You’re gluten free, you’re coming to Ballycastle on Saturday 16th April and you’re wondering what you can do with the other 21 hours in the day; after you’ve spent 3 hours tasting samples, buying gluten free foods, chatting with fellow sufferers and getting the kids faces painted.
So here’s our guide to a day in Ballycastle:
First of all, food and accommodation.
Naturally there’s the Marine Hotel itself (our host for the afternoon). It has a superb gluten free menu and their restaurant, Marconis is excellent. We’ll be eating here ourselves after a busy afternoon of meeting you. Book your stay here: www.marinehotelballycastle.com
Next is Thyme & Co Cafe, perfect after a long drive or a walk around the town.
You can find it at 5 Quay Road, Ballycastle.
Donnelly’s Bakery & Coffee Shop is also in the town (28 Ann Street), ideal for return journey nibbles or a bun.
Just down the street is McListers (17-19 Ann Street). A speciality food shop, you can pick up some gluten free foods to take away.
Ballycastle and the County Antrim coast is awash with scenic opportunities. These are some of our favourites.
If you’re travelling from South of Ballycastle, you’ll most likely pass Ballyrobert Cottage Garden, not far from Newtownabbey. Open from 10am-5pm, this is a relaxing and inspiring garden experience. They also have a specialist nursery so you can pick up some unusual plants. Their website is www.ballyrobertcottage.com
No trip to the North Coast is complete without visiting the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge. Managed by the National Trust, both scenic stops include rest areas, gift shops and toilets. There is a charge for access to all of the facilities but if you just want to pop into the Giants Causeway itself, you can park in the Railway car park for a small fee and walk through to the stones for free.
For Game of Thrones fans, there’s a range of production locations around the coast, most notably Larrybane (Stormlands) and Ballintoy (Pyke, The Iron Islands). You can see all of the filming locations and local accommodation on our Gluten Free Game of Thrones Map.
Lastly there’s Ballycastle Marina. Whether you’re arriving by boat or car, the Marina is a pleasant way to spend a morning (you’ll be busy in the afternoon at our Gluten Free event). From the sandy beach and play park to the local shops and busy ferry terminal, there’s always something going on. Morelli’s ice cream is also just across the road with a selection of gluten free flavours and cones.
For souvenir shopping and local crafts, you can pop into The Harbour Gallery. They open from 11-4.30 on a Saturday and often run traditional craft demos.
Tours and Trips
For the more adventurous, you could take the ferry over to Rathlin Island. Northern Irelands’ largest seabird city and an RSPB nature reserve, Rathlin is a beautiful island to walk around and explore. Once you’re on the island you can explore the Boathouse Museum, Nature Reserve, enjoy a picnic at any of the scenic lookouts or visit Rathlin West Light, a lighthouse and world renowned Seabird Centre.
For details of the reserve visit www.rspb.org.uk/rathlinisland
For ferry times, visit www.rathlinballycastleferry.com
Ferry crossings take between 15 and 45 minutes.
Bushmills Tour and Tasting
The Bushmills Distillery Tour is a 40 minute guided walking tour, taking you through the whiskey making process as it happens. (Note, under 8s are not allowed on the tour). You don’t need to book but it does get busy so aim to arrive as early as possible in the day. The distillery opens at 9.15am. Details are available at www.bushmills.com
If you weren’t sure, Bushmills whiskey is gluten free (it’s a distilled product) but carefully check flavoured products such as chocolate or ice creams, also available in the shop.
If you’re looking for the ultimate open air experience, Aquaholics Sea Safari is the perfect choice. You could join their friendly crew on a sea safari and experience the coast from a unique viewpoint, landing at the best spots for further exploration or even jump over the side on a scuba try-dive. To book a safari or scuba dive go to www.aquaholics.co.uk and tell them Mike, the Big Blue Squid sent you 😉
There are a range of golf clubs along the coast, each with their own set of challenges but easily the most convenient is Ballycastle Golf Club. Open to non-members, it’s a parkland/links course with a Par 71. Booking is required but you can find available tee times on their website: www.ballycastlegolfclub.com
For a full guide to local golf clubs, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com/golfing/