Truth be told, I probably wouldn't have ever ventured across the water to Northern Ireland if it hadn't been for my friends wedding this spring in her home village - a beautiful little place called Cushendall. But I am soooo glad I did - everything about this place is magical and it has some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen. So I am Northern Ireland's number fan at the minute and telling everyone I can to go and let this little part of the world shine!
First Stop - Belfast
The first thing that strikes you about Belfast is the street art. It's everywhere. Vibrant striking images of Belfast's history adorn walls on every building. It reminded me a lot of Manchester and Liverpool, quirky industrial streets now filled with bustling cafes and bars. I could definitely live here, we all felt right at home.
One of the must do's, in my opinion is a Black Cab Tour. I love history, I always have so anything to do with past or present troubles really interests me. We pre booked Paddy Campbell's Famous Black Cab Tour and was met promptly by our driver Damien. The history of Belfast and it's on going struggles with religion were fascinating and although being old enough to understand at the time, the troubles in Northern Ireland really passed me by as a child ashamedly and I never realised the severity of it all. This tour was so informative, humorous and sensitive - it really captured our attentions.
Of course Belfast is also renowned for a good night out and it didn't disappoint. Being the foodies we are, we dined at The Ox and then headed into the Cathedral quarter for as much Guinness as we could handle. One of my favourite memories is sitting in the Duke of York pub with a session band singing "Galway Girl", everyone was merry and loving life at that moment. It was just like I imagined!
Our second day in Belfast consisted of a fabulous breakfast at Established Coffee - the orange juice was to die for - and then on to the famous Titanic Museum. I actually really enjoyed the museum, it's great for kids or a rainy day and the chance to reenact the famous "King of the world" scene means it's a 100% winner in my eyes! Plus there's the geeky photo op moments you can't resist!
From Belfast to Cushendall
For our trip, we hired a car. It's probably the only way to get around if you plan on heading further north from Belfast. The Coastal Causeway route is spectatular and if you can drive, then I highly reccommend you do it because it gives you total freedom to just pull over and go wherever the scenery takes you. Some of our best moments were off course, randomly stopping and letting curiousity take over.
Cushendall is a gorgeous little seaside village, nestled in between three glens of Antrim and in an area of outstanding natural beauty, and it is where my friend grew up and returned home to get married. Having everyone descend on this village from all over for the weekend was fabulous and it was so good to see so many old faces. Our group staying in the wonderful Glendale BnB where the home cooked Ulster Fry was second to none!
We spent 3 nights in Cushendall, with the main event being on Saturday. The weather was gloriuous and everything about the wedding day was amazing. The whole village was so accomodating and you couldn't meet friendlier people.
The day after the wedding, we dragged ourselves to the beach to blow the hangovers away and boy did it blow. That's the unpredictability of Northern Ireland and the weather I guess, but being Manchester folk it didn't phase us. I always have an umbrella with me, no matter what the forecast!
Up North along the Causeway Coastal Route
Relunctantly we said our goodbyes to our friends and to Cushendall and headed even further north along the Coastal Causeway Route. There are so many beauitufl places along this route, Game of Thrones has filmed lots of scenes in these parts and there's also loads of fun things to do. First stop, about 10 mins from Cushendall was the Glenariff Waterfalls which was a gorgous little walk down into the valley. Next was the tiny village of Cushenden where we stopped for an hour to have tea and cake and hide away from the wind.
We braved the weather and climbed the path to Torr Head along the way, which had more amazing views. The headland was important in the 1800s for recording the passage of transatlantic ships and also has ruins dating back to the 6th Century.
Another stop off on the way to our third stopover was the Dark Hedges, famed by Game of Thrones. We excitedly blasted the theme tune as we pulled into the car park and followed the scores of tourists to the tree lined avenue. In truth, it was pretty underwhelming and being around so many tourists was off putting but at least we ticked it off the list.
And finally we rewarded all the outdoor activity with the last tour of the day around Bushmills Whisky Distillery. I personally hate whisky so this was one for the others but the tour was interesting enough and it was nice to be warm!
We finally reached our AirBnB in Port Stewart which is another coastal town and were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset. If it wasn't for the coats and lack of music, we could basically have been in Ibiza!
Giants Causeway & Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Our second to last day was spent doing the big Tourist attractions that this part of Northern Ireland boasts about. The first was the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge which I didn't even attempt to cross. Too many scars from playground rope bridges and an over zealous brother - yep I'm a wimp! But the others all did it, rather easily if I might add, and I took photos from a brilliant vantage point.
The Giant's Causeway has always been a bucket list destination for me since a high school art project and an unhealthy obsession with Westlife! It was everything I dreamed of, although sadly Shane Filan was not waiting for me but nevertheless I loved it. I really liked how you could just wander onto the rocks and find your own little spot. Yes it was busy but you could escape some crowds and get those all important photos if needed.
The Last Day
Because we were a group of nine from different bits of the UK, the last day meant various departures at different times, leaving 5 of us for the last flight of the day. We slowly made our way back to the airport via various points along the Coastal route which we hadn't yet seen. The sun had also come back so it was perfect!
We headed to White Park Bay, which is where a herd of cows can be seen lazying around on the beach. There are google images to prove it. Unfortunately I didn't see any cows building sandcastles but the beach was absolutely stunning and the dunes were full of rabbits which kept us entertained in the sunshine.
Next stop was Ballintoy which is another Game of Thrones filming location. It's a tiny harbour with the cutest ice cream cafe which makes it the perfect pit stop.
And that's it, the Northern Irish adventure is over. We ended the day with a gorgeous meal at Billy Andy's on the way back to the airport and 40 minutes on a plane we were back home in Manchester. I honestly couldn't recommend Northern Ireland enough, the scenery, the people, the atmosphere - it's all brilliant.
P.s. This isn't sponsored in any way - I just had the most amazing time!!!