BEYOND BELFAST

Get ready for the road trip of a lifetime

Don’t hold back on the Causeway Coastal Route. Get your feet wet on the Causeway’s volcanic steps and swing with the gentle sway of the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. Views like those from Dunluce Castle don’t happen every day, so take your time, and take pictures. Getting a fantasy vibe? That’ll be the Game of Thrones affect: this landscape is its set. Winterfell, The Stormlands, the Iron Islands? Castle Ward, Carrick-a-rede, Ballintoy Harbour.

Welcome to Beyond Belfast: this is where the magic happens.

A GIANT JOURNEY

Explore one of the most incredible coastlines in the world

The enigmatic basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway undoubtedly stand as a gem on the Antrim Coast. Set against the churning North Atlantic Ocean, the Giant’s Causeway – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – has to be seen in person to be believed. Its origins, however, are another matter. Was this incredible sight the work of legend and warring giants? Or was an ancient volcano the real creator? You decide. Made from thousands of intriguing hexagonal basalt columns, a walk on the Giant's Causeway is a pleasure — even just to admire the petrels, redshanks and razorbills that call this place home.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • Help decide the origins of these basalt columns at the award-winning Giant’s Causeway Visitor Experience.
  • There are four colour-coded trails, each within walking distance of the nearby Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
  • Watch out for The Wishing Chair. The legendary Finn McCool apparently carved it for a giant, and it grants wishes to anyone who rests upon it.
  • Climb the Shepherd's Steps and hike along the cliff-top trail to get a bird's eye view of the entire causeway coast.

The romantic remains of Dunluce Castle appear teetering on the rocky headland. The 14th century stronghold was abandoned in 1641 after part of the kitchen collapsed into the sea during a storm. In the adjoining graveyard are more victims of the crashing Atlantic: buried sailors from the wrecked Girona. Treasures recovered from the wreck can be seen at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. The Mourne Mountains in County Down are also worth a look – small wonder this place is said to have inspired CS Lewis to create Cair Paravel in the The Chronicles of Narnia.

  • The Causeway is accessible in a day trip from Belfast, as it takes about 1 hour 30 minutes by road. It’s 2 miles from Bushmills village, 11 miles from Coleraine, and 13 miles from Ballycastle.
  • Several locations from the hit HBO series Game of Thrones are found along the Causeway Coastal Route, including the Dark Hedges and Cushendun Caves.
  • The route passes several dramatic mountains including Binevagh and Slemish where St Patrick is said to have tended livestock as a slave in the 5th century.
  • Got your golf clubs? Royal County Down (host to the 2015 Irish Open) and Royal Portrush (invited by the R&C to return to The Open Champioship Rota from 2019) are nearby.
  • The walk to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is made up of gravel pats and stone steps, so good walking shoes are recommended.
  • One of the great cycling routes of Europe, the stunning views along the Causeway Coast were seen around the world when the Giro d'Italia race passed through.
Glens of Antrim

Feargal Lynn is a storyteller, guide and local historian. Spend time with him in his native Glens and learn how isolation helped make them what they are today. Eight of the nine Glens sweep downhill from the boggy upland moors to the sea. “And that,” says Feargal pointing to the North Channel, “used to be the only way out of here.” It’s this isolation that has left the Glens with cultural riches and a traditional sense of communal identity.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Heart-thumping, knee-quaking: this is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge; a swaying little link that hovers almost 100 feet over a dramatic chasm. If you’ve made it along the cliff-top walk, the bridge is the only thing between you and the churning Atlantic waves below – but don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe. Afterwards, head to the nearby Old Bushmills Distillery, Ireland’s oldest working distillery, where you can enjoy a tour and a much-needed drop of wee dram.

Torr Head

Weave along this rugged jut of land on the north coast of Antrim, and as the raging waters crash below, gaze across the horizon at Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre. History hits you full force, with the ruins of the 6th century stone fort Altagore Cashel taking you back to simpler times. The signposted scenic route to Ballycastle sees the trail snake precariously around steep slopes between Fair Head, Murlough Bay and Torr Head.

Next up...

...explore the winding walls, compact character and fabulous food in Northern Ireland's legenDerry city.

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