See also Belfast City
A drive from the county border at Portrush along the A2 to Belfast takes in the coastline and its stunning scenery. Inland are the Antrim hills and glens. On the northern coast you will find Northern Ireland’s best known attraction, the Giant’s Causeway. This famous geological phenomenon, renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, is the only World Heritage Site in Ireland. Resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, the Causeway is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It can be reached from the North Antrim Coastal Path. Boat tours to view the causeway are available. There is on-site interpretation.
White Park Bay, a National Trust property and neolithic site by the causeway, has a good sandy beach, sand dunes, cliffs, and a nature trail. South of the Giant’s Causeway is the town of Bushmills, home to a distillery. A tour is offered that gives all the details of whisky making. The former malt kilns house a small museum.
For a scary attraction try the 66 foot long Carrick-a-Rede rope suspension bridge (National Trust) east of Ballintoy along the Larrybane cliffs. It’s a half-hour walk from the car park to the rock island on the other side. The bridge is only open from early spring.
Between the Giant’s Causeway and the rope bridge are the miniscule ruins of Dunseverick Castle, one of Ireland’s earliest. It’s on a promontory separated from the mainland with a precarious path leading from the castle to the Giant’s Causeway. Dunseverick’s town museum has collections and exhibits that include one on the Spanish armada, local marine artefacts, photos, fossil and mineral collections, and a thatched fisherman’s cottage.
On the road to Ballintoy are the ruins of Kinbane Castle, dating from 1546, sitting on a promontory jutting into the sea. Dunluce Castle is another cliff edge site along this stretch of coastline, but east of the Giant’s Causeway. It, too, is separated from the mainland, except for a courtyard. A cave lies below the drawbridge. The castle dates from the 14th/16th centuries. A gatehouse, great hall, and kitchen make up part of the ruins. The nearby town of Portrush is a seaside resort with sandy beaches. Offshore are the Skerries, a favourite seabird haunt.
Ballintoy’s harbour is attractive and gives access to the coastal path. Near Ballintoy is the Magheraboy megalithic tomb, a circular cairn with only a burial chamber.
Ballycastle lies at the foot of Knocklayd Mountain. Its long sandy beach makes it a popular resort. In June the town puts on an Irish music and dance festival. The Oul Lammas Fair takes place at the end of August and is one of Ireland’s oldest and most traditional. A local museum tells the folk and social history of the glens. The Dunloughan Farm Museum, near Ballycastle, has farming machinery and farmhouse exhibits. Bonamargy Friary ruins sit in the middle of the town’s golf course. There’s a gatehouse, church, vault, and east range.
Take a ferry from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island, six miles that are rough and dangerous unless the weather cooperates. The island, fringed by white cliffs harbours thousands of seabirds in the summer. The viewpoint at the west lighthouse, Kebble Nature Reserve, is best for seeing them. The island is also popular for diving and fishing. Visitors can partake of the culture and traditions in the form of story telling, music, dance, and singing.
An interesting attraction is the Dark Hedges, an avenue of beech trees south of Ballycastle near Armoy. Ballypatrick Forest lies on the Ballycastle to Cushendall road and has a number of view points, walks, a scenic drive, and picnic areas. On the same road are the remains of a Franciscan friary, Bonamargy, dating from 1485. The gatehouse, church and east range are in good condition, except for the roof.
Murlough Bay is a beautiful National Trust property by Fair Head. It’s down a steep and high cliff. A path leads along the clifftop to Fair Head. South, off the main road, Torr Head has views across the water and is only 12 miles from Scotland. Cushendun is a National Trust village at the end of a sand beach below cliffs. The famous architect, Clough Williams-Ellis, who designed Portmeirion in Wales, had a hand in the village architecture. There are three terraces of houses around a square, slate cottages, and a lodge. 15th century Castle Cara is here.
Inland from Cushendun lies Glendun, one of Antrim’s nine glens with a river running by the road. Continuing south leads to Layd Old Church ruins by a stream and Ossian’s Grave, a megalithic court cairn. In Cushendall is Turnley, a 19th century curfew tower.
South of Glenariff, Glenariff Forest Park’s 2300 acres contain woodland, lakes, and rivers. A visitor centre has displays on wildlife and forestry. A one-hour walk leads to a waterfall. The village of the same name hosts a Gaelic sport and culture festival. It’s the site of Red Bay Castle, built in Norman times. Red Bay gets its name from the local sandstone. The town of Carnlough has an attractive sandy bay.
A few miles down the coast, the road leads to Glenarm forest and village. Limestone is quarried locally. The 1606 castle in the village is privately owned but can be seen from the park where walks lead through the woods. At Ballygalley is Carnfunnock Country Park offering 473 acres that contain a walled garden, maze, ice house, Norman motte, nature trails, walks, and a seaside promenade.
From the busy port of Larne you can take a ferry to Island Magee, a seven-mile long peninsula connected to the land at its southern extremity where the town of Whitehead is located. South of Larne is Olderfleet Castle, a four-storey 16th century tower house. Off the main road at Glenoe, a National Trust village, is Glenoe waterfall in a deep gorge. Whitehead grew as a result of rail links to Belfast. It has a collection of steam engines and rolling stock, which are open for public viewing. A lighthouse offers views after a climb up stone stairs.
Continuing south on the A2 the next large town is Carrickfergus. It’s home to a marina and the largest and best preserved Norman castle in the country. The castle is sited on a basalt promontory at the entrance to Belfast Lough. Its construction ranges from the late 12th to the middle of the 13th centuries. An inner ward is enclosed by a curtain wall. There’s a middle ward, outer ward and gatehouse tours. The keep has a display on the castle’s history. Bits of the town’s 17th century walls survive. St Nicholas church is 800 years old and is famous for its stained glass windows. Flame is the name of a Victorian gasworks museum. The Carrickfergus Museum displays the details of the historic town.
The town of Ballymena, in county Antrim’s interior, gives the visitor information on its history in the Ballymena Museum. Guided walks and historical talks are on offer. Just next to Ballymena is Gracehill, a Georgian village settled by Moravians.
East of Ballymena is Slemish Mountain, which tradition says is the site of St Patrick’s captivity. There are views from the top of the volcanic plug. At Ballymena’s ECOS Millennium Environmental Centre you can learn about alternative technologies in high tech galleries and explore the country park on an electric bicycle. North-east of Ballymena is Broughshane village, nicknamed the garden village of Ulster, and winner of a number of “in bloom” awards.
Antrim is a former county town and linen-spinning centre. Its site near the eastern shore of Lough Neagh provides a scenic train ride on a steam railway to Shane’s Castle. The ruined castle sits in an estate with a burial vault, underground tunnel, and a conservatory designed by John Nash housing a collection of camellias.
In Steeple Park is a round tower once part of a monastery dating from the 6th century. Off the A26 on the A6 is Antrim Castle, denoted by a Tudor gate. The gardens in the grounds include 17th century water gardens, a motte, a parterre, long canal, pond, and interpretive display. Antrim’s Round Tower dates from the 10th century and was part of a monastic site.
At Crumlin, south of Antrim, is the Talnotry Cottage Bird Garden, home to a collection of pheasants, quails, partridges, and injured wild birds. At Templepatrick, east of Antrim on the A57, is Templetown mausoleum in a walled graveyard. It was designed c1770 by Robert Adam. Also at Templepatrick is Castle Upton, built in 1611, and remodelled by Robert Adam in 1783 along with the stables.
Patterson’s Spade Mill (National Trust) off the A57 from Templepatrick is a working water-driven spade mill. Guided tours fill you in on the history and culture of turf and garden spades. Off the A57 by Doagh is the Holestone, a celtic stone with several “legends”. One of these was that couples put their hands through the circular hole and pledged themselves to each other in lieu of a wedding ceremony.
Four miles north of Belfast is the Cave Hill Country Park and Heritage Centre. The caves were used by neolithic man. To the west is the Colin Glen Forest Park, a 200-acre forest park with woodland, a river, waterfalls, ponds, wildlife, exhibitions, a shop, and AV presentations. The Ballance House near Lough Neagh’s shore is another farmhouse museum in the county. It was the birthplace of New Zealand prime minister J. Balance in 1839. Guided tours include a restored parlour and AV presentation. A tearoom, shop and orchard round out the experience.
Lisburn, south-west of Belfast, sits right on the border with county Down. It’s in the center of the linen producing industry. A museum in the town’s assembly rooms gives all the details on the industry. Christchurch Cathedral in the town was constructed in the gothic style in 1623, then reconstructed in 1708. A few walls and a parapet remain of Lisburn’s castle.
Drumbeg is a suburb of Lisburn and the site of Drumbeg church with its 1878 lych gate and yew arch. The church was built from 1798 to 1831, then again in 1870. The roof is wooden. On the road to Belfast is the Lagan Valley Regional Park and Drumbridge lock keeper’s house. Belfast Rose Week in July takes place at Dixon Park home to more than 30,000 roses.
Malone House was built in the late 1920’s following the design of the earlier house built on the site. The interior has several outstanding features. The Brookhall Historical Farm, west of Lisburn, is a farming museum with rare breed animals, gardens, a 12th century church, and a farm teahouse.
Near the border with county Derry and south of Bushmills is the town of Ballymoney, where a Heritage Centre houses local history exhibits. Ballymoney’s church on Queen Street is a listed building. Its tower dates from 1637. Leslie Hill Open Farm and Gardens is a Georgian estate with a large collection of horse drawn vehicles. Rare breeds, red deer, and other farm animals are on display. Rides are available, and there’s a pick your own fruit garden, shop, and tearoom.
Between Ballymoney and Bushmills off the B66 is Benvarden Garden, part of a historic estate dating back to 1630. There are mature trees, a walled garden with roses, a kitchen garden, pleasure grounds, and a tearoom. Between Ballymena and Ballymoney off the A44 is Clough Mills, site of the Dooeys cairn, a neolithic court cairn dating form BC4000-2000. On the B15 is Armoy Round Tower dating from c460 and once part of a monastery.
For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.
Antrim Castle Gardens
Randalstown Rd, Antrim
Tel. 028 9442 8000
Antrim Lough Shore Park
Lough Road, Antrim
Tel. 028 9442 8331
Antrim Round Tower
Off Steeple Rd, Antrim
Tel. 028 9442 8331
118a Lisburn Rd, Glenavy, look for signs at A26/A30 junction
Tel. 028 9264 8492
18th century courthouse, Ballycastle
Tel. 028 207 62942
The Braid (Ballymena Museum)
Ballymena Town Hall, Museum, and Arts Centre
1-29 Bridge Street
Ballymena, BT43 5EJ
Tel. 028 2565 7161
Ballymoney Heritage Centre and Museum
33 Charlotte St, Ballymoney
Tel. 028 2766 2280
Benvarden House, B67 road south of Bushmills
Tel. 028 2074 1331
Tel. 028 207 31521
On North Antrim Coastal path just east of Ballintoy village.
Tel. 028 2076 9839 (Warden)
Tel. 028 9335 1273
Cave Hill Country Park and Heritage Centre
Antrim Rd, four miles north of Belfast; heritage centre in Belfast castle
Tel. 028 9077 6925 or 9037 1013
Colin Glen Forest Park and Park Centre
15 minutes from Belfast city centre at 163 Stewartstown Rd, Dunmurry
Tel. 028 9061 4115
Web: Colin Glen Trust
Cranfield Church and Holy Well
Churchtown Point, Cranfield Rd, Cranfield, on shores of Lough Neagh
Tel. 028 9442 8331
Donegore Motte and St Johns Church
Landscape Centre, 24 Donegore Hill, Dunadry
Tel. 028 9443 2175
Dunloughan Farm Museum
92 Torr Rd, Ballycastle
Tel. 028 2076 2739
87 Dunluce Rd, Bushmills, on A2, three miles east of Portrush
Tel. 028 2073 1938
Bushmills, 3 miles east of Giant’s Causeway on B146
Tel. 028 2076 2225
ECOS Millennium Environmental Centre
Kernohans Lane, Ballymena
Tel. 028 2566 4404
Near Bushmills B146
Tel. 028 2073 1855 (Moyle Visitor Centre)
Glenariff Forest Park
On A43 Ballymena/Waterfoot road
Tel. 028 217 58232
Hilden Brewery Visitor Centre
Hilden House, Hilden, Lisburn
Tel. 028 9266 3863
The Square, Hillsborough
Tel. 028 9268 1309
Holestone Rd, Parkgate, on private farmland
Tel. 028 9442 8331
Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum
Market Square, Lisburn
Tel. 028 9266 3377
Leslie Hill Open Farm and Gardens
A26, west of Ballymoney, road toward Macfin
Tel. 028 2766 6803
51 Churchfield Rd
Tel. 028 2076 2234
Patterson’s Spade Mill
751 Antrim Rd, Templepatrick
Tel. 028 9443 3619
South of Portglenone on A42
Tel. 028 2582 1241 or 2955 6003
Rathlin Island Kebble National Nature Reserve
Tel. 028 207 63948
35 Kings Rd, Belfast
Tel. 028 9079 6614
Estate boundary of Castle Upton Templepatrick
Tel. 028 9751 0721
Watertop Open Farm
A2, six miles south-east of Ballycastle
Tel. 028 2076 2576
World of Owls
32 Mount Shalgus Lane, Randalstown Forest Park
Tel. 028 9447 2307
Ferry to Rathlin Island: Calmac Ferries
County Antrim Tourist Information Centres
216 Falls Road
Belfast, BT12 6AH
Belfast International Airport
395/405 Newtownards Road
Northern Ireland TIC
St Annes Court, 59 North St
Tel. 028 90 246609
Open: Oct-May, Tue-Sat, 9am-5pm, Mon, 9.30am-5.30pm; June-Sep, Tue-Sat, 9am-7pm, Mon, 9.30am-7pm, on Sun from noon-5pm.
16 High St, Antrim
Tel. 028 9442 8331
Sheskburn House, 7 Mary St, Ballycastle
Tel. 028 207 62024
Open: July-Aug, Mon-Fri, 9.30am-7pm; Sep-June, 9.30am-5pm.
The Braid, Museum & Arts Centre
1-29 Bridge Street
Ballymena BT43 5EJ
Tel No. 028 2563 5900
Fax: No. 028 2563 5903
Open hours: Mon-Fri, July and Aug, 9am–5.30pm; throughout rest of year, 9am–5pm; Sat throughout the year, 10am–4pm; Sun, closed; Bank Holidays, 10am–4pm
1 Townhead St
Tel. 028 2766 0230
Open: Oct-April, Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm; May-Sep, Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm; BH, 10am-4pm.
3 Quay Side
Carrickfergus, BT38 8BE
Carrickfergus TIC and Museum
11 Antrim St, Carrickfergus
Tel. 028 9335 8241
Open: Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm, year round excep until 6pm April-end Aug); Sat, 10am-4pm, year round
Causeway Visitor Centre
44 Causeway Rd, Bushmills, Giant’s Causeway
Tel. 028 207 31855
Open: Sep-Feb, Mon-Fri, 10am-5.30pm, Sat and Sun from 10am-6pm; March and April, Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm, Sat and Sun from 10am-5.30pm; May, daily from 10am-5.30pm; June daily from 10am-6pm; June-Aug, daily, 10am-6pm.
24 Mill St, Cushendall
Tel. 028 217 71180
Open: July-Aug, Mon-Fri, 10am-1pm, 2-5.30pm, Sat from 9am-6pm; Sep-June- Mon-Fri, 10am-1pm, 2-5.30pm.
Junction One Visitor Information Centre
111 International Outlet Shopping
Antrim, county Antrim
T: 028 9442 9111
Larne Tourist Information Centre
Narrow Gauge Rd, Larne, behind Main St.
Tel. 028 2826 0088
Open: Oct-April, Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm; May-Sep, Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm, BH from 10am-4pm
14-16 Harbour Road
Carnlough, BT44 0EU
Newtownabbey, BT36 5AQ
Old School House
25 Mill Street, Cushendall
Sandhill Dr, Portrush
Tel. 028 7082 3333
Seasonal opening: July and Aug, Mon-Sun, 9am-7pm
Randalstown Local Information Office
The Old Forge
8 John Street
Tel: 028 9447 2211
Rathlin Development and Community Association
The Rocket House, South Cleggan, Rathlin Island
Tel. 028 207 63988
Photos of Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-rede rope bridge © by Barbara Ballard
Photo of Magheraboy Tomb courtesy Irish Antiquities by Brian T McElherron
Photos of Ballintoy coast, Giant’s Causeway, Carrickfergus waterfront, Dark Hedges, Glens of Antrim and Glenariff Waterfalls courtesy Causeway Coast and Glens
Photos of Cushendun Harbour, Cushendall Curfew Tower, Kinbane Castle, Ossian's Grave, Rathlin Island, and White Park Bay courtesy Moyle District Council
Other photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Larne waterfront, Ballymena street, Ballymoney street, Dunseverick Castle by Kenny Allen; Carrickfergus castle, Ecos centre by Aubrey Dale; Antrim round tower, Ballance House, St Patrick’s church Drumbeg, by Brian Shaw; Upton Castle clock tower by Tom Courtney; Armoy round tower by Bob Embleton
To stay in Antrim: Bushmills Inn Hotel
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Our County Antrim articles
Old Bushmills Distillery
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
White Park Bay
Bushmills Inn Hotel
Worth a journey to County Antrim
Caldhame Guest Lodge
A great place to stay in County Antrim