Once a no-go destination on the holiday map, Northern Ireland is now back in the mainstream. People who wouldn’t have given the region a second look five years ago are now arriving in droves – and it’s easy to see why.

Now sporting an upbeat new look and a regenerated city centre, Belfast is fast becoming Ireland’s capital of cool, mixing scrubbed-up Victoriana with a cutting edge arts scene and nightlife.

Head north from here around the breezy and beautiful Antrim coast to Bushmills, home of the world’s oldest whiskey distillery and just a leprechaun’s hop from the famous Giant’s Causeway.

Rugged cliffs, coves, ancient fortresses and pretty villages make the coastal drive to Bushmills through the Glens of Antrim a stunner. You can even see the Mull of Kintyre, 12 miles away on west of Scotland,  on a clear day from its north-eastern point. Sundays can be busy, and the cross-country  route past rolling fields and farms makes a tranquil alternative.

Tour the famous Bushmills whiskey distillery (you'll be offered a tot of the famous label or a hot toddie before leaving), before heading for the Giant's Causeway, Ireland's only World Heritage Site. One of the great natural wonders of the world, its extraordinary six-sided black basalt pillars were formed millions of years ago by volcanic upheavals.

Further west, you can walk for miles along the sandy Atlantic beaches (or Strands) of Portrush, fringed by the limestone cliffs and caves  of White Rocks. Fairgrounds, a Waterworld and the famous Portrush golf club make this an all-family resort. Clinging to a crag above the Atlantic spray, the ruins of Dunluce castle make an evocative sight just a few miles away.


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