Portstewart in Northern Ireland is a classy tourist destination on the north coast with a gorgeous harbour, a spectacular beach, the championship Portstewart golf club, promenade, great cafes, parks, restaurants, outdoor swimming pools, and ice cream parlours, as well as a children’s pleasure beach and dunes to explore.
Portstewart has many places to relax while watching the world go by and is one of the major tourist attractions on the Causeway Coast. This seaside Port on the north Antrim coast was well loved in the Victorian era, and it has retained both its public appeal and heritage.
Not many golf clubs in the British Isles have three courses, but Portstewart County Londonderry is one of them.
Portstewart is a beautiful Seaside Town on the north coast of Northern Ireland in the county of Londonderry, and there is plenty to do for the whole family. This gorgeous holiday destination gets lots of visitors who love to spend time on the Causeway Coast but are looking for a more peaceful sanctuary. The relaxed atmosphere provides a pleasurable escape from the everyday hustle and bustle.
Despite the peaceful atmosphere, there are lots to do in Portstewart for both adults and children, and in the summer months, parking space close to the town centre is at a premium as the locals flock in to spend some time at the Promenade.
Portstewart Crescent is just off the Promenade and has recently been refurbished. There is a fair amount of parking close by. The outdoor play area provides hours of fun and offers a boating lake, paddling pools, paddle board, fountain, park, shops, karting, bandstand, and cafes. There is also a viewing area with plenty of outdoor-covered seating.
The first of its kind fountain in Europe comprises 33 small water jets arranged in three rows of 11. The water pulses to the beat of the music, creating a beautiful light, water, and music show.
Dining and Entertainment in Portstewart
Portstewart has many eateries. On the Portstewart Promenade, the well-known Morelli’s serves award-winning ice cream that is delicious and is available in many mouth-watering flavours. A Knickerbocker Glory is impressive. Morelli’s is open daily from 9 am until 10 pm, and hot food is served until 8 pm. Morelli’s was founded in the early 1900s and is very popular with visitors to Northern Ireland and locals.
The Anchor Complex is the centre of the Portstewart nightlife scene and it features the Aura Nightclub, Anchor Bistro and Anchor Bar, often visited by tourists and locals alike.
Dancing is available upstairs at the Havana Night Club, or you can enjoy a drink in the bar and dine in the restaurant at Shenanigans on the Promenade.
The Flowerfield Arts Centre is the first Arts Centre that was established in Northern Ireland, and it hosts great concerts and creative events. The Arts Centre has Art Exhibitions around the year and offers a substantial range of arts and crafts courses for children and adults. These include dying, jewellery, calligraphy, weaving, and much more. It is set in a Victorian mansion with a colourful history and was built in 1855.
Old O’Hara Castle
Built in 1834, O’Hara Castle now functions as Dominican College. The building provides an impressive backdrop as you look over the golden dunes to the Atlantic Ocean from the Portstewart Promenade. The waves crashing over the black rocks is an awe-inspiring sight.
The cliff path forms part of the Causeway Coast Way and come be taken from Dominican College to the Portstewart Strand and provides some of the most stunning coastal views in the world. Soak up the amazing vistas of the River Bann estuary, the beach, Donegal, Lough Foyle, and Scotland in the distance.
The strand at Portstewart lies on the Atlantic Ocean and is 2 miles long; this Golden Sand Beach is Blue Flag certified and is one of Northern Ireland’s finest beaches. The prestigious Blue Flag award is earned by beaches that meet the highest standards for safety, water quality, and environmental information and education.
Portstewart Strand’s Western boundary is at the River Bann estuary, while the Portstewart Golf Club forms the Eastern boundary. Portstewart Strand is run by the National Trust and is one of Northern Ireland’s most visited places.
Its inherent beauty and pristine waters make Portstewart Strand perfect for swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, and fishing. You can also jog, take a stroll, ride horses or take a walk with your dog. It is simply amazing to wander through the dunes.
Access by car is right at the beach, making things much easier, especially if you have kids. You can set up your picnic supplies from your car’s boot, bring any gear you want without lugging it around, and even enjoy a covered siesta with priceless views.
Although you have to pay to bring your car to the beach in high season, it’s well worth it. National Trust members get parking for free.
A shop also sells beach-related equipment, hot drinks, and ice creams. The Mussenden Temple, another attraction on the Causeway Coast, can be seen from Portstewart Strand, standing high and majestic on the awe-inspiring cliff.
Castlerock is a small seaside village 5 miles west of Coleraine and the Western Gateway of the Causeway Coast route on the north coast of Northern Ireland. It is a perfect blend of the present and the past. This town has less than fifteen hundred inhabitants. Still, it attracts many visitors in the season due to a variety of places to visit, being nearby, a naturally beautiful landscape, and great amenities.
Castlerock is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and it starts at the lower River Bann estuary, 5 miles west of Coleraine, in the direction of Londonderry and Limavady.
It is within the Benevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is surrounded by nature in many forms.
There is a small selection of tea shops, local shops, pubs, and restaurants, as well as a Community Centre and Village Green in the heart of the town.
The exceptional Blue Flag beaches at Benone, Downhill, Castlerock, and the excellent championship golf course draw visitors each year.
Castlerock’s Heritage and Architecture
Castlerock’s remaining architecture demonstrates its Settlement History. A Heritage walking tour in town showcases many late 19th century buildings, including The Villas (1860), the Presbyterian Church (1880), Castlerock Train Station (1853), and Twelve Apostles (1882), and Christ Church (1882). The Tunnel and Railway were constructed in about 1845.
The famous row of Castlerock houses known as the “Twelve Apostles” is located above the beach. They are pretty small but cute inside, and several have been renovated and extended at the back to take advantage of the magical location.
Castlerock Beach and Castlerock Promenade
Castlerock beach, with its golden sand, is slightly less than a mile long, and the fresh air, breathtaking views, and friendly people make it well worth visiting. Castlerock’s dunes lie west of the lower River Bann estuary, with Portstewart Strand located on the other side of the estuary.
The Rural Beach Seaside Award was awarded to Castlerock Beach in 2014. The award is based on the 15 ‘Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful criteria. This environmental charity aims to make Northern Ireland a more pleasant and cleaner place to live.
Castlerock Beach is beautiful and the perfect environment to play with the kids, canoe, surf, swim, fish, ride horses, and more. Parking and toilets are available, and dogs are permitted at certain times of the year. Seasonal RNLI beach lifeguards are available from June 1 to September 15.
The Promenade offers opportunities to cycle and walks while enjoying the views of the Donegal hills. A winding walk down to Castlerock Beach is also available from Donegal hills. Exploring the small bays is a perfect way to reach the Promenade and central Castlerock Beach, while you can also climb rocks and fish in rock pools.
Castlerock by Train
Castlerock’s peaceful and relaxed holiday destination can be reached by train from Londonderry or Coleraine. The train station was opened in the mid-19th century and was one of the main catalysts for the growth of what was once only a tiny fishing hamlet.
The trip from Londonderry to Castlerock by train is fantastic, and it passes spectacular views of Inishowen, Donegal, and stunning scenery alongside Lough Foyle.
Before arriving at Castlerock Train Station, there is a long tunnel ride through Tunnel Brae. This is a unique and spectacular train ride; to a fortunate few, it’s their daily commute. Regular public bus service is also available.
Castlerock Golf Club
Castlerock Golf Club overlooks more than half of the dunes and main beach.
Castlerock is a championship course rated one of ‘Ireland’s finest courses. It was founded in 1901. The Golf Course is a peaceful haven set in the naturally beautiful landscape and offers nine holes on the Bann Course and 18 spots on the Mussenden Course.
A Pro Shop, Clubhouse, Bar, and Restaurant are also available.
Beaches Near Castlerock
Downhill Beach is below and to the west of Mussenden Temple and is the beginning of a seven-mile strand of dunes and sand, going all the way to Magilligan Point, where it ends at Benone Strand. This beach is one of Ireland’s longest and has been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag award.
It stretches to Donegal, Magilligan Point, and Lough Foyle ferry. It is possible to drive right onto the beach and park.
A walk near the west side of Tunnel Brae will take you towards Mussenden Temple high on the clifftop. If you’re fortunate enough, you may even see a train come speeding out from the tunnel. It’s an experience not easily forgotten.
One of the most popular beaches on the Causeway Coast, Benone Strand, attracts locals and visitors. The Benone Strand’s golden soft sandy beach stretches out for seven miles and offers spectacular views of Donegal and Benevenagh Mountain. Downhill and Mussenden Temple are in one direction, with Lough Foyle and Magilligan Point on the opposite side.
You can reach Lough Foyle and Magilligan Point via a leisurely walk along the peaceful and stunning beach.
This beach is also great for adventure sports like Kite Surfing, Jet Skiing, Surfing, and Gliding. A lifeguard is on duty during the high season from July to August. Dogs are not allowed on Benone Strand between May and September, but horse riding is available at certain times. Fishing, Canoeing, Cycling, Swimming, and Walking are open all year round.
The Magilligan area has both conservational and historical significance. Magilligan Point’s Martello Tower is an example of the small defensive forts built during the 19th century to defend against a possible attack by Napoleon’s forces. This 32-square-mile reserve is adjacent to Lough Foyle.
Hezlett House, One of the Oldest Buildings in
When driving to Castlerock via the main A2 turnoff, the 17th-century Hazlett House can be seen one mile south of the town on the corner of Sea Road.
This is a fantastic example of a well-preserved Thatched Cottage. At Halloween each year, the ancient cottage is transformed into a scary haunted house.
The National Trust now owns Hazlett House, and visitors can step back in time as they explore the well-manicured cottage grounds and the inside of the cottage to experience what life was like in the late 1600s. This is one of Northern Ireland’s oldest buildings, and hot drinks and snacks are offered at the reception area.
Maintained by the National Trust, Downhill Forest is located to the South East of Castlerock. The forest comprises 80 hectares of mixed woodland and is the perfect place to walk or orienteer at the permanent course. The Forest Café provides refreshments along the way.
C S Lewis
It is interesting to know that C. S. Lewis, the author of the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Lion, and other classics, a young child spent many holidays at Castlerock travelling from Belfast. It is effortless to envisage that his imagination was sparked by the surrounding environment’s majesty, myth, and heritage.
Close to Downhill Estate’s second entrance, you will find School Lane, where you can take a stroll through the grounds of the ruined home initially owned by Frederick Augustus Hervey. The historical Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demense were built in the late 1700s by the 4th Earl of Bristol high on the cliff tops in glorious surrounds overlooking the north Atlantic Ocean.
The Mussenden Temple sits perched right on the cliff’s edge with unparalleled inland, cliff, and coastal views. A visit here will be a treat for all your senses decadent and will stay with you for the rest of your life. It is a fantastic experience to stand in the spectacular circular stone building virtually hanging over the edge of a 280 ft. towering cliff.
Although the House is in ruins, mainly due to a fire in 1851, there is still enough to see to enable you to imagine the beautiful life in this Stately Home of its time. The National Trust has supplied numerous informative signs to help visitors paint the picture. There are breathtaking 360-degree views from this gorgeous location.
Downhill Demesne, sometimes called Downhill House, is a spectacular mansion built by the eccentric Earl Bishop in the 18th century. Majestically located within open grounds, it is an excellent destination for a day trip. The sheltered gardens of Hezlett House are ideally suited for a leisurely, enjoyable picnic.
On the edge of the cliffs that look over Downhill Strand, a circular stone building called Mussenden Temple is located. It is near Castlerock and within Downhill Demesne’s grounds. The Temple is open to the public around the year during the day and is run by the National Trust. Built in 1785, the Temple first served as a library, and its walls were once lined with bookcases.
Guide to Portrush
Welcome to the home of Portrush online, our fun-loving seaside town that grew from a humble fishing village into the top-rated holiday destination for Northern Ireland locals and those worldwide. Portrush County Antrim has been the place to holiday since Victorian times. With our beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and fantastic food, we know you’ll love it.
The Causeway Coast Holiday Capital!
In Portrush, you can have a peaceful or action-packed holiday with many attractions set in the spectacular Causeway Coast scenery, with something to please the entire family all year round! Situated just a short drive along the coast road from world heritage site The Giants Causeway, overlooked by the famous Dunluce Castle and bounded by Royal Portrush Golf Club
Home to around 7000 people who call Portrush county Antrim home, with students from the University of Ulster Coleraine campus and visitors to the Port increasing numbers up to more than 50,000 in the summer months.
open Year Round
Portrush, or Port Rois in old Irish, is set on a mile-long peninsula sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean, with stunning blue flag beaches on either side and a historically significant rocky edge for its northern tip to explore. Three main roads run parallel to form the peninsula’s spine. Running in a one-way system, the first road is Kerr Street from the train station to the Harbour, with the pedestrian area, Currys (Old Barry’s) Amusements, the largest amusement park in Northern Ireland and Portrush Harbour. The next round is Main Street with its arcades, restaurants, cafes and shops heading from Ramore Head to East Strand. Mark Street runs along the centre and has many fantastic homes and B&Bs. All three roads lead to Ramore Head at the point of the Portrush peninsula.
Explore Places To See around Portrush
Ramore Head is an Area of Scientific Special Interest. The original Portrush Rocks (not the painted versions you’ll find dotted around the town) were first “discovered” in 1799 by Reverend William Richardson and written about by the Royal Society.
This started a scientific debate between the Neptunes and the Plutonists that lasted for several decades. The Plutonists believed that all rocks came from volcanic magma, whereas the Neptunists thought the stones were formed from seawater.
The trail around Ramore Head is an excellent place to take in the stunning clifftop views to Donegal and Inishtrahull Lighthouse, North to the Scottish Islands of Islay and east to Rathlin Island and the Giants Causeway. Ramore Head is also a great place to see various birdlife, including many breeding populations of kittiwake, black guillemot and eider.
Between Easter and mid-October, the recreational facilities are open for tennis, bowls and a children’s Adventure Park. Ramore Head provides excellent enjoyment for the family, take a picnic and relax on the grass.
Portrush Harbour, just a short walk down from Ramore Head, was built-in 1827; however, it dates as far back as 1468 and was used up until the second world war, mostly for passenger steamers to and from Scotland. Now used primarily for fishing, leisure and home to the RNLI’s two lifeboats, the William Burr and The David Roulston. The Harbour is also home to many bars, cafes, and restaurants like The Famous Harbour Bar. You can also take a fishing and food tour from here to watch the surfers, swimmers and fishing boats go by on one of the benches.
A walk down Main Street, you’ll pass historic iconic buildings such as the ‘The White House, one of the world’s first mail-order stores with its first catalogue going out in the 1890s, The Belfast Bank Building, the Arcadia and the Londonderry Arms. There are lots to do, from traditional bingo, slots, and penny fall to excellent cafes and restaurants. The main street also links the Harbour and two of the three spectacular Portrush Beaches, West Strand & East Strand, leading onto White rocks beach and Royal Portrush Golf Club.
Blue Flag Beaches of Portrush
Portrush county Antrim is the only town in the UK with three blue flag beaches. Only eight in Northern Ireland have the award, the West Strand (Mill strand) and East Strand in town and White rocks on the coast towards Bushmills and Dunluce Castle. Each beach brings its own unique experience.
West Strand Beach Portrush
West Strand starts in town at the Harbour and stretches to ‘under the railway bridge towards Portstewart. All along the beach, a 1 km walking and cycle path offers stunning views of the town and Donegal. On both ends of the Strand there are large car parks and toilets.
This is a perfect beach for all water-related activities and walks for yourself and your dog!
The Strand is on the other side of the Portrush peninsula (Ramore Head). Behind the Arcadia This 2 miles long stretch of golden sands is perfect for swimming, walking (including dogs) and admiring the sweeping views. This golden sand stretch is also home to several international events such as the Portrush Airshow and has hosted large concerts.
The world-famous Royal Portrush Golf Club is next to the beach and ancient dunes. The Course was home to 2019 and soon to be the 2025 Open Championship, the most extensive Open by attendances to be held outside of St Andrews.
Whiterocks Beach Portrush
Whiterocks Beach provides a different vibe from the two ‘in town’ Strands. It is a continuation of the East Strand and is best known for its white limestone chalk cliffs between 142 and 65 million years old and Dunluce Castle views. The beach is accessed by walking, cycling or driving down the winding road to the shoreline car parks. This is a famous beach for surfing. Views from the cliff tops, beach and the Ocean are memorable.
Entertainment in Portrush
Currys (Barry’s) Amusements is probably Portrush’s most famous attraction, one of Ireland’s largest amusement parks. Barry is ideally situated between Portrush Railway Station, The Harbour and overlooking Mill Strand. Barry’s has been entertaining families since 1925 and is still thriving, providing hours of entertainment for all the family with the thrills of a ghost train, helter-skelter, cyclone, hobby horses, dodgems and roller coasters.
The Causeway International: Northern Ireland International Airshow’ is a two-day flagship air event held annually in September in the seaside town of Portrush The fantastic air displays on each day by the likes of the Red Arrows, Lancaster Bombers, and even aerial fireworks display plenty of entertainment on the ground in Portrush County Antrim.
North West 200
Each May, the town hosts part of the famous Motorbike Road Racing event, The Nw 200, established in 1929, held on a 9 mi (14 km) street circuit known as the Triangle between the towns Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush. The Course is one of the fastest globally, with average speeds of 120 mph (190 km/h) and top speeds over 210 mph (340 km/h). The NW 200 is the largest annual sporting event in Northern Ireland, with the race weekend attracting over 100 riders and 150,000 visitors worldwide.
This lively spot is the hub of local nightlife in the area. Kelly’s is ‘Northern Ireland’s Premier Night club’ based just outside Portrush town on the coastal road across from Royal Portrush Golf Club. It has a lot to offer with numerous nightclubs, including ‘Lush’ Nightclub, which hosts world-famous DJs. There is also the Deerstalker Hotel, Bar and Grill.
The town is filled in the summer and has an upbeat holiday vibe as families flock there. Portrush County Antrim is quieter in the winter, but you’ll still find the holiday atmosphere even in the colder weather.
Royal Portrush Golf Club
Portrush County is most definitely Irish the home of golf, with Royal Portrush golf course taking centre stage as the 2019 Open Championship home and the 2012 Irish Open. The world-famous Dunluce Links Royal Portrush Championship Golf Course is prestigiously placed right behind the East Strand beach with ancient sand dunes overlooked by Dunluce Castle ruins from where it takes its name. However, within a 20-minute drive, nearly a dozen more courses, including championship courses at Portstewart, Ballycastle and Castlerock, are well worth a round.
Attractions Near Portrush
The Giants Causeway
Just a few miles from Portrush coast lies the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only world heritage site. This fascinating place is home to over 40000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns that rise from the sea. An excellent visitor centre at the Causeway is operated by the National Trust. Here you can find out about and experience flora and fauna, the geology, the history and even the myths surrounding the Causeway. You can see Portrush from the end on a clear day if you are lucky.
Dunluce Castle is overlooking Portrush from the east, just along the Coast. Perch on a rocky outcrop, Dunluce castle has starred in many blockbusters but most recently in the HBO Series Game Of Thrones. The castle has spectacular views over Portrush, the Causeway Coast and the Atlantic Ocean.
Mussenden Temple & Downhill
Heading West from Portrush along the North Coast road is Mussenden Temple. The Temple is located in the stunning surroundings of Downhill Demesne on the North Coast of Ireland, not far from Castlerock in Co. Londonderry and only 15 minutes drive from Portrush. The Temple sits precariously on the edge of towering 120ft cliffs overlooking Loch Foyle and the Atlantic Sea towards Donegal and the Atlantic Ocean.
Ballycastle County Antrim in Northern Ireland is a small town on the Causeway Coast. Ballycastle lies between ancient rocks, forests, and glens. The town has five thousand inhabitants and is the Causeway Coast’s Eastern Gateway to the Causeway Coastal Route.
Eastern Gateway of the Causeway Coast
The town of Ballycastle is a popular tourist destination located 47 miles north of Belfast along the causeway coastal route, often known locally as the North Antrim Coast, and 19 miles East of Coleraine.
It is a perfect base for a Causeway Coast Holiday on the northern coast of Northern Ireland and is also a top-rated day-trip destination.
Auld Lammas Fair
Its age-old Auld Lammas Fair has made Ballycastle famous, and the festival celebrates the harvest. In August, the festival dates back to the 17th century and attracts more than 150,000 visitors from Northern Ireland and elsewhere to historic Ballycastle.
The Ould Lammas Fair is an exciting event to explore with hundreds of market stalls that offer all kinds of hand-crafted pieces, produce, and artisan wares. The harvest is celebrated with the music of all locations and types, delicious food choices, sweet and savoury, and many other fete festivities.
Baile a Chaistil
The Irish name of Ballycastle is ‘Baile a Chaistil’, which means the ‘town of the castle’.
The Blue Flag Ballycastle Beach (Strand) offers excellent views of the Mull of Kintyre and Rathlin Island just off the shore. Ballycastle Strand is slightly less than a mile long and is perfect for water sports, swimming and surfing. It is close to Ballycastle town, making it very popular with both visitors and locals. Although there is no seasonal lifeguard service at Ballycastle Strand, the beach is safe for swimming.
The West side of the beach begins at the Ballycastle Marina’s pier, where the Glenshesk River flows into the ocean. The Ballycastle Seafront is an exciting mixture of graciously rounded landscaped gardens running from the Marina to the Foot Bridge that crosses the Glenshesk River and leads to the main beach.
The Eastern end of Ballycastle beach is Pans Rock. This fascinating rocky outcrop juts out to the sea and is famous for fishing and rock climbing.
The Ballycastle Golf course offers a championship course with 18-holes and is open to both non-members and members around the year.
Ballycastle’s heritage is vibrant, and more than 50 buildings are listed within the ‘18th Century Conservation Area’. The Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland describes Ballycastle as having the biggest traditional shop frontages in Ireland. (http://www.hbcni.gov.uk/ (pdf)
One can easily walk around for hours to experience Ballycastle’s rich past by visiting its well-preserved old buildings. This experience is unequalled anywhere else in Ireland. The Georgian sandstone Holy Trinity Church can be found behind The Diamond, the heart of Ballycastle Town. It was built between 1752 and1756 and features sundial and clock spire faces.
Another building of interest is the Ballycastle Market House. This two-storey building dates back to about 1830.
The Ballycastle Museum contains loads of historical information about the town and is open every July and August.
Although mostly ruins, declared a State Care Historical Monument, Kinbane Castle is 5 kilometres from Ballycastle by the ocean’s edge on the road leading to Ballintoy Colla MacDonnell built the castle in 1547.
Bonamargy Friary, as Ballycastle Friary is also known, was established in 1485 and declared a State Care Historic Monument. Bonamargy Friary and the graves found there, such as several of the Earls of Antrim’s graves and Sorley Boy MacDonnell, have great historical significance. The Friary is situated on Ballycastle’s Golf Course, on Ballycastle and off Cushendall Road. From there, it is only a short walk to Ballycastle’s seafront.
There are many natural wonders in the area of which Fair Head is one. This impressive headland rises out of the bay and is 643 feet high, making it a significant rock-climbing location and offering outstanding natural beauty. The National Trust owns much of Fair Head’s areas and conserves its natural beauty.
The 1695 feet high heather-covered Knocklayde mountain offers breathtaking views over Ballycastle, Fair Head, Scotland, and Rathlin Island.
The Ballycastle Marina is Blue Flag rated, and the Ballycastle Harbour is still operating. The Marina is one of only 2 in Northern Ireland with this prestigious accolade. The Marina started in 1999, is situated within the inner harbour and has 74 berths. Toilets and parking are available, and the Ballycastle Visitor Information Centre is also located at the Marina.
Rathlin Island Ferry in County Antrim
The Rathlin Island Ferry Company currently operates between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle.
As the only inhabited offshore island of Northern Ireland, Rathlin has a population of just more than 100 inhabitants. Home to thirty different bird species, it is a Special Area of Conservation and is popular with Bird Watchers. Rathlin Island is the northernmost point of the Glens Area of Outstanding Beauty and the Antrim Coast.
Ballycastle Golf Club
Seen as the informal capital of the Causeway Coast on the northern coast of Northern Ireland, Coleraine has great historical significance and provides all the modern amenities you may need. The town is busy all year round and is thriving as it is a favourite destination of many International and National visitors who visit the Causeway Coast. Coleraine is also very close to many of the world’s most impressive pristine beaches, natural attractions, and coastal views.
What Does The Name “Coleraine” Mean?
Cúil Raithin or Coleraine means “Nook of Ferns”, and St Patrick gave the town its name. It is home to 25,000 inhabitants, and the peaceful town lies on the longest river in Northern Ireland, the River Bann.
Coleraine Town Centre – The Diamond Centre
The official town centre is known as ‘The Diamond Centre’, and this area is usually bustling with people. The impressive sandstone Town Hall was built in 1859. Also known as ‘Tidy Town,’ Coleraine has won several awards, and there are numerous places to sit and watch the world go by among the dazzling floral displays.
Shopping in Coleraine
Shopping in Coleraine is pleasurable and safe because the town centre is only open to pedestrians. Several high street chain stores have shops in Coleraine, supplemented by many cafes, independent local businesses, pubs, and restaurants. The locals love the two independent department stores, Dixons and Moores, as these provide great all-around shopping for everyone. Each has a restaurant and has been part of the local scenery for many years.
Culture and Leisure
There are many opportunities for both outdoor and indoor leisure pursuits. A leisure centre in town is open seven days per week and offers a gym, pools, sports hall, café, and health suite.
In Coleraine, you can indulge in many forms of outdoor activities, including swimming, soccer, gliding, cycling, fishing, water sports, archery, sky diving, rugby, climbing, snorkelling, tennis, clay pigeon shooting, athletics, surfing, diving, bowling, putting, golf, boating, orienteering, and pony trekking.
A choice of three main local parks may be visited, and each offers something different for visitors. There are also many coastal, inland, parkland, and forest walking trails around Coleraine.
Phoenix Peace Fountain
The Phoenix Peace Fountain can be found in Anderson Park for public enjoyment. Originally a gift from the USA, each symbol on Phoenix Peace Fountain has a specific meaning. You’ll have to walk completely around the fountain to read the full dedication on its six base platforms. The world-famous Giant’s Causeway’s ancient rocks’ hexagonal shapes can be recognized easily.
The modern commercial harbour and Marina is a mile from town, in the direction of Portstewart and slightly off the main road. It offers excellent facilities that include powered moorings for sailing, fishing, water skiing and canoeing. There are also seven championship golf courses within a few miles of Coleraine.
The Arts and Entertainment
The North Coast’s Premier Entertainment Centre, Jet Centre, is a hugely popular local attraction. It is situated over the new bridge, on the road to Londonderry and just off the roundabout. This indoor complex offers entertainment for children and adults alike. The centre features ten-pin bowling, multiplex cinemas, a pool hall, a diner, and an amusement arcade.
Jet Centre is also home to ‘Alley Cats,’ a massive indoor climbing play park with nets, ropes, balls, and slides, offering endless thrill possibilities for children. You will also be able to enjoy a cuppa and relax right next to the action.
One of Northern Ireland’s oldest professional theatres, Coleraine’s Riverside Theatre, is well-loved and known. It offers world-class entertainment and Outreach, an excellent youth drama programme.
The Borough Council and the University of Ulster operate the theatre jointly, and several excellent, well-known actors have performed at some stage. These include one such local hero, James Nesbitt. In 1978 he gave an exceptional performance in Oliver as Fagin, and his international career continues to go from strength to strength.
Coleraine and the surrounding area have significant historical value as it is the first known settlement of humans in Ireland in about 5935 BC. At the start of the 17th century, it became the first town in the ‘Plantation of Ulster. As you explore the area, you will find plenty of evidence of this unique heritage.
Coleraine’s pre-plantation history is turbulent. At the time, Ireland was divided into kingdoms governed by a Chieftain. Due to the clashes of Coleraine’s clans, the town was settled many times over the years.
In 1607, King James 1 colonised Ulster after the Flight of the Earls in what was known as ‘The Plantation of Ulster.’ The Honourable Irish Society’ was then formed to fund the building of a new fortified town. They were enticed by promises of timber and salmon fishing.
Coleraine Potted History
Mountsandel is a Mesolithic site dating from about 5935 BC and contains some of the earliest evidence of human settlement in Ireland. Saint Patrick named the town after he was offered a piece of ground covered by ferns to build a church. A potted history of Coleraine can be found by visiting Coleraine Potted History.
State Care Historic Monument
The remains of Mountsandel Fort can be found in the middle of the magnificent Mountsandel Forest. Now declared a State Care Historic Monument, the Fort dates back to 7000BC and the early Iron and Mesolithic Ages. It is located at the edge of a steep river bluff that drops into the River Bann on the side of the river opposite the town.
Mountsandel Fort can be reached via a 2-mile walking trail. As the trial is circular, either the upper or lower path can be taken along the banks of the River Bann and through the forest.
Coleraine has been frequented in the past by Neolithic and Mesolithic men, Saints, Vikings, Norsemen, Chieftains, Barons, Earls, heroes and Rebels. Man has known for thousands of years that Coleraine is a stunning place to live!
Coleraine is nowadays an affluent large town that is accessed easily by bus, train, and car. As the town utilises a one-way system everywhere, the traffic moves smoothly and ample parking opportunities.
Coleraine has abundant walking trails in the town and surrounding parks, beaches, forests, rivers, and rocks. The world-class cycling tracks include the National Cycle Network, which opened in May 2001 and crosses the Millennium Bridge.
As the Atlantic Ocean and the River Bann are easily accessible, many water recreational pursuits are possible. Coleraine is a big town and is ready for City Status. It is also near Portstewart, Portrush, Castlerock, Bushmills, Ballycastle, and Portballintrae and within a few minutes’ drive to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge Giant’s Causeway, the Mussenden Temple, and Dunluce Castle.
The North West 200
The Causeway Coast hosts one of the fastest road races in the world, the ‘North West 200’ every May. The public roads between Portstewart, Portrush, and Coleraine get turned into high-speed (up to 200 miles per hour) tracks, and it is one of the last of its kind in Europe.
The race is unbelievably thrilling to watch, and standing next to the roads presents the best views of the powerful bikes speeding by. The event makes for a busy time at the Causeway Coast, as an additional 150,000 people watch Ireland’s biggest outdoor sporting event every year.