Northern Ireland is the perfect location for your or any golfing getaway. Over the past 20 years, Northern Ireland has reinvented itself into a tourist haven, so much so that the Lonely Planet rated Belfast and the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland as its Number one region to visit in 2018.
It is hard to believe that this little country packs such a punch on the golfing map. It has produced some of the world’s finest major champions such as Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell for one and has some of the most beautiful golf course anywhere on the planet; near enough all of its 95 golf courses can be reached by car in well under two hours, allowing you the golfer to cover all corners of the country and reach its world-famous names with ease.
Let’s start with the capital city, Belfast. Home to just over half a million people, Belfast has many beautiful courses such as Royal Belfast, the oldest golf club in Ireland, Malone Golf Club and Holywood Golf Club where Rory McIlroy learned his trade as a young boy. From the city to Royal Co. Down, for example, is just fifty minutes, and to Portrush, just over an hour, so it is the perfect hub from which to play all of the essential links golf course.
Belfast has a wide array of accommodation on offer across all gradings, and you will be spoilt for choice with the likes of The Grand Central, The Merchant Hotel, Ten Square, the Fitzwilliam and The Bullitt Hotel all centrally located.
The city also has a wide range of attractions and tours to entertain you while visiting, even if time is limited. Why not take in the World Travel Award’s Leading Visitor Attraction in Europe in 2018 – Titanic Belfast. This aluminum-clad museum is a four-point replica of the famous ship’s bow and is a monument to the tales of the ill-fated Titanic which hit an iceberg and sank during her maiden voyage in 1912. The building contains more than 12,000 square meters of galleries, shops, cafes, bar, private function rooms and of course the museum itself.
Belfast is home to some of the trendiest pubs you will ever visit. One of the best areas to wander through is the ‘Cathedral Quarter,’ located adjacent to the city center and St Anne’s Cathedral. Here you find ‘The Duke of York,’ and ‘The Dirty Onion’ and for live music and an incredible atmosphere check out ‘The Harp Bar.’ A trip to Belfast would not be complete without a visit to a former coaching house, which has seen little change in 200 years and is the only working pub owned by the National Trust – ‘The Crown Liquor Saloon.’
There are so many eateries in the city these days of quality that it is hard to name just a few, but The Mourne Seafood, James Street South Restaurant, and Home are delicious. If you are seeking fine dining, then look no further than the multi-award-winning Ox, or Michael Deane’s EIPIC. Shopping lovers must visit the Victoria Square Centre and a weekend trip to St. Georges Market is a must.
On your way to the north coast, stop off at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort for a great parkland round and a stay with a world-class, spa food and local music to enjoy. Situated halfway between the capital and the coast, it is one of the most beautiful resorts in the UK & Ireland, and its spa is a past recipient of World Spa of The Year no less!
The Causeway Coast is a visually breathtaking area and home to excellent links golf courses with Royal Portrush being the jewel in the crown. In the northeast corner is Ballycastle Golf Club and from there you can see Rathlin Island, and on a clear day, the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, a mere 12 miles across the straights. A short drive west will take you to the magnificent Royal Portrush Golf Club. The 148th Open made its long-awaited return after 68 years in July 2019. A little further west along the north coast you will also find the 2017 Irish Open venue Portstewart Golf Club and the beautiful Castlerock Golf Club.
No visit to the Causeway Coast would be complete without a visit to the Bushmills Distillery for an afternoon learning how the whiskey is distilled and to sampling the good stuff. Close to the distillery is the elegant accommodations of the Bushmills Inn, which is bursting with charm and excellent hospitality. The food is divine here as it is at the Tartine Restaurant in the Distillers Arms. A firm favorite with golfers the world over, and locals alike is the Ramore Wine Bar and Harbour Bar in Portrush; a great spot to soak up the north coast’s great vibe while enjoying the hospitality of the locals and the excellent ‘craic.’
The Causeway Coast has plenty of sightseeing opportunities to add into your itinerary including the Giant’s Causeway, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, the Mussenden Temple, Dunluce Castle, and the beautiful white beaches.
On the other side of Northern Ireland is the World’s Top 10, Royal County Down Golf Club which sits proudly against the Mountains of Mourne. This magnificent course is a must-play on your Northern Ireland itinerary alongside the beautiful Ardglass next door and the 5* Slieve Donard Resort & Spa Hotel in which to rest your head.
All and all, Northern Ireland is a golfer’s paradise. Yes, the links golf courses are the undoubted attraction at first, but with so many great parkland’s and of course golf resort’s such as Lough Erne in Enniskillen, there is so much variety to appeal to the masses. Throw in excellent accommodation, hospitality, and attractions such as multiple Game of Thrones Filming locations throughout the country, and this is one for the bucket list.