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
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 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
8. Cushendun via The Torr Head Scenic Route
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
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
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
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.