This summer, move to the beat along one of the most beautiful coastal routes in the world
The scenery is epic, the experiences are gigantic, and the towns and villages are a true delight. There’s no doubt that the Causeway Coastal Route is one of the world’s extra-special destinations. Even Lonely Planet thinks so – the travel bible nominated it as its Number 1 Best in Travel Region for 2018.
But along with its super-sized adventures, spellbinding coastal landscapes and a food scene packed with everything from beach-side seafood shacks to cool local cafés, there’s yet another new reason why this incredible coastal route is one of the hottest go-to places for summer – music.
Locals have always known that the Causeway Coastal Route, which weaves its way from Belfast to Derry~Londonderry has given rise to some of the music industry’s biggest names. From the retro tunes of Van Morrison to the punk-rock twang of Stiff Little Fingers, Northern Ireland’s always been awash with incredible music, whether it’s the cutting-edge Belfast music scene or the pumping trad tunes of Derry~Londonderry.
This summer, get set to experience everything from breakthrough electronic music festivals to Belfast’s pumping music scene to stirring traditional music sessions on an acoustic adventure along the one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines.
It’s given us rock legends, epic tunes and hot new talent – no wonder Belfast is known all over the world as a music capital. This is a city that breathes music and you’ll hear it everywhere from gracefully aged pubs to the vibrant Oh Yeah Music Centre, the city’s dedicated music hub. Get the lowdown on Belfast’s musical heritage with the Belfast Music Tour before catching a gig at sweat-pumping venues such as The Empire, Limelight, Voodoo and The Black Box.
Mixing electronic music with digital visual arts, the AVA festival (Jun 1-2) serves up a pioneering new take on the music festival with global heavyweights and fresh local talent, DJs, producers, managers, agents, labels, visual artists and guests. Now in its fourth year, the line up covers DJ competitions, conferences, film screenings and a wave of music all set within the massive warehouse space S13.
Tunes of a totally different sort power the Belfast Traditional Music Trail, which weaves through the city’s artsy Cathedral Quarter area. Led by two professional musicians over two and a half hours, the trail brings guests from the cosy fireside of The Dirty Onion bar to a private room in one of Belfast’s most iconic pubs, the Duke of York and onto McHugh’s pub, which dates to 1711. Along the way, there’ll be music, stories, songs and craic – who knows what might happen!
Set snugly within lively towns and villages along the Causeway Coastal Route are some of the most atmospheric, enjoyable and traditional music pubs on the island of Ireland. Here, day drifts effortlessly into night amid the impassioned thump of the bodhrán, the lively vibrations of the fiddle and haunting beauty of the flute. And after a day spent exploring wondrous sights such as the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, wandering along the vast sugar-soft sands of Whiterocks Beach, Whitepark Bay and Portrush Strand, or riding the waves out to Rathlin Island, there’s nothing better than settling in for a traditional music session.
Pubs such as McCollams in Cushendall, Mary McBrides in Cushendun, The Harbour Bar in Portrush and The Anchor Bar in Portstewart host regular foot-tapping, hand-clapping and joy-inducing music sessions. Drop in, grab a seat by the fire and prepare to be immersed in truly rapturous sounds. It’s a one of a kind experience.
Along the coast and just inland slightly lies the market town of Limavady, home to the “Best Small Music Festival in Ireland”… An eclectic and innovative music festival embracing a wide cross-section of arts from dance to street performance, the Stendhal Festival (Aug 10-11) has made a name for itself thanks to the diverse line-up, friendly vibes and great location on Ballymully Cottage Farm.
With its impressive 17th century walls, compact character, fabulous food and fascinating history, Derry~Londonderry is a small city with a big heart at the point where the Causeway Coastal Route meets the Wild Atlantic Way. The city is legendary for its nightlife, and as soon as you walk through the doors of a trad pub such as Peadar O’Donnell’s you’ll be into the kind of place where a music session can spring up at any time. In this friendly little city, expecting the unexpected all part of its charm.
Fancy a festival? Derry~Londonderry’s Celtronic (Jun 27-July 1) has been bringing swirling electronic tunes and ambient sounds to the city for the last 16 years, and reflects the city’s super-charged club scene. Featuring local and international talent, this year’s line up is stellar with German producer and DJ Roman Flügel, Berghain regular DR RUBENSTEIN, and Arizonian DJ Avalon Emerson. The festival will also feature showcases from some of the city’s hottest club nights, including Bekuz vs Influx, Jika Jika and Queen & Disco.
Push beyond the city and you’ll find yourself at the northern stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s breathtaking coastal route that sweeps all the way down the west coast to Kinsale in County Cork. With wild panoramas, an independent spirit and crashing waves, County Donegal counts Enya as one of its local heroes. Not only is it a great place to explore but hit the coastal town of Bundoran (Jun 22-24) and you’ll find the island’s only “surf music festival”, Sea Sessions. Set against a backdrop of salty-haired surfers showing off their skills, street performers, skateboarding, BMX and mountain biking, the festival has been partying by the beach for 10 years. This year sees Dizzee Rascal, Walking on Cars and Rudimentary taking to the main stage.
From Belfast to Bundoran, take it from us – this summer, the north coast sounds rather good.
Bundoran is home to the island's only "surf music festival", Sea Sessions
Belfast's AVA features a line-up of talks with music's biggest innovators
A woodland stage at Stendhal Festival, Limavady
Crowds enjoy music under blue skies at Stendhal Festival, Limavady
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