Northern Ireland has, over recent years, attracted more and more visitors, that once would have been put off with the constant negative news reports about terrorism. That has not completely gone away, but visitors are still coming to see some of the lovely coastline, meet the friendly people and enjoy the atmosphere.
One of my favourite places in the whole of Northern Ireland is the coastal town of Portstewart, which lies on the north coast of Northern Ireland, about 10 minutes from the larger inland town of Coleraine, and just over an hour from Belfast. In fact, Portstewart along with Coleraine, and the other coastal town of Portrush make up what is known as 'The Triangle' in local terms, due to the locations of the three towns.
In the summertime, Portstewart is a hive of activity, and in fact, it is not restricted to just the summer months. Any time there is a spell of good clear sunny weather, Portstewart draws the crowds. I absolutely love visiting it, and I think these are some of the best things to do whilst in Portstewart:
1. On a good day, buy an ice cream from the famous Morelli's in the middle of the main promenade, and then take a seat facing the sea and look out onto the North Atlantic ocean with spectaular views of the Mussenden temple at Downhill, and Donegal further ahead. Sightings of dolphins have also been reported before in this area. If you are there on an evening you can watch the most beautiful sunsets after a clear day. Portstewart is often known as the 'red sails in the sunset' and in fact every summer there is a red sails festival, marking the beautiful sunsets that are often seen here, with little boats sitting peacefully on the calm waters.
2. If you like to keep fit, you can enjoy some great walks in and around Portstewart. Firstly, for the very fit, you can actually walk part of the 'Ulster way' route from Portstewart to Portrush along a narrow but beautiful coastal path. For those with not just as much stamina but still wanting to stretch the legs, you will see many people park in the 'crescent' where the children's pay park is situated and walk around the cliff path until you reach the beach Portstewart Strand. This is a great walk, particularly on a sunny day, as again, the views over the strand and out towards Donegal are breathtaking. If you don't like heights however, there are some steep parts of the walk near the beginning although the path is wide enough that you shouldn't feel too intimidated with the sheer drop.
3. There are coffee shops galore along the Promenade in Portstewart, and you almost try a different one every day of the week. One of my personal favourites is the lesser known Roughans, which not only sells the most unusual and delicious range of ice creams but has a terrific coffee shop upstairs where you can get grab a light lunch, a bacon bap, freshly made crepes and pancakes, as well as a huge selection of unusual tray bakes that are made by the owners themselves. Grab yourself a seat at the window (although these go fast!!) and you can watch the world go past before your eyes, as well as look out onto the sea.
4. If you are looking for entertainment in the evening Portstewart comes alive with bars such as the Anchor, Bar 7 and the Ice House offering both food, drinks and music. These are usually filled to the brim, particularly in the summer months when punters spill out onto the street. The coffee shops and the rest of Portstewart may seem to close down in the cold, wet winter evenings, but the nightlife is there all year round.
5. If you are fed up with the high street and are looking for something different, then Portstewart has several unique boutiques and shops. My personal favourite is a shop called Broader Pictures, which sells absolutely beautiful unique gifts including jewellery, househould, baby ideas and cards. Those who love shabby chic, will be in their element.
6. For those that are more sporty, Portstewart offers something as well. There are several excellent golf courses, one situated beside Portstewart strand, as well as another on the road between Portstewart and Portrush. For the daredevils, a popular but very dangerous activity as grown in numbers in the summer months, with the fearless jumping off the harbour wall into the sea below. Portstewart strand also gives plenty of opportunity for body boarding.
On a beautiful day, there is not a better place to be than in Portstewart - the atmosphere, the ice cream/coffee and the views add to this great place.