Famous for its colorful coasts and beaches, Northern Ireland is spoiled with quaint seaside towns overlooking the shores of Lough Neagh, the North Coast, and beyond. Whether you plan to get away to the North this year or take a local day trip, here are our top seaside towns to visit.
Located south of the Mourne Mountains, Warrenpoint overlooks the point where the Clanrye River meets Carlingford Lough. The Lough Neagh separates Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland, making Warrenpoint a perfect stop on a southbound trip into Ireland. The long stretch of the docks and beach run alongside a beautiful seafront of hotels, restaurants, and bars that look out onto the water. Famous for its Blues on the Bay Festival, Warrenpoint is a must-see town for evening entertainment.
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At the foot of Slieve Donard, overlooking the Irish Sea, Newcastle is often referred to as the perfect seaside town. Characterized by its sandy dunes, along with a few outdoor family centers, it’s a popular summer day trip for locals. For tourists, Newcastle sits at the base of many hiking routes into the Mourne Mountains and is nearby the Royal County Down Golf Course (considered one of the best golf courses in the world). A gateway to the Giant’s Causeway, Newcastle makes for both a historical day trip and a convenient halfway point to the coast.
Carrickfergus – derived from the Gaelic Carraig Fhearghais, meaning “Fergus’s Rock” – meets Belfast Lough in the northeastern region of Northern Ireland. The town is named after the Scot-Gaelic legend of Fergus Mór, who traveled to Carrickfergus from the kingdom of Dál Riata (an ancient kingdom that occupied land from present-day west Scotland and northeast Ireland). This ancient town is rich in history and draws thousands of tourists annually to the 12th-century castle on its shore. Carrickfergus Castle, Northern Ireland‘s best preserved Norman citadel, is a beautiful site with an interactive and family-friendly museum beyond its entrance.
Just over an hour away from Northern Ireland‘s capital, Belfast, Portstewart is a top class seaside town for anyone visiting County Down. The Portstewart Strand is a major coastal destination for surfers, hikers, and film crews alike and holds Blue Flag status for all its beaches and coastal walks. The Portstewart seafront is a beautiful composition of five-star hotels, wine bars, and ice cream parlors and is recognized by the locals as the coastal gem of Northern Ireland. If visiting this beautiful town, be sure to stop by Morelli’s for a famous poke (colloquial term for ice cream) and stay for the vibrant nightlife.
Portrush town is located on a peninsula extending out to the Atlantic Ocean to the northernmost part of Northern Ireland in County Antrim, making it the best coastal town for sightseeing and boat tours. The central town is best known for its seaside funfair resort, Curry’s Fun Park (formerly Barry’s), filled with bumper cars and old-fashioned theme park rides. Fans of Irish whiskey can take a short drive out to the Old Bushmills Distillery for a tour of Ireland’s oldest whiskey distillery. And because it’s also a 20-minute drive from the Giant’s Causeway, the town is filled with thousands tourists and locals from June through September and a vibrant atmosphere of daytime activities and nightlife.
On the most northeast point of the Northern Irish map, Ballycastle is a small town with a big atmosphere, named the Best Place to Live in Northern Ireland, 2016, by the Sunday Times. While the town is small, the surrounding area includes can’t-miss sights, so be sure to bring hiking gear or an alternative mode of transport. The town sits close to the Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and the Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which includes the must-see Rathlin Island (a short boat trip over to the home of the puffins). At the famous Fair Head, take a walk “Grey Man’s Path” trail along the northeast coast. Be sure to visit the Auld Lammas Fair, a 400-year-old market dedicated to trading traditional livestock, algae, and much more.
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