Galavante Confidential - A Wee Bit of Whiskey, a Wee Bit of Golf
It’s top of the morning to you in Bushmills, Northern Ireland for a wee bit of golf, a wee bit of whiskey and a whole lot of good times. The Emerald Isle is where the rolling hills are green with clover, castles rise out of nowhere and the smell of the sea is never too far away. Time your visit with the summertime Tullamore Dew Golf Tournament, Europe’s largest amateur golf competition. For a guy weekend, or a trip with your coed crew, it doesn’t get better than this.
To fully experience this very local part of Northern Ireland, check into the rustic Bushmills Inn, where the day starts with a traditional Irish breakfast and ends with Guinness in the snug. It’s not the Four Seasons, but the rooms are clean and the bedding is crisp. The larger rooms are duplexed and have more premium bathroom amenities. It helps to reset your expectations: Northern Ireland is less about stellar hotels, and more about natural beauty, old-fashioned pubs and the charm of the Irish brogue. The Inn’s restaurant is where locals splurge on steaks and other higher end fare.
If you’re with a larger group or just want to experience the Irish countryside, check in to Bayview Cottages, in a newly restored, five-star farmhouse surrounded by fertile fields. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Scotland, while baby sheep and chickens roam freely outside your window. Each two-bedroom cottage has its own living, dining and kitchen area.
The town of Bushmills is perfectly quaint. For snacks, try the casual Glass’s Green Grocer and the Cooperative. If you’re staying at Bayview, stock your fridge with farm-fresh essentials. Refuel over coffee and excellent homemade pastries at River Café before your first round of golf at the Portstewart or Royal Port Rush golf courses, right on the Irish coast – one of the most unspoiled and green corners of the world.
After golfing up an appetite, lunch at the Nook, a converted old schoolhouse, where the fish and chips and Guinness stew may be the best in Ireland. Explore the nearby Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO heritage site of unusual geological rock formations. The Causeway legend is rooted in Irish and Scottish rivalry – every Irish version of the tale ends with the Scotts running away in fear across the Irish Sea back to Scotland. Today, the Causeway is a leisurely afternoon of playing on the rock and taking in the gorgeous views.
Finish off the afternoon at the quintessential Dunluce Castle. As legend has it, the Queen was hosting a lavish dinner party when her kitchen crumbled and her servants – and dinner – toppled into the sea. The Queen reportedly couldn’t stand the sound of the sea, and moved inland, leaving her King to his own devices. With the gorgeous real estate of Dunluce, you will not be able to relate. Sweeten the end of the day with an afternoon gelato in Portstewart, and then pop into the Anchor tavern for a frothy pint before heading back to freshen up for dinner.
The restaurant 55 North is a popular hangout for dinner with updated versions of classic seafood pie, though our preference is the newer, chic Wine Bar. Later, go out for a night of debauchery at the lounge Oriental. Cabs are the way to go to at night, so that everyone can enjoy a glass or five of what Ireland’s famous for.
Chances are that if you golfed the first day, you’ll want to golf on the second – try the top-notch Ballycastle or Castlerock courses. But, if you’re golfed out (unlikely, we realize), there’s always the coast: Chill out on the beach or take the adrenaline up a notch and surf the intense Irish sea. For lunch, head to Smugglers, another simple Irish eatery in the middle of the cornfields. From here, sightsee at Saint Gobain, the smallest church in Ireland, Bally Castle and catch the sunset in Port Rush.
For dinner, go to Portstewart for nouveau pub grub at the Ice House and then get some quality time in at the traditional pub Anchor. Later, crank it up at the club next door.
On your last day, feast on a full Irish breakfast and a second helping of boxty, the Irish potato pancake, before heading to the Bushmills Distillery. A regular tour is interesting but a bit flat. So, if you have a larger group, arrange for a private tour and tasting, where they’ll set you up in the oldest building on the property and bring amber-colored merriment to the table well into the afternoon. Pick up local souvenirs, including Irish linen, at Bushmills Crafts. Drinking builds up an appetite: Dine heartily at Tartine at the Distillers Arms. Top off the night – and your trip – the Irish way, at Bushmills Inn, where a tour of the secret room and beverages in the snug will be the perfect end to your golf and sightseeing trip. For a weekend in Northern Ireland is simplicity at its best.