From living in the South of Ireland, it is always a pleasure visiting the North. We had the pleasure to visit County Antrim over two days and it was well worth it.
The North has so many beautiful spots. So, we are delighted share with you what we got up to on this trip to Ballymena.
Coming from Meath, it is an approximate two hour drive to Ballymena. We did not rush up and stopped along the way for a coffee and a treat. We arrived at the Tullyglass Hotel, where we stayed in the late afternoon, we checked-in and immediately traveled to one of the North’s most visited sites: ‘The Dark Hedges’ or as Game of Throne fans would refer to as ‘The King’s Road’. It is indeed a beautiful road that offers unique and interesting photo opportunities. We recommend visiting this spot in the early morning or, in the summer; late evening. It wasn’t too busy when we were there and for a while we were the only two people. Walking from the one end of the road to the next, gives you a sense of mysteriousness and you can completely understand why the location was chosen for an opening scene in the HBO series.
The road does not look like the original scene anymore due to a number of trees that got damaged during a storm in 2016. The exciting part of this is that you can find the damaged trees in nine different parts of Northern Ireland. The trees where intricately crafted into doors that are now part of different pubs and hotels all across Northern Ireland. This will make up for a great tour – seeking and finding all nine.
After our camera’s battery died, we traveled to an old time favourite spot of ours for dinner: Galgorm Spa and Resort. We absolutely love Galgorm and we will dedicate a feature to the hotel and spa. Keep your eyes peeled!
After delicious cocktails and dinner, we retired for the night.
We woke up early for breakfast and soon headed to our next stop: Slemish mountain. We love hiking and trekking up this mountain was no strain at all. It is relatively small and you can walk up, around and down in as little as an hour. The view of the Irish country is beautiful and well worth it. The silence is bliss with only the odd sheep in the far distance. We did not realise that this too was a filming location of Game of Thrones (Dothraki Territory). It was the first known location of Saint Patrick in Ireland while he was a Shepherd herding sheep. Slemish is the the remains of an extinct volcano – from millions of years ago. In Ireland, you will find so much history in so many places from all eras of this ancient land – it fascinates us.
After our climb, we traveled to Glenarm Castle, one of Ireland most beautiful estates. The Castle is occupied by Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and family and have been in the McDonnell family for 400 years. We could not access the Castle due to a big set up for a festival and we decided to move on to our next stop -the Gobbins Walk. The Castle is only open for the public on specific days of the year but you can visit the walled garden, tea room and the surrounding areas of the Estate. It is worth keeping your eyes on their website – we will definitely for the future to get a glimpse of the interior.
Along the way, we stopped at a little hidden waterfall, Glenoe Waterfall for a photo stop. Be careful, as it is easy to miss it and drive by. Arriving at the Gobbins – Walk visitor center, we realised that hunger was upon us and we got a coffee and a snack.
The Gobbins Cliff path experience is like none other. It is said to be the most dramatic walk in Europe and we understand why this may not be for the faint hearted. The pathway takes you around a coastline cliff, build in the Edwardian Era, closed since the fifties and reopened in 2015 after extensive renovations. The pathway is very rugged, narrow and steep at times with breathtaking seaside views, caves and interesting tales – the tour lasts 2.5 hours.
We recommend wearing hiking boots or at-least footwear with a good grip. This is definitely for adventure seekers and one of the most unique things to do in Ireland. We also recommend booking this tour in advance as it is exceptionally popular especially during summer months.
It is not possible to do this walk on your own, without a guide and there is no parking facilities at the actual site. However, a free car park is available at the information center which is a short drive from the site. Tickets are sold there, followed by a mini bus pickup and welcoming guide with an abundance of knowledge to share about the locality.
This is a must-do experience! Here is a short video.