*Above: a view of the clubhouse at Royal Portrush. For more images of the course click here.
For a golfing adventure extraordinary,
the Causeway Coast is the place to go.
Golfing Groups: Any golfer with ambition should dream of playing the great links that dot Antrim's Causeway Coast and the adventure is best undertaken in a group of like-minded souls. Royal Portrush, the great Open Championship links, is the major golfing attraction but there are others of comparable quality within a short drive.
Romantic Breaks: Fine dining, gentle walking, oodles of sight-seeing and great golf, all is available from a luxurious hotel in a picturesque setting of great history.
If ever you go across the sea to Ireland you should hold your hour, as they say thereabouts, and tarry a while on the Antrim Coast. They call it the Causeway Coast, on account of the world heritage site they know as the Giants' Causeway, and it's as dramatic and beautiful a coastline as you'll find anywhere.
The region is a grand holiday destination for couples and active families and doubly so for golfers on account of three venerable and first-class links being in close proximity to one of Ireland's finest small hotels.
You'll find all of this at the top end of the country, where Ireland tumbles into the sea, and here the northern coast has a rich golfing history that's been given added lustre by the recent exploits of its trio of native sons. Graeme McDowell, young Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke all honed their skills in what has been justifiably re-named the Home of Champions and the three great links that await the visitor were their boyhood stamping grounds.
Where to stay
No contest here! A golfing chum will tell anyone prepared to listen that "if I can't stay at the Bushmills Inn I postpone my visit until I can..."
Located in the ancient village of Bushmills mid-way between the Giant's Causeway and the Royal Portrush Golf Club, the now-renowned hostelry dates to the 17th century when it was a small coaching inn. A chequered history followed, but a series of extensions between 1987 and 2009 elevated it to the ultimate level of luxury while retaining the old world charm that plays such a role in its appeal.
Open log fires, gas lights, oak beams and stripped pine enhance the ambience of the various public rooms: the Gas Bar could become addictive; the Drawing Room has some cosy corners, the dining room a delight for all the senses. And you'd want to hide away in one of the bedrooms....
We last saw the inn some 20 years ago and were smitten. Since then it has been extended but has lost nothing in the transformation. In the old days it had a mere handful of rooms; now it boasts 41 sumptuous bedrooms and suites of varying configuration and a string of awards from all corners of the travel industry. Progress invariably comes at a price but not at the Bushmills Inn. In more than 50 years of international travel we have seen no small hotel with higher standards of luxury and service. It may be incomparable.
An unusual aspect is that it hosts groups of disparate configuration. There are two or three family suites and most bedrooms can be adapted for either twin or double use. Thus, the summer season attracts mainly small golfing groups; the other seasons are ideal for couples seeking a romantic break. With or without golf it would be memorable.
A double/twin room with breakfast will cost from £178 inclusive of VAT.
Don't even think about leaving the inn! There's nowhere better. Great wine excepted, all the ingredients are locally sourced and impeccably presented. The Garden Room is ideal for groups; couples would find a romantic corner in one of the panelled nooks in the Bar Restaurant. The inn has four dining sections, one to suit all the requirements of all groups. Seek and ye shall find! For a photo gallery of the Bushmills Inn click here.
About the golf
You'll know of Royal Portrush, of course: it's a former venue for the Open Championship and, thanks to its trio of major winners, may soon be once again. It's a mighty links and locals aver that Portstewart, its neighbour, is but a whisker behind in quality of setting and challenge. Then there's Castlerock, an unsung links of sublime character, no more than four or five miles away. The Home of Champions is as close to Golfing Heaven as most mortals will find.
Play them turn-about for a week and the most demanding links man would have a holiday to savour for a lifetime. And if he based himself at the historic Bushmills Inn he'd opine that all his birthdays had come at once! Exquisite is one fitting adjective for this small but perfectly formed hotel. Matchless is another....
A golden bonus and the only possible finale after such a week: he could break his return journey to Belfast airport and play Royal County Down, one of the world's greatest links and perhaps the ultimate golfing challenge. Now that would be an unforgettable holiday!
* For a detailed review of the courses listed above please click here.
The Causeway Coast, and its golf clubs, is slightly more than one hour north of Belfast airport.
When to go
Couples love the winter when the log fires come into their own and romance reigns. Small golfing groups prefer the other seasons. Summer here is invariably a delight and autumn is a golfer's dream season.
Belfast boasts two airports, one for domestic flights, the other international. Travelling time to the Causeway Coast is a touch over the hour on good roads.
Packing Tips & Dress Code
Couples may prefer to dress up for the occasion but smart casual is acceptable at the inn and proper golfing gear, which means no jeans, is required at the golf clubs. Don't forget your waterproofs.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and Sterling is the official currency.
English, with a delightful brogue, although caddies have a few words you'll hear nowhere else!
Making reservations for your holiday/vacation?
Contact us for details of discounts we are able to negotiate.