The Causeway Coastal Route of Northern Ireland is one of the best road trips in the world. The 130-mile route from Belfast to Londonderry (Derry) may not be the longest drive on earth but what it lacks in miles it makes up for in spectacular places to visit. So sit back and relax because we are going to show you all of the best stops on the Causeway Coastal Route.
Having driven the Causeway Coastal Route three times, we have seen all of the stops on this beautiful Irish road trip. When you visit Northern Ireland, chances are you will drive at least a portion of this famous scenic route that snakes its way around the Northern Coast.
Stops on the Causeway Coastal Route
The Causeway Coastal Route is 130 miles long and takes 3-5 days. It starts in Belfast and winds its way counterclockwise through the Antrim Coast ending in Londonderry.
Make sure to take your time as there are so many things to see and do on the coast road. We suggest spending 3-5 days driving the Causeway Coastal Route. Trust me, you will want time to enjoy the scenic views, hiking trails, and top attractions.
In 2018, the Causeway Coastal route was voted the Number 1 Region in the world by Lonely Planet. We give that ThePlanetD seal of approval as well. Check out our city guides on both Belfast and Londonderry to make the most of your trip.
Causeway Coastal Route Itinerary
If you spend 2 days in Belfast and one day in Derry, you have the perfect 5-day itinerary for Northern Ireland seeing all of its spectacular landscapes, Game of Thrones filming locations, and the nine Glens of Antrim most of which are located along the Causeway Coast.
The coastal causeway route truly is the ultimate Northern Ireland road trip that highlights the best the country has to offer. We are going to highlight all of the best stops to help you choose which of the top attractions you should see while creating your own road trip itinerary.
If you have limited time but still want to visit the top attractions along the Causeway Coast, you can book this guided tour from Belfast. It’s a full-day excursion to the Giant’s Causeway driving through County Antrim and the northern coast of Ireland. You’ll stop at the Dark Hedges, and the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge for photos. You’ll then visit the amazing Basalt Columns of the star attractions which is often described as the 8th Wonder of the world before heading back to Belfast with a stop for photos at Dunluce Castle.
Located just two hours north of Dublin, Belfast is just a hop skip and a jump from the most iconic stops on the Causeway Coast. The capital city of Northern Ireland is a great place to make a base or to spend a couple of days exploring before setting out on your Causeway Coast road trip.
We stayed at the Ten Square Hotel Belfast and can highly recommend it. Located directly across from Belfast City Hall, we loved this hotel. We were within walking distance of many attractions and the rooms were modern and chic.
There are so many things to do in Belfast City. You can immerse in the history of its most famous ship at the Titanic Belfast Museum, learn of The Troubles of Northern Ireland as you tour Shankhill and Falls Roads, or enjoy a pint while listening to traditional music at one of its many local pubs.
There’s something for everyone in Belfast. Even movie buffs will love following the path of the Game of Thrones in the Glass of Thrones or spying on stars at Titanic Studios. Book tickets in advance for Titanic Belfast that includes access to Ocean Exploration Centre and the SS Nomadic. See our full Belfast City Guide for more information.
If you want to visit the Causeway Coast on a guided tour from Belfast this popular Game of Thrones Tour takes you to several stops on the coastal route where you’ll enjoy the beauty of the Antrim Coast before hitting the world-famous Giant’s Causeway. During this guided day tour you’ll stop at places like Carrickfergus Castle, and the nine Glens of Antrim before seeing the coastal town of Ballycastle. It’s then time to see HBO’s Game of Thrones filming locations like Magharmorne Quarry which is the location of Castle Black and the Dark Hedges to see King’s Road.
On our way out of Belfast, we stopped at Belfast Castle for a final view overlooking the city from its beautiful castle. It is a bit out of the city center, so we waited until we hit the road to see it and it was the perfect start to a trip around the Antrim Coast.
Located in Cavehill Country Park, Belfast castle stands high above Belfast on a hill within the grounds of Cave Hill Country Park. It is free to enter and inside you can tour its rooms and grab a bite to eat at the cafe. There are plenty of walking trails around the castle and you can walk all the way to Cave Hill Country Park,
When you visit Ireland, a trip to Belfast is a must. If you have a short time, you should book a Black Taxi Tour to see the murals of Belfast and the neighborhoods of Falls and Shankill Road that were the epicentre of The Troubles. And see how the Peace Wall is keeping the peace today.
Carrickfergus Castle is located on the Northern Shore of Belfast Lough. There are many castles to choose from on the Causeway Coastal Route, and this is a good option since it will be your first stop once you leave Belfast. Carrickfergus Castle has been standing for more than 800 years and is an example of one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland.
It’s surprising it is still standing as it has stood invasions from the English, French, and Scottish armies. It also played a strategic role in World War II. This castle is so picturesque that it is a popular wedding venue.
Address: Marine Hwy, Carrickfergus BT38 7BG, UK
The Gobbins Cliff Walk
The next stop on our Causeway Coastal Route is the Gobbins Cliffwalk. Adrenaline junkies will love following The Gobbins Cliff Path which is a network of walkways and bridges that hugs a dramatic basalt cliff. Take in the extraordinary views of the Irish sea as you cross bridges and enter sunken caves as you cling to sheer cliff faces.
Address: The Gobbins Visitor Centre, 68 Middle Road, Islandmagee, County Antrim, BT40 3SL
A slight detour off the main Causeway Coastal Route will take you to an imposing mountain where legend has it that Saint Patrick Tended Sheep. Located in County Antrim, Slemish Mountain is where Saint Patrick himself spent 6 years working as a shepherd after his capture.
If you happen to be visiting the Antrim Coast on Saint Patrick’s Day, you can join a pilgrimage up the mountain where it is said that St. Patrick turned to prayer giving him the courage to escape. Even if you aren’t there on Saint Patrick’s Day, a hike to the top offers beautiful views of the Antrim Coast.
You can’t really see much of Glenarm Castle as it is still a private residence. The McDonnell family has owned the castles since 1636. But tourists can visit the Walled Garden at Glenarm Castle to enjoy its beautiful landscape.
The walled garden was originally created to supply fresh fruit and vegetables to the castle and community. Today, you can enjoy a walk through the gardens or head out to its forest hiking trail followed by a stop at the restaurant for a slice of fresh cake or a light lunch. Glenarm Castle Garden is worth a stop as it has been home to the Earls of Antrim for more than 400 years.
There is a cool auto museum showcasing the family’s modes of transportation over the years and another museum that is included in your visit making it a nice stop on the road rip.
6 Castle St, Glenarm, Ballymena BT44 0BD, UK
Glenariff Forest Park
Located in the famous Glens of Antrim, Glenariff Forest Park is often considered the most beautiful of the nine Glens of Antrim. Get out into nature to take a walk to its spectacular waterfalls, tranquil pools, and steep gorges.
Carnlough, from the Irish Carnlach, meaning ‘place of cairns’, is a village in County Antrim with a picturesque harbour on the shores of Carnlough Bay. The area offers many opportunities to get out on the sea and freshwater for some sightseeing or fishing.
The Londonderry Arms Hotel situated in the village was built in 1848 as a coaching inn by Frances Anne Vane Tempest, Marchioness of Londonderry, great grandmother of Winston Churchill. If you want to spend the night, this is a good choice.
Directions: Glenariffe Rd, Ballymena BT44 0QX, UK
Torr Head Scenic Route
The Torr Head Scenic Route is a detour from the main Causeway Coastal Route, but it is not to be missed. Each time we’ve driven this road, it’s been a wild ride through winding scenery and rough weather, but it’s been worth it.
This drive doesn’t see a lot of traffic because of its narrow winding road but it is a trip you won’t forget. We had to back down a steep narrow hill to make room for a large tractor coming our way. From the car park, you can hike up to a ruined fort where you’ll enjoy views up and down the Antrim Coast.
Located between Cushendun and Ballycastle, this route takes you as close as you can get to Scotland and on a clear day, you can see clear over the water to Scotland at only 12 miles away! You’ll also be able to spy Fair Head, The Antrim Coast, and Rathlin Island where you can take a ferry to the only inhabited offshore island in Northern Ireland.
Address: Ballycastle BT54 6RQ, UK
Ballycastle is a small village located along the causeway coastal route that dates back to the 17th century. It is here that you can catch the ferry to Rathlin Island. There is a beautiful 1.2 km long sandy beach to take a stroll and there are plenty of restaurants to grab lunch at during your trip around the Causeway Coast.
Rathlin Island is a popular day trip that can be visited via ferry. The island is only six miles long and one mile wide with a population of only 140 people. What it lacks in the human population, it makes up for in seabirds. There are more than 250,000 seabirds that return to breed on the island each year from puffins to kittiwakes and razorbills.
Legend has it that Robert the Bruce took refuge in a cave on Rathlin Island after he was driven from Scotland by King Edward I of England.
The world-famous Dark Hedges are located on Bregagh Road and are the most photographed location in Northern Ireland. It was made even more famous when HBO’s Game of Thrones popped over to this road to film a scene in season 1 where it was used as the King’s Road.
It isn’t exactly located on the main Causeway Coastal Route, but because it is just a short detour, we’re adding it. This striking scene with 90 Beech trees lining this road creating a canopy of twisting branches overhead is not to be missed.
The Stuart family planted the trees in the eighteenth century to welcome guests as they approached their Georgian mansion. Today the trees have grown into one of the most impressive views and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.
Read all about it at The Dark Hedges of Northern Ireland – Tips to Visit and What you Need to Know
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a must-see stop on your drive along the Causeway Coastal Route Itinerary. The landscape alone is one of Northern Ireland’s finest. While we were there, we spotted an enormous basking shark feeding in the waters below so make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife.
The first rope bridge at Carrick a Rede was once only used by daring fishermen crossing the dangerous rope dangling over the sea. Today the new and improved Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge links the island of Carrickarede to the mainland in a far less dangerous manner. Albeit crossing the rope bridge is still a little hairraising. It may not be as precarious as it once was, but it is still very thrilling.
Visitors who traverse the 30-meter (90 feet) deep rope bridge are rewarded with incredible views of the North Coast.
Ballintoy Harbour is a picturesque fishing village located just a short drive from the Carrick a Rede rope bridge. The waves are powerful here creating an awe-inspiring scene. This harbor is so picturesque that the harbour stood in as the Iron Islands in the Game of Thrones. It was used for the scene where Theon Greyjoy returned to his boyhood home of Pyke on the Iron Islands (Lordsport Harbour) and meets his sister Yara.
Ballintoy comes from the “Baile an Tuaigh” meaning “the northern townland” and it definitely feels that way. It is northern, rugged, and wild. In town, you’ll find an array of small shops and two churches.
We loved stopping at Ballintoy Harbour because tour buses cannot get down. The narrow winding road makes it a perfect stop away from the crowds. Read more: A Game of Thrones Tour of Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway is the most extraordinary sight in all of Northern Ireland and is a geological wonder on the Causeway Coastal Route. If there is one attraction on the Causeway Coast that you must see, this is it! This UNESCO World Heritage Site will blow you away as you are awed by 40,000 hexagonal stone columns that are perfectly stacked beside each other leading out to the sea. Read more: The Legend of the Giant’s Causeway – Do You Believe?
You can book day tours to the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast if you aren’t doing a self drive around the Causeway Coastal Route. This highly rated tour takes you to see famous sights along the Antrim coast before reaching the Giant’s Causeway. Places you’ll see en route to the Giant’s Causeway are Cushendun Caves, Carnlough Harbour, and the Dark Hedges. Learn about the history from live commentary on board.
Legend has it that the Irish Giant, Finn McCool, built a giant stone causeway to cross the sea to fight the Scottish Giant, Bennandoner. It is easy to believe the legend as it is one of the most unusual attractions we’ve ever seen. It looks as if a giant built a patio of perfect stones creating a causeway out to sea.
Science tells us that the Giant’s Causeway was actually created by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. As the hot lava flowed to the sea, the cool water turned them into basalt cliffs perfectly stacked upon one another. There are several hiking trails around the cliff edge and along the coast to view the extraordinary sight.
It’s an easy walk down to the Giant’s Causeway from the car park, but shuttles are offered for those with mobility issues. Inside the visitor center is a gift shop, interpretive center, cafe, and coffee shop. We suggest staying at the Causeway Hotel to have it all to yourself at sunrise and sunset.
You can book full day tours to the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast to see highlights of the Northern Coast including the Causeway Coast and Visitor Centre, and Dark Hedges.
Located just a few minutes from Giant’s Causeway is the lovely town of Bushmills. Located on the River Bush, Bushmills was fittingly named after the mills on the river. It dates back to the 17th century and has a high concentration of heritage-listed buildings. It truly does feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
This is also a popular base for people to visit the Giant’s Causeway. While we recommend staying at the Causeway Hotel, Bushmills Hotel is another excellent choice. It is more upscale than the Causeway Hotel with an excellent restaurant located in the heart of town.
Bushmills Distillery is just five minutes from the Giant’s Causeway and is a great stop on the Causeway Coast. It’s Northern Ireland’s premiere distillery and Ireland’s Oldest working distillery. King James I actually granted the first distilling license to Bushmills in 1608. You can take a distillery tour to see how Irish Whiskey is produced.
Even if you don’t want to take a tour, you can enter the visitor center to enjoy a bit of its grounds to see some of the distilleries and you can purchase premium whiskey at its main shop. Dave loves their 16-year-old.
Dunluce Castle is an abandoned medieval castle located right on the north Antrim Coast on northern coast. The castle was built in the 13th Century and was inhabited until the late 1600s. You also might recognize this castle from the inner sleeve of the Led Zeppelin album, “Houses of the Holy.”
When driving to Dunluce Castle from the Giant’s Causeway, take a stop at the bend in the road for the perfect postcard view of the picturesque ruins.
Tours can even be booked to the Causeway Coast from Dublin. This highly rated tour is the perfect day trip for people with limited time but who still want to enjoy some of the top Northern Ireland destinations when they visit Ireland. Visit the Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle, The Giant’s Causeway and spend some time in Belfast on a guided tour from Dublin.
New to the Causeway Coast is the Maghercross Viewpoint walking path. We didn’t even know this was here but we decided to pull over into the parking lot. It is one of the best views on the entire Causeway Coast and you really must stop to enjoy a walk along its paths leading out to two lookouts. One looks towards Dunluce Castle while the other overlooks Whiterocks beach. It is here that the famous Wishing Arch rock formation as well. The massive sea cliffs that rival the Cliffs of Moher.
Portrush and Whiterocks Beach
Portrush is another must-stop on the Causeway Coastal Route. The traditional seaside resort has a lovely old town to explore that has plenty of hotels, restaurants, and bars. Portrush is famous for its three sandy beaches, the West Strand, East Strand, and White Rocks Beach, and boasts the world-renowned Royal Portrush Golf Club. If you like golfing, this is the place to do it, Royal Portrush Golf Club is the only golf club outside Great Britain that has hosted The Open Championship.
Just a little further down from the Maghercross is the award-winning Whiterocks Beach which is not only a must for those driving along the Causeway Coast, but it is also a favorite with locals too! The beach stretches from Curran Strand to Dunluce Castle with high limestone cliffs jutting up from the sand.
Mussenden Temple is located in the beautiful surroundings of Downhill Demesne near Castlerock in County Londonderry. The temple is dramatically perched on a 120 ft. cliff top, high above the Atlantic Ocean on the north-western coast of Northern Ireland. It is run by the National Trust and when you walk through its grounds from the ruined mansion to the cliff, you’ll be treated to spectacular in both directions.
Mussenden Temple is yet another high lookout located on the coast that was used as a filming location for HBO’s Game of Thrones. Built in the 18th Century by Earl Bishop, the temple and 120-foot tower is a great spot from which to look out to sea. When walking along the beach at Benone Strand, you’ll be treated to a postcard view.
Another beautiful beach on the other side of the Mussenden Temple is Benon Strand. To reach the beach from the car park, you need to take the tunnel under the train tracks of The Derry Colerain Railway that travels between Derry~Londonderry and Coleraine. Benone Strand is considered one of Ireland’s most beautiful and unspoiled beaches and a walk along this long sandy stretch is a must.
Gortmore Scenic Viewpoint
If you haven’t had enough spectacular views on your causeway coastal route itinerary, follow The Bishop’s Road from Downhill to Derry, for this detour off the Causeway Coastal Route. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Donegal and the islands of Islay and Jura off the west coast of Scotland.
We spent too much time at the beach on our last trip here and were itching to get to Derry, so we skipped this view, but you can hop on it at Benon Strand for another stunning coast road drive.
Derry is our end point of the Causeway Coastal route itinerary and is an excellent city to spend at least one full day. Stay at The Hotel Maldran Derry and park your car as you explore the historic attractions of this vibrant city.
Derry is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of Walled Cities in Europe. Built between 1613 and 1618, the walls were constructed as a defense against English and Scottish invasions. You can walk around the 1.5 km of preserved walls taking in all the sights.
Make sure to visit the neighborhood of Free Derry to learn all about The Troubles that engulfed Northern Ireland in civil unrest. A guided tour is highly recommended to see the Murals of Derry,
Derry is easy to get around and if you stay in the city center, you can easily walk to all the top attractions of this vibrant city. A walking tour of the metropolis is an excellent way to learn about the history, culture, and politics of Northern Ireland.
How to Get to the Causeway Coastal Route
The causeway coast road starts in Belfast and snakes its way around the north of the country on a scenic coast road through County Antrim. It passes through the nine glens of Antrim, The Giant’s Causeway and
How to Get To Belfast
We drove to Belfast from Dublin as it is only a two-hour drive between the cities. There are even day tours that will take you from Dublin should you only have a short amount of time.
You can also get to Belfast by bus and train. There is a direct train that connects Dublin from Dublin Connolly and arrives at Belfast Central. International tourists will fly into Belfast International Airport where you can rent a car to begin your Causeway Coastal Route itinerary at the airport.
If you are flying from Europe or anywhere within the United Kingdom, you will land at George Best Belfast City Airport which is located just 5 minutes from Belfast City Centre.
How to Get Around the Coast Road
The best way to get around the Causeway Coastal Route is the rent a car hire and enjoy your own road trip. You can then explore all of the top attractions at your own pace.
You can also book day tours on Get Your Guide. There are plenty of stops on the Causeway Coastal Route that you can book from Belfast.
We once explore the Causeway Coastal Route with Paddywagon Tours and had a great time.
Where is the Causeway Coast
The majority of the causeway coastal route is located in County Antrim. County Antrim is one of six counties in Northern Ireland. Within County Antrim, you’ll find the Glens of Antrim, The Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills, Portrush, and Belfast.
Our trips along the Causeway Coastal Route have been in partnership with Northern Ireland. For more information on County Antrim, Causeway coastal attractions, and information on the Antrim coast, visit their website.