It has to be said, there is something special about Northern Ireland.
A lot of people may still have a tainted opinion of the country following the late 20th century troubles, the tensions from which can still be seen today, but it should be up there as one of your top places to visit.
I’ve had the chance to spend time in Northern Ireland a few times in my 21-years. As a rower, I attended a yearly rowing week in Enniskillen (a town sadly most famous for its Remembrance Day bombing in 1987) and since meeting Northern Irish students here at Newcastle, I’ve returned to visit Belfast, its surrounding towns and areas across the country.
One place that sticks out as the best of all, however, is Portrush. Jutting off the north-western edge of Northern Ireland, Portrush is a small seaside town with a population of just over 6,000. Far from the Costa Blanca, you won’t catch the Northern Irish residents sunning themselves on the town’s small beaches. The only people you’ll see daring to swim in the Atlantic are wetsuit-wearing surfers.
The beaches are surrounded by cliffs and fields, a hotspot for caravan parks and golf. Having stayed with a friend in his caravan a couple of times, it’s a brilliant place to relax and escape the city life in Belfast. The town of Portrush is a hefty walk away from the quiet caravan parks, but doable if you’re feeling brave, if not it’s a 5-minute drive away.
The restaurant Ramore looks out over the town’s widest beach and is a must-visit. A small but fresh menu awaits in an always bustling bar. I’d recommend the garlic and chilli prawns, although everything I’ve got a whiff of smells good, and you’ve GOT to try one of the restaurant’s famous desserts. Grab the honeycomb ice-cream to take-away, it comes with the biggest chunks of honeycomb you’ve ever seen, and eat it whilst strolling back along the seafront.
If you don’t fancy a sit-down meal, there’s plenty of cheap and cheery chippys in the centre and be sure to taste the speciality seaweed from a souvenir shop – although I can’t say I was the biggest fan of that…
When you’re not eating, there’s plenty to fill your time with. Barry’s Amusement Park is a battered arcade, with a choice of rides, which is quite possibly the most loveable attraction that can’t have been touched too much since it opened in 1926. If you beat my score on the Skee Ball, I’ll be very impressed. Collect the generous game tokens and pick-up a ‘Barry Bear’ stuffed-toy when you’re done to keep as a memoir. If you’re a golf fan, you’re spoilt for choice with some of the country’s most scenic courses, otherwise browse the artsy, homemade brick-a-brack shops that populate the town. And if you fancy more of a trip, Giant’s Causeway isn’t too much of a trek.
Portrush is a gem that the Northern Irish manage to keep under-wraps and is another reason to why the country is so special.