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Ballymena means "middle town"

and Marlagh Lodge is indeed situated right at the centre of Northern Ireland!

Many of our guests are surprised by how compact the Province actually is

so why not make Marlagh Lodge the base for your entire holiday?

Northern Ireland is full of wonderful things to explore, from legend-filled caves to mountains,

bracing sea cliffs to exquisite historic houses;

and the beauty of it is that all of this can be enjoyed in a day out - and you'll still be back in time for Dinner!

Day One

The North Antrim Coast Road with its quaint fishing villages

is simply the best way to reach

Northern Ireland's only World Heritage Site - the famous Giant’s Causeway.

Close by is the stunning Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

and a trip on the little steam train from the Causeway will take you to

Bushmills - home to the world's oldest licensed whiskey distillery.

You can be on the coast road in about 20 minutes from Marlagh Lodge and we know of one or two unspoilt,

less well known spots which would be perfect for a picnic

or just some peace and quiet.

Day Two

Ballymena is the gateway to the Glens of Antrim, a series of nine magnificent Glens which sweep down to the coast. Glenariff, known as the ‘Queen of the Glens’, is particularly popular and its waterfalls, especially Ess na Larach which is the largest and most impressive, are well worth the effort to see.

There are forest walks leading to chalky cliffs which afford panoramic views stretching, on a good day,

right to the Mull of Kintyre on the Scottish coast.

Why not take time to explore the restored Walled Garden at Glenarm Castle

- there's a great tea room too!

Enjoy a browse in the craft shops of pretty Cushendall village

or explore nearby Cushendun - designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis of Portmeirion fame.

Day Three

Belfast is a beautiful city in which Georgian and Victorian architecture abound.

The city centre is dominated by the copper-domed confection of City Hall.

Finished at the beginning of the 20th Century,

the marble interior is breathtaking, and well worth exploring.

St Anne’s Cathedral, begun in 1899, has particularly beautiful gold mosaic work in the Baptistry

and the new spire is visible from all over the city.

The Linen Hall Library, established in 1788,

is the last subscribing library in Ireland and has wonderful interiors.

Also worth exploring - and there are several excellent open-top bus tours

which take in all the main sights -

are the Ulster Museum, Titanic Quarter,

Botanic Gardens with its fantastic glass Palm House and tropical ravine,

Cave Hill and the parliament buildings at Stormont.

Black Taxi Tours offer a fascinating insight into Belfast's more troubled recent past.

Don't forget the wonderful shopping

and we can recommend excellent places for lunch and coffee!

Day Four

The National Trust owns several impressive properties in the Province.

Our favourites include two that may easily be visited in one day.

Mountstewart, near Newtownards is a wonderful house

with fabulous gardens designed by Edith, Lady Londonderry.

As well as the formal gardens close to the house do take time to explore the lake walk

and no visit to a National Trust property is complete without a browse in the shop

and a visit to the excellent tea room!

Strangford Lough is the largest sea lough in the British Isles

and internationally recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A drive along the coast and a short ferry ride across the Lough will take you to Castleward,

a fascinating late 18th Century house just outside Strangford village.

It is unusual because half is in the Palladian style favoured by the first Lord Bangor

and half is in the Strawberry Hill Gothic style popular at the time,

insisted upon by his wife, Anne!

Day Five

Back to the North Coast. If you fancy a day at the beach or some surfing

then the golden beaches of Portrush and Portstewart are the place to go.

The two miles of strand at Portstewart are owned by the National Trust

and you can take your car onto the beach.

For golfers the course at Royal Portrush is famous world-wide.

Take time to explore the National Trust's Downhill estate with the magnificent ruins of the mansion

built for the eccentric Bishop of Derry

and the Mussenden Temple on its stunning headland.

Day Six

Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles.

Explore its wonderful scenery on a cruise on the recently restored Maid of Antrim.

To enjoy the unique wildlife the lough supports visit the Discovery Centre at Oxford Island

where you'll find four miles of footpaths, five birdwatching hides, woodland, ponds,

wildflower meadows, picnic and play areas.

The centre is fully accessible and has a craft and gift shop.

There is also a Loughside café with panoramic views of the Lough.

Day Seven

All of these in one day might just be history overload! They are all, however, owned by the National Trust

and the combination of any of them makes a delightful day out.

The Argory is an elegant mansion with wonderful interiors and stunning parkland.

Ardress House and Springhill are family homes rather than grand mansions

If you like textiles and historic dress you'll love the costume collection at Springhill

and if you fancy getting up close and personal with a farmyard full of hens

then don't miss Ardress!

For a fascinating insight into Ulster's linen legacy stop off at Wellbrook Beetling Mill.

Day Eight

Michael Palin included the route from Ballymena to Londonderry in his Great Railway Journeys of the World,

and what better way to visit the "Maiden City"?

The approach to the city through the cliff tunnels at Downhill

and along the side of Lough Foyle is truly stunning.

A city with a troubled past, Derry has experienced a remarkable regeneration

and was UK City of Culture in 2013.

Walk around the historic walls - Londonderry has the only complete city walls in these islands -

enjoy thearchitecture of the cathedrals and the Guildhall,

explore the history of the place in the city's excellent museums and on walking tours. 

Oh, and there's also great shopping and a vibrant cafe culture!

Day Nine

County Fermanagh is Northern Ireland's own lake district

and home to two of the National Trust’s most beautiful properties.

Castle Coole near Enniskillen is regarded by some as the finest neo-Classical house in Ireland - you can enjoy not only life "above stairs" but also experience life "below stairs" in the newly opened maze of servants' quarters.

Within a few miles is Florence Court - former seat of the Earls of Enniskillen,

built in the mid 18th Century - a fabulous house and wonderful grounds.

Another short drive will take you to the fascinating Marble Arch Caves

which are well worth a visit

- the underground tour goes right into the heart of the cave system,

and a boat trip takes you across the lower lakes.

Day Ten

Finally the home town!

Ballymena has a rich heritage from the linen industry which once dominated the town and you can trace this history in our award-winning local museum and arts centre - The Braid.

Here you will also discover the links the area had with St. Patrick,

who is reputed to have herded sheep on nearby Slemish mountain

and whose association with the town lives on in the name of the fine parish church.

For the energetic a climb to the top of Slemish affords spectacular views -

on a clear day you can see all six counties!

Just outside the town is the historic Moravian village of Gracehill

with its elegant Georgian houses clustered around the central green

and its fascinating graveyard - God's Acre -

where the Moravians are buried in strict chronological order

with men on one side and women on the other side of the central path

from the founding of the settlement to the present day.

If you just need some souvenirs or gifts to take home

Ballymena is the best town for shopping in the Province

so you can shop till you drop!



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