BELFAST DAY 3: Old Bushmills Distillery, Giant's Causeway and Belfast Castle
Belfast is surrounded by beautiful countryside, so hire a car and drive along the coastal road which winds its way beside rough, rocky beaches, towering cliffs and through charming villages. Two sights make the trip particularly memorable: the village and distillery of Bushmills, and the nearby Giant's Causeway.
Perched near the sea at the northern tip of Ireland, the historic village of Bushmills is the perfect place to have lunch. But first visit the Old Bushmills Distillery which, founded in 1608 is the oldest distillery in the world. Guided tours cover the history and technology of the famed whiskey and end with a sampling. A café inside the distillery offers light snacks and a gift shop sells souvenir bottles.
For a substantial lunch, try the Bushmills Inn, which serves traditional Irish dishes using local ingredients like grilled ribeye steak with a Bushmills pepper sauce.
| Giant's Causeway
Then drive on to the fantastic Giant's Causeway. This natural wonder is a World Heritage Site and the North's number one tourist attraction. Park and either walk or take the free shuttle bus down the one-mile path to the beach. The 38,000 hexagonal basalt columns are impressive — especially when exploring them by foot, so make sure you come armed with a camera and walking shoes. The new visitor center fully explains this extraordinary natural phenomenon.
Continue down the coast as the road twists and turns, offering stunning vistas (on a clear day you can see Scotland), bright green fields and rocky beaches. The picturesque villages of Ballycastle with its marina and Glenarm with marina and castle make good stops for afternoon tea or a snack.
Back in Belfast, if you have time, take a taxi to Belfast Castle, which was rebuilt in 1870 on a 12th-century site and offers superb views over Belfast Lough. There's a splendid café, antiques shop, and an excellent visitor center, which provides interesting information on the area and the surrounding Cave Hill country park.
Then head back into town to club the night away in this exciting and surprising city. Serious clubbers go to the Cathedral Quarter for Ollie's Nightclub, one of the hot, top venues in the basement of the Merchant hotel, or The Potthouse (the "Pott" if you're desperate to fit in), with its upstairs Sugar Room, which attracts the young and energetic.
For more information, please visit the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau at www.gotobelfast.com