Amazing Antrim Coast and Glens

When I think of the Antrim Coast, I can’t help but smile – few people have it on their radar, but for me it’s one of the most beautiful coastal roads on the island of Ireland…

Cliffs at the Antrim Coast
Cliffs at the Antrim Coast (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

The Antrim Coast and Glens – what exactly is it?

The Antrim Coast and Glens National Landscape is a protected landscape in the north-east of Northern Ireland. On the north coast is the Causeway Coast, south of Antrim is Belfast.

Strictly speaking, parts of the Causeway are also in County Antrim, but this article is only about the north-east coast, from Ballycastle in the north to Larne in the south.

Here you will find an incredibly beautiful coastline: the hills of the hinterland stretch right up to the coast and provide a wonderful contrast to the cliffs of the north and the sandy beaches further south.

Ballygalley Beach in the evening
Ballygalley Beach in the evening (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Small, pretty villages nestle along the winding coastal road, which runs close to the water for long stretches.

The hilly hinterland is particularly beautiful in itself. It is criss-crossed by several valleys that stretch from inland to the coast. These are the Antrim Glens, which together with the coast form an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and they are!

Hills and cliffs at the Antrim Coast
Hills and cliffs at the Antrim Coast (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

So why does everyone know the Causeway and hardly anyone knows the Antrim Coast? My theory is that places that are suitable for mass tourism are also heavily marketed.

This is certainly the case with the Causeway. Busloads of tourists are driven to the sights here and there is plenty of accommodation and other tourist infrastructure as well as larger coastal towns that can accommodate many people. Is the Causeway beautiful? Yes, but it can get crowded in summer. I’ve seen a lot of travellers here, especially in England.

Small road at the Antrim Coast
Small road at the Antrim Coast (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

The Antrim Coastal Road is narrow and less suitable for buses. The few B&Bs or pubs are spread out and there are no family attractions or fun parks. It is generally a tranquil rural area. There are also fewer attractions where you could charge admission and entertain people. It’s “just” beautiful here…

You can cycle or hike here, go for a walk on the beach or simply enjoy the beautiful landscape. Does that make the Antrim Coast less attractive? I think: quite the opposite!

A drive along the Antrim Coast

Ballycastle marks the transition from the north coast to the north-east coast and from the Causeway to the Antrim Coast. The small town has a nice marina and a pretty beach. From the harbour, you can take a small ferry to Rathlin Island.

Rathlin Island was inhabited several thousand years ago. The island gained sad notoriety in 795 AD because it was the first Irish place to be raided and plundered by Vikings. And in 1306, Robert de Bruce, the famous Scottish freedom fighter, sought refuge here for a time from his pursuers. Persecution.

Sheep at the Antrim Coast
Sheep at the Antrim Coast (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Today, around 150 people live here peacefully together with thousands of seabirds. There is a Seabird Centre on the west coast that you can visit. See:

It’s tempting to take the Cushendall Road from Ballycastle via Cushendun to Cushendall. But that would be a shame because you’d be missing out on a beautiful spot: Torr Head.

Small roads lead you to Torr Head, the closest place to Scotland. It’s only 12 miles or about 20 kilometres to the Mull of Kintyre peninsula (known from the song…), which is part of Scotland.

Torr Head with Scotland in the background
Torr Head with Scotland in the background (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

If the weather is reasonably clear, you can see the Scottish coast clearly in front of you.

Stay on the small roads that hug the slopes of the hills above the coast, because from here you have the most beautiful views around every bend – again and again.

The land finally opens up and you can see Cushendun below you. The white houses of the former fishing village stand out picturesquely against the cliffs. Here you will find the Cushendun Caves, which you can visit. Game of Thrones fans will recognise them, as they were one of the filming locations that you can visit here in Northern Ireland.

Cushendun (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

From here, the coastal road usually stays low and close to the water, sometimes very close! In stormy weather, which I have also experienced here, salty spray even whips across the road.

A little further on, between Cushendall and Waterfoot, the remains of Red Bay Castle watch over Glenariffe Harbour. At Cushendun, Cushendall or Waterfoot you can also follow the road inland for a while. These are the Glens of Antrim, which rise from the sea up to the 500 metre high plateau inland.

In the Glens of Antrim
In the Glens of Antrim (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

At the headland south of Glenariffe, you can take a small road up the hill to the Hidden Valley of Galboly. Here you’ll find an old, abandoned village nestled among the rocks – absolutely picturesque.

Glenarm has a pretty little harbour and a very pretty castle with a beautiful garden. See:

The beautiful coastal road takes you along the sea for a while and then you reach Ballygalley. Ballygalley Castle is now a hotel. The entrance door to the restaurant is adorned with a wood-carved door with motifs from Games of Thrones – the series has definitely left its mark on Northern Ireland. There is a beautiful beach in front of the hotel, which is perfect for an evening stroll.

Ballygalley Beach in the evening
Ballygalley Beach in the evening (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

A little further on is Larne, a busy ferry and fishing harbour and the southern end of the Antrim Coastal Road.

And the same applies in Northern Ireland as it does in Ireland: Follow the smallest roads, because they lead you to the most beautiful places! In this case, the journey is the destination.

If you want to drive from Northern Ireland to Belfast, or vice versa, you can choose larger, faster roads inland – or follow the beautiful Antrim Coast!

Have a great journey in the Glens and on the Coast of Antrim!






Photo credits cover photo: View of Cushendun and coastline, photo by Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg (

Uli Written by:

Hello and welcome to my blog. Originating from Germany, my family and I now live in Ireland (at least part time). We have travelled this amazing isle many times and know many parts of it very well. In this blog, I would like to share valuabe tips and information for your next trip to Ireland with you. Enjoy the content, yours, Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg