County Antrim - Worth a Visit?

Putting County Antrim on the Irish Map
••• Putting County Antrim on the Irish Map. © Bernd Biege 2014

Heading for County Antrim today? This part of the Irish Province of Ulster (which is not identical to Northern Ireland, mind you) has a number of attractions you really do not want to miss. Plus some interesting sights that are slightly off the beaten path. So why not take your time and spend a day or two in Antrim when visiting Ireland? Here are some ideas to make it worth your while ...

County Antrim in a Nutshell

County Antrim is, basically, the north-eastern corner of Ireland, right opposite Scotland (which is actually visible on a clear day).

Its Irish name is Aontroma, with the literal (though not very enlightening) meaning of a House, or a single dwelling. The historical county town of Antrim would have been Belfast (which is not pert of the county proper), other important towns include Antrim Town, Ballycastle, Ballyclare, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Larne, Newtownabbey, and Portrush. County Antrim has an overall size of 3,046 km2 (or 1,176 sq mi), the population was estimated at just over 618,000 in 2011.

Now what would you want to see in County Antrim?

The Giant's Causeway

If you want to experience one of nature's true wonders in Ireland (and a World Heritage Site to boot) make sure to visit the Giant's Causeway. Strangely regular basalt columns dominate the landscape and seem to lead across to Scotland. No wonder that the giant Finn MacCool was supposed to have built this marvel to cross the sea - rarely does nature produce such regular shapes.

Though located in a quite remote area, the Giant's Causeway is definitely amongst the best things to see in Ireland.

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is one of the most useless attractions of Ireland, the semi-permanent bridge leads nowhere in particular, there is no need for it and ultimately it is only good for a picture (seen a thousand times before) and a dare.

Pointless. Unless you simply do it to legitimately be able to say that you've done it. The Irish equivalent of bungee jumping in New Zealand and firewalking in Polynesia. Despite being called a " miserable oul git" for my opinion, I stand by it. then again other visitors may find their heart's delight here ... find out and decide for yourself.

The Old Bushmills Distillery

The far-famed Old Bushmills Distillery is one of the rare opportunities to visit a distillery actually producing whiskey in all of Ireland - all other distilleries are visitors centres and museums with no real production going on (though a limited production may be run nonetheless). But you have to work to earn this privilege. Bushmills is near the Giant's Causeway and can safely be regarded be as a remote location. So remote that a "designated driver" should be chosen before the whiskey tasting at the end of the tour begins. You'll be getting a good whiff of the heady fumes in any case.

Experiencing Country Life at Shanes Castle

The Irish Game Fair at Shanes Castle is a great day out for the whole family - from clay pigeon shooting top food tasting, from story-telling Vikings to knights jousting. Held early summer on the sprawling Shanes Castle estate, bordering on Lough Neagh, it is well worth a visit.

Held in early summer, it seems to be growing year by year ... and it shows you aspects of Ireland you might otherwise miss. Not just for the tweed-and-shotgun brigade, seriously.

Walking the Causeway Coast

If you feel up to it, the Causeway Coast Way, all in all 52 kilometres from Portstewart to Ballycastle, may be the best way to experience the coastline. You can do it in stages or just do a bit of it. Or you can go the whole hog and attempt to walk all one thousand kilometres of the Ulster Way. Pack something against blisters ... and a powerbar.

Where to Find More Information on County Antrim and the Province of Ulster

Moving On ... Exploring Beyond Antrim's Borders

Enough time spent in County Antrim? Then carry on in the neighbouring counties: