Three of the best beaches to visit on the Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

I've mentioned the Causeway Coast many times on this blog so you'll have to deal with yet another post waxing lyrical about it's beauty. This time I'm going to talk about the beaches. Even in the pouring rain the beaches are gorgeous, but if you manage to catch them on a sunny day then they are absolutely stunning. You could be almost anywhere in the world with the bright, blue sea and beautiful white sand. It'll be hard to comprehend that you're only across the water in Ireland. 



White Park Bay

This one is my ultimate favourite and I make sure I visit every time we head over to Ireland, even if it's just to stand at the view point and gaze out across the Atlantic Ocean. This year we managed to time it perfectly so we went beach hopping on a truly gloriously sunny day. Despite the car park being pretty full the beach was almost empty. We just had to contend with a few dog walkers and families playing. it is also so spotless and the sand is pure white. Located not too far from Ballycastle, be sure to stop for a bite to eat at Bothy for some pizza. They also do a takeaway if you fancy eating it with the sand between your toes. It is quite a trek down to the beach so this may not be one to attempt if you have mobility issues. Keep in mind there isn't any toilet facilities. 





Portrush

Out of all the Causeway seaside towns Portrush is my favourite. It has a typically seaside town feel but still seems to retain its charm. There's some great coffee shops and the town centre is nice to wander. If you love amusements then you'll enjoy the nostalgia of Barry's. The beach isn't that spectacular but it's a fun place to chill and watch the world go by. We like grabbing a treat and a sweet treat from Babushka before sitting on a beach to people watch. Take a stroll up Ramore Head for stunning views across Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. On a clear day you'll be able to see for miles. 




Whiterocks Beach

Within walking distance from Portrush is Whiterocks. Famous for it's impressive limestone rocks, this beach is a bit more rugged-looking than the rest. You'll still be greeted with the gorgeous white sand and crystal blue sea though! It's well-known amongst surfers so you may be lucky to have some entertainment for the day. The proud owner of a Blue Flag Award, Whiterocks is very popular so it'll probably be the busiest beach you'll come across. 

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What to visit in County Down, Northern Ireland


The Mourne Mountains
I've mentioned these last week so you already now how much I love them. They should, without a doubt, be the very first thing on your list of things to visit in County Down. Make sure to do both the higher mountains scenic route and the mountain coastal route. This way you'll see them all in their glory. Keep aside a whole day to explore as you'll be stopping every 30 minutes to take pictures. Newcastle is a great little town to stop over for some lunch. We ate at Great Jones Craft & Kitchen which was delicious. They offer some great Northern Irish craft beer choices. I recommend the Cajun fish tacos. They went down a treat! 



Castle Ward

I'm a sucker for an old stately home in manicured, fancy grounds. Castle Ward ticks all the right boxes. There a Game of Thrones location to tick off if you're that way inclined, some trails to wander if you like to walk and a lavish home if you want to imagine how the other half lived. There's a lovely little cafe on the grounds to enjoy an afternoon of cake and tea. 




Inch Abbey

If there's one thing Ireland does well then it's an ruin. Be it a castle or an abbey, the island is full of them. Featuring early gothic architecture, Inch Abbey was the place where the northmen rallied behind Robb Stark in Game of Thrones. From the abbey you'll have a gorgeous view of Downpatrick, where St Patrick is buried, and the River Quoile. The ruins are very well-intact and you can definitely tell what it was hundreds of years ago. There are some great signposts scattered around detailing the history. 




Murlough Nature Reserve 

Don't be too alarmed if you hear gunshots. The beach backs onto an army shooting range so you'll be able to hear them practising. There's signs in the sea to warn you not to go too far out just in case. But if you carry on strolling the gunshots gradually due away and you'll be able to swim until your heart's content. Surrounded by the mountains, the nature reserve is a great place to blow away the cobwebs. Pack some comfortable shoes and go for a wander. Follow the wooden broadway to get down to the sea. Wrap up warm as that sea air does get chilly!




Dundrum Castle

Located not too far from Newcastle, Dundrum Castle is believed to have been built in and around 1177. It's fast become of my favourite castle ruins in Northern Ireland, second to Kinbane Castle on the Causeway Coast. Considering it's been around since the Norman invasion, the ruins are surprisingly very well intact. I loved the fact there are stairs allowing you to climb the ruins to explore further. They offer you a great view! A fun fact which actually isn't fun to anyone apart from me. But my boyfriend's family came over to Ireland during the Norman invasion so this castle is as old as their Irish family tree! Crazy right?




Ard Peninsula 

Located on the east coast of Northern Ireland, the Arg Peninsula is only half an hour from Belfast. making it the perfect contrast to city life. Surrounded by the Irish Sea and Strangford Lough, there's some lovely little villages and towns to stop off along the way. Our favourite places were Grey Abbey where you'll find some ruins and Scrabo Tower which offers incredible views.




Hillsborough

We based ourselves in Hillsborough for four days while we explored the county. It's such a charming town and so unlike anywhere I've ever visited in Northern Ireland before. For a small place it has some fab places to eat, lots to explore and cute little houses you can't help but look up on Rightmove. Be sure to take a walk around the pretty lake and grab some lunch at The Parson's Nose.




Ballynoe Stone Circle

I had never been a stone circle before yet ended up at two during this trip! It is a bit tricky to find this and you do have to leave your car in a dodgy place. It won't really work if there's another car already parked. Be prepared to walk through a magical-looking track surrounded by overgrown trees. Once you get to the end, you'll be greeted with an incredible view of the Mourne Mountains. The stone circle was built in the Bronze Age but no one is quite sure of its purpose yet. 




Tollymore Forest Park

If you're a fan of Game of Thrones then you definitely know about Tollymore. You will have seen it! You'll past the place where the Starks found the direwolves, where the Night's Watch found bodies in the snow and where Tyrion and Jon chat on their way to the wall. It really is a beautiful place and you'll need at least half a day to explore. We could only spend an hour and it wasn't long enough. Take a picnic with you and enjoy the scenery.

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Exploring the U.K.: Castle Ward, Strangford, Northern Ireland


National Trust properties are my jam. Call me old before my time but I love wandering round manicured grounds and outrageous stately homes imagining what life used to be like. Castle Ward had been on my Irish bucket list for a while so I decided it was finally time to tick it off. 




Due to the current climate you can't turn up at any National Trust property without pre-booked tickets. They must be booked at least 48 hours in advance and you have to arrive within a designated time slot. We wanted to avoid any crowds so we went for an early time slot in the hope that everyone would be in bed! It worked out just fine and we only saw a handful of people milling around. Tickets are currently priced at £10 which is an absolute bargain in my eyes.

Game of Thrones fans will be keen to know that this is the home of Winterfell. Obviously there has been some insane CGI in the show but you'll be able to make out the bare bones. We noticed they offered special tours (just not in COVID times) and you can book yourself in for a game of archery. There's not too much to see but it's fun to take a stroll and think back to the series. 

Definitely don't skip the grounds. They're one of the best bits of the property! Be sure to pick up a map from the cafe because they have a list of trails to follow. You can walk about the lough, past a castle ruin, alongside an old boat house and through endless woods. It was so quiet and peaceful making it the best place to catch your own thoughts. 

The house is currently offering limited access due to COVID so they only have self-guided tours. The upstairs is out of bounds. I didn't feel like this took away from the experience and we actually enjoyed the recordings in each room outlining the history. The recordings were nice and concise. Sometimes a guided tour can be too long-winded. 

Castle Ward was definitely one of our highlights from County Down! 







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