The north coast of Northern Ireland, from Carrickfergus to Coleraine, is like a giant geology classroom. Here the patient workmanship of the ocean has laid bare the black basalt and white chalk that underlie much of County Antrim, and dissected the rocks into a scenic extravaganza of sea stacks and pinnacles, cliffs and caves, bordered by broad, sandy beaches swept by Atlantic surf. This rugged seaboard has some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in Ireland, but bring your boots as well as your camera – it’s also an outdoor adventure playground that offers challenging coastal walks and extreme rock-climbing on the 100m- high crags of Fair Head. It’s also home to the North’s best surfing breaks.
Tourists flock to the surreal geological centrepiece of the Giant’s Causeway, its popularity challenged only by the test-your-nerve tightrope of the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge nearby, but you can escape the crowds amid the more sedate scenery of the Glens of Antrim, where the picturesque villages of Cushendun, Cushendall and Carnlough lie beneath lush green valleys and foaming waterfalls. To the west, County Derry’s chief attraction is the historic city of Derry, nestled in a broad sweep of the River Foyle. It is the only surviving walled city in Ireland, and a walk around it is one of the highlights of a visit to Northern Ireland. Derry’s other draws include the powerful political murals in the Bogside district and the lively music scene in its many pubs.
Northeast along the coast there are vast sandy beaches at Magilligan Point, Portstewart and Portrush, and from the basalt escarpment of Binevenagh, which overlooks the coast here, superb views across Lough Foyle beckon you towards the blue-hazed hills of County Donegal.