Causeway Coastal Route, Ireland

CoastalCausewayRouteMapThis scenic drive is one of the best in all of Europe. Not only are the views amazing, but there are countless landmarks and attractions to stop at along the way, including the infamous Giant’s Causeway. You can tackle all of this in one day, starting and ending in Belfast, or you can find a hostel around the midway point to spread the trip out a bit. In this post we’ll outline the spots we hit in chronological order, as well as one or two spots we wish we’d hit but didn’t. We left Belfast around noon, so we ended up at a few places after they had closed, but if you start at a normal time you can easily see everything you’d like. No matter how you tackle the Causeway Coastal Route, it’s a must for anyone visiting Northern Ireland.

  • Carrickfergus Castle – This is a large, mainly intact, castle on the shoreline of CausewayCoastalPic2Carrickfergus, a city just outside of Belfast. Alex’s father actually went to school around the corner from this castle during the years he grew up in Northern Ireland. The castle is outfitted with some tacky cutouts and murals, but overall it’s still pretty cool to see! Entrance is 5 pounds or 3 pounds for students.
  • Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – This is a fairly touristy location, and the rope bridge itself isn’t all that great, but the views along the coast are amazing. The bridge was once must less reinforced, and used by fishermen to access the island and get the best catch. The cliff face is crowded with birds which are also cool to see. The entrance fee is 7 pounds.
  • Ballintoy Harbour – This isn’t very high up on the must see locations along the CausewayCoastalPic3coast for most people, but we really enjoyed the stop. Ballintoy Harbour was a filming location for a couple of scenes in Game of Thrones, used to depict the Iron Islands. The area is rocky and really picturesque. Along the shoreline there are some caves to explore. We grabbed a bite to eat here as well, and the wraps did not disappoint. It’s also free to visit!
  • Giant’s Causeway – This is obviously the main draw of the Causeway Coastal Route, and it did not disappoint. The rock formations here are mind boggling, it’s crazy to think that they formed naturally. Amazingly you’re allowed to climb all over them, CausewayCoastalPic4there are no restricted areas, so you can explore and find a spot for the best pictures. We managed to visit the site for free, by parking at the hotel and walking down to the site. If you park in the main lot or see the visitor center (it closes at 5pm, which is when we arrived) the cost is 10.50 pounds. There is also a shuttle that runs for one pound each way before 5pm, but if you’re able the walk is easy, you just have to follow the same road as the shuttle for 10 mins. Definitely worth seeing, especially since it’s free!
  • Dunluce Castle – We didn’t manage to make it to Dunluce Castle before it closed, but just seeing it from the outside was amazing. It is technically a ruin, but a large amount of the castle is in tact. The most amazing part is that it’s perched right on the edge of a cliff, almost on it’s own island. The entry is 5 pounds, and it would definitely be worth it to see the inside. It closes at 4 or 5pm depending on the month.CausewayCoastalPic5
  • Portrush – We ended up in Portrush for dinner, and ventured down to the harbour to check out the restaurant and bar selection. There are tons of places to eat clustered around the harbour, which is a sight to see itself. We ended up at Ramore Wine Bar, and though the service was poor, the food was really good.
  • Dark Hedges – This isn’t along the Causeway Coastal Route, but we were able to drive through it on the way back to Belfast. The Dark Hedges are another filming location for Game of Thrones, used for the King’s Road. The trees lining the road here completely connect over the road, creating a tree tunnel. We drove through here right at dusk, making the hedges all the more scenic (though not great for CausewayCoastalPic1photos). If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, and can pass through here on your way home we would recommend it!

Bonus!

  • Mussenden Temple – We didn’t make it to Mussenden Temple (we should’ve started earlier!) and we definitely regret it. The temple is perched right on the edge of a cliff face, looking over the ocean and sprawling beach below. It was built in 1785 and was used as a summer library by the Earl Bishop. The pictures of this temple and the surrounding area look amazing, so if you can, put it on your list! It’s on ours for next time.

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