We’ve been seeing this pop up for a while now. It’s the hashtag being championed by Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, encouraging people to ‘create their own adventure’ in the area.
Given that’s the same reason why NIEXPLORER.COM was set up (well, from an overall NI perspective) we were eager to find out more.
A few emails and days later, we're setting off on a day-long road trip with an open list of recommendations from the MEABC team – some places we hadn’t been to in years, some which were completely unknown to us AND one experience organised for us that had been on the hit list for a while.
TASTE OF THE DAY 👍🍦
Just 35 minutes drive from Belfast is one of Northern Ireland’s most easterly points – Islandmagee. The peninsula (once an island?) has always been a popular spot with its sandy beach at Browns Bay, the serene Portmuck harbour (check out one of our first posts here) and the endless coastal views - including looking inland, where you'll also see the famous Game of Thrones Wall.
These days, the area is gaining wider popularity for two other reasons.
First - and our main stop on today’s road trip - is The Gobbins coastal walk.
One of Ireland’s first ever international tourist attractions – first opening in 1902 – this engineering feat allowed visitors to navigate the dramatic landscape of the Gobbins cliffs. Falling into disrepair around World War Two and remaining closed for over 50 years, the walkway has finally opened again after significant investment.
Definitely money well spent! For just over 2.5 hours, we traversed a series of Instagrammable bridges, steep ascents and descents right on the water’s edge.
If you’re afraid of heights though, bring someone to hold your hand. The amount of scrapes on the fairly-new helmets gives you an idea of how close to nature you get.
Spotted this while looking down through one of the bridges - see the eerie outline of a face?
Heights you say?
For more info, visit: http://www.thegobbinscliffpath.com/
...the other reason Islandmagee continues to grow in popularity.
Home-made ice cream since 1921 and also once a popular dance hall - check out the old pics when you visit.
And what a selection of ice cream they have...
Strawberry cheesecake was a great choice!
Spotting the sign for Gleno shortly after leaving Islandmagee, the idea of cool forest shade and waterfall mist in today’s heat was hard to pass.
If you’ve time, follow the paths in front and up the side of the waterfall – well worth the steep climb.
We opted against it on this occasion though, in favour of chilling out by the water 👍
Great spot for photographers of all levels too. Check out this brilliant pic from Steven Hanna Photography.
ROAD TO BALLYMENA
We continued inland along the scenic drive which skirts Ballyboley Forest, rising up past Kilwaughter along Shane’s Hill.
Make sure you stop for views of the landscape behind you. We took a few snaps, but this YouTube drone vid explains the views better…
OFF TO BROADWAY
Eventually arriving in the ‘City of the Seven Towers’ - Ballymena - we grabbed a cup of coffee at Middletown, to enjoy alfresco over at another of the town’s newest additions.
The new bandstand at Broadway opened recently and has already hosted a number of events in the town. The mix of metallic colours definitely stand out for that Instagram pic too.
One final stop before heading home...
...and a complete contrast to our contemporary coffee stop before. The small village of Gracehill is a place where time has stood still, in a brilliantly picturesque way.
Most of the buildings and leafy square originate from the 18th century, when the German settlers first came. Yet, you’d think the town was opened only yesterday – easy to see why it’s award-winning.
Check out http://www.gracehillvillage.org/ for more on its history and highlights.
TODAY'S ROUTE MAP
If you want to follow our route - or just check out just some of the places - click the image below and it will auto-populate with all stops. Edit for your desired adventure!
Big thanks again to Mid & East Antrim Borough Council for facilitating The Gobbins experience and the road trip recommendations. A great sponsored project to be involved with 👍
We'll be continuing to use the #MEAdventures hashtag as we explore more of the area. If you're doing the same, feel free to also tag @NIEXPLORER on social media - we share fan pics every Friday.
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