County Antrim is located in Northern Ireland, and is the most north-easterly county on the island of Ireland. Lough Neagh, Ireland’s largest lake, is to the west of the county, and is home to some of the best eel fishing in Europe.
A channel of only 21 km (13 miles) separates Torr Head from the Scottish coast.
The eastern part of the county features a magnificent coast, running north from Larne, before curving round a base of steep headlands. The coast road takes in some of the country’s best scenery. Almost every bay along the coast is a link in a chain of fine holiday resorts.
On the northern coast, the Giant’s Causeway is a celebrated natural wonder. It consists of a spectacular mass of basalt columns, about 40,000 altogether, formed by cooling volcanic rock.
Top Attractions in County Antrim
Dunluce Castle is a late-medieval and 17th-century castle and is dramatically sited on a headland dropping sheer into the sea on the north Antrim Coast. It creates an exciting image of danger and adventure backed up by its history.
The Giant’s Causeway is a geological phenomenon renowned for its columns of layered basalt and is a world heritage site and a fabulous day visit from Belfast (1.5 hours drive). Owned by the conservation charity The National Trust, it sits in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the North Antrim Coast.
Glenariff Forest Park is a spectacular glen walk with three waterfalls. It features a scenic path and trails to mountain viewpoints, as well as a visitor centre, shop and restaurant. Glenariff Forest Park is situated amid the world famous Glens of Antrim.
The Grand Opera House, Northern Ireland’s Premier Theatre, presents a programme of the very best in live theatrical performances to satisfy the widest possible range of tastes and ages such as musicals, opera, ballet, comedy, concerts and pantomime.
The Old Bushmills Distillery is the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery having received its licence to distil in 1608. In 1608 Sir Thomas Phillips was granted a licence to distil whiskey by James I of England, however, mentions of distilling traditions in the surrounding environs date back to 1276.
The Ulster Museum is a National museum noted for its collections of Irish art, history, natural sciences and archaeology. It includes an early Ireland gallery (10,000 BC-1,500 BC), as well as treasures from the Spanish Armada. The Museum’s remarkable permanent collection of Irish, British, European and American art is complemented by major exhibitions in the newly-refurbished premier temporary exhibitions gallery and other spaces.
Events and Festivals in County Antrim
The Ballymena Show and Countryside Festival is an annual agricultural show and festival.
The Balmoral Show is an annual three-day show held in mid-May featuring farming and agricultural displays and competitions. The website includes visitor information, festival programme, showgrounds map, photo gallery and Kids Zone.
Main Destinations in County Antrim
Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, is not just any city – politics, history and religion are inescapable parts of its fabric. For visitors it is compact, with relatively light traffic and conveniently located points of interest. The major central landmark is Donegall Square. It is a major industrial centre and boasts some of the best shopping on the island of Ireland as well as some excellent nightlife including the Grand Opera House.
Portrush is a popular seaside resort and is also known for its night-life.
Towns and Villages in County Antrim
Ballymena lies at the base of the Antrim Mountains and forty miles from the centre of Belfast. The town has grown from its early development around the linen industry and today the main employers of Ballymena are its many retail outlets.
Larne is just twenty miles from Belfast and one of the most modern ports in Ireland. Although generally thought of as an area from which one enters or leaves the country, it is actually an enjoyable holiday destination in itself.
Ballycastle is a small rural town situated on the most north-easterly tip of County Antrim. Enjoying popularity amongst holiday makers and residents alike, Ballycastle lies in the district of Moyle with views of the surrounding mountain ranges, forest parks, glens, lakes and coastline.
Ballymoney is an old and beautiful town twelve miles from the Causeway coast. The allure of the town endures though and it remains a popular destination for many visitors. Its ancient buildings contribute greatly to the town’s appeal.
Carrickfergus is a dream for anybody with an interest in history. One of the oldest towns in Northern Ireland, it has some of the finest Norman architecture in Europe, with its castle lauded as the jewel in its crown.
Newtownabbey is located just north of Belfast City, and is the tourist gateway for visitors from Belfast heading for the Glens of Antrim and the Causeway Coast. Situated on the shores of Belfast Lough, motorway access to the nearby ferry ports and airports makes Newtownabbey an ideal choice for tourists.
Popular locations to stay in Co. Antrim are Antrim Town (6 places to stay), Ballintoy (2), Ballycastle (8), Ballyclare (3), Ballymena (11), Ballymoney (10), Belfast City (70), Bushmills (11), Carrickfergus (5), Crumlin (9), Cushendall (7), Glenariffe (4), Larne (12), Lisburn (4), Newtownabbey (1), Portrush (30), Templepatrick (2), Toome (2).
Other towns include Dunmurry.
Getting Here and Around
County Antrim is extremely accessible, home to two airports, as well as Belfast and Larne ferryports. Rail services to the rest of Northern Ireland, and to Dublin are also available, as well as bus and a good road network. Details on getting around Antrim, and of the air- and seaports can be found in our Co. Antrim Transport Guide.