The curious assembly of 40,000 basalt columns of cooled molten lava on the north Antrim coast is a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of TripAdvisor’s 10 most dramatic landscapes on the planet. It’s also the scene of some of Ireland’s most exciting walking trails and paths, with easy paths, moderate strolls and more demanding hikes.
From the cliff-top Giant’s Causeway Coastal Path overlooking the iconic pillars of the Causeway, this geological wonder suddenly seems smaller than the shadow it casts in heritage and culture. Up here, all of north Antrim unfolds at your feet. Huge swells roll in from the Atlantic, and pockets of sunshine highlight the changing navy blues and emerald greens of the coastal waters.
It’s one of the island’s most stunning panoramas: the Scottish island of Islay, Rathlin Island’s chalky-white cliffs and the Mull of Kintyre at the tip of the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland all stretch out before you. Edged by the foaming Atlantic, sheer cliffs, dramatic views and hundreds of species of floral and fauna have turned this tip of the island into a walkers’ paradise.
British newspaper, the Guardian, listed the coastal walk from the Giant’s Causeway carpark, along the North Antrim Cliff Path to the Dunseverick Castle car park as one of the Top 10 UK walks. Why? Because it boasts “some of the finest cliff scenery in Europe”. And they’re not the only ones who are impressed.
Taking the first step
“My walkers are stunned by the beauty of it”, says Sean Mullan, operator of Walking And Talking in Ireland of the route from Ballintoy to the Giant’s Causeway. “There are so many special sights on the way, and walking it is the most impressive part.”
Mark Rodgers of Dalriada Kingdom Tours is heir to a family tradition of guiding walking tours of the Causeway and laces his narrative with local history. His wife's grandfather Alex Purdy was "the very first man on the Causeway to ride a pony and trap on the Rodden track to guide the folk down to see the stones. He spoke of the caretaker, fortune tellers, a fiddler and ice cream sellers."
There are four recently upgraded and signposted walking trails around the Causeway, one for every ability. The coastal path extends 11 miles (18 kilometres) reaching out to another gem: the vertigo-inducing Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
The biggie is the Causeway Coast Way: the full coastal path from Portstewart Strand to Ballycastle, via the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The 33-mile (53km) stretch covers wide bays, sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and even golf courses.
Bridging it together
In the summer of 2012, visitor Lorraine Lynders from County Kildare did the full walk, Bridge to Causeway, and hasn’t stopped talking about it since. “You never know what’s around the corner or over the next hill,” she says. “It varies dramatically from long sandy beaches to quaint fishing villages, historic ruins to enormous cliffs. You don’t even realise how far you've walked, because it’s so beautiful the entire way!"
Distracted by the beauty? In Ireland, it wouldn’t be the first time…
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