Northern Ireland is not always quite appreciated for its spectacular scenery and unfortunately is better known for its negative mews headlines involving sectarian trouble. For those who have ever visited or are planning to visit, it doesn't take long to realise that there is a lot more to this little place than is known around the world. Northern Ireland boasts a beautiful coastline and because of this we are blessed with some beautiful beaches. If you visit in good weather (probably May and June are your best bet) then you will struggle to find beaches and scenery as beautiful.
There are many beaches to visit, most of which are located along the north coast, but I am going to highlight those that I think are the best.
1. My favourite of all the beaches in northern Ireland is the White Rocks in Portrush, along the north antrim coastline. The White Rocks beach has been awarded a blue flag beach award for its cleanliness. The entrance to this beach is easily missable, however if you are travelling from the seaside town of Portrush towards Dunluce Castle, there is a sign pointed down a long winding road, just after you pass a large hotel on your right hand side. The road, although narrow, will take you through high grass down to a relatively large car park and changing/toilet facilities. There are no cars allowed on this beach. The best time to visit this beach is when the tide is out, and you can enjoy walking around the limestone 'white rocks' and their caves. You will also get to see the Wishing Arch, where there is a legend that if you go under the arch you will be granted a wish, and this is sometimes done by those kayaking. The best is a popular destination for walkers, surfers and keep fit enthusiasts, and you can often watch some rather fit sportsmen climb up the mighty sanddunes along the beach - no mean feat! If you walk the entire length of the beach you have actually ended up walking into one of the beaches of the town of Portrush itself.
2. Downhill Beach - I adore this beach, and especially the drive towards it. If you go when the sun is shining, the view of the coastline and beach, as you drive down the hill towards the beach is breathtaking. This 11km long beach has also been awarded a blue flag, and has been the backdrop to several films and tv series when filmed in Northern Ireland. One of the main reasons the beach is so well liked, is the stunning musseden temple that stands perilously close to the edge of the cliff right at the end of the beach (near the entrance). You are allowed to bring your car and park along this beach, and for this reason, it is popular with families and fisherman. This beach also runs into benone beach leading round to Magilligan point.
3. Murlough beach - part of Murlough Bay Nature Reserve in Country Down, is a beautiful destination to visit on a dry, clear day. Depending on when you visit however, the beach can be quite pebbly, however the scenery is beautiful, and you can the looming mountains of mourne in the background, making this particularly picturesque. Around this beach, there are several paths and boardwalks through the dunes to use to explore some of the wildflowers on display. This is a popular place for those enjoying some kite flying.
4. Castlerock beach- Not far from Downhill beach, in the sleepy coastal town/village of Castlerock is another beautiful beach, and one which is immensely popular on a summers day. There is a long stretch of car parking for those not wishing to take their car onto the beach, which is also allowed. There are suitable toilets and changing facilities at the entrance of the beach, for those wishing to do some body boarding etc. As you walk along this relatively short beach, you can enjoy views looking onto Portstweart strand in one direction and Donegal in the other direction. One of the reasons many like to come to Castlerock, is that you can walk out to the barmouth, and walk out along to the end of the walkway for better sea views. You can also watch the little sail boats coming in along the bann and out to the sea, behind the dunes of the Portstewart.
There are many more beaches that are beautiful and deserve recognition, however I think these are amongst the best. I do love Portstewart strand, but unfortunately there is a hefty charge for taking your car onto the beach, which I think it quite absurd, so I refuse to put it on the list, even though is a very nice beach to walk along or do a little surfing.
I hope those that visit Northern Ireland, will start to recognise it for its beauty and scenery, particularly along the coastline rather than for more negative reasons.