As a major port for ferries from Scotland, Larne (Lutharna) is one of Northern Ireland's main gateways. However, with its concrete overpasses and the huge chimneys of Ballylumford power station opposite the harbour, poor old Larne is a little lacking in the charm department. After a visit to the excellent tourist information centre, there's no real reason to linger.
The pretty seaside village of Cushendun is famous for its distinctive Cornish-style cottages, now owned by the National Trust. Built between 1912 and 1925 at the behest of the local landowner, Lord Cushendun, they were designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, the architect of Portmeirion in north Wales.
The southwestern fringes of Belfast extend as far as Lisburn (Lios na gCearrbhach), 12km southwest of the city centre. Like Belfast, Lisburn grew rich on the proceeds of the linen industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. This history is celebrated in the excellent Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum, housed in the fine 17th-century Market House.
The twin draws of this stretch of coast are the sprawling Downhill Demesne and sweeping surf beach below. From Downhill, the scenic Bishop's Road climbs steeply up through a ravine and heads over the hills to Limavady. There are spectacular views over Lough Foyle, Donegal and the Sperrin Mountains from the Gortmore picnic area, and from the cliff top at Binevenagh Lake.
The harbour at the fishing village of Annalong (Áth na Long) desperately wants to be picturesque, with an early 19th-century Corn Mill overlooking the river mouth on one side; call to check opening times. The effect is spoiled a bit by graffiti and ugly buildings on the other side.
About 2km south of Cushendall is the village of Waterfoot, with a 2km-long sandy beach, the best on Antrim's east coast. From here the A43 Ballymena road runs inland along Glenariff, the loveliest of Antrim's glens. Views of the valley led the writer Thackeray to exclaim that it was a 'Switzerland in miniature' (a claim that makes you wonder if he'd ever been to Switzerland).