9th Stop in Ireland: Portrush, Northern Ireland
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
When I come to Northern Ireland, I stay in Portrush. I love how close it is to everything. You have Dunluce Castle, Giant's Causeway, Bushmills Distillery, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the dark hedges all within a short drive.
I must begin this blog by highlighting the Airbnb that I have stayed at the last two times while in Portrush. Ian's home is incredible. The house is a shared space which is a ton of fun. We met two other traveling couples when we last stayed there, and had a great time hanging out with them and the hosts when everyone was home at the end of the day. Ian's place has three fantastic rooms that you can rent, with two of them overlooking the ocean. A HUGE deck is built off the back of the house. You can walk down the stairs, stroll across the street, and you will find yourself right on the beach. Ash spent both nights walking the sandy shore watching the sun set. I highly recommend checking his place out on Airbnb, you won't regret it. (And mention you heard about it through Chelsea!).
Portrush is gorgeous. The climate is temperate and cool- our favorite- and the aqua blue ocean water compliments the lush green vegetation you find growing on the rocky cliff side. Portrush is good for site seeing (natural and man-made structures), but if you like water sports it is also a great place to go. One of the couples we stayed with came to Portrush just because they had heard it was a great place to surf. No matter what you are feeling, this is a great place to immerse yourself in.
That being said, I think it is best that we highlight the things we did during our time here. If you like nature, castles, and whiskey, then check some of these places out:
The castle ruins sit right on the cliff side overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean below. As Dunluce Castle's website explains, it was a Medieval Irish castle built in 1500 by the MacQuillan family. It only costs £5.50 to get in (remember, you are now using pounds in Northern Ireland!), and you have the opportunity to view their history exhibit and walk over the wooden bridge into the old fortress. The castle is extremely picturesque, and if you are hungry before or after your visit, there is the cutest little cafe near the car park.
Giant's Causeway is a natural wonder. The basalt, hexagonal columns created by quickly cooled lava are probably the most iconic part of the Causeway, but there is so much more to see and do. The Giant's Causeway website is a great place to start researching if you plan to visit this place.
The car park at the Causeway is a pretty busy place, so to avoid traffic Ash and I parked our car in a lot located in Bushmills and took a short bus ride up to the visitor's center. We purchased our tickets, £12.50 per adult, and spent a little time walking around the center's shop which mostly sells local crafts. The center also offers headsets for walking tours which I would recommend because you get historical facts mixed with traditional folklore stories of the giant responsible for the Causeway, Finn McCool.
As mentioned, the first thing to do is to walk down a very large hill towards the basalt columns. The giant black hexagons jut out of the water, and you can climb all over them. They can be slippery though, so be careful. Surrounding the columns are giant red cliffs. The cliffs have some amazing walking paths, so instead of going back up the way you came, take the paths up to the top of the cliffs and look at the Causeway from above. You can spend quite a while hiking this beautiful area.
CARRICK-A-REDE ROPE BRIDGE
If you don't mind walking small rope bridges over ocean water, than this is definitely something for you to try. Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge was a half hour coastal drive east from our place in Portrush. The car park we left our car at was actually one of the sites that Game of Thrones was filmed at, so we felt a little star-struck as we walked to the entrance of the bridge. The entrance fee was £9.00 per adult which seemed like a lot, but we soon found out that it was not just the "walking of the bridge" we were paying for. We were also able to spend time on the small rocky island that was covered it the most beautiful green mossy grass sprinkled with wildflowers. Ash and I found a spot to sit, and watched the water lap up into the caverns that sat at the base of the cliff on the other side of the bridge. It was very peaceful.
OLD BUSHMILLS DISTILLERY
The Bushmills Distillery has been making whiskey for over 400 years and is considered the oldest working distillery in Ireland. I really enjoy this distillery tour, and have actually gone on it a couple of times. The price to get in is £9.00, and the guide takes you all over the site- inside and out. We were able to see the whiskey process from the very beginning all the way to the bottling stage, and at the end they give you a free drink... I recommend getting the Bushmills' whisky that is only available in Ireland!
THE DARK HEDGES
If you are a Game of Thrones fan (or you just really like trees I guess), this is a fun place to stop. The Dark Hedges are a half hour drive southeast from Portrush. The journey gives you the chance to see some of the green pastures and farming landscape of Northern Ireland.
Ash and I visited the hedges on one of our last days in Northern Ireland. As you may be able to tell from the photo to the right, the road was completely covered in manure. The pasture was being fertilized that day, and a turd-slinging vehicle could be spotted driving up and down the paved pathway.
There were a handful of brave tourists who chose to walk the road, despite the condition it was in. Ash and I were not one of these tourists. We stayed safely in our car, windows rolled down only to take this single photograph. We drove down the road slowly in an effort to prevent any poop from flying off our tires into the crowd of people. We now refer to this site as the "Dookie Hedges."
If you have the chance to visit Northern Ireland, I do recommend stopping by Portrush. Ash and I definitely plan to come out here again (Fall 2021?!), and are excited to re-visit some of these places while also exploring new areas. If you have been to Portrush, we would love to know what you thought. Did you have a chance to surf? Did you spend time in other coastal towns nearby? What was your experience here? Please drop us a line- we would love to learn from you!
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