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.