Belfast to Belfast via the Causeway Coastal Route: 135.4 miles / 4 hours 30 minutes at 30mph
Titanic Belfast to Ballymena
Our second day sets off once again from Titanic Belfast. Heading north along the Antrim Road, look out for the romantic Belfast Castle, on the slopes of the commanding Cavehill, thought to have been the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. From this imposing basaltic hill, spectacular views of the Mourne Mountains and even parts of Scotland can be seen. It’s a stone’s throw from here to the Belfast Zoological Gardens, where red-backed bearded saki monkeys, Sumatran tigers and tree-kangaroos bask beneath the Antrim sun.
Moving on through Antrim town, the route edges along the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles, and past the 400-year-old Antrim Castle Gardens. From this historical gem, the route presses on to the bustling town of Ballymena.
Ballymena to Cushendall
At Ballymena, you can clamber up Slemish Mountain, the heather-laden slopes where St Patrick is said to have tended sheep as a slave, or visit countless crumbling ruins that dot the landscape. Heading further north, you’ll reach the conservation village of Bushmills. The Old Bushmills Distillery is the oldest working distillery in Ireland, opened in 1608, and is a popular stop for those looking to sample some fine Irish whiskey, known here as uisce beatha (“water of life”). This charming town acts as a gateway to the Giant’s Causeway, our next stop.
The Giant’s Causeway is an iconic landmark that sits at the tip of Ireland. This incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises 40,000 hexagonal columns that sweep out into the sea. Legend has it that it was created by warring giants, but science puts it down to volcanic activity about 60 million years ago. Either way, it’s a must-see. As the route sweeps past, watch out for the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge – a chasm-crossing bridge with exhilarating views – before riding the coastline down to Cushendall.
Slemish Mountain, the legendary first known Irish home of St Patrick, is located in County Antrim. The mountain is actually the core of an extinct volcano, jutting about 1,500 feet into the sky.
Used as a filming location for the fantasy television show, Game of Thrones, Cushendall is a lovely little village in the heart of the Glens of Antrim. Ramble along the beach, take in the river or check out the timeworn monuments that this picturesque town boasts.
From Cushendall, set a course south along the Causeway Coastal Route to one of Antrim’s oldest seaports and market towns: Larne. This is where you’ll find the Carnfunnock Country Park, a dense woodland with pristine gardens and walking trails.
Leaving Larne behind you, pass through the rugged splendor of Whitehead, a seaside sanctum, and onto the walled town of Carrickfergus. Situated on the shores of Belfast Lough, this ancient Norman citadel boasts historic monuments such as Carrickfergus Castle. With this 800-year old monument in your rear-view mirror, move south and back into Belfast, where our second day comes to an end.