Antrim is a historic and bustling market town located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, just 18 miles west of the capital city of Belfast. While this location makes it the ideal place for those wishing to explore Belfast without having to pay big city prices, or cope with the inevitable crowds and noise, it is also ideally placed for a contemplation of the quieter side of Irish life.
The spot where the town of Antrim is now located has been a settlement for more than 1,500 years, a fact which underlines its geographically advantageous position, at the point where the Six Mile Water River meets the body of Lough Neagh. The river is a gently meandering waterway which winds its way through the city itself while the lough, placed within easy walking distance of central Antrim, is a stunning body of water boasting the title of the largest lake in the UK.
The fact that Antrim is served by two major airports within half an hour’s drive means that it pulls in visitors from literally all around the world. Both George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport take flights from the mainland UK, Europe and beyond, and every year thousands of visitors flock to Antrim drawn by its tranquil atmosphere and convenient location.
The location and accessibility of Antrim has made it popular as a year-round destination. Everyone who visits, from stag parties heading on to the bright lights of Belfast to family groups wanting to explore the surrounding countryside, will find accommodation in Antrim which is perfectly suited. Bed and breakfasts, country inns, luxury spa hotels and family-run guesthouses are all in plentiful supply in Antrim and the surrounding areas.
Portrush is a perfect example of the appeal of wider County Antrim. It is situated 43 miles north of Antrim itself, occupying a spectacular position on the north coast of County Antrim. Reaching it from Antrim involves a fairly simple drive along the A26 and M2 and, once there, you’ll be able to soak up the atmosphere of a small and traditional seaside resort which, despite having a population of less than 6,500 people, boasts all the amenities any visitor could want, coupled with a warm welcome and a glimpse of a quieter way of life.
The most appealing feature of Portrush is undoubtedly the presence of no fewer than three expansive sandy beaches, the West Strand, East Strand and White Rocks. The last of these, White Rocks, has been awarded a prestigious Blue Flag award and is a hot spot for water sports enthusiasts, with an outlet on the beach providing hire of equipment for surfing, body boarding and surf kayaking.
The dunes at the back of the beaches are ideal for less strenuous exploration, being rich in biodiversity and providing an environment for birds such as guillemot, gannets, gulls and terns.
Although the stunning coastal location of Portrush makes it equally attractive during the heat of summer and the drama of winter, there are events which draw larger visitor numbers at specific times of the year. The RNLI Raft Race, in which amateurs compete to build and race their rafts from West Strand beach into Portrush Harbour, takes place every May, while the annual air show is held at the beginning of September.