The Giant's Causeway
The marine drive north from Larne, and then west past the Giant's Causeway to the resort of Portrush, follows 60 miles of the most beautiful coast you could imagine. Local folklore offers an alternative explanation for the Causeway’s creation. The story goes that it was built by the Irish Giant Finn MacCool so that he could cross the Irish Sea to Scotland to challenge a rival giant, Benandoner. Finn is also credited with the creation of the Isle of Man, which is said to have been formed when he scooped a massive sod of earth to launch at his rival. The resulting hole filled with water to become Lough Neagh.
The first 28 miles were blasted out from the chalky cliffs in 1834. Soon after, when the road was opened right round to Ballycastle, all nine glens suddenly became accessible and the road passes by the foot of each of the glens. If you resist the temptation to turn inland, and stay instead with the road and the sea breezes, a splendid marine drive lies ahead. Each of the coastal villages has a distinctive character. The castle at Glenarm is the home of the Earls of Antrim, and Carnlough has a famous inn which was once owned by Winston Churchill. The red curfew tower in the middle of Cushendall was built in 1809 as 'a place of confinement for idlers and rioters', and the National Trust village of Cushendun has pretty Cornish cottages and a beautiful beach. The road runs under bridges and arches, passing bays, sandy beaches, harbours and strange rock formations. As you turn Ulster's top right-hand corner, the green crescent of Murlough Bay comes into sight before the climb to the eerie tableland of Fair Head, and a bird's eye view of Rathlin Island. From one of these harbours, it's said, sorrowful Deirdre and the sons of Uisneach embarked for Scotland to escape the wrath of King Conor.
The Glens of Antrim
The Glens of Antrim are naturally unique - within twenty or so square miles you can enjoy a variations in natural landscape that includes glacial valleys, sandy beaches, vertical cliffs, tundra plateau, wooded glens, waterfalls and picturesque villages. Ancient sites and places of intrigue abound - it is well worth taking a couple of days, investing in a standard ordnance map and go exploring the small roads that weave throughout the Glens.
From Ballycastle you ascend up to Ballyvoy - here you have a choice of two roads. The more narrow, winding but extremely beautiful and spectacular Torr Scenic Roadwhich will take you past the small lanes leading to Fair Head, Murlough Bay and Torr Head itself.
The road then follows the coast at an altitude which allows you to enjoy some wonderful views across to and the Mull of Kintyre, the road passes the ancient cashel of Altagore and descends past Carra Castle into Cushendun.
The other route follows the main Antrim Coast Roadthrough Ballypatrick Forest Park and past Loughareema - the vanishing lake. At the highest point of the road you will get a superb panoramic view over Glendun, Glencorp, Glenaan, Glenballyemon and Glenariff before descending into Glendun and over the famous Charles Lanyon viaduct bridge - this is well worth seeing as it is a 'classic' example of bridge design and construction dating to 1832. The road continues through Castle Green where the Cushendun road rejoins and takes you through the length of Glencorp and into Cushendall.
To see the Glens of Antrim & The Giant's Causeway properly you will need a full day. Leaving your accommodation around 10/10.30am and returning around 6/7pm would be about right.