Causeway Coastal Route
Stretching from bustling Belfast to the historic city of Derry~Londonderry and taking in some of Ireland's most incredible sights, the Causeway Coastal Route is sure to get your heart racing
So settle down in a B&B, cosy cottage or hotel in one of a scattering of welcoming towns or villages, and pick a few gems to explore each day. Like a sip of Bushmills Whiskey, every second on the Causeway Coastal Route should be savoured every step of the way.
Spend some time in the glittering city of Belfast and delve into where it all began for the Ship of Dreams at Titanic Belfast.Explore Day 1
Titanic sights in a historic city
Belfast city is bustling – its iconic attractions and Victorian charm make it the perfect spot to begin your Causeway Coast adventure. Start at Titanic Belfast, an interactive museum that’s an ode to the ill-fated Ship of Dreams. Hear heartbreaking tales about the vessel's passengers, discover the detail behind the mammoth task of building the ill-fated ship and dive into the depths with an immersive video exploring the wreckage on the ocean floor.
Just across the road, you can continue investigating the legacy of Belfast’s maritime and industrial past at Titanic’s little sister, the SS Nomadic, and a short jaunt from here you’ll find HMS Caroline, a Royal Navy ship that is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in World War I. If you’re visiting between on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, explore St George's Market, a Belfast foodie institution where you'll find everything from chocolate to local cheese.
Then, once you've had your fill, take a cruise on Belfast Lough, a gorgeous respite from the buzz of the city. If you have more time, make your Sunday afternoon special with classic afternoon tea by Titanic Belfast’s sweeping Grand Staircase.
Feast on local delicacies before cruising towards the Glens of Antrim, and veering onto the coastal paths that will be your Causeway Coastal Route guide...Explore Day 2
Toast the Coast with Portia Woods
Like the sound of a foodie tour? Then join Toast the Coast with Portia Woods from either Belfast city or the town of Whitehead, and get set for one seriously mouthwatering trip. Portia’s intimate knowledge of the region’s food and its exceptional bakers, chefs, brewers and distillers is enhanced by the sea views, rolling glens and pretty harbour villages that you’ll be enjoying on the way!
Walk on water at The Gobbins
The Gobbins cliff walk has clung to the basalt cliffs of the Islandmagee peninsula for over one hundred years. Pre book a visit for one-of-a-kind experience: walk along the tubular bridge (33ft/10m above the sea) and marvel at the spectacular vistas and abundant wildlife. Cross striking bridges, climb stairways carved into the cliff face and explore hidden smuggler caves as the wind howls and the mighty ocean waves pound the rocks below.
For a different view, try a sea tour of the area that takes you from Ballylumford right up to the cliffs – keep an eye out for Northern Ireland’s only mainland puffin colony! Then head into the busy town of Larne for some rest, relaxation and a delicious meal in the historic Billy Andy's bar. If you're brave enough, stay the night at Ballygally Castle Hotel, a stunning, 17th century castle that's famous for its resident ghost!
A fairytale castle
Want to visit a storybook castle? You've come to the right place. Glenarm Castle has been home to the McDonnell family since the 1600s, and they’ve maintained it with all the splendour you'd expect. Inside you'll find furniture, portraits and much more dating back to the 17th century – this is as authentic as it gets.
Take a wander through the castle gardens, too: they are among the oldest in Ireland, and the perfect spot to while away an afternoon in the sunshine. Indulge in some cream tea or a light lunch while you’re here, both perfect for recharging.
Shadow babies and striking views at Cushendun
Fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones® will recognise the Cushendun Caves almost immediately. This is where the infamous "shadow baby" scene was filmed and it's one of the many Game of Thrones® locations scattered around the Causeway Coast. Whether you're a fan of the show or not, it's well worth detouring to Murlough Bay to get a look at the big picture: a seemingly endless stretch of coastline and, on a clear day, maybe even a glimpse of Scotland.
Just a few miles away lies Glenariff Forest Park, a gorgeous nature reserve in the heart of the glens, with three spectacular waterfalls and a choice of peaceful riverside walks.
Stay the night in charming Ballycastle village, then take an early boat over to Rathlin Island – famous for its gorgeous views and native wildlife.Explore Day 3
Don't miss the chance to visit Northern Ireland's only offshore inhabited island, Rathlin. Chug across the picturesque Church Bay by ferry before landing in the harbour and exploring this L-shaped marvel. With a population of around 140 people, Rathlin is home to some incredible legends: ask the locals about Robert the Bruce and his spider – you won't be disappointed!
Take a tour of the "upside down lighthouse", Rathlin West Light, one of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland. You can also discover Rathlin's wonderful wildlife: look out for seals on the rocks, hares in the fields and seabirds including puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills and guillemots.
Once you're back on the mainland, pick up a bag of super-fresh fish and chips from Morton’s in Ballycastle – sea bass, cod and haddock, fresh off the boat and mouthwateringly good.
This journey takes on some of the heavy hitters – including the very place that gives the Causeway Coastal Route its name. Don't worry, though – you'll be spoilt for choice with places to stay so you can just relax and take your time.Explore Day 4
Sway above the waves
Take a trek on horseback, and enjoy the sights, sounds and scents of the north Antrim hills and coastline in the company of expert local guides from Sheans Horse Farm. Next, sway above the waves at Carrick-a-Rede. Suspended almost 100ft/30 metres above the sea, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge has linked tiny Carrick Island and the County Antrim mainland for around 350 years.
You'll need to book tickets, as there are many looking to test their mettle here. So keep an eye on the clock and get there in good time. Take a deep breath, step onto the sturdy, wooden slats, and you'll be rewarded by some of the best views on the Causeway Coastal Route. Look down and you'll catch intriguing glimpses of mysterious caves and caverns as the ocean swirls far below you. That is, if you're brave enough...
If you have more time, why not check out the striking avenue of beech trees known as the Dark Hedges? This atmospheric walk stood in for one of Game of Thrones® most memorable locations, the Kingsroad. If you’re a big fan of the HBO series, then you’ll adore Giant Tours Ireland. Flip, your local guide and driver was a stand-in actor for Hodor, so has wonderful stories and anecdotes from his experience.
Fill some big shoes
There’s nowhere that blurs history and myth quite like County Antrim’s Giant's Causeway. As Lonely Planet puts it, the Causeway "looks for all the world like the handiwork of giants". While experts think that this geological wonder was formed by volcanic activity over 60 million years ago, the myth that it was built by warring giants has persisted for hundreds of years. Whether you side with science or prefer a good story, one thing is sure: this is a place of mind-boggling beauty that you should not miss.
Be warned, this magical landscape is a hugely popular attraction so make sure to pre-book before you visit! Our tip? Check out the interactive exhibitions at the Visitor Centre, or pick up some local crafts at the gift shop. Or head to the Causeway in time to watch the sun set – it's absolutely breathtaking.
If you have more time, tackle the Giant's Causeway Cliff-top Experience Walk, with local guides led by Eimear Flanagan. The five-mile walk takes you along quiet routes that allow the best views of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visit the island's oldest working distillery, then explore the medieval remains of the seat of the earls of County Antrim.Explore Day 5
Liquid gold on the North coast
The Old Bushmills Distillery is the island of Ireland’s oldest working distillery. It’s been in operation since 1608, and the company’s distinctive single malt whiskey is still produced here today. Take a guided tour that encompasses all your senses and you'll discover how the whiskey is made using traditional copper potstills and a triple distillation process. Want to know more? Try a tutored whiskey tasting or a meal at the in-house restaurant, which serves Northern Ireland fare with a Bushmills twist.
Dunluce Castle is possibly one of the most dramatic places on earth. The ruins of a 14th century castle are perched 100ft/30m above the wild ocean. Over the years, Dunluce has been the site of tales of wailing banshees, smugglers and tragic lovers. In the 17th century, part of the castle simply crumbled into the sea during a monumental storm. Nowadays, Dunluce remains only in ruins, but it’s still utterly stunning.
If you have more time, Wee Cottage is a tiny café serving gorgeous scones and cups of traditional tea: perfect after a bracing trip to Dunluce Castle.
Stunning beaches, ancient archaeological sites and a city with one of the most exciting cultural scenes on the island: this stretch of the Causeway Coastal Route really does have something for everyone. So take your time and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and flavours.Explore Day 6
Portrush and Portstewart are two gorgeous seaside villages with lots to keep you occupied. Both are home to iconic golf courses – Portstewart Golf Course (host of the 2017 Irish Open) and Royal Portrush (where The Open 2019 was held) is one of the most challenging links courses in the world. But if you’re not a golfer, don’t worry – these towns are wonderful spots for beachgoers and foodies alike.
While in Portrush, the restaurants in the Ramore complex, such as the Harbour Bar, are perfect spots for a meal. Then, visit the white sands of Portstewart’s Blue Flag beach, before heading to Morelli’s ice-cream parlour for a sundae.
A temple of wonder
Take a stroll along Downhill Demesne, and look up: standing over the beach is one of Northern Ireland's most iconic landmarks. Mussenden Temple was originally built as a replica of the Temple of Vesta in Italy, a beautiful folly that doubles as a wedding venue. It’s a seriously impressive sight, particularly as the sun sets behind it: pack a picnic, ramble along the beach and then head to the temple for unparalleled views bathed in gold.
If you’re staying in the area, check out the ancient site of Mountsandel, purportedly the oldest archaeological site on the island of Ireland, and the historic town of Coleraine. To officially finish your cruise along the entire Causeway Coastal Route, continue on to the walled city of Derry~Londonderry.