Causeway Coastal Route itinerary

Causeway Coastal Route Itinerary Map
Causeway Coastal Route Itinerary Map

Welcome to what is rightfully known as ‘one of the world’s great road journeys’: the Causeway Coastal Route.

The five-day route takes in a rich tapestry of legendary landmarks, fantastical locations used by HBO’s Game of Thrones and into the culture-filled villages of the Glens of Antrim.

Switching between hugging the coastline and dipping inland to rural glens and villages for 195 miles, the weaving trail between the cities of Belfast and Derry~Londonderry may not cover huge distances, but each location is worth savouring.

Get more information on driving on the island of Ireland.

Day 1

Belfast to Ballymena: 55 miles (88.6km)/34 minutes at 30mph

Your Causeway Coastal Route adventure begins in the city of Belfast. As well as being an urban metropolis, Belfast is also the spiritual home of the Titanic. Titanic Belfast is the largest Titanic attraction in the world, and boasts nine interactive galleries charting the liner’s story from beginning to tragic end.

Heading north from Belfast on the M2 motorway, Belfast Lough will glisten to your right as you join the Causeway Coastal Route at Newtownabbey and cruise towards the seaside town of Carrickfergus. The town’s harbour-side Norman 12th Century castle has seen over 800 years of action, right up until World War II, with portcullis ramparts, canons and a chilling dungeon. Glorious coastal scenes are a taster for what is to come as you reach Larne, County Antrim. Larne is known locally as the gateway to the nine Glens of Antrim: glacier-gouged valleys of seaside villages and highlands of coniferous forests, bogland and waterfalls. The same geological forces that created the terrain of the Causeway also created the Glens. Also near Larne are the Cushendun Caves, which were used to film the HBO TV show Game of Thrones.

Continue north along the crumbling coast and you’ll reach Ballygally. This tiny seaside town is the perfect place to set up camp. Maybe a trip out to the wildlife haven of Rathlin Island? Or you could enjoy walks along its beautiful golden beach. Make sure to visit Ballygally Castle Hotel. The old castle is rooted in local myth and legend and is even said to have a resident ghost.

Just north of Ballygally, the sublime Carnfunnock Country Park is a must-visit. This modern-day Garden of Eden combines man-made attractions with natural beauty. As well as glorious views of the County Antrim coastline, Carnfunnock has woodlands, colourful gardens and walking trails. Make sure to visit the walled garden and the icehouse.

Continue north along the coast and visit one of Ireland’s oldest estates: Glenarm Castle. Home to the Earls of Antrim for 400 years, Glenarm Castle looks has fairytale appeal. It’s open to the public from May to September, and a stroll around the immaculately kept walled gardens is the perfect precursor to lunch in the castle tearooms. The village of Broughshane and the mighty Slemish Mountain are next. The latter is the lonely spot where St Patrick was first bonded to slavery on his arrival to Ireland.

Swing west, and inland now to reach the town of Ballymena. With plenty of shops, restaurants and local attractions, Ballymena is the perfect place to end the first day of your Causeway Coastal Route journey.

Day 2

Ballymena to Ballycastle: 44.9 miles (72.2km)/1 hour and 29 minutes at 30mph

Fully refreshed, strike out for the Causeway Coastal Route again. You’re in the heart of the Glens of Antrim now, and there’s no better way to experience the majesty of the area than with a visit to Glenariff Forest Park. Take your pick from the four walking routes, which wind around a fantasy landscape of cascading Ess-na-Crub waterfall and rivers. The visitor centre will help guide you on which trail to choose.

Move on to Ballycastle. Fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones will be interested to know that several key locations from the show were shot within a short distance of here. One such location is the Cushendun Caves, just a short distance from the picturesque village of Cushendun. Game of Thrones fans will recall the scene in season two where Lady Melisandre gave birth to the ‘shadow baby’ as Davos looked on in horror. That was filmed right here in the Cushendun Caves. Other highlights of the area include the Vanishing Lake and the Ballypatrick Forest Park. Cushendun itself is landmarked by the curiously shaped Curfew Tower. This striking oddity was built in the 19th Century as a garrison and, back then, served as a lock up for ‘idlers and rioters’. The village is also distinctive with its neat outline of black and white houses designed by Clough William-Ellis.

Golfers may feel it’s time to stretch the legs? Swing inland and to Gracehill Golf Club. While you’re in the neighbourhood we recommend seeing one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic sites: the Dark Hedges. Like something straight out of a Hans Christian Andersen tale, a long country road is framed be interlocking beech trees, creating a mesmerising vista.

With the Dark Hedges explored, return to the seaside resort of Ballycastle and enjoy a traditional Irish music session in Katie Mac’s, or take a moonlit stroll along the shore.

Glens of Antrim

Stretching for 80 miles of mountainous and coastal landscapes, the Glens of Antrim weave an extraordinary tapestry of unspoiled natural beauty. Deep green glens pock the scenic route, where unearthed Neolithic tombs point to its ancient past.

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Day 3

Ballycastle to Portrush: 19 miles (31km)/38 minutes at 30mph

Head north and west out of Ballycastle and before long you’ll reach the picture-perfect fishing village of Ballintoy. The tiny harbour here was also featured in Game of Thrones and was given a rugged makeover to depict the Iron Islands.

West from Ballintoy and it’s time for one of the superstars of the Causeway Coastal Route: the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. A gravelled-step path brings you on a .7 mile walk to the bridge, which connects the mainland to the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede. It was originally built by local salmon fisherman to provide access to the island. Some structural improvements have been made since first built, but it still spans a 20-metre chasm some 30-metres above the crashing waves below. You have to ask yourself one question: are you bold enough to cross? Don’t worry, it’s actually extremely safe.

With your heart still pounding, head west and into another heavy-hitter of the Causeway Coastal Route: the Giant’s Causeway. Here, some 40,000 hexagonal columns blanket the landscape and peter out into the ocean. An official UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway even featured on the cover sleeve of a Led Zeppelin album.

According to science, intense volcanic activity millennia ago created this whimsical landscape. But we much prefer the local version that tells of warring giants and heroic acts resulting in the Causeway. The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre elaborates on both the scientific and mythic explanations, and has plenty more fascinating information besides.

After all that bridge walking and tales of giants, the Bushmills Distillery is next. Ireland’s oldest working whiskey distillery, tours of the facility explain the creation and storage of their liquid gold in great detail.

Ballintoy

Ballintoy is a small village in North Antrim situated between the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Dozens of black basalt islands shelter the sleepy coastal town, which was once a bustling hub for fishing and boat building.

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Head back to the coast and discover Dunluce Castle. It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic setting for the ruins of this 14th century castle. Set at the edge of a cliff top, the castle looks like it may just plummet into the water (it did just that a centuries ago). Have your camera batteries fully charged, as Dunluce Castle at sunset is one of the most striking sights you will see anywhere in the world.

End day three in nearby Portrush, famed for its golden beaches, brilliant surf (beginners welcome) and world-class golf course – Royal Portrush.

Day 4

Portrush to Limavady: 19.6 miles (31.5km)/39 minutes at 30mph

With Portrush in your rearview mirror, take a short drive to the seaside town of neighbouring Portstewart. Here, you can enjoy the beautiful Portrush Whiterocks Beach, which has recently been awarded a Blue Flag Beach title. If you fancy a spot of surfing, like Portrush, this is also a great place. Plenty of local shops supply all the equipment and lessons needed. Out of the water, a variety of caves, arches and headlands are great for scenic walks.

Swing inland and head for the university town of Coleraine. Stop here for lunch, then visit one of the oldest known human settlements in Ireland at Mountsandel, just a mile outside town.

Back on the coast and heading west, a stop at Mussenden Temple near Castlerock is a must. Looking like a relic from ancient Rome, this one-time library is perched precariously on a cliff top with commanding views over the panoramic coast.

Now, with the day almost over, set course for the quaint market town of Limavady for the evening.

Day 5

Limavady to Derry~Londonderry: 17 miles (27.3km)/34 minutes at 30mph

After you’ve explored Limavady, pack a hearty lunch and head towards the Binevenagh Mountain. As an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you can expect breathtaking views from the summit.

With the mountain conquered, head back to Limavady and the Roe Valley Arts and Culture Centre; a hub of Northern Ireland’s artistic life. The Roe Valley Country Park also offers refreshing riverside walks, woodland rambles and even trout fishing, too, if the mood takes you.

Our final destination is the historic city of Derry~Londonderry. As you approach, don’t be alarmed by the cannons on top of the huge city walls; they’re purely decorative. They’re the 17th century wonders that make the city of Derry~Londonderry one of the few entirely walled cities left in Europe.

Inside, a warren of side streets, main streets, pubs, shops, theatres, restaurants and attractions of all sorts make Derry~Londonderry one of Ireland’s most compelling cultural cities.

Derry~Londonderry

Derry~Londonderry is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and is crammed with historical pleasures and cultural activities. It’s the only surviving walled city in the country, and where period buildings merge effortlessly with modern architecture.

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On to the next adventure

So ends your coastal odyssey along the Causeway Coastal Route. But if you’re still hungry for adventure, why not take a trip into the real world Westeros on our Game of Thrones itinerary, follow in the footsteps of St Patrick or hit our epic west coast along the Wild Atlantic Way? All of these Ireland adventures and more can begin with a single click.

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