Newtownabbey is a large town just north of Belfast; it's often regarded as a suburb of the city but has always formed a separate township. Historically it was in County Antrim, but the counties of Northern Ireland have been abolished and it's now part of Antrim and Newtownabbey District. It's short of tourist sights and facilities, and you'd only come here for business or to attend the university.
Places called Newtown or Newton in the British Isles were often "new" around the 12th century when their abbey was created, but this one dates from 1958. The core of it was indeed the white abbey established at the end of the 12th century, a daughter house of Dryburgh Abbey in Scotland run by the Premonstratensian Order or White Canons. By the 19th century little was left of that, but the name lived on in The Abbey, an Italianate mansion designed and later lived in by the architect Charles Lanyon; in 1907 this became a TB hospital. Whiteabbey became industrial and commuter-residential as Belfast grew rapidly: appropriately, one major local industry was a bleach works. It was also a port for coal, until Belfast city harbour was improved and the small ports along the Lough were less used.
After the Second World War, Britain's housing was in poor condition and there was a spate of re-building, much of it ugly. In 1958 Whiteabbey was combined with the villages of Whitewell, Whitehouse, Jordanstown, Monkstown, Carnmoney and Glengormley to create the town of Newtownabbey. However, building was by infill and it wasn't the sort of greenfield creation seen at, for example, Skelmersdale in England, Cumbernauld in Scotland or Craigavon in Northern Ireland. Nor did it use the mechanism of a "New Town Development Commission" superseding local government. So Newtownabbey's growth was more organic though not much prettier than those examples.
The town today has mixed industries such as light engineering and computing, and hosts a campus of Ulster University. In 2011 it had a population of 65,646, making it the third-largest settlement in Northern Ireland.
Trains from Belfast Great Victoria Street run M-Sa every 30 min, Su hourly, via other Belfast stations and Yorkgate (for ferry terminal), taking 20 min to 1 Whiteabbey. They continue northeast to 2 Jordanstown (for Ulster University), Carrickfergus and Larne.
Another hourly train from Belfast and Yorkgate runs to 3 Mossley West (with no stop at Whiteabbey) and continues northwest to Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine (for branch line to Portrush) and Derry.
Metro Bus 1A runs every 20 min from Belfast Donegall Place north along Antrim Road to Glengormley, then crosses the north end of town to Carnmoney, Ballyduff and Monkstown Avenue; Buses 1C - 1J ply variant routes through the housing estates.
Metro Bus 2 C-D-E-H runs every 15 min from Belfast Upper Queen St along Shore Rd to Yorkgate, Newtownabbey Courthouse and south end of town up Doagh Rd to Devenish Drive.
Ulsterbus 563 runs from Belfast Laganside via High St, Ulster University, Yorkgate, Skegonell and Greencastle to Whiteabbey and Greenisland, and continuing to Carrickfergus and Kilroot. It's every 30 min M-Sa and every 90 min or so on Sunday.
Belfast ferry terminal is 3 miles south of Newtownabbey on A2 / M2.
The Metro bus routes take you across this sprawling town.
- 1 Mossley Mill, Carnmoney Rd North BT36 5QA, ☏ . M-F 08:30-17:00. 19th century flax mill, closed in 1995 and converted into Flax Gallery, a museum, conference facilities and a theatre. Around the large mill pool makes a pleasant stroll.
- 2 Bleach Green Viaducts carry the railways over the glen of Three Mile Water as they diverge for Larne or Antrim. The glen is a pleasant woodland strip; near the shore it's called Glen Park, then upstream is Monkstown Wood and Three Mile Water Park.
- 3 Sentry Hill, 40 Ballycraigy Rd BT36 4SX, ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-17:00. Farmhouse built 1835, with posh dining room, practical kitchen and gardens.
- 4 Cave Hill is the basalt crag south of Newtownabbey on the north edge of Belfast city. Great views from the summit (1207 ft / 368 m). See Belfast#See for features on the hill, including the Castle, a baronial pile which is nowadays an event space.
- 5 Belfast Zoo is likewise described as part of north Belfast.
- 6 War Years Remembered Museum, 16B Dennison Industrial Estate, Ballyclare BT39 9EB, ☏ . Well-designed museum of the two World Wars with knowledgeable staff.
- 7 Patterson's Spade Mill and other sights further west are described as part of Antrim (town).
- Theatre at the Mill is within Mossley Mill 200 yards east of Mossley West railway station, see above. Box Office is +44 28 9034 0202.
- Beaches are mostly for brisk strolls in the breeze; they're rock, mud and bladderwrack, with little sand. The strip starts at Hazelbank / Newtownabbey Bay at the terminus of M5. It trends northeast to Jordanstown Loughshore then Greenisland.
- Movie House Cinema is a multiplex at 13 Glenwell Rd, Glengormley.
- Valley Leisure Centre is at 40 Church Rd, northwest of Abbey Retail Park.
- Ballyearl Leisure Centre is at 585 Doagh Rd, just north of Mossley West railway station.
- Golf: the nearest courses are Fortwilliam GC on Downview Ave, City of Belfast GC at 610 Antrim Rd, Greenisland GC at 156 Upper Rd, and Greenacres GC at 155 Ballyrobert Rd.
- Abbey Centre together with Longwood Retail Park form the south tip of town, in the triangle bounded by M2 west and Shore Road east. Tesco is open M-Sa 06:00-00:00.
- The main eating strip is along Antrim Rd A6, with Thunderdome Complex, Captain's Table, Tandoori House, Radhuni, Hamad's Kebabish, Indian Ocean and Mama Masala.
- The Railway Fryer, 3 Crescent Corner BT36 5PB (Facing Mossley West railway station), ☏ . M-F 10:00-20:00, Sa 12:00-20:00. Handy place for fish and chips near the Mill.
- 1 Loughshore Caravan Park is on Shore Rd at Jordanstown.
- 2 Corr's Corner Hotel, 315 Ballyclare Rd BT36 4TQ, ☏ . Decent hotel at junction with A8, okay for comfort and food, some guests experience poor internet connection. B&B double £80.
- 3 Beech Lane Farmhouse, 89 Irish Hill Rd, Ballyclare BT39 9NL, ☏ . Friendly farm guesthouse. B&B double £75.
- 4 Five Corners Guest Inn, 249 Rashee Rd, Ballyclare BT39 9JN, ☏ . Some miles north, this inn has good food. B&B double £90.
As of March 2021, Newtownabbey has 5G with O2, and 4G with EE and Vodafone, but has dead spots with Three.
- Belfast needs several days to explore.
- Carrickfergus has a well-preserved Norman castle.
- Antrim has contrived to lose both its castles, but the gardens remain.
- Larne is a drab harbour town, but is close to the most southerly Antrim glens, and the surprising Islandmagee.
|Routes through Newtownabbey|
|Derry/Londonderry ← Antrim ←||NW SE||→ Belfast|
|Larne ←||N S||→ merges with|