antrim, Ireland
Emerald cliffs seen from the Torr Head Scenic Road.
Victor Ginesi
Torr Head Scenic Road
This diversion is not for those with fear of heights or narrow dirt roads; nor is it a good idea in bad weather. But on a sunny, dry day, the brave can follow signs from Cushendun up a steep hill at the edge of town onto the Torr Head Scenic Road. After a precipitous climb, the road narrows further and inches its way along in rugged fashion at the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea. There are places to park along the way and take in the sweeping views on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. Arguably the best views are to be had at Murlough Bay (follow the signs).

Details: Torr Head Scenic Rd. out of Cushendun

Photo Caption: Emerald cliffs seen from the Torr Head Scenic Road
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Whitepark Bay in County Antrim, Ireland.
Lindy Buckley
Whitepark Bay
Near busy Ballycastle, Whitepark Bay is a wide, crystalline curve of sandy beach at the foot of rocky hills, surrounded by green farms. Nearby, the town of Ballintoy is a picture postcard waiting to happen, with its charming stone cottages and flowery gardens. On a sunny day, you might find it hard to go farther.

Details: On the A2 coast road

Photo Caption: Whitepark Bay in County Antrim, Ireland
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge on the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland.
Frommers.com Community
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
This picturesque open rope bridge spans a chasm 18m (59 ft.) wide and 24m (79 ft.) deep, and soars above the sea between the mainland and a small rocky island. Local fishermen put up the bridge each spring to access the island's salmon fishery, but visitors use it for a thrilling walk and the chance to call out to each other, "Don't look down!" (By the way, that is excellent advice.) If you are acrophobic, stay clear; if you don't know whether you are, this is not the place to find out.

Details: Larrybane, Co. Antrim. 028/2073-1582. Free admission. Parking £5 ($10). Apr-June and early Sept. daily 10am-6pm; July-Aug 10am-8pm

Photo Caption: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge on the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland
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The Giant's Causeway on the Antrim coast of Ireland.
Frommers.com Community
Giant's Causeway
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this natural rock formation is extraordinary. Sitting at the foot of steep cliffs and stretching out into the sea, it is a natural formation of thousands of tightly packed basalt columns. The tops of the columns form flat stepping stones the size of dinner plates, but the strangest thing about them is that they are almost perfectly hexagonal. They are all about .3m (12 in.) in diameter, and some are as tall as 12m (39 ft.). Scientists believe they were formed 60 or 70 million years ago by volcanic eruptions and cooling lava. The ancients believed they were the work of giants. Note: The Causeway itself is never closed—even after the visitor center shuts down, you can still walk down the path on your own. You can park free on the street rather than the Causeway parking lot.



The Old Bushmills Distillery in Antrim, Ireland.
Victor Ginesi
Old Bushmills Distillery
Licensed to distill spirits in 1608, but with historical references dating from as far back as 1276, this ancient distillery is endlessly popular. Visitors can tour the working sections and watch the whiskey-making process, starting with fresh water from the adjacent River Bush and continuing through distillation, fermentation, and bottling. At the end of the tour, you can sample the wares in the Potstill Bar.

Turn left back off Main St. onto the A2. Stay on this road for Dunluce Castle. 2.5 miles (4 km).


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The once mighty fortress of Dunluce Castle.
Victor Ginesi
Dunluce Castle
Between the Giant's Causeway and the bustling seaside town of Portrush, the coastline is dominated by the hulking skeletal outline of what must have once been a glorious castle. This was the main fort of the Irish MacDonnells, chiefs of Antrim. From the 14th to the 17th century, it was the largest and most sophisticated castle in the North, with a series of fortifications built on rocky outcrops extending into the sea. In 1639, part of Dunluce Castle fell into the sea, taking some of the servants with it; soon after that, it was allowed to fall into a beautiful ruin.

3K miles/5.6km east of Portrush off A2.


The Giant's Causeway on the Antrim coast of Ireland.
Frommers.com Community
Causeway Coast and the Glens of Antrim
The Giant's Causeway on the Antrim coast of Ireland.
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