Hands down one of the best trips I went on last year took place over the course of a day and a half in Northern Ireland.
Now you may say, ‘woah woah woah – you’re telling me a day an a half in Northern Ireland was better than that week you spent in Dubai in April?!’
And then, of course, I’d realise that crap, I completely forgot I was in Dubai in April and I’d have to completely backtrack altogether.
Dubai was amazing.
Ok, let me rephrase – hands down the best weekend break I went on last year was a trip to Belfast that also took in the Causway Costal Route.
If you’re visiting Ireland soon and plan on heading up north, or if you’re living here and in search of an absolute belter of a road-trip to set off out on, then you need to give this a lash.
About The Causeway Coastal Route
Rated one of the top five road trips in the world, the Causeway Costal route offers the perfect combination of rugged coastline, dramatic towering cliffs and gorgeous little villages and towns.
For those of you looking to drive the entire 195 mile route, you’ll be treated to endless adventure opportunities – just set aside 3-5 days to give yourself enough time to soak it all up.
Starting in Belfast and ending in Derry, the route follows the coast road through the nine Glens of Antrim, peaking at the Giant’s Causeway before powering on through to its final destination.
Where to kick off your journey
I had one day to drive the route and take in as much as physically possible so, keep in mind – this is the guide for those of you with around a day to spare.
If you’re starting off in Belfast (try and spend at least a day in Northen Ireland’s capital – there are heaps of things to do) just aim for the M2 and then follow the signs for the Causeway Coastal Route.
The entire route is incredibly well signposted.
For anyone traveling from elsewhere in Ireland – pop Carrickfergus into any map app on your smartphone and then just keep an eye out for the signs.
Expect to be surprised. Constantly. And pleasantly.
One of the things that makes the route so special is the surprise factor.
You’ll be a couple of hours into the journey, thinking to yourself that surely there’s nothing else to see and then BAM you’re hit with another piece of breathtaking scenery.
From craggy coastal cliffs to rural glens and villages, you’ll find yourself constantly glancing around in search of a safe spot to pull in from the minute you set off.
Let’s get started – First stop – The Gobbins Cliff Path
Our first stop-off point, the Gobbins Cliff Path, is only a short 35 minutes from Belfast and kicks things off with a thunderous bang.
The path wraps its way around the basalt cliffs over County Antrim’s jagged coastline – an architectural marvel considering it was designed over 100 years ago in 1902 by a railway engineer named Berkeley Deane Wise.
Originally aimed at Edwardian ‘thrill-seekers’, the Gobbins Cliff Path walk now gives ordinary Joe Soaps like you and I the chance to experience one of Ireland’s most dramatic coastlines up close and personal.
The perfect spot to stretch the legs and get a lung full of that fresh coastal ait.
Next up – Kick back and cruise along the coast
One of the beautiful things about the Causeway Coastal route is how utterly straightforward it is.
Although getting lost is often a big part of the fun-factor on a road trip, you’ll be amazed at what you encounter by just sticking to the route.
Follow the signs and you can’t help but stumble upon beauty at every turn.
At this section of the trip just kick back, turn up the tunes and bask in the seemingly never-ending tapestry of sensational scenery.
Stop number two – The Carrick-a-rede rope bridge
When it comes to exploring a country, the more hands-on and unique the experience the better, and it doesn’t come more unique than a stroll across the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge.
You’ll find Northern Ireland’s much loved rope bridge on the North Antrim Coast road, nestled between Balintoy and Ballycastle.
For those afraid of heights – and for those in search of an adrenaline boost – the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge hangs over 25 foot above the icy waters below.
The first the first rope bridge was erected between the mainland and Carrick-a-Rede Island way back in 1755, as the little island provided the perfect platform for local salmon fishermen to cast their nets off into the Atlantic.
If you’re planning on crossing, fret not – the bridge in place today is made of a sturdy wire.
The perfect spot for some hands-on exploring with heaps of photo opportunities along the way!
Next up – The Giants Causeway
Next on the list is a place where, according to legend, an Irish giant named Finn MacCool began his quest to defeat a cocky Scottish giant.
An official Unesco World Heritage Site since 1986, the Giant’s Causeway was formed around 50 to 60 million years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption.
What emerged from the eruption led to the creation of a corner of the world so wonderfully unique that it has been nicknamed the 8th wonder of the world.
As you cast your eyes around you you’ll see some of the estimated 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that make up this natural masterpiece.
Tip: Park the car along the side of the road (if safe to do so) a little before you reach the visitor center. From here you’ll be able to take the cliff walk above the Causeway – the perfect spot for some aerial views.
Last stop – The Dark Hedges
If you’re a fan of the super successful series Game of Thrones, then you may recognise the Dark Hedges as The Kings Road, which is where this beautiful stretch of tarmac gained global fame.
I’ll be honest with you here – I never planned on visiting the Dark Hedges.
I got lost after the Causeway and rambled upon them…
Here’s where you’ll find them.
The 150 ancient beech trees form a ceiling above the Bregagh Road, intertwining beautifully to form what resembles a wooden tunnel, blocking out an impressive chunk of the sky above.
According to local legend, the road is haunted by a Grey Lady – so visit after dark at your peril!