Antrim Coast Road or Causeway Coastal Route?
Despite Nigel having spent his entire life living in Northern Ireland (and let’s be honest, that’s a looooong time) he still keeps finding new places to visit. There are times when we visit a place so beautiful that he actually feels ashamed that it took him so many years to discover it! Such is the case with our recent visit to the Walled Garden at Glenarm Castle in County Antrim.
Some of you will be aware that Glenarm is one of the pretty seaside villages along the famous Antrim Coast Road (or Causeway Coastal Route as it is also called). We must have driven through Glenarm dozens of times without stopping, because at first sight it’s just a quaint sleepy little village. Recently however, Nigel was carrying out some research into places to eat in the area and he came across rave reviews for the Tea Room at the Walled Garden. Further research highlighted that the gardens were well worth a visit also, so a recent spell of nice weather gave us the perfect opportunity to check it out!
- Coming from Belfast direction, the easiest (and most beautiful) way to get to it is via the town of Larne. Glenarm is approximately 10 miles north of Larne and your entire journey hugs the beautiful coastline
- This route also takes you past Ballygally and the popular Carnfunnock Country Park
- Carnfunnock is a great place to stop off for an hour or two, especially if you have children, as it offers a wide range of activities
- Arriving in Glenarm, look for the sign for the Walled Garden. It’s a very small village so you will find it very quickly!
- Admission to Walled Garden: £6 per adult
- Gardens are open from Easter to September from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and from 11am to 5pm on Sundays.
- Website: www.glenarmcastle.com phone: +44 (0)28 2884 1203
Although the Walled Garden is set within the grounds of Glenarm Castle, the castle itself is first and foremost the official home of Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and as such is private.
The castle dates back to 1756 and at that time was home to the Earl of Antrim. Until the middle of the 18th century, the estate extended all the way to Dunluce Castle, approximately 43 miles further north … that would have been a hell of a lot of gardening! There is a castle trail, which passes close to the castle. It is open whenever the family are not in residence. On a limited number of days during the year it is possible to see inside parts of the castle. Contact the castle offices to find out when.
Fabulous food at The Tea Room!
On arrival, we parked in the car park on the right as we came in the main gate. There is another larger car park about 200 metres further along, beside the Tea Room and Walled Garden.
Being 1pm when we arrived, it was a great excuse to go sample what the Tea Room had to offer. We have to admit that there are times when we have felt a little let down by the food on offer at some of our local attractions (not that this has ever stopped us from eating), but we can say 100% that this was not the case at Glenarm. The Tea Room was recently extended and is very tastefully decorated in a country style, with a range of seating options available, both inside and outside.
The Tea Room is self-service and is clearly very popular, so there was a small queuing time of at most 15 minutes. The menu does change slightly depending on what’s in season and we certainly had a difficult decision to make, as everything sounded very tempting!
We finally settled on a burger and chips/fries and a goats cheese and chorizo ciabatta with rocket salad and coleslaw. The burger was served in a delicious brioche bun and the chips/fries were possibly the nicest we had ever had. The ciabatta was excellent, too. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to take a photograph of our food, as we swooped on it like a flock of hungry vultures as soon as it hit the table! It was more of the standard that you would expect in a top restaurant. The one small criticism we would have would be that the portion of chips/fries could have been larger, as they were sooooo good!
Being there in peak season and at peak lunchtime, we were only able to find one free table, which was outside. Luckily, the weather was perfect for al fresco dining.
The price for two main meals, a sparkling water and a ginger beer was just under £20. For food of that quality this is outstanding value.
Gardens Galore at the Walled Garden
The small charge of £6 per person to visit the gardens is reasonable in our opinion. The entrance to the walled garden was via a door to the right of the reception desk in the Tea Room.
Once there, we discovered another beautiful area for eating outside, beside the kitchen garden, where they grow their fresh produce. Unfortunately, this meant that we would have no choice but to eat some of their cake later to test out the tables here … Nigel was willing to make this sacrifice.
There is also a small antique shop set within a row of very quaint cottages.
The gardens are divided up into a number of sections and include water features, sculptures and even a mini ‘mount’, which is fun to go up for views over the gardens and distant hills in this very beautiful part of the country.
We are by no means experts on plants, so won’t even try to tell you exactly what there was, but everything was stunning. From the wildflowers to the deep borders overflowing with flowers, we guarantee you will not be disappointed!
We should also point out that just outside the gardens there is the Byre Shop, which contains a good selection of quality gifts, fashion and accessories.
With it being just past 4pm when we had finally overdosed on flowers we had one final important mission to attend to … CAKE! Nigel had been nervously checking his watch as Martha was still recording footage of the place for the video we posted last week. We approached the 5pm closing time and even Martha was appearing keen to sit outside beside the vegetable garden with some cake. She had a honeycomb cake with ice cream and Nigel had a slice of chocolate cake. These were the sort of cakes which made you want more, but we resisted the urge!
Two pieces of cake plus a cup of tea and a coffee came to £10. Again, we thought this was beyond good value.
Gorgeous Views in Glenarm Village
As the sun was still shining, we spent some time exploring Glenarm village, after leaving the castle grounds. As well as a castle, this small village also has a large forest park and a small harbour/marina. The town itself has the usual collection of a couple of shops, pubs, churches and a post office but is primarily a quiet residential village.
To the rear of the castle, down Castle Street, there is the Barbican Gate Lodge. It is accessed via a bridge over a river where salmon can sometimes be seen leaping out of the water.
Close to Castle Street there is a road called The Vennel, which is a rather steep hill. It is well worth going up for the views from the top over the town and surrounding countryside/coastline. At the top of The Vennel, just past the last house on the left there is a small path called the Layde, which the local villagers have turned into a beautiful place to relax and take in the views from one of the many benches. The turrets of the castle can also be seen from here rising above the treetops below.
What we thought was just a quaint sleepy village all these years, turned out to be somewhere well worth spending an afternoon or even longer. So if you want to check out some amazing gardens in beautiful surroundings and have some delicious, great value food then Glenarm is the place to go! In the meantime, you can enjoy our video by clicking here.