Around Ireland In 18 Days: A Coastal Road Trip Of A Lifetime (Full Itinerary)

Day 16. The Causeway Coastal Route

Rated one of the top five road trips in the world, the Causeway Coastal route 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, but for those of you looking to drive the entire 195 mile route, you’ll be treated to endless adventure opportunities.

Get up, fed and on the road for 9:00.

1. A Stroll on Portstewart Strand to Shake off the Cobwebs

portstewart strand
Photo by Chris Hill

If you stay in the place that we recommended on night 15, you’re a handy 2-minute drive from stop number 1 – Portstewart Strand.

This two-mile stretch of golden sand is one of the finest beaches in Northern Ireland, and offers brilliant views of Inishowen headland and Mussenden Temple. Have a ramble here to kick-start the day.

2. Dunluce Castle

dunluce castle game of thrones
Photo by Matthew Woodhouse

Dunluce Castle is a source of wanderlust for travellers the world over. The castles unique appearance and quirky history has seen it receive enormous attention online in recent years.

Its appearance in Game of Thrones alongside the Dark Hedges may have helped… According to legend, on a particularly stormy night in 1639, part of the castle’s kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the icy waters below.

Legend tells that when the kitchen dropped into the sea, only a kitchen boy survived, as he was sat in the corner of the kitchen which remained intact. You can do the tour if you like or admire it from the outside.

3. The Giants Causeway

giants causeway
Photo by Arthur Ward

Next on the list (15-minute drive from Dunluce) 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.

5. Dunseverick Castle

Dunseverick Castle Antrim
Photo by Ondrej Prochazka (Shutterstock)

Now we’re getting into the belly of the Causeway Coastal Route – as you drive from the Causeway to Dunseverick Castle (15-minute spin), you’ll begin to appreciate why this stretch of road is revered across the globe.

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.

6. Ballintoy Harbour

ballintoy harbour
Photo by shawnwil23 (Shutterstock)

Our next stop is going to be of particular interest to Game of Thrones fans. You’ll find Ballintoy Harbour at the end of a small narrow steep road down Knocksaughey Hill.

It’s a handy 10-minute drive from our last stop and it’s a lovely spot to hop out of the car and head for a ramble.

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.

Ballintoy Harbour was used as a filming location in HBO’s Game of Thrones for exterior Pyke shots and as the Iron Islands.

For those that were immersed in the series, the harbour featured in the scene where Theon Greyjoy arrives back in the Iron Islands and where he later admires his ship.

7. Lunch

fish and chips
Photo by Pixelbliss (Shutterstock)

The Red Door Cottage is right next to Ballintoy Harbour (3-minute drive max). We’ve had a busy morning, so nip in and make your belly happy.

Take the weight off for a while and fuel up for the afternoon ahead. There isn’t a huge amount of driving left, you’ll be happy to hear.

8. The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge
Photos via Shutterstock

When you finish up eating you’ll be a short 5-minute drive to our next stop – 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 rarely comes more unique than a stroll across the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge.

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 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

kinbane castle on the causeway coastal route
Photo by shawnwil23 (Shutterstock)

Next up is Kinbane Castle. This is 15 minutes down the road from the Rope Bridge and it’s well worth a visit.

Places like Kinbane have the power to halt you in my tracks and make the mind wander and wonder what Ireland must have been like back in 1547 when this castle was built.

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.

8. Cushendun via The Torr Head Scenic Route

torr head scenic route
Phoro via Google Maps

We’re not going to allocate a time here. Our last stop for the day is Cushendun, so take your time and spend as much time as you see fit spinning along the Torr Head Drive.

I didn’t realise this route had a name until long after I stumbled upon it. I was driving from Cushendun with a friend and we got half-lost/half-intrigued by a sign-post and we decided to take our chances.

We met a handful of cars and were treated to the views similar to the one in the very grainy photo above.

We’re going to branch off the A2 road and take the ‘alternative route’ to Cushendun that clings to coast and takes us along narrow roads and up steep hills high above the sea.

If you’re a nervous driver, or if you’re driving a large vehicle like a caravan or a mobile home, this route isn’t for you.

9. Murlough Bay

Murlough Bay ballycastle
Photos via Shutterstock

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.

10. Torr Head

torr head ireland
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

This was another place I had never heard of until the trip I mentioned previously. I was blown away by the view which treated us to a glimpse of Scotland out on the horizon (see above).

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.

11. Cushendun for the Night

cushendun village
Photo by Paul J Martin/shutterstock.com

We’re going to recommend that you stay in Beachview Cottage for the night, so get checked in and chill for a bit. You can also nip down to Cushendun Beach, if you fancy!

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.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I have been using your guide for the past few months to plan my Ireland trip set for April 2019. I figured it was about time I dropped a comment!! 🙂 Your guide has helped me tremendously as it seems to encompass everything we are looking to find in Ireland…. raw natural beauty, unique experiences, good coffee, and good beer! Can’t thank you enough. I hope to comment again once we return!

    • Ah, thank you. I’m glad. Getting comments like this make it worth it.

      I hope you’re trip goes well.

      Cheers,

      Keith

  2. This is seriously the best travel guide ever. I was getting stressed because I’ll be solo traveling all of March and haven’t planned much (by design) and this gives the perfect outline of exactly the things I want to do and see. So thank you for the enormous amount of time this must have taken. So much appreciated.

    • Haha! Cheers dude.

      Glad you found it useful. This took roughly 3 weeks of research and writing… and rewriting.

      I hope the trip goes well.

      Keith

  3. We’re traveling to Ireland in November, 2019 and thank you very much for your outline and information. Question: On maps, it shows Northern Ireland almost like another country. Do you need anything to pass from Ireland to Northern Ireland and back, or is it all in the same? Seems trivial, but it could make a big difference if we plan to do things in Northern Ireland and then we could possibly not have the proper travel documents. Also, do you know if your passport is all you need or if you need a travel visa? Thanks for your time. Have a great day!. WandanTexas

    • Hi Wanda,

      You’re welcome.

      Northern Ireland is technically part of the UK, so it is regarded as a different country.

      Currently, there is no form of ‘hard’ border, but there’s been a lot of talk about the potential of one with Brexit looming.

      If you’re driving a rental car, this is where things can get tricky. I had one from Europa car recently and was told I’d be automatically charged (they have GPS devices within the rental) whenever my car passed into Northern Ireland – the max total charge was 90 euro, I believe.

      If you’re renting a car, be sure to check this in advance.

      I hope this helps.

      Keith

  4. Hi,
    This is a great guide, but if you had a few extra days…
    Three Castle Head is also stunning. You are close enough to it when you are heading for brow head. Well worth it!
    Lough Hyne in Skibbereen is also beautiful, lovely forest walk and salt water lake to swim in. Night time kayaking with the bioluminescent water a must!
    Enjoy,
    Joanne

    • Thanks for the recommendations Joanne.

      Love Lough Hyne in particular. Did the forest climb with my dad last summer on a hot day in July – great spot!

  5. Question for Keith and others. We have a wonderful opportunity to spend a month in Ireland and in previous trips we’ve enjoyed many of the same activities you do…hiking, enjoying the featured sights and geography in general, informal dining, great pubs, etc. We have never been north of Westport, county Mayo. Would it be worth it to spend a week in the Sligo / Donegal region? If yes, we would rent a house for the week. Is there a town that would be central to this region that you could recommend as a home base? We would be there in late August/early Sept 2020.
    Thanks in advance for your response (or anyone else who could add their thoughts)

    • Hi Bill.

      Abbbbbbbbbbbsolutely spend a week in Sligo and Donegal.

      There’s a tonne of things to do in both, regardless of whether you decide to do something active or just chill.

      Personally, I’d spend half in Sligo and half in Donegal.

      Here’s a guide to 48 hours in Sligo that should help, along with a 3-day guide to the best things to do in Donegal.

      In terms of where to stay – I love Strandhill and Rosses Point. For Donegal, it’s hard to beat Ardara.

      I hope this helps!

      Keith

  6. Hi Keith,
    I am planning our road trip to Ireland in october and I love your Instagram account. I like to use your suggestions for our schedule.
    On day 11 you suggest to leave Westport and Achill on the same time (16:55) ? So this is a pretty long day 😉 I prefer to stay an extra night on Achill Island. What do you think?
    Thanks
    Uli

    • Aha! OK, that’s clearly a mistake on my part. I’ll get those times updated!

      I love Achill, personally.

      There’s nothing bad that can come from a second night spent there.

  7. Hi Keith,

    I am considering travelling to Ireland this summer via road-trip and AirBnBs. While researching, I found your blog and found it very helpful and resourceful.

    I am travelling from New Delhi (India) with my extended family (infants, toddlers, siblings, wife, parents etc.). Assuming this might be our only trip to Ireland together as a family, I am interested in covering Ireland comprehensively within a limitation of 11-13 days.

    Is it possible to shorten the suggested 18-day itinerary to the above duration by bypassing some of the locations or sites. I understand this would mean we missing a few locations, but need your help.

  8. Really digging this blog!! I have the travel blog so bad and Ireland is next on the list – your recommendations are speaking to me! Thanks for taking the time to create all the wonderful road trips / ideas.

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