Things to do in Antrim

Explore Northern Ireland with the Rough Guide Things to do in Antrim

Antrim Travel Guide: Top Things to do in Antrim

Discover things to do in County Antrim with our suggestions of some of the best activities and attractions in the county.

Discover the breathtaking wonders of County Antrim, located in Northern Ireland. From its eastern Belfast region to the rugged Glens of Antrim, there is an abundance of natural beauty to explore.

Get behind the wheel and embark on an unforgettable road trip. Travelling by car enables you to traverse the county at your own pace and take in the stunning scenery that unfolds before you.

Begin your adventure in Belfast, a vibrant city that offers incredible sights and sounds. Don’t forget to venture beyond and explore the enchanting sights and Things to do in Antrim.

Antrim is a county in Northern Ireland that is steeped in history and offers visitors many opportunities to explore its rich heritage. This stunning county is situated in the northeast corner of the country and has played a central role in the history of Northern Ireland and its neighbours. 

The county boasts a plethora of magnificent castles and historic heritage sites that are sure to captivate the imagination of any history buff.

As you traverse this beautiful county, you will find that it has been chosen as the location for many TV shows and movies due to its epic grandeur and scale. The stunning landscapes and picturesque towns and villages provide the perfect backdrop for any production, and it’s not hard to see why Antrim has become a favourite among filmmakers and viewers alike.

Whether you are a history enthusiast, a film buff, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, Antrim offers something for everyone. So why not pack your bags and head over to this picturesque county for an unforgettable experience?

Drive the Causeway Coastal Route Top attractions and Best things to do in Antrim

Drive the Causeway Coastal Route

Walk the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It spans 20 metres and is 30 metres above the rocks below. The bridge is mainly a tourist attraction and is owned and maintained by the National Trust.

Considered one of the world’s scariest bridges, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is not for the faint of heart. Spanning a chasm that is almost 100 feet deep and nearly 70 feet wide, this Northern Ireland bridge connects Carrick-a-Rede Island to the mainland and attracts a quarter of a million visitors every year. 

The original structure was built by fishermen more than 300 years ago, and as recently as the 1970s, the bridge had only one handrail and large gaps between the slats.

The current bridge is less than 10 years old and is made of wire and Douglas fir. There is no record of anyone falling off the bridge, but it is not uncommon for visitors to get cold feet after crossing once, requiring a boat to bring them back to the mainland. 

Aside from the treacherous structure, the surrounding area is designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest due to its unique flora and fauna.

Take on the challenge of the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, enjoy stunning views of the Scottish islands, spot soaring seabirds and basking sharks, and see the stars shine like never before.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope

Crossing Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge - One of the must Things to do in Antrim

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a breathtaking and astonishing attraction located on the magnificent and mesmerizing coastline of Northern Ireland. Not only is it a remarkable sight, but it is also a crucial piece of history that can trace its roots back to over 200 years ago. 

When it was originally constructed, it was a groundbreaking achievement for skilled salmon fishermen who needed a bridge that would allow them to access the tiny island that lies off the coast of County Antrim. The bridge is suspended an impressive 30 meters (100 feet) above sea level, offering explorers of the bridge the feeling of an unparalleled thrilling adventure that is unforgettable.

While traversing the bridge, visitors are treated to unbeatable vistas of the surrounding Rathlin Island and the Scottish isles beyond, captivating your senses with their overwhelming beauty. 

Additionally, visitors are encouraged to discover the historic fishery on the island, adding even more to this already exhilarating experience. Once your excursion is complete, the Weighbridge Tea Room awaits you, where you can unwind with some delicious treats while enjoying the awe-inspiring views

Walk the Glenariff Waterfall Walk

Glenariff Forest Park

The Glenariff Nature Reserve Waterfalls Walk is a must-visit attraction in Northern Ireland within the Glenariff Forest Park. This beautiful nature reserve encompasses a vast area, which has been specifically designed to showcase the region’s stunning natural beauty. 

You can explore the park’s many pathways, offering a magnificent scenic landscape view. Throughout the walk, you will walk alongside a river gorge, where you will be greeted by an array of stunning waterfalls. 

To enhance your experience and make it more accessible, the park has installed boardwalks on stilts, allowing you to get up close and personal with the waterfalls. The reserve also offers a range of facilities to make your visit worthwhile, including a spacious car park, toilets, a visitor centre, and seasonal restaurants. 

So, if you want to explore Northern Ireland’s natural wonders, the Glenariff Nature Reserve Waterfalls Walk is a great option!

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Rathlin Island

The-Museum-of-Free-Derry

In the midst of the rugged terrain of this stunning island lies a tranquillity and beauty one does not expect. The ferry transporting visitors to Rathlin Island travels an approximate distance of six miles across the Sea of Moyle. 

This L-shaped island, stretching six miles long and one mile wide, is home to an ever-growing population of approximately 140 individuals. Only a short expedition from the harbor stands the Boathouse Visitor Center (operational during the vacation season), where guests can immerse themselves in the exceptional history, learn about current island life, and take a look at a variety of artifacts salvaged from the numerous shipwrecks encompassing the island. 

A wide range of strolls and hikes are available, including the peaceful stretch to Mill Bay, where visitors can observe resident seals basking in the sunlight or playfully interacting with their surroundings. Another method of exploring the island is via cycling hire or bus tours. 

Puffin season is from April to July, making it essential to seize the chance to witness these birds, and other creatures of the sea, up close and personal. The renovated seabird center, which is now open to the public as part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland tour, provides an extra advantage. 

Rathlin Island’s various accommodations cater to various needs, while the pub, restaurant, and community shop offer additional amenities, not to mention the unique Rathlin-produced crafts sold at the gift shop. 

The Rathlin Development and Community Association is the volunteer organization representing the Rathlin community and manages an informative website with exhaustive information about island services and activities, which you can visit at www.rathlincommunity.org.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle, located in north County Antrim on the stunning and rugged coastal cliffs, boasts a rich and turbulent history that dates back to the 16th century. Its origins began with the building of the castle by the MacQuillan family around 1500, and it was first written about in 1513. 

The castle’s tumultuous and violent history was essentially marked by its seizure by the MacDonnell clan during the 1550s. Led by the famous and infamous warrior chieftain Sorely Boy MacDonnell, they left their own indelible mark on this majestic castle during a period filled with rebellion, intrigue, and violence.

During the 17th century, Dunluce soared to new heights of importance when it became the seat of power for the influential and powerful Earls of Antrim. This led to the establishment of a thriving small town in the area in 1608, which visitors can still explore today. 

Despite the castle’s abandonment, there still is a palpable sense of history within its cobbled streets and merchant’s homes, uncovered during numerous archaeological digs.

And, as if this wasn’t enough, the Castle also is steeped in numerous legends and myths, such as that of a wailing banshee, or the story of how the castle’s kitchens dramatically plunged into the sea on a dark and stormy night in 1639. So, a visit to Dunluce Castle is an absolute must for anyone seeking an unforgettable experience delving into the tumultuous and violent history of Northern Ireland.

Ballintoy Harbour

Ballintoy Harbour

Ballintoy Harbour is a hidden gem, nestled within the picturesque village of Ballintoy. This extraordinary harbour, known as a “raised beach”, boasts an unparalleled natural beauty. It is situated alongside the B15 coast road, which can be accessed through a steep and winding road, offering breathtaking views along the way. 

Ballintoy Harbour is a true haven for artists and painters, with its sea stacks, rocky islands, pools, and bustling harbour. It is also perfect for a wild beach walk, leading to one of Europe’s most magnificent cliff-top views. Visitors can park their cars at the adjacent car park beside the harbour café and enjoy a lovely picnic.

The fishing harbour is located at the end of Knocksaughey Hill’s steep and narrow road. The charming village of Ballintoy is a mere one kilometre from the harbour and is home to an array of small shops and two quaint churches, including the white Ballintoy 

Parish Church that overlooks the harbour from the hilltop. The area presents an impressive range of tourist accommodation, restaurants, commercial, and social facilities, making it an ideal stopover along the coastal route.

Ballintoy Harbour’s breathtaking beauty has not gone unnoticed, as it was selected as one of the filming locations for the widely acclaimed HBO series, Game of Thrones. 

Fans of the show can relive the experience by visiting the site, which was used for The Iron Islands and featured in Season 2 Episode 2 and Season 2 Episode 3. Season 6 Episode 5 also used the location for Euron’s drowning and rebirth, and the nearby beach was the setting for Melisandre’s burning of Stannis Baratheon’s bannerman. 

If you’re a die-hard Game of Thrones Fan, you can discover other filming locations in Northern Ireland by visiting the Game of Thrones Tour from Belfast

Popular Tours From Belfast

Giant Causeway Tour

Belfast Shore Excursion

Old Bushmills Distillery – The oldest licensed distillery in the world

Old-Bushmills-Distillery

Bushmills is a village in Northern Ireland with an incredible story to tell. It all started in 1608 when King James I bestowed a very special privilege upon this small community. 

The king granted the village a license to distil whiskey, giving rise to a legend that has stood the test of time. In fact, Bushmills is now home to the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world.

For over 400 years, Bushmills has been making whiskey using the best Irish barley and unique water from its stream. The dedication and craftsmanship that has gone into every bottle are evident in the quality and taste of their whiskeys. It’s no wonder that Bushmill whiskey is among the most celebrated and savoured in the world.

If you want to taste the magic for yourself, you simply must visit Bushmills. There, you can explore the beautiful terrain that gives the whiskey its legendary character and meet the people who have safeguarded centuries of knowledge. 

You will witness the practice of their craft first-hand and enjoy the rich aromas and full-bodied flavours of Northern Ireland’s oldest working distillery. All of this comes together to create a truly unforgettable experience.

Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle in Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, on the northern shore of Belfast Lough. Unlike many other castles of this era, Carrickfergus Castle sits in excellent condition. In fact, despite being besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, and playing an important military role until 1928, it’s one of the best-preserved medieval structures in Ireland and the only preserved castle of its age open to the public.

For more than 800 years, Carrickfergus Castle has been an imposing monument on the Northern Irish landscape whether approached by land, sea or air. The castle now houses historical displays as well as cannons from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

A visit will give you the opportunity to see how the Great Hall at the top of the Great Tower has been transformed by the new roof which has greatly improved the visitor’s experience.

The Carrickfergus Visitor Information Centre is located within the castle where local national visitor information can be found as well as a range of local crafts and castle memorabilia. There is a wide selection of books on the history of the area as well as children’s books and local recipe books.

After your tour, sit down and enjoy a tea or coffee and spend time planning your itinerary with the help of the knowledgable Visitor Information staff who are always on hand and happy to help you plan the next stage of your journey. 

The Dark Hedges – one of the top best things to do in Antrim

The-Dark-Hedges

“One of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland and a popular attraction for tourists from across the world”

The stunning tunnel of trees along the Bregagh Road was planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family, owners of the Georgian mansion, Gracehill House It was intended as a compelling landscape feature to impress visitors as they approached the entrance to their Georgian mansion, Gracehill House.

A favourite local ghost story features the grey lady,

Why are they called the Dark Hedges? The treelines are supposedly haunted: The Grey Lady (a lost spirit from a long-abandoned graveyard) is said to appear at dusk amongst the trees.

Two centuries later, the trees remain a magnificent sight and have become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland. In fact, the iconic trees have been used as a filming location in HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones, representing the King’s Road.

Game of Thrones Filming Locations

The trees represented the King’s Road in the Featured Scene: Season 2, Episode 1: The North Remembers – On the King’s Road, Arya Stark has escaped from King’s Landing, disguised as a boy. She is with Yoren, Gendry, Hot Pie, and others who are to join the Night’s Watch, in a cart, travelling north on the King’s Road. Find out about other Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Northern Ireland.

Several tour companies operate this tour from Belfast exploring all the major filming locations of Game of ThronesTours from Belfast are available with multiple tour companies. Private tours are also available on the Game of Thrones Tour.

You can Book this on Belfast Tours NI

Giant’s Causeway –Best things to do in Antrim

Tourist attractions in Ireland

Flanked by the wild North Atlantic Ocean and a landscape of dramatic cliffs, Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, is the only World Heritage Site in N Ireland. Resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, this is the focal point for a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has attracted visitors for centuries.

Things to do in Antrim: GIANTS CAUSEWAY FROM BELFAST

Discover the magic of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Giant’s Causeway on a full-day trip from Belfast. The Giants Causeway Tour from Belfast allows visitors to enjoy some of the most beautiful coastal scenery our country has to offer. 

Your journey begins at your pickup location, where you meet your guide/driver. Then travel through Northern Ireland’s spectacular countryside arriving at the Giant’s Causeway to climb the fascinating stones and admire the scenic splendor of the surroundings.

Visit the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Northern Ireland the famous Giants Causeway.  The Giants Causeway is made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, most of which are hexagonal in shape as a result of an ancient volcanic eruption.

On this Private Giants Causeway Tour from Belfast visit attractions like Dunluce Castle, Old Bushmills distillery, and Summon your courage to cross the nail-biting Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

We make our way back to Belfast along the Causeway Coast and Antrim Coast Road where we can see fine views of Rathlin Island, and on a clear day, we may even see the Scottish coast 13 miles away. The views along this coastline are spectacular, no wonder it is one of the most visited destinations in Europe!

You can Book a Private Tour on Belfast Tours NI

The Derry Walls

The Derry Walls

Derry’s walls were erected between 1613 and 1619 by the Irish Society under the vigilant supervision of Peter Benson, a renowned builder and architect from London. The primary purpose of these walls was to safeguard the Scottish and English settlers who had relocated to Ulster as part of the Plantation of Ulster, initiated by James I.

This fortification was a direct response to the previous settlement being destroyed during O’Doherty’s rebellion by the Irish chieftain Cahir O’Doherty. The construction of these walls was commissioned by the Irish Society, a conglomerate of livery companies headquartered in the City of London, and as a result, the city was officially renamed Londonderry in the 1613 royal charter.

This renaming conflict triggered a disagreement about the city and county’s name, Derry/Londonderry. Within the walls is the historical city of Derry, encompassing significant landmarks like the Apprentice Boy’s Hall and St. Columb’s Cathedral, Ulster’s first purpose-built Protestant Cathedral.

History

The Siege of Derry marked the outset of the Williamite War in Ireland, as the city’s gates were locked by thirteen apprentices against the forces of the Earl of Antrim, who remained loyal to James II. Due to insufficient manpower, Antrim retreated to Coleraine. 

On April 18, 1689, the siege began in earnest, as forces backing the king arrived and demanded the city’s surrender. Though James himself soon appeared and appealed for surrender, the city declined. 

The siege lasted until August 1, when relief ships managed to break through the blockade across the River Foyle with essential supplies. Remarkably, the city’s walls remained unbreached, resulting in its moniker the Maiden City.

Carnlough Harbour

Carnlough-Harbour-1

The admirable harbour situated in Carnlough has been the prime centre of focus for several years. It is located at the northern end of Carnlough Bay and primarily serves as a destination for pleasure boating and small-scale fishing activities. 

As a harbor of the village, it is limited in size and is not recommended for vessels longer than 10 meters. In more recent times, the harbour has gained considerable recognition for its appearance in the filming of the esteemed drama series, Game of Thrones. Local boat owners cater to seasonal boat tours, an opportunity to learn more about the harbour’s historical relevance as an industrial hub.

Braavos Game Of Thrones

Carnlough Harbor, famously referred to as Braavos in Game of Thrones, is a charming harbour nestled on the picturesque Antrim coastal route in Northern Ireland. The Broken Man, Season 6, Episode 7 saw the filming of a part of the fictional city Braavos in Carnlough Harbor. 

This is the location where Arya Stark arrives in Braavos to meet Jaqen H’ghar and learn the art of becoming a faceless assassin. Arya finds herself in grave danger when she is ambushed by the Waif and is stabbed repeatedly, leading to a desperate escape. 

It is noteworthy that the location for this scene changed from Croatia to Northern Ireland when Arya jumped off the bridge. The filming then resumed in Croatia as Arya crawled up the steps onto the streets of Braavos.

Cushendun Caves

Cushendun Caves

his is a stunning coastal location with incredibly rugged yet beautiful geological features! What happened in these Cushendun caves took many GOT fans by surprise.

Cushendun Caves – Game of thrones
The caves are where Sir Davos Seaworth and Lady Melisandre landed ashore in Season 2 and are also where Melisandre gave birth to a terrifying shadow baby. The caves also featured again in season 8 with the famous battle between Jaime Lannister and Euron Greyjoy. The caves are on the daily tour route on the Game of Thrones tour.

Cushendun Village

Cushendun is a small coastal village in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It sits off the A2 coast road between Cushendall and Ballycastle. It has a beautiful sheltered harbor and lies at the mouth of the River Dun and Glendun, and is also known as one of the stunning 9 Glens of Antrim.

Several tour companies operate tours from Belfast, exploring all the major Game of Thrones Filming Locations.

The Gobbins Cliff Path

The Gobbins Cliff Path

The Gobbins Experience is a magnificent display of natural wonder. The enveloping Irish Sea winds, the dancing dolphins, the squawking native seabirds, and the salty air all contribute to a immersive experience. 

This marvellous cliff path was first constructed in Islandmagee, on the County Antrim coastline at the turn of the 20th century. It was billed as having “no parallel in Europe as a marine cliff walk,” and served as the crowning glory of the Victorian railway engineer, Berkeley Deane Wise. 

Upon arriving at The Gobbins, the stunning network of walkways and bridges hugging the dramatic basalt cliff face will greet and impress you. Local guides, highly knowledgeable about this spectacular place, will join you as you lace up your walking boots, put on a hard hat and embark on a 2.5-hour walking tour. 

The trip begins with a hole through a rock called Wise’s Eye with waves crashing below you. The guide will share geological and geographical information and point out plants, ferns, grasses, and wildlife in this Area of Special Scientific Interest. Stories of local traditions and history, such as nearby Portmuck (or Pig Island) that got its name, will also be shared.

Glenarm Castle

Glenarm Castle Walled Garden in winning the prestigious national UK award, the Historic Houses 2023 Garden of the Year Award sponsored by Christie’s, celebrating its 40th anniversary year, in November 2023. 

This is a significant moment in history as it is the first time a garden from Northern Ireland has not only been shortlisted but has also won this esteemed national award.

The restoration and replanting of our 200-year-old Walled Garden is a testament to the effort given by a dedicated team of experts, including renowned garden designer Catherine FitzGerald, plantsmen Nigel Marshal, and Neil Porteous, as well as our diligent gardeners Jordan McWhirter and Ben Coulter.

Glenarm Castle is a privately owned estate that remains open to the public. It is steeped in a wealth of history, culture, and heritage and annually attracts over 100,000 visitors worldwide. 

Visitors can enjoy enchanted walks through the Walled Garden and Castle Trail, indulge in an amazing lunch in the Tea Room, purchase local produce, or browse through a wide variety of goods in the Byre Shop and Shambles Workshop – with many ranges exclusive to Glenarm Castle.

Glenarm Castle has exciting events throughout the year for the entire family, including the magical and magnificent Christmas Experience in December, the colourful Tulip Festival in May, and Northern Ireland’s biggest family festival of music and food in July. Your visit to Glenarm Castle will be an unforgettable experience.

Your questions answered about the best things to do in Antrim

Travel between multiple peacelines and walls on an eye opening tour of discovery through the once no go areas and learn of Belfast’s troubled past and rich shared history. Visit both Catholic and Protestant areas to get a balanced understanding of the past. You will be fully guided by a real black taxi driver who worked Belfast’s streets during an era known as the troubles.

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Discover Irish Isle offers a range of resources to help visitors plan a trip to Ireland. Our blog post highlights the best things to do in the area and provides insider tips to ensure visitors have an unforgettable experience. 

We encourage you to explore our social media channels as well, where you can find additional information and travel inspiration. Trust our team of experts to guide you through the planning process and provide you with the tools you need to fully immerse yourself in the culture and attractions of Ireland.

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