Plan the ultimate short break to one of Northern Ireland’s most historic areas situated along the Causeway Coastal route in County Antrim.
Here's eight great ways to explore Glens of Antrim’s historical coastline:
1. Directly facing the soft sandy beach in the idyllic seaside village of Ballygally, you will find the Ballygally Castle Hotel which dates back to 1625 and is the only 17th century building still used as a residence in Northern Ireland today.
The four star hotel retains many of its beautiful, original beamed ceilings remain which add to its character and charm.
Luxurious deluxe rooms offer the visitor marvellous panoramic views of Ballygally Bay. Alternatively, you can enjoy the regal experience of climbing the spiral staircase to one of the tower rooms, the oldest hotel bedrooms in Northern Ireland.
But beware! The castle is reputed to be haunted by at least one (thankfully friendly) ghost. Brave hearts can take a guided ghost tour or visit the Ghost Room located at the top of the tower.
2. Another castle established in the 1600’s lies only ten minutes north of Ballygally. Glenarm Castle is the ancestral home of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim, and is surrounded by one of the oldest walled gardens in the country.
The garden has been declared as a centre of horticultural excellence, with striking water features and flower displays.
The Castle Trail guides you around the grounds, through fruit and vegetable gardens with superb views of the sea, the castle itself and its perfect lawns. History buffs will enjoy the opportunity to explore the Castle, where portraits of the McDonnell family from the early 17th century to present day adorn the walls.
3. Once you have traversed the estate, stop in the picturesque Glenarm village at Blackthorn and Willow craft shop.
Specialising in locally produced artisan foods and local crafts, this hidden gem offers a range of high-quality textiles, baskets, pottery, ceramics and original artwork.
The suppliers are craftsmen and women who live and work in Northern Ireland and the unique and charismatic store also stocks a selection of interesting food products, with breads baked on the premises.
Blackthorn and Willow is housed in an old pub building and you can enjoy a coffee and cake in what used to be the old back bar.
4. Return to Ballygally Castle and step through its Game of Thrones door for dinner at the contemporary Garden Restaurant.
The experienced culinary team are dedicated to using the best of local produce to create wholesome Irish favourites and signature dishes.
Choose from steak supplied by the award-winning Hannan Meats or salmon freshly caught in the waters at Glenarm.
5. Carnfunnock Country Park has a long history, with the presence of shell middens and a Droagh motte showing that humans have lived in the area for hundreds of years. Many of the original features of the estate remain, including the walled garden and lime kilns.
Carnfunnock is rich in beautiful natural scenery, with 191 hectares of woodland, walking trails and coastline.
6. These multi-award winning Ballygally Holiday Apartments overlook Ballygally Bay, providing magnificent views over the Irish Sea to Scotland.
The self-catering apartments are situated right on the County Antrim coastline, next to the Cairndhu Golf Club.
7. Mattie’s Meeting House is one of Antrim’s oldest traditional pubs, where you can enjoy fresh homecooked food. This cosy pub is full of craic and atmosphere, with acoustic sessions during the week and live music at the weekends until late.
It also has a beer garden for when the sun is shining, and a roaring fire for the colder evenings.
8. Retire to your luxurious bedroom, and in the morning be wowed by the breakfast selection on offer at Ballygally Castle.
The hotel’s “Who made My Breakfast?” guide exhibits its dedication to the meal, with the finest local ingredients providing a tasty start to your day.
From Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt, White’s Oats, Honeybee Sausages to McKenna Mushrooms and more – the range of choice will leave you full and ready for the journey home.
For more castle residences or Country Antrim hidden gems, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com.