High 5: Must-see spots in Northern Ireland
Hailing from the Emerald Isle myself, I may be biased, but the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland has some of the most outstanding areas of natural beauty and inspirational locations in the world. The popular television series ‘Game of Thrones’ has been predominantly filmed in the area and it’s easy to see why – the spectacular coastline hosts dramatic cliffs, sandy beaches, picturesque harbours and is a rich haven for seabirds and wildlife.
The only World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is made up of over 40,000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. According to Irish mythology, however, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant with supernatural abilities, Fionn Mac Cumhaill. Climb the Shepherd’s Steps and hike along the cliff-top trail to get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful shoreline.
Built in 1785, the simple and graceful Mussenden Temple is perched on a wild rugged headland, high above the Atlantic Ocean, with magnificent views of Downhill Beach, an 11 kilometre stretch of sand with waves ideal for surfing. The tiny temple was built as a summer library and its architecture was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome. Stroll around the colourful Natural Trust estate gardens and explore the ruins of nearby Downhill House.
Visit the medieval Irish Dunluce Castle, situated dramatically close to the cliff’s edge, and only accessible via a bridge connecting it to the mainland. Famously, the castle’s kitchens fell into the sea on a stormy night in 1639. Underneath lies the Mermaid’s Cave with its legend of a lost soldier taken into the deep sea by a beautiful mermaid; other stories tell of smugglers and treasure being hauled from boats in the secrecy of the cave.
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Cross the exhilarating rope bridge to Carrick-a-Rede island for a panoramic view of the North Coast. On a clear day, visitors can even spot Scotland in the distance. This is not an experience for the faint hearted as the swinging rope bridge crosses a 30-metre deep and 20-metre wide chasm. Don’t look down! Visit the salmon fisherman’s cottage and look out for basking sharks, dolphins and porpoises swimming close to the island.
Portrush is an ideal base from which to explore the Causeway Coast and its many attractions. Situated on a mile-long peninsula, Portrush offers exceptional beaches, lively night-clubs, quality hotels, family entertainment venues and the highly-acclaimed Royal Portrush Golf Club. Dine at the superb Ramore Wine Bar – followed, of course, by a pint of Guinness at the town’s popular Harbour Bar.
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