Antrim (Irish: Aontroim, "lone ridge") is the historic county town of County Antrim in Northern Ireland; these counties have been abolished so since 2015 it's been within the Borough of Antrim and Newtownabbey. It's 22 miles northwest of Belfast and is a commuter town for the city, with a population in 2011 of 23,375. For many visitors it's the place they arrive but don't stop to explore, as the International Airport is here. But it has several historic sites, a pleasant setting on Lough Neagh, and is a good base for visiting around the lough and further north. There's tourist information at the airport but the town TIC is in the Old Courthouse, open M-F 08:30-17:00.
1 Belfast International Airport (BFS IATA, aka Aldergrove) is 20 miles west of Belfast but only 4 miles south of Antrim town. It's Northern Ireland's main airport, with flights across UK and Europe mostly by Easyjet; there are no flights within Ireland. It has buses to Belfast, City Airport and Derry, but these don't serve Antrim. See below for Bus 109A between Lisburn, airport and Antrim. Car hire and taxis are also available.
See Belfast for other long-range travel options, which include Belfast City and Dublin airports, ferries to Belfast and Larne, and trains and buses from Dublin.
Trains run hourly, daily from Belfast Great Victoria Street via Lanyon Place and other Belfast stations, taking 40 min to Antrim. They continue to Ballymena, Coleraine (change for Portrush), and Derry.
2 Antrim bus & rail centre is quarter of a mile northeast of town centre.
Goldline Bus 218 / 219 runs every two hours from Belfast Europa station, taking 30 min to Antrim, and continuing to Ballymena, Cloughmills, Ballymoney and Coleraine.
Bus 109A runs from Lisburn via Crumlin and International Airport to Antrim. Since Jan 2021 it only runs M-Sa every two hours. Air travellers with a rail ticket to / from stations north of Antrim, such as Ballymena, Coleraine, Portrush, and Derry, can ride between airport and Antrim for a discount £2 single fare - show your rail ticket when you board the bus.
By car from Belfast follow M2 west.
The town is compact enough to walk. The most reliable taxi firm is SML, +44 7999 083131.
- 1 Antrim Castle Gardens, off High St. F-M, W 09:30 - 17:00, Tu Th 09:30-21:30. The castle was built in the 17th century, rebuilt in 1813, burnt down in 1922, and the ruins were cleared away in the 1970s. The buildings that remain illustrate its late Georgian concept of Tudor-Gothic: there's an Italianate stair tower, a Barbican gatehouse and a stable block - this has been renamed Clotworthy House and now hosts weddings, conferences and the like. The chief attraction is the 17th century Anglo-Dutch water gardens, restored 2011-15. The main entrance is from Randalstown Rd to the north, but from town centre it's easier to enter through the Barbican from High St. Limited parking here, use one of the other town car parks. Free.
- The Courthouse or Market House, built in 1726, is at the head of High St by the Barbican. It now houses the TIC and theatre.
- 2 The Round Tower or "Steeple" is to the north on Steeple Rd. It's a well-preserved example from the 10th century, 92 ft / 28 m tall with a conical cap; such towers were church belfries but nothing remains of the church / monastery. A Celtic cross is carved over the tower doorway (no entry, it's 2.5 m above ground level and barred by a metal grille). Nearby is the "Witches Stone" and two bullauns - stones with hollows that collected rainwater, of supposed healing properties.
- 3 Springfarm Rath was a fortified farmstead circa 1000 AD, with earthworks and palisades. You'll have to use your imagination with this one, just a grassy platform with trees hemmed in by The Meadows housing estate. From Stiles Way B518, turn onto Fort Green (perhaps a clue?) then follow The Meadow: look for the layby and little footbridge to your left.
- 4 Shane's Castle, Castle Rd BT41 4ND (3 miles west of town), ☏ . The first castle of 1345 was called Eden-duff-carrick; it was replaced in the 17th century Plantation era. This second castle grew and grew, and was still incomplete when it burnt down in 1816. That's the shell that you see today. The grounds are a working farm plus event space - society wedding or steam traction rally, take your pick - and not otherwise open. But it was a location for Game of Thrones so it's on the circuit for GoT tours.
- 5 Ram's Island is the largest island on Lough Neagh, about a mile long by a quarter mile wide, and a mile out from the eastern lake shore. There's the ruins of a monastery with a Round Tower, and of a 19th century summer house. Boat trips from Antrim may visit, and in summer there's a ferry from Sandy Bay Marina - none of these sailed in 2020.
- Old Courthouse Theatre is within the Courthouse on High St.
- Omniplex Cinema is on Junction retail park a mile north of town centre.
- Antrim Forum is the council-run leisure centre, south bank of the river.
- Golf: there are two lakeside courses, Massereene and the council-run Allen Park.
- Boat trips usually sail in summer from Antrim Marina: they might visit Slane's Castle, or Ram's Island to the south. They didn't sail in 2020. The well-known but elderly cruise boat Maid of Antrim has been removed for refurbishment, not a moment too soon.
- The Irish Game Fair and Fine Food Festival has been an all-Ireland event at Shane's Castle since 2018. The next is on 26-27 June 2021.
- Castle Mall is the ugly shopping centre that erased much of the historic town. It's one block back from High Street, enter from north side.
- The Junction is the retail park a mile north of the centre, junction of A26 and B518 towards the M2. Asda is open M-F 07:00-00:00, Sa 07:00-22:00, Su 13:00-18:00.
- Dunsilly Bootsale is on Saturday morning in the P&R car park north side of the A26 / M2 junction. It's been suspended since May 2020.
- Nutts Corner Sunday Market is just south of the A26 / A52 junction. It still has stalls, but since May 2020 the carboot sale is suspended.
- 1 Top Of The Town, 77 Fountain St BT41 4BG, ☏ . M-Th 12:00-23:30, F Sa 12:00-01:00, Su 12:00-00:00. Good bar and grill, some teething problems with Covid.
- Boathouse is on the lakeside by the caravan site. Good views and food, but customer service is erratic.
- Ruby's bar and restaurant at 19 Bridge St just south of the river is a solid family-oriented place.
- 2 McLarnon's Ramble Inn, 236 Lisnevenagh Rd BT41 2JT (A26 four miles north of town), ☏ . M-F 11:00-21:00, Sa 10:00-21:30, Su 12:00-20:30. Good old-school pub grub and bar, in Coaching Inn established 1852.
- Bars along High Street include Steeple Inn, Anchor Bar, Massereene House, Madden's (see Eat) and Barneys.
- 1 Holiday Inn Express Antrim, Ballymena Road BT41 4LL (on A26 north side of town), ☏ . Smart can-do hotel, well placed for travellers, free parking. B&B double £60.
- 2 Dunsilly Hotel, 20 Dunsilly Rd BT41 2JH (junction A26 / M2), ☏ . Simple friendly hotel at motorway jcn two miles north of town. B&B double £100.
- 3 Six Mile Water Caravan Park, Lough Rd BT41 4DG (lakeside a mile west of town), ☏ . Clean well-run site open Apr-Oct, with 37 tourer hook-ups and 8 tent pitches. Tent £15, caravan £26.
- Maldron Hotel, 200 Airport Rd, International Airport BT29 4ZY, ☏ . Great value-for-money travellers hotel next to airport terminal. B&B double £70.
- 4 Glendaloch B&B, 23 Dungonnell Rd, Crumlin BT29 4DF (half a mile west of airport), ☏ . Clean cosy B&B near airport, free transfers. B&B double £70.
- 5 Keef Halla, 20 Tully Rd, Crumlin BT29 4SW (A26 three miles east of airport), ☏ . Lovely welcoming B&B at Nutts Corner. Its name of course means "How are you?" in Arabic. B&B double £70.
Antrim town, the airport and connecting highways have 4G from all UK carriers. As of Jan 2021, 5G has not reached this area.
- Belfast is a must-see for its reinvigorated city centre, don't just hurry through its transport hub.
- Lisburn was birthplace of the Irish linen industry. A few miles southwest is imposing Hillsborough castle.
- Cookstown on the opposite side of Lough Neagh is where Kings of Tyrone were crowned, and the area is studded with prehistoric sites.