If you’re in search of things to do in Ballycastle in Antrim, you’ve landed in the right place.
Ballycastle is a stunning little seaside town in County Antrim that’s a perfect base to explore the Causeway Coastal Route from.
Situated on the northeastern most tip of the country, it’s surrounded by natural beauty comprised of sandy beaches, craggy cliffs, and breathtaking glens.
In the guide below, you’ll find heaps of things to do in Ballycastle, from food and walks to beaches, scenic drives and much more.
The best things to do in Ballycastle
The first section of this guide is packed with our favourite things to do in Ballycastle, from coffee at Dolly’s to the brilliant Ballycastle Beach.
Later in the guide, you’ll find heaps of places to visit a stone’s throw from the town, with some hidden gems mixed in.
1. Grab breakfast (or a coffee-to-go) from Our Dolly’s
Our Dolly’s is our go-to spot for a good cup of coffee to get the day off to a good start (although there are plenty of great restaurants in Ballycastle if you need a feed!).
Located on the main road and just a stone’s throw from the sea, it’s ideally placed for the start of many an adventure.
Small and charming, this friendly caff also serves up a mean fry-up for breakfast, along with a variety of other treats, including homemade cakes, brunch, lunch, and afternoon snacks.
They’re open throughout the day, and it’s never a bad time to stop by! Inside is nicely decorated and the food and coffee provide great quality at a decent price.
2. And then head for a ramble along Ballycastle Beach
Ballycastle Beach is an ideal spot for a long, slow stroll to stretch the legs and burn off that fry-up from Our Dolly’s. The beautiful sandy beach stretches for about 1.2 km, giving you plenty of time for a nice relaxing ramble.
Starting from Ballycastle Marina in the centre of town, the beach meanders its way to Pans Rock Pier.
Along the way, there are plenty of rock pools to explore and the sea is safe for swimming – ideal for the family. On a clear day, look carefully and you can see the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland!
3. Soak up the views from Kinbane Castle
Precariously balanced on the edge of Kinbane headland, which towers over the raging ocean, very little remains of Kinbane Castle itself, yet it still boasts incredible views.
The 2-storey castle dates back to 1547 and has had a colourful life, with invasions from the English earning it several scars. Now a State Care Historic Monument, the castle is only accessible by following a steep and narrow path.
With seemingly endless stone steps to navigate, it can be pretty tough-going, and it’s not a hike for the faint-hearted. But once you reach the castle, you’ll enjoy a mysterious atmosphere, as well as stunning views of Rathlin Island and Dunagregor Iron Age fort.
4. See the cliffs at Fair Head
The Fair Head Cliffs are slightly east of Ballycastle town centre and the easiest way to get there is to drive.
There’s a car park though so it’s easy enough to reach. You’ll find a number of marked walks that you can follow from the car park, taking in the fantastic views from the top of the towering cliffs.
The cliffs themselves seem hewn from huge blocks of limestone and are home to 2 loughs, Lough na Cranagh Crannog and Lough Doo.
From the cliff edge, you’ll enjoy views of Ballycastle, Rathlin Island, the Hebridean Islands of Islay and Jura, and Mull of Kintyre on the Scottish mainland.
5. Take a ferry to Rathlin Island
You’ll have seen Rathlin Island from the beach but it’s worth getting a closer look. Getting there is easy, with several crossings every day and 2 ferries to choose from; a quicker pedestrian ferry, and a slightly slower vehicle ferry.
At just 6 miles (10 km) from Ballycastle, the crossing is fairly short, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the island. Home to around 150 people, the island has a rich, though often bloody, history.
Nowadays, however, it offers peace and tranquility, amazing views, an excellent pub, local crafts, good food, and the fascinating Boathouse Visitor Centre, where you can find out all about that intriguing history.
More mighty things to do in Ballycastle and nearby
Now that we have our favourite things to do in Ballycastle out of the way, it’s time to see what else this corner of Antrim has to offer.
Below, you’ll find more things to do in the town along with heaps of places to visit a short spin away.
1. Take a spin out to Torr Head
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, Torr Head might look familiar as it was used for ariel shots throughout the series. Ruggedly beautiful, it juts out to sea and showcases stunning displays of metamorphosed limestone tearing through the grassy surface.
The 6th century Altagore Cashel sits stop the headland, a fairly well-preserved ancient ring-fort comprised of a thick dry-stone wall that still stands tall after all these centuries.
It’s around 20 minutes away from Ballycastle by car and there’s a small car park. Many of the roads are steep and narrow so take care!
2. Soak up peace, quiet and stunning scenery at Murlough Bay
Murlough Bay is arguably one of the most spectacular examples of the raw beauty to be found in Northern Ireland. It’s something of a hidden gem as well. The intrepid traveller will find it by driving down a narrow side-road marked the Torr Head Scenic Route.
Dropping steeply towards the coast, the road takes in rolling green pastures before opening up to reveal sights of the sea. At the bottom, you’ll reach the sheltered bay.
Surrounded by towering, rocky cliffs, the partly wooded hillsides dotted with chunks of limestone look almost magical. It’s best to explore on foot and you can expect to come across old settlements and lime kilns amid the breathtaking natural beauty.
3. Head for a ramble along Whitepark Bay Beach
Whitepark Bay Beach is a wonderful stretch of soft white sand located just 15 minutes away from Ballycastle. Backed by rolling sand dunes, the beach stretches for 3-miles between tall, craggy cliffs to the east and west, ideal for a good stroll among amazing scenery.
Look out for the iconic Elephant Rock to the east, as well as rock pools and caves. Also, keep your eyes open for the infamous cows that wander the beach and help preserve the dunes.
Despite its luxurious setting, the beach seldom gets overly busy, making it a top spot for a peaceful meander. Due to rip-tides, the sea here isn’t safe for swimming.
4. Explore the Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is perhaps the biggest of the many tourist attractions in Antrim, drawing tens of thousands of visitors to its intriguing landscape each year. More than 40,000 fascinating hexagonal basalt columns jut out from the sea, sand, and mist to create a truly unique setting.
While the official story says that the landscape was created by a volcanic eruption over 60 million years ago, local legends tell a different story. Evidence of the iconic giant Finn MacCool dots the area, including his gargantuan boot, which lays in Giant’s Bay.
A fantastic place to explore on foot, there are several marked trails as well as guided tours. Additionally, the visitor centre is a fantastic place to find out more about this incredible area.
5. Brave the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge
Those suffering from vertigo look away now! The exhilarating Carrick-a-rede rope bridge towers 100 ft (30 metres) above the sea, crossing a span of about 20 metres.
It connects mainland Northern Ireland to the craggy Carrick-a-Rede Island and was first built around 350-years by salmon fishermen. The island is home to just one building, a fisherman’s cottage, but a whole lot of natural beauty, with amazing scenery in every direction.
Maintained by the National Trust, there’s a small fee to cross the bridge, and prebooking is recommended as only a limited number of visitors can cross per hour.
6. See the very unique Dunluce Castle
The remarkably well-preserved ruins of Dunluce Castle offer an incredible insight into life in medieval Ireland. While the majority of the castle dates back to around 1510, evidence suggests that the site has been a stronghold for over 2,000 years.
Steeped in a bloody history, the castle is home to a host of myths and legends and even the occasional wailing banshee. Walking among the cobblestone paths of the inner castle transports you back in time, while numerous exhibits showcase a wealth of impressive artifacts.
There’s a fantastic viewing point and picnic area (Magheracross) nearby, which offers incredible views over the ruins and the majestic surroundings.
7. Head for a ramble at Ballintoy Harbour
Ballintoy Harbour is a ruggedly beautiful fishing port set in a small and charming village. It’s also one of the best-known Game of Thrones Ireland film locations.
The view from the harbour is sure to inspire anyone to grab an easel and start painting the moody scenery that takes in sea stacks, crashing waves, eerie caves, and towering rocky cliffs.
There are several hiking trails that start from the harbour car park, including some fantastic clifftop rambles and wild beach walks. Top walks include a hike to Dunseverick Castle and a trek to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge.
FAQs about things to do in Ballycastle in Antrim
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what to do in Ballycastle when it’s raining to where to visit nearby.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do in Ballycastle?
Grab breakfast from Our Dolly’s and then either head for a ramble along Ballycastle Beach, see the cliffs at Fair Head, soak up the views from Kinbane Castle or visit Rathlin Island.
What are the best places to visit near Ballycastle?
Ballycastle is right on the Causeway Coastal Route, so there’s an endless number of places to visit nearby (see above).
What are the most unique things to do in Ballycastle?
I’d argue that one of the most unique things to do in Ballycastle is to take a ferry from the harbour over to the often-missed Rathlin Island.