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 four-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.

The route follows a majestic coastal road starting in Belfast and ending in Derry~Londonderry.  Hugging the coastline and dipping inland to rural glens and villages for 195 miles, the route 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 Cushendall: 53 miles (85km)/1 hour 46 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.

A few miles north will take you on a loop around Islandmagee and the reconstructed cliff walk at The Gobbins. Book in advance for a spectacular walk along bridges and cliffs suspended metres above the sea with views south to Blackhead Lighthouse and across the sea to Scotland. The Gobbins provides a taster for what is to come on this spectactular route as you reach Larne, County Antrim the gateway to the nine Glens of Antrim: glacier-gouged valleys of seaside villages and highlands of coniferous forests, bogland and waterfalls. 

Continue north along the coast and you’ll reach Ballygally. This tiny seaside town is the perfect place for a stop. 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.

You are now entering the heart of the Glens. At the foot of Glenarm sits the small village of the same name. Visit one of Ireland’s oldest estates: Glenarm Castle. Home to the Earls of Antrim for 400 years, Glenarm Castle 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 for afternoon tea in the tearooms.

Back on the road and the pretty seaside town of Carnlough, with its picturesque harbour, lies a few miles north. For the weary, Carnlough provides a great overnight stop, or you can carry on to Cushendall.

Push on past the headland of Garron Point and the village of Waterfoot comes into view at the foot of Glenariff, known as the ‘Queen of the Glens’. Take an evening walk along the mile long beach, before continuing to the pretty village of Cushendall. The town’s four-storey red sandstone Curfew Tower, built ‘to imprison idlers and rioters’ is surrounded by pretty buildings and some convivial watering-holes, a perfect place to end the first day of your Causeway Coastal Route journey.

Day 2

Cushendall to Ballycastle: 28 miles (45km) /56 minutes at 30mph

There’s no better way to experience the majesty of the area than with a visit to Glenariff Forest Park. You can double back through Waterfoot or take the road through Glenballyeamon. Take your pick from the four walking routes, which wind around a fantasy landscape, including the Waterfalls Walks and rivers. The visitor centre at the Teashop will help guide you on which trail to choose.

Dropping back to the coast road and 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. One such location is the Cushendun Caves, near the picturesque village of Cushendun with its quiet harbour and quaint cottages. 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.

A detour from the main route will take you to another location in Game of Thrones and introduce you to the natural glories of Murlough Bay and the striking views at Torr Head.

Back to the main route heading towards Ballycastle, and another highlight of the area is the geological mystery of the Vanishing Lake at Loughareema. Ballypatrick Forest Park, meanwhile, has great walking/biking trails with the reward of stunning views across the Sea of Moyle to Rathin Island.

While you’re in the neighbourhood we recommend seeing one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic sites: the Dark Hedges, the Kingsroad in Game of Thrones. Located just a few miles south west of Ballycastle. Something straight out of a Hans Christian Andersen tale, a long country road is framed by interlocking beech trees, creating a mesmerising vista.

With the Dark Hedges explored, return to the seaside resort of Ballycastle for your overnight stay. Traditional Irish music sessions are held Thursday nights in O’Connor’s Bar or take a moonlit stroll along the shore with the Sea of Moyle and Fair Head as a backdrop.


The Rathlin Island detour

A day trip to Rathlin Island is highly recommended for those wanting to enjoy time on Northern Ireland’s only off shore inhabited island. Ferries leave from Ballycastle to cross the Sea of Moyle to the island, please allow 25 minutes for the six-mile crossing to arrive in the harbour at the picturesque Church Bay.

This island is six miles long, one mile wide, "L" shaped and home to a small population of around seventy people. There are many tales of myth and mystery surrounding Rathlin, and across the harbour in the Boathouse Museum is where visitors can discover the stories and history of the island.

Rathlin is a wonderful haven for wildlife, too. A short walk around to Mill Bay, and you will find a colony of seals who regularly sunbathe on the rocks. And the island’s population of famed Irish Hares can be seen racing across the fields. At the west of the island is the renowned Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Seabird Centre, where puffins, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes can be observed during the summer months.

Accommodation is available on the island, with B&Bs, self-catering cottages and hostels for those who wish to get the full experience of island life with an overnight stay. Why not stay at the West Lighthouse part of the Lighthouse Trail and awaken in the morning to magnificent views; on clear days, Donegal, the North Antrim coastline and the island of Islay can be seen.

Rathlin Island legendary tale

Ever wondered where the proverb ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ came from? This little island in County Antrim has a tale that reveals its source.

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Day 3

Ballycastle to Portrush: 22 miles (35km)/44 minutes at 30mph

Head north and west out of Ballycastle and before long you’ll reach Portaneevey with views to the west of the Carrick-a-Rede Ropebridge and 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.

The route drops down towards Ballintoy and a few minutes later you reach Larrybane and the starting point for the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. A gravelled-step path brings you on a 1km 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 quite safe.

With your heart still pounding, head west towards the Giant’s Causeway, which has given its name to the route. Here, some 40,000 hexagonal columns blanket the landscape and form a path 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 a 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 (part of it did just that 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, including the Whiterocks beach, brilliant surf (beginners welcome) and world-class golf course – Royal Portrush.

Day 4

Portrush to Londonderry: 43 miles (70km)/1 hour 26 minutes at 30mph

Your last day on the Causeway Coastal Route starts with a short drive to the seaside town of neighbouring Portstewart. 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, take the Nun’s Walk from the promenade to Portstewart Strand for a great scenic walk.

Swing inland and head for the university town of Coleraine. Stop here for lunch and to visit the oldest known human settlement in Ireland at Mountsandel Fort. This 9,000 year old Mesolithic site is just a mile from the centre of the town.

Back on the coast road and heading west towards Castlerock, a stop at the Bishop’s Palace and Mussenden Temple is a must. Looking like a relic from ancient Rome, this one-time library is perched precariously on a cliff top with commanding views west along the eight-mile long Downhill and Benone Beaches against the backdrop of the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal. A ferry runs from Magilligan to Greencastle across Lough Foyle (seasonal).

Binevenagh Mountain is a bonus for those wanting to explore and the viewpoint is a short 10 minute drive from Downhill. As an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you can expect breathtaking views from the summit. St Aidan’s Church lies beneath the summit and is worth a visit.

With the mountain conquered, head towards the town of 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 salmon fishing, too, if the mood takes you.

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

Inside the walls, 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 and a fitting end to your journey along the Causeway Coastal Route.

Causeway Coast meets Wild Atlantic Way

Your journey doesn’t have to stop here… Head onwards to the epic coastline of Donegal and the start of the Wild Atlantic Way, which takes in the Inishowen Peninsula and the Slieve League Cliffs, before finishing up in Donegal town

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And there’s more

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 even golf your way around the Home of Champions? All of these Ireland adventures and more can begin right here


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