Day 22 (Antrim) – Taking the Ireland road trip to the Causeway Coastal Route
The Causeway Coastal Route, which was rated one of the top five road trips in the world, offers the perfect combination of rugged coastline, dramatic towering cliffs and gorgeous little villages and towns.
I’ve done this route on 2 occasions over the course of 1-day, and found that it was enough.
However, if you’re looking to hike or walk the route or if you fancy driving the entire 195 miles, you’ll need much longer.
Get up. Get fed. And get on the road for 9:00.
1 – Portstewart Strand
// Your b&b to the strand – 45-minute drive (arrive for 09:45) //
Our first stop of the day takes us to Portstewart Strand – a 2-mile stretch of golden sand that’s widely regarded as one of the finest beaches in Northern Ireland.
You’ll be treated to brilliant views of Inishowen headland and Mussenden Temple as you ramble here to kick-start your day.
2 – Dunluce Castle (the first Game of Thrones attraction on this Ireland road trip)
// Portstewart Strand to Dunluce – 30-minute drive (arrive for 11:00) //
You’ll find the iconic ruins of Dunluce Castle perched on dramatic cliffs along Antrim’s magnificent coastline.
A source of wanderlust for travellers the world over, the castles quirky appearance and rich history has seen it receive enormous attention online in recent years.
Its appearance in Game of Thrones alongside the Dark Hedges may have helped…
You can do the tour if you like or admire it from the outside.
3 – The Giants Causeway
// Dunluce to the Giants Causeway – 15-minute drive (leave Dunluce at 10:20, arrive to the Causeway for 10:35) //
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.
4 – Dunseverick Castle
// The Causeway to Dunseverick Castle – 15-minute drive (arrive for 11:30) //
Saint Patrick is recorded to have visited Dunseverick castle in the 5th century to baptise a local man who later became a Bishop of Ireland.
Park in the little car park next to the castle and take the short stroll over to its crumbly remains.
The original stone fort that occupied the position was attacked by Viking raiders in 870 AD.
5 – Ballintoy Harbour
// Dunseverick Castle to the Harbour – 10-minute drive (arrive for 12:10 ) //
You’ll find Ballintoy Harbour at the end of a small narrow steep road down Knocksaughey Hill.
The harbour is surrounded by limestone cliffs and by the late nineteenth century it was used for the production of lime and shipping sett stones.
And yes, Ballintoy Harbour was used as a filming location in HBO’s Game of Thrones for exterior Pyke shots and as the Iron Islands.
Spend some time rambling around and sucking down that fresh ocean air.
6 – Lunch
// The Harbour to The Red Door Cottage Tea Room & Bistro – 5-minute drive (arrive for 13:00) //
We’ve had a busy morning, so it’s time for a feed.
Take the short spin (it’s more like a 3-minute drive than 5) to The Red Door Cottage Tea Room & Bistro for a bite to eat.
Take the weight off for a while and fuel up for the afternoon ahead.
7 – The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
// The Red Door Cottage to the rope bridge – 5-minute drive (arrive for 14:20) //
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 sturdy wire.
The perfect spot for some hands-on exploring with heaps of photo opportunities along the way!
8 – Kinbane Castle
// The rope bridge to Kinbane Castle – 15-minute drive (arrive for 16:00) //
View this post on Instagram
?? Can you see the crumbly ruins of an old castle clinging to the side of the cliff in the distance? This is Kinbane castle and you’ll find it if you decided to embark upon a road trip along the Causeway Coastal Route in County Antrim. ☘ Photo by @davisevan #Ireland #instaireland #theirishroadtrip
To say the location is dramatic and other-worldly would be doing Kinbane Castle a colossal injustice.
Built on a small rock promontory called Kinbane Head which extends out into the sea, the scenery surrounding the castle is just breath-taking.
Isolated ruins, jagged cliffs and the powerful Atlantic Ocean combine to make this a place that’ll cement itself in your mind forever.
9 – Cushendun via the Torr Head Scenic Route
// This drive should take you between 1 and 3 hours, depending on how often you hop out of the car //
We’re going to branch off the A2 and take the scenic route to Cushendun.
This road clings to coast and takes us along narrow roads and up steep hills high above the sea.
Keep driving until you see the small sign for the astounding Murlough Bay. Take the narrow track to the cliff top car park. From here, you can stop and stroll or you can take the track down to sea level and park and walk.
You could spend the day at Murlough Bay. It’s secluded, quiet and boasts an endless amount of raw natural coastal beauty.
When you’ve had your fill, make your way back to the Torr Head Scenic Route and head for Torr Head.
When you get back on the road, keep your wits about you – you’ll need to negotiate many a narrow hairpin bend as you make your way to Cushendun for the night.
10 – Cushendun for the Night
We’re going to recommend that you stay in Beachview Cottage for the night, so get checked in and chill out for a while
For dinner, we’re going to take the short drive to Mary Mcbrides Bar.
It’s been a long day, but we’ve used the daylight hours well and packed in a lot.
Kick back and chill for the evening with a well-earned pint.
Monday 13th of March 2023
Keith, this is an extraordinary itinerary and so detailed. Thank you
Thursday 9th of March 2023
the link to the mailing list sign up isnt working...can I have you send me the document by email? it sounds amazing through quick page hopping! thought this morning that we might go this late Sept/early October for 3ish weeks.
Monday 6th of March 2023
Hi Keith, we’re looking at visiting Ireland September 2023, for four weeks, coming from Canada. Thankfully I found your guide, it is fantastic, you put in a great deal of work organizing this. Thank you. I have a couple tours books to cipher through as well, but it is painstaking slow. I need to get an itinerary put together fast, I see accommodations are filling up quickly for September. One question I have is, is it possible or wise to do your road trip in reverse? We’re not used to driving on the left side, haha, will it be safer doing the trip in reverse?
Saturday 18th of February 2023
Do you have a PDF of the whole list that we could buy/download with links? We were planning to do the reverse of this in October 2023 (34 days)---but, rethinking after seeing yours!
Wednesday 18th of January 2023
This itinerary will be the basis of our upcoming trip this year. We prefer to base ourselves in a place for maybe a week and explore the surrounding areas. We will be picking up a car in Belfast on 26 May and have it for almost 6 weeks. We are unsure of our direction of travel, but leaning towards anti-clockwise. Excluding Dublin, can you suggest 5 or 6 "bases" for exploration. Small towns with a bit of character ideally.
Keep up the good work.