Ireland // Antrim and Derry //

North from Belfast

The coastal strip from Belfast to Larne is largely uninspiring farmland, although there are a few spots to detain you as you head towards the more enticing Antrim Glens further north.

Heading out of Belfast’s northern suburbs, the A2 skirts the edge of Belfast Lough before reaching CARRICKFERGUS, an unremarkable seaside town whose seafront is dominated by its only real point of interest, well-preserved Carrick- fergus Castle, one of the earliest and largest Irish castles.

A dozen or so miles north of Carrickfergus lies LARNE, an important freight centre, if a rather grim town, and one of the main ports of entry to Northern Ireland, served by P&O ferries from Cairnryan and Troon and Stena Line services from Fleetwood.

Three-quarters of a mile north of Larne on the Antrim coast road stands a large monument to the engineer of this road, William Bald, and his stalwart workers, who blasted their way through, over and round the cliffs and rocky shoreline to create this route in the 1830s. The impressive scale of this achievement becomes apparent the moment you leave Larne’s dull suburbs and the view expands to take in the open sea and, beyond it, the low outline of the Scottish coast. About three miles north of Larne, Carnfunnock Country Park is a good place to stop for a walk, with a walled garden, a time garden – with a collection of sundials ranging from the simple to the arcane – a maze in the shape of Northern Ireland, a miniature railway, and a nine-hole mini-golf course.

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