Is this Europe's most beautiful coastline?
The fjords of Norway, the Swiss Alps, the Aegean Islands and the Scottish Glens -- to that roll call of beauty incarnate, we’d add an unsung region in a distinctly unglamorous part of the world: Northern Ireland’s amazing Antrim Coast.
When you have a population of just 1.7 million and change, a coastline that’s a scant few hundred kilometers long and a recent history on which few care to dwell, it’s all the more important to highlight the good things in life.
And “good” doesn’t do anything like justice to the rocky ice-age-hewn coast stretching from just north of the capital, Belfast, up the North Channel and west toward Donegal.
We prefer “breathtaking.”
With visitor numbers steadily climbing -- 1.5 million arrived in 2011 -- and little of the lingering human divisions remaining to deter incoming tourists, the natural wonder of the Antrim Coast deserves its seat at the high table of European sights.
Perhaps even at the head of the party.
Judge for yourself in our gallery of the region’s stunning coastal highlights.
Getting there: The vast majority of visitors to Northern Ireland fly to either Belfast International Airport, 20 kilometers from the city, or George Best Belfast City Airport, which is actually in the city.
From either, the Giant's Causeway is an hour's drive by the direct, inland route, or a full day if taking the picturesque Antrim Coast Road.
Buses and trains run from Belfast to Portrush, the best base for exploring the area, but car hire is affordable (from £25, US$40 per day) and makes seeing the coast considerably easier.
See discovernorthernireland.com for more visitor information.
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