Belfast and the Causeway Coast: best in travel for 2018

Newly crowned as Lonely Planet’s best region to visit in 2018, Belfast and the Causeway Coast has been firmly established as one of the world’s top holiday destinations. Plan a trip and see for yourself why it’s been voted number one…

RATHLIN ISLAND: This beautiful island off the north coast of Antrim is a real hidden gem. An hour’s drive from Belfast takes you to Ballycastle. Hop on the six-mile ferry ride across the Sea of Moyle to reach Rathlin.

Just six miles long and one mile wide, the L-shaped Rathlin Island is home to approximately 150 people. Explore the harbour, craft shop, the Boathouse Visitor Centre, ancient shipwrecks and take in the incredible rugged landscape. Head towards Mill Bay to meet some of the resident puffins and seals.

Rathlin Island
Rathlin Island

Take the ferry back to the mainland and stop in at O’Connors Bar in Ballycastle for a cosy evening of live traditional music, creamy pints of Guinness and top quality pub grub.

CARRICK-A-REDE ROPE BRIDGE: A ten-minute drive will take you from Ballycastle to Carrick-a-Rede, a must-visit spot on a whistle-stop tour of the Causeway Coast.

Wrap up warm and follow the sweeping one mile coastal trail to the famous Carrick-a-Rede Ropebridge. Suspended almost 30 feet in the air, the bridge was once used by local fisherman to catch salmon.

Taking those first steps onto the bridge above the crashing waves is an exhilarating experience, to say the least. Soak in the spectacular views of Rathlin Island and the Scottish Isles as you cross – if you’re brave enough!

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Causeway Coastal Route
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Causeway Coastal Route

Warm up with delicious coffee and cakes at Rourke’s Kitchen in the nearby village of Ballintoy, one of the many Game of Thrones filming locations dotted throughout the Causeway Coast. The pretty fishing village served as the Iron Island port during season two of the blockbuster show.

SUNSET AT THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY: The UNESCO World Heritage site needs no introduction. Geologists believe the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns were formed by volcanic activity more than 60 million years ago. The more romantic souls among us, however, prefer the ancient myth that the causeway was built by warring Irish and Scottish giants.

Whatever your take on its origins, prepare to be blown away by the breathtaking beauty of the Giant’s Causeway. Plan a visit at sunset for picture-perfect views.

The Giant's Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway

DUNLUCE CASTLE: Take a step back in time with a visit to this incredible cliff-top castle in Bushmills. Perched 100 feet above the roaring waves, the 14th century castle remains only in ruins.

Dunluce’s history is awash with drama. It’s said that the castle kitchens crumbled into the sea during one particularly stormy night in the 17th century.

Just down the road in Bushmills village, you’ll find the award-winning Tartine restaurant. Settle in for a delicious meal and reflect on the beautiful sights, sounds and stories of the Causeway Coast.

Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle

BELFAST CITY BREAK

FOODIE HEAVEN: With first-rate restaurants, bars and markets popping up on every corner of the city, Belfast has something to tickle every taste bud. Work up an appetite with some shopping on the Lisburn Road before popping into Made in Belfast next to City Hall for lunch. Head to French Village or Miel et Moi afterwards for melt-in-the-mouth desserts.

Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall

Don’t miss St George’s Market, a Belfast foodie institution where you’ll find everything from chocolate to local cheese. Sample some of the city’s finest coffee at Established Coffee in the Cathedral Quarter.

Make a dinner booking at The Barking Dog on Howard Street or try for a table at the stylish Muddler Club. Pizza fans will love Little Wing on Lisburn Road.

Fancy a taste of the city’s famous seafood? Check out the Mourne Seafood Bar. Round off the day with rooftop cocktails in The Perch.

TITANIC BELFAST: Crowned the world’s leading tourist attraction in 2016, Titanic Belfast is a must-visit site on any trip to Belfast. Sitting in the heart of the Titanic Quarter, just a five minute drive from the city centre, the iconic six-floor building tells the complete story of the famous ship and its tragic maiden voyage. For tickets visit titanicbelfast.com.

Titanic Quarter, Belfast
Titanic Quarter, Belfast

HOW TO GET THE BELFAST

Find flights to Belfast City Airport with Aer Lingus.

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