Embark on the Causeway Coastal Route: One of the greatest drives on earth.
Your adventure on one of the best road trips in the U.K. begins (or ends) in the vibrant city of Belfast. It’s ideal for a short break, with its excellent dining, nightlife, shopping and cultural attractions across its many quarters. Uncover the legend of RMS Titanic in the city of her birth at the landmark Titanic Belfast and related attractions. Other highlights include the Ulster Museum, Belfast Castle, Crumlin Road Gaol, which is one of the best things to do in Belfast, and a range of sightseeing and historical tours.
2. Carrickfergus Castle
Discover one of our most imposing monuments and one of Ireland’s best preserved medieval structures in this early stop off if you’re starting the route from Belfast. It was begun in 1177 by Anglo-Norman conqueror John DeCourcy and played an important military role up until 1928. You can visit throughout the year for fun family days out and to learn about the castle’s colourful history.
3. The Gobbins
Excite all the senses on the Gobbins Walk, an exhilarating cliff-face path, which was first enjoyed in the early 1900s. Located on the scenic Islandmagee peninsula, the attraction has been reborn and reimagined for the 21st century giving unparalleled access to the rugged Antrim Coast. The dramatic and challenging path includes spectacular tubular and suspension bridges, caves, steps and tunnels. There is also a fascinating Visitor Centre and cliff-top path.
4. Carnfunnock Country Park
An excellent day out for all the family, the park is packed full of exciting and unusual attractions, in a spectacular setting overlooking the Antrim Coast. Highlights include an outdoor adventure playground, family fun zone, nine-hole golf course, walled garden, walking trails, geocaching, a hedge maze in the shape of Northern Ireland, caravan and camping site and a modern visitor centre/café.
With its unmistakable profile rising above the surrounding plain, this extinct volcano has always captivated visitors. Slemish is famous as the location where, according to legend, Saint Patrick tended sheep for six years after being captured and taken to Ireland. From a car park with interpretation, there is a looped walk ascending to the summit – a popular pilgrimage walk on Saint Patrick’s Day each year.
6. Glenarm Castle and Walled Garden
Visit the ancestral home of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim, with its glorious Walled Garden packed full of natural and manmade features. Enjoy a treat in the charming tea-room, located in the 19th-century Mushroom House. The castle itself is open on selected dates, where you can see superb examples of Irish furniture plus family portraits. Open Easter until end of September.
7. The Glens of Antrim
Take time to explore the famous Glens of Antrim. There are nine altogether, each with its own scenic drive, with lyrical names such as Glencloy, Glentaisie and Glenballyemon. Don’t miss Glenariff Forest Park, set in the ‘Queen of the Glens’, with bracing walks and beautiful waterfalls. Stop off in pretty towns and villages such as Glenarm, Carnlough, Cushendall and Cushendun, and enjoy a traditional music session.
Don’t miss a stop off at the pretty coastal village of Cushendun, nestled at the foot of Glendun, one of the nine Glens of Antrim. A designated Conservation Area, it was designed in the style of a Cornish village by eminent architect Clough Williams-Ellis. Look out for the goat sculpture, ‘Johann’, and the caves behind the village which were one of many local locations used in the filming of HBO’s Game of Thrones®
9. Torr Head
Take a detour off the main Causeway Coastal Route, which is one of the most scenic drives in Northern Ireland, towards this rocky headland which forms our closest point to Scotland, just 13 miles away. It’s a narrow, winding road but it’s worth it for the stunning views of Fair Head, Rathlin Island and the Antrim and Scottish coastlines. A ruined 19th-century lookout on the headland once tracked transatlantic ships.
10. Bonamargy Friary
Stop off at the picturesque ruins of Bonamargy Friary, just outside the lively seaside town of Ballycastle. It was founded around 1500 by the Franciscans and contains the remains of chieftain Sorley Boy McDonnell. In the town itself, look out for a memorial to Guglielmo Marconi who carried out the first tests on radio signals here in 1898.
11. The Dark Hedges
This iconic archway of intertwining beech trees has become one of our most photographed natural phenomena. It was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century to impress visitors approaching the entrance to their Georgian mansion. Today the site is perhaps best known as a filming location in HBO’s Game of Thrones®; it doubled as The King’s Road in Season Two of the epic series.
12. Rathlin Island
Take a day trip or stay over to experience the rugged beauty and tranquillity of Northern Ireland’s only inhabited offshore island, reached by ferry from Ballycastle. Follow one of the island’s scenic walking trails or hire a bicycle to explore the quiet roads. Learn about island life at the Boathouse Visitor Centre, watch the seal colonies, visit the island’s three lighthouses or the popular RSPB Seabird Centre situated at the distinctive West Lighthouse.
13. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Take the exhilarating rope bridge challenge across to tiny Carrick-a-Rede island (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) and enjoy a truly cliff-top experience. Set amid unrivalled scenery on the North Antrim Coast, the 30-metre deep and 20-metre wide chasm is traversed by a rope bridge that was traditionally erected by Salmon fishermen. It’s a bit more sturdy these days but there’s still only one way off the island – back across the swinging bridge!
14. Ballintoy Harbour
This small, picturesque fishing harbour is a short detour from Ballintoy village. Follow the narrow winding road downhill past the white-washed Ballintoy Parish Church “one of Ireland’s most photographed churches. The harbour’s stunning natural setting led to it being used as a filming location in the fantasy TV series Game of Thrones®, as exterior Pyke shots and as the Iron Islands.
15. Whitepark Bay
Enjoy a stroll on this spectacular sandy beach which forms a white arc between two headlands on the North Antrim Coast. Your only company might be the cows who are known to rest on the beach. Don’t miss the picturesque little harbour and hamlet of Portbradden at the western end of the bay. It is home to the beautiful St.Gobban’s Church, one of the smallest in Ireland.
16. Giant’s Causeway
Not to be missed on any itinerary is this geological wonder which gives the route its name. The Giant’s Causeway sits at the centre of an Area of Outstanding Beauty and is Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site, famously steeped in myth and legend. It is one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland. Begin your visit at the state-of-the-art Visitor Centre then stroll down to the intriguing polygonal stones to search out distinctive formations such as the Camel, Wishing Chair, Granny and Organ.
17. Old Bushmills Distillery
Take a guided tour through the heart of Ireland’s oldest working distillery, its original grant signed by King James I in 1608. The finest Irish whiskeys have been produced here for over 400 years, using the same traditional methods and the water from the distillery’s own stream. Take in the sights and smells, enjoy tutored tastings and relax with a whiskey (or soft drink) in the 1608 Bar at the end of your tour, before browsing the excellent gift shop.
18. Dunluce Castle
One of the jewels on the route, this breathtaking castle ruin has inspired artists and writers such as C.S. Lewis. Perched dramatically on the cliffs of the North Antrim Coast, it was built around 1500 by the local MacQuillan family and later seized by the Scottish MacDonnell clan who eventually established a small town here. Discover the castle’s tumultuous history with an audio-visual tour and smartphone app.
19. Downhill Demesne
Experience the wild and dramatic setting of Downhill Demesne which was the romantic vision of Frederick Hervey, an 18th century Earl Bishop of Derry. Beyond the ruined mansion lies one of our most iconic monuments – the circular Mussenden Temple, perched on a cliff edge high above Downhill Beach. It was built as a summer library and inspired by the Temple of Vesta near Rome. Don’t miss a visit to Hezlett House, a picturesque, late 17th century thatched cottage.
With its line of dramatic, basalt cliffs, Binevenagh mountain dominates the surrounding countryside. Take a detour off the main Causeway Coastal Route and ascend a scenic drive to the summit, with its fishing lake and panoramic views of the Roe Valley, Sperrin Mountains, North Coast and across Lough Foyle to Donegal. The more adventurous can follow one of the hiking trails to the summit.
21. Magilligan Point
A remote and beautiful location, Magilligan Point guards the entrance to Lough Foyle at the tip of one of the British Isles’ largest sand dune systems. Visit the Martello Tower, one of best preserved of a chain built to defend the coast of Ireland during the Napoleonic Wars. Then enjoy a brisk stroll on the golden sands of the Blue Flag Benone Strand before enjoying a meal in the popular Point
22. Limavady Sculpture Trail
Explore the myths and legends of the scenic Roe Valley area with this trail of beautiful and innovative art pieces. Learn about the notorious, 18th century highwayman Cushy Glen, enjoy the stunning coastal views from the sculpture of Celtic God of the Sea Manannàn Mac Lir, and see the writhing form of Lig-na-paiste – the last remaining serpent in Ireland.
23. Roe Valley Country Park
Take time out from driving to explore this scenic and tranquil park on the outskirts of Limavady, known for its abundance of wildlife, birds and Springtime wildflowers. Enjoy woodland walks and spectacular riverside views, learn about the industrial and natural heritage of the area in the museum and countryside centre then enjoy a snack in Ritters Tea Room. Don’t miss the ‘Leap of the Dog’ sculpture inspired by a legend behind the town’s original name, ‘Leim an Mhadaidh’
This ancient yet contemporary city makes for a perfect beginning or end to your itinerary. Take a walking tour of the City Walls – this is Ireland’s only remaining, completely walled city – and learn about the settlement’s rich history. Landmark sights include St. Columb’s Cathedral, the beautiful Guildhall and gleaming Peace Bridge curving across the River Foyle. It’s also a great party city with a packed programme of events and festivals during the year, including a massive Halloween carnival.