Derry~Londonderry and beyond
Where the Causeway Coastal Route meets the Wild Atlantic Way
Check out the buzzing city of Derry~Londonderry, then use it as your base to explore the coastal charm and remote rocky coves of the Causeway Coastal Route and the Wild Atlantic Way.
For such a small city, there’s an awful lot to see and do in Derry~Londonderry. Take in the sights, stroll through centuries of history and indulge in some fantastic food.Explore Day 1
The Walled City
Derry~Londonderry is one of the best preserved walled cities in Europe, and a walk along the top of the beautiful 17th century walls, past the preserved cannons, will give a bird’s eye view across the Renaissance-style street plan and over to the River Foyle. Passionate in their storytelling, the guides from the Unlocking the Walled City tour mix humour and history while telling tales of the city from its 6th century origins to the present day.
The sweep of history
Derry~Londonderry’s extraordinary history is told in several museums that dot the city. The Tower Museum will take you from earliest prehistory, from the ancient tribes of Ireland through to today, by way of the Spanish Armada and the Derry Girls Exhibition. The Siege Museum tells the story of the Apprentice Boys and the siege of Derry~Londonderry in 1688, when the English king found the walls of the city barred to him – an incident that shaped the history of Ireland.
The Museum of Free Derry in the Bogside tells the story of the modern city (or at least the last century) and the birth of its civil rights movement.
Drop into the neo-Gothic Guildhall for a coffee and a peek at the permanent exhibition on the history of the region. If you have more time, book a walking tour of the murals of the Bogside. You can meet the artists and hear their stories as you look at these pieces of living history.
Culture and cuisine
For all this rich history, there’s a busy and thriving cultural scene in Derry~Londonderry that looks to the future. Check out the work of modern artists, some of whom are local, some from further afield, at the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Warehouse gallery. It’s not just artists but artisans who have been drawn to the city. You’ll find you’re in foodie heaven here, with chefs using wonderful local produce to create some of the most innovative and exciting cooking in the country.
There’s also a thriving local craft beer scene – keep an eye peeled for quirkily named beers at the Walled City Brewery, and distinctive hand-crafted local brews from Northbound Brewery in the city's many friendly pubs. If you have more time visit the Walled City Market in Guildhall Square, where local producers sell their wares on the first Saturday of every month
Head along the Causeway Coastal Route, where the views are breathtaking and the welcome is warm. Your furthest point is the vertigo-inducing Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, with plenty of jewels along the way.Explore Day 2
Fruits of the sea
Set sail from Portstewart on a Catch and Sea food experience. It’s a breakfast tour, which means a very early start for all, but even the bleary-eyed will find it’s well worth it. Your crew and guide have a passion for the sea and are full of local knowledge and stories, however, you are all here to catch your breakfast, so enjoy reeling in the fish – most likely mackerel or pollock. Once the bucket is full, a local chef is waiting to prepare a home-cooked breakfast to match your appetite, with your own freshly caught fish as the main ingredient.
Portstewart Golf Club is nearby, and is rightly proud of its stunning setting among the dunes. A close neighbour is the famous Royal Portrush Golf Club, host to The Open in 2019.
Between Portstewart and Carrick-a-Rede there is so much to see, you could pack a few days with stops and wanders along the way. The craggy, mysterious ruin of Dunluce Castle crops up first: it is perched right on the cliff edge and looks like something straight out of a medieval epic.
From here, it’s just six minutes in the car to the village of Bushmills, home to the oldest working whiskey distillery on the island of Ireland. Take a tour and sample the product (if you’re not driving!). Stop for lunch in Bushmills at The French Rooms before continuing east to 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, the Giant’s Causeway. If you have more time book in advance for trips to the Giant’s Causeway or to cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
Fantasy and fairy tales
It’s a short hop to Ballintoy Harbour, one of the many breathtaking Game of Thrones® filming locations dotted along the Causeway Coast. 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, as well as being able to show you the superstar looks of the local landscapes. On the way back to the Walled City, keep watch for the stunning Mussenden Temple, a neo-classical folly perched on high above the beach. It’s an extraordinarily isolated and romantic spot – it's no surprise that it’s very popular for weddings.
During November, two very special festivals arrive to these shores. Atlantic Sessions brings 50 musicians and music to everyone’s ears, while Taste Causeway is a delight for the senses with a memorable foodie experience between Limavady and Cushendall.
An island adventure
Add an extra day onto your adventure with a trip to the wonderful Rathlin Island. Cars aren’t allowed, so go for walking, birdwatching, the slow pace and Ireland's only upside-down lighthouse. Legends thrive here, too, with Robert the Bruce seemingly inspired by watching the dogged determination of a tiny spider weaving his web – just ask the locals to tell you the tale. Ferries take 25-40 minutes from Ballycastle, so book your ticket early during summer months.
To the north-west of Derry~Londonderry you'll find the Inishowen Peninsula – a remote, rocky and spectacularly beautiful place and the start of the mighty Wild Atlantic Way.Explore Day 3
The start of a journey
Just over an hour north of Derry~Londonderry at the far tip of the Inishowen Peninsula, lies Malin Head. It is not only a spectacular spot, untamed and rugged in any weather, but it marks the start (or end, depending on your viewpoint) of the Wild Atlantic Way. Walk up to Banba’s Crown, at the northernmost tip of the whole island of Ireland, and keep an eye out for basking sharks.
Take to the sea
If you're a lover of the sea and all its wonderful creatures, be sure to take a boat tour from Inishowen's Bunagee Pier. You never know what may breach the surface as you glide across the deep blue Atlantic waves, but if luck is on your side you could be greeted by minke whales, common and bottlenose dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks and sunfish.
Always wanted to see the Northern Lights? Due to its northerly position and lack of light pollution, County Donegal's Inishowen Peninsula is the perfect place to see this amazing natural phenomenon.
Ancient and modern
As you head south, just as you’re leaving the peninsula, stop and enjoy spectacular views of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly from the 250-metre high prehistoric stone fort of Grianán of Aileach. Its fame has spread far and wide, and was even mentioned by Ptolemy, the ancient Greek mathematician. The fort is also said to be the inspiration behind the curved lines and stone walls of the nearby Church of St Aengus in Burt – regarded as a masterpiece of design.
At the top of the next headland is Fanad Head Lighthouse. You can take the tour or even stay in the lighthouse and soak up the magic of this remote spot.
At the top of the next headland is Fanad Head Lighthouse, which has safeguarded seafarers since 1817. Climb to the top of this seaside beacon for awesome ocean views as the wind whirls around you and the crashing waves pummel the rocks below. You can take the tour or even stay the night and soak up the magic of this remote spot. Who could resist playing lightkeeper by staying in one of its beautiful self-catering cottages? All you have to do is sleep easy on the edge of the world.
Into the wild woods
It's time to head inland for a complete contrast. This is just one of the highlights of this region, that you can travel from wild and craggy coast deep into the silence of the mountains in less than an hour.
The Derryveagh Mountains are home to Glenveagh Castle and National Park. The park is a huge conservation area filled with lakes, waterfalls and ancient oak woodlands. In the heart of it lies the castle, built in the 19th century. Take a tour and hear of the Hollywood legends who have stayed here.
Look to the west
Journey along the coast beyond the natural beauty of Glenveagh to experience a kaleidoscope of colours during a sunset never to be forgotten at our final stop: the gorily named Bloody Foreland in County Donegal. But don’t fret, records do not show that anything awful has actually happened here – the name was coined in response to the light. Find yourself a good spot and watch as the westering sun’s rays bring out a reddish glow over the rocks and sea.
If you have more time, add another day to your trip and catch a ferry from Magheraroarty to Tory Island. This tiny isle is home to many artists, who love the light and the views.