Northern Ireland – County Antrim

Top 10 places

Top 100 places to visit in Northern Ireland

County Antrim

1. Carrickfergus Castle

North of Belfast on the A2 is the town of Carrickfergus, whose seafront is dominated by the well preserved Carrickfergus Castle, one of the earliest and largest Irish castles. Built on a rocky promontory above the harbour around 1180 by the Anglo-Norman invader John de Courcy, and garrisoned until 1928, it reflects the defensive history of this entire region. The castle has now been restored, and there’s an informative exhibition on its history. Over the last weekend in July the castle holds an annual fair, Lughnasa, with wrestlers, archers, minstrels and people dressed up as monks.

2. Carnfunnock Country Park

Carnfunnock Country Park is a good place to stop for a walk, with mixed woodland, colourful gardens, walking trails and coastline, and spectacular panoramic views of the Antrim Coast and North Channel. The time garden features a collection of unusual sundials. The Park was originally part of the estate of Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon. Many of the original features remain, including the walled garden, the ice house and the lime kilns. There are free Sunday afternoon concerts by flute, pipe and accordian bands in summer, and from Easter to October you can camp here.

3. ECOS Environmental Centre

The high-tech interactive galleries at the Ecos Centre in Ballymena help kids to understand the importance of sustainability and biodiversity and how to care for the world we live in. There are also plenty of outdoor activities, including toy tractors and sand pit, duck feeding, play park, willow tunnel and picnicking facilities. You can easily make a day of it by bringing along a barbequue and going for a walk or cycle along the extensive network of paths in the ecos park that extends to approximately 150 acres.

4. Slemish Mountain

The 488 metre high Slemish Mountain is one of County Antrim’s most mystical reference points, and dominates the landscape for miles around. This extinct volcano is said to be the place where St Patrick herded swine as a slave boy after being captured and brought to Ireland, and is consequently a place of pilgrimage on March 17th, though others claim his writings indicate that the place of his captivity was Killala, County Mayo. Whatever the truth, the mountain is a steep climb of about 240 metres from the car park to the summit, but the views are well worth the effort.

5. The Irish Linen Centre

The Flax to Fabric exhibition at the Irish Linen Centre tells the story of the Irish linen industry with skilled demonstrations of hand spinning and handloom weaving, as well as displaying wonderful examples of historic linen costume and furnishings. A souvenir publication, Flax to Fabric – the Story of Irish Linen compiled by Brenda Collins, is available in The Museum Shop. Café Crommelin, named after the French Huguenot settler, Louis Crommelin, who helped to develop the linen industry, is licensed and provides snacks and light meals throughout the day. 

6. Real Ale at the Hilden Brewery

Hilden Brewery is a family run microbrewery producing authentic, unprocessed beers free of artificial additives and preservatives. Their character comes from careful selection and use of malt and hops, products of the harvest and the natural ingredients of beer. Visitors can discover the magic of brewing from the master brewer and afterwards sample the subtleties of flavour and character of Hilden’s finest beers. Lunch and dinner are served in the on-site restaurant, The Tap Room at Hilden Brewery, where guests can choose from a menu that is both seasonal and locally sourced.

7. Clotworthy Art Centre

Clotworthy Art Centre in Antrim Town was built in the 1840s as a coach house and stables for the old Antrim Castle, which was destroyed by fire in 1922. It was once the centre of a thriving farm and consists of an enclosed central courtyard flanked by two wings built in a neo-Tudor style. The buildings have been restored as an arts centre providing exhibition spaces for local and occaisional international exhibitions; the centre also stages a programme of evening events.

8. Glenariff Forest Park

Glenariff, the ‘Queen of the Glens,’ hosts the spectacular Glenariff Forest Park. The unique Waterfall Walkway, a popular tourist attraction since it opened over 80 years ago, has been significantly upgraded along its 3 mile length which passes through a National Nature Reserve. Its three waterfalls provide a rich backdrop for photographers, as do the Forest Trails that offer panoramic landscapes and peaceful riverside walks. A visitor centre, exhibition, interactive display, shop, and a seasonal restaurant compliment this beautiful natural attraction.

9. Carrickfergus Museum

Carrickfergus is the most archaeologically explored town in Northern Ireland, and the finds on display at the Carrickfergus Museum provide a remarkable glimpse into life in the town from the Medieval period to more recent times. The displays reflect the experiences of ordinary people and illustrate the dramatic and tumultuous events in the town’s history. These collections are displayed and interpreted using a range of media, including audio-visual presentations and hands-on interactives.

10. The World Championship Highland Games at Glenarm Castle

See the World Championship Highland Games at Glenarm Castle in July; the Men’s Highland Games and the Strongest Woman Competition with an exciting international line-up in both competitions. The sheep shearing competition stirs up a lot of excitement and fierce competition. Other attractions at the Highland Games include trade stands, chain saw sculpting, Falconry displays, archery, pony rides, piping competitions, pipe bands, Scottish and Irish dancers, Ulster Scots and tradtional Ceildh bands and traditional funfair rides and stalls.

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