27 March by Claire Savage
Northern Ireland is blessed with lots of beautiful sandy beaches, many of which are scattered along the Causeway Coastal Route, which is why we are sharing our top 10 best beaches to explore on the North Coast. So, if you’re out exploring this weekend there’s a wealth of choice for picturesque walks and the chance to dip your toe in the ocean. Live It Experience It journalist, Claire Savage shares her pick of the crop!
- Benone Strand
Overlooked by majestic mountains and cliffs, and with views of Mussenden Temple and Donegal, Benone Strand is well worth a visit any time of the year. You can enjoy a walk along seven miles of golden sand and breathe in the fresh Atlantic air, keeping an eye out for the local wildlife as you go. A multi-award-winner of the European Blue Flag and Seaside Award, Benone Strand is a jewel in the North Coast’s crown.
- Downhill Beach
One of many North Coast filming locations for Game of Thrones, Downhill Beach near Castlerock is another Blue Flag award-winning beach which is perfect for a stroll. Located in an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) and also a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Downhill is teaming with natural life, including lots of flora, fauna and wildlife.
- Castlerock Beach
Nestled between Downhill and the Barmouth (which has Portstewart Strand on its other side), Castlerock Beach is another popular destination for locals and visitors. With the beach and the dunes designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Castlerock beach is rich in natural life. Pedestrian access is also much improved with new boardwalks at the entrance and there’s always a chance you might spot a seal or porpoise at the estuary by the Barmouth!
- Portstewart Strand and Barmouth Wildlife Reserve
Portstewart Strand always attracts a healthy number of visitors and with an ancient dune system where you can enjoy guided walks – or a stroll by yourself – and miles of golden sand, what’s not to like? Whether you want to enjoy the water or prefer to stay land-based, this is the perfect place to visit. A former Seaside Award-winner and Blue Flag winner, Portstewart Strand is managed by the National Trust and has great new facilities for visitors. (Harry’s Shack is also right at the entrance to the beach, and offers a fantastic dining experience!)
- West Strand, Portrush
Also referred to as West Bay beach, Portrush’s West Strand is a favourite spot of local surfers and walkers, and is close to the busy harbour and promenade. If you’re in town, it’s easy to nip across to the strand and enjoy a scenic coastal walk, or you can get into the water if you feel so inclined! As a Blue Flag beach, the water quality is excellent and it’s always worth a trip.
- East Strand, Portrush
On the other side of Portrush, you’ll find the East Strand, which leads round to Curran Strand and Whiterocks Beach if you follow it right the way along. Another very popular beach for watersports, the East Strand is a Seaside Award location and is backed by dunes which are home to the Royal Portrush Golf Course. Renovations along the promenade have also improved access, making it even more convenient to visit.
- Whiterocks Beach
A Blue Flag award-winning beach, the Whiterocks is a beautiful location popular with surfers and kayakers, as well as runners and horse riders throughout the year. Backed by the distinctive white rock limestone cliffs which give it its name, Whiterocks Beach also has improved facilities and access, following renovations in the last few years. With wonderful views and dunes which sweep down to the sea, this is the perfect spot for a stroll or a dip.
- Bushfoot Strand/Runkerry Beach
In Portballintrae you’ll find Bushfoot Strand, which runs from the River Bush to the cliffs that lead round to the Giant’s Causeway. Indeed, you can walk the length of the beach and then take the clifftop walk to the Causeway, enjoying wonderful panoramic sea views along the way. Although frequented by professional surfers, rip tides are common here, so Bushfoot Strand is a high-risk beach for watersports, as it absorbs more energy from the sea than any other beach on Northern Ireland. Backed by dunes and with multiple walking routes however, you don’t have to go into the water to appreciate this beautiful location.
- Whitepark Bay
Wild and rugged, Whitepark Bay is further along the North Antrim coastline and boasts an extensive ancient dune system and a glorious stretch of sandy beach. With lots of rare plants and a wealth of wildlife, Whitepark Bay is a great place for naturalists, as well as anyone who just appreciates natural beauty. You might even find a fossil or two, and there are a variety of different walking routes you can take – along the beach itself, or in amongst those splendid dunes.
- Ballycastle Beach
In Ballycastle, you’ll find another sandy beach – with a little shingle – on the seafront, backed by the town itself, with easy access to all the amenities you could want. The perfect place for a swim, stroll or picnic, you can walk from the marina at the west, to Pans Rock in the east. This eastern part of the beach is where you’ll find part of Ballycastle Coalfield ASSIBallycastle Coalfield ASSI (Area of Special Scientific Interest), an area of rich geological significance and somewhere that you might find a fossil or two.
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