If you’re reading this guide then hopefully you’re about to head off on a road trip along the Causeway Coastal route for the first time.
It’s an experience and a half!
For those that take this trip, you’ll be treated to some of the finest coastal views that Ireland has to offer over 48 adventure-packed hours on the Antrim coast.
Causeway Coastal Route Map
Here’s a look at the route we’ll be taking over the two days as we spin along the Antrim coast.
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 Causeway Coastal 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.
Day 1 – Kicking off the road trip
Right, get your arse out of bed nice and early and get to the Gobbins for 9.
Now, if you’re driving from Cork or Kerry, or somewhere far from the beginning of the Causeway Coastal Route, then you’re going to arrive here at a later time, which is fair enough.
Just adjust the timings above and below.
Day 1 Stop 1 – The Gobbins Cliff Path
// Arrive for 9 and spend an hour and a half doing the tour and soaking up the views. //
Our first stop-off point, the Gobbins Cliff Path, is only a short 35 minutes from Belfast and it 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 air.
More info here.
Day 1 Stop 2 – The Cushendun Caves
// The Gobbins to the caves – 1 hours and 12-minute drive (leave the Gobbins at 10:30, and arrive to the caves for 11:45) //
Our second stop of the day is one that’ll strike a cord with fans of the Game of Thrones series – the Cushendun Caves.
I love caves. They creep me out a little bit, which makes them all the more alluring.
The Cushendun caves were formed over 400 million of years of extreme weather conditions, and shot to fame a few years back when they were used for filming during the Game of Thrones Series.
They don’t take much time to explore, so head down and have a little ramble around.
Fans of Game of Thrones may recognise the Causeway Coastal Route’s Cushendun Caves as the place where Melisandre birthed the shadow assassin.
Day 1 Stop 3 – Spinning along the wonderful Torr Head Scenic Route
// This is a route with a couple of stops – the drive takes an hour, but we’ll allow 2 hours with stops. (Leave the caves at 12:15, arrive to Ballycastle for 14:15) //
I didn’t realise this route had a name until long after I stumbled upon it.
I was driving the Causeway Coastal Route with a friend and we had just left Cushendun and somehow managed to get half-lost/half-intrigued after copping a sign-post for the Torr Head Scenic Route.
We met a handful of cars and were treated to the view in the video below – magic.
This is the ‘alternative route’ to Ballycastle that clings to coast and takes drivers 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.
The first stop we’re heading for is 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).
Admire from afar or drive the winding road down to the little car park and head for a wander.
When you’ve had your fill, get back in the car and point it in the direction of Murlough Bay.
Keep driving until you see a small sign for the astounding Murlough Bay.
Pop it into maps or your GPS, just to be safe.
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.
Get out and stretch the legs as you walk around one of the most commonly missed places on many a Causeway Coastal Route itinerary.
Day 1 Stop 4 – Ballycastle for Lunch
// Murlough Bay to the Central Wine Bar – 14-minute drive (you should aim to arrive for 14:15) //
It’s been a long morning of exploring, so we’re going to rest the legs and fuel up with some lunch in the Central Wine Bar in Ballycastle.
Give yourself an hour and a half to enjoy the food, chat and fill up on coffee.
Day 1 Stop 5 – The Crumbly Kinbane Castle
// Ballycastle to Kinbane – 8-minute drive (you should aim to arrive to Kinbane for 15:45) //
Kinbane Castle is another place that just rocks you a little (no pun intended).
You may have read about it in our guide to the most unique things to do in Ireland (if you didn’t, check it out!).
For me, places like this have the power to halt me in my tracks and make the mind wander back 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.
Day 1 Stop 6 – The Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge
// Kinbane to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge – 7-minute drive (leave Kinbane at 16:15, arrive to the rope bridge for 16:25) //
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 a sturdy wire.
The perfect spot for some hands-on exploring with heaps of photo opportunities along the way!
Day 1 Stop 7 – Chill time, dinner, pints and bed
// Carrick-a-rede rope bridge to the Fullerton Arms – 3-minute drive (when you arrive will depend on how long you spend at Carrick-a-rede, but it’ll likely be in and around 18:00) //
Our bed for the night is a handy 3-minute drive from the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge.
We’ll be spending the evening in the Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy.
Check-in and chill for a while before heading down to the restaurant for a bite to eat.
Spend the evening kicking-back with drinks in the hotels bar.
Day 2 – The Giants Causeway, a distillery, castles and lots more
Get a bit of a lie-in on the morning of day 2.
We want to get on the road for 10, so grab breakfast in the hotel and then hit the road for another adventure-packed day.
Day 2 Stop 1 – Ballintoy Harbour
// Your hotel to the Harbour – 5-minute drive (leave the hotel at 10:00, arrive to Ballintoy for 10:05) //
Our first stop of the day 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.
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 one of the filming locations along the Causeway Coastal Route for HBO’s Game of Thrones (it appeared as exterior Pyke shots and for 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.
Spend some time rambling around and sucking down that fresh ocean air.
Day 2 Stop 2 – Dunseverick Castle
// Ballintoy Harbour to Dunseverick Castle – 15-minute drive (leave the Harbour at 11:00, arrive to the castle for 11:15) //
Now we’re getting into the belly of the Causeway Coastal Route – as you drive from the Ballintoy Harbour to Dunseverick Castle, 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.
Day 2 Stop 3 – The Giants Causeway
// Dunseverick Castle to the Causeway – 15-minute drive (leave Dunseverick at 12:00, arrive to the Causeway for 12:15) //
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.
Day 2 Stop 4 – Lunch at the Causeway Visitor Center
// Spend an hour rambling around the Causeway and head back to the visitor centre for 13:20. //
I rarely remember food unless it gave my taste buds a good kick in the arse.
It’s been two years since I visited the Giants Causeway, but I still remember the Beef and Guinness Stew that I devoured in the visitor center.
If you visit the Causeway on a cold day, the wind will cut you asunder. This is the perfect food to heat the body back up and get you ready for the afternoon ahead.
Day 2 Stop 5 – Bushmills Distillery
// The Giants Causeway to Bushmills – 15-minute drive (leave the visitor center at 14:10, arrive to the distillery for 14:25) //
I’ve know both whiskey lovers and whiskey haters to enjoy our next tour, so don’t worry if you’re not a fan.
You’ll find Ireland’s oldest working distillery along the Causeway Coastal Route.
Bushmills was originally granted permission to distill back in 1608, and there has been distillation on the site ever since.
For this road trip, we’re going to recommend that you join the Bushmills Brand Experience tour, which involves a guided tour around the working distillery.
Spend some time soaking up the history, the smells and the sounds of Ireland’s oldest working distillery.
Day 2 Stop 6 – The Dark Hedges
// Bushmills to the Dark Hedges – 15-minute drive (leave the distillery at 15:45, arrive to the Dark Hedges for 16:00) //
Around 1775 a man named James Stuart constructed a stunning Georgian estate around two and a half miles north of the village of Stranocum.
Although the estate was an impressive spectacle in itself, the family decided that in order to make the drive up to the mansion more formidable, they needed to do something about the avenue that led to Gracehill House.
They decided to plant 150 beech trees along the avenue.
Over the years these grew to enclave the Bregagh Road, creating what we now know as the Dark Hedges.
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you may recognise the Dark Hedges as The Kings Road, which is where this beautiful stretch of road gained its global fame.
Day 2 Stop 7 – Dunluce Castle
// The Dark Hedges to Dunluce Castle – 20-minute drive (leave the hedges at 16:30, arrive to Dunluce for 16:50) //
You’ll find the iconic ruins of Dunluce Castle perched on dramatic cliffs along County Antrim’s magnificent coastline.
A source of wanderlust for travelers 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. This is hands down my favourite stop on our Causeway Coastal Route itinerary.
it’s just beyond incredible.
Day 2 Stop 8 – A walk on Portstewart Strand before dinner, a drink and bed
// Dunluce Castle to Portstewart Strand – 20-minute drive (finish up at Dunluce at around 17: 30 and arrive to the strand for 17:50) //
Our final stop of the road trip takes us to Portstewart Strand, where we’ll round the trip off with a stroll along its sandy shore.
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.
Stroll, gulp down lungfuls of fresh sea air and look back on what was an eventful 2 days of exploring the Causeway Coastal Route.
For those of you looking for a place to stay, I’m going to recommend that you stay the Saltwater Bed and Breakfast for the night.
Check-in to your room and if you fancy a night cap, walk the short 11 minutes to Shenanigans Venue.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Causeway Coastal Route
Q.) Is there a Causeway Coastal Route map that I can follow?
A.) Yep, the lads at Discover Northern Ireland created this lovely little map here.
Q.) Is there an itinerary anywhere?
A.) If you take the itinerary at the start of the guide, you can’t go wrong. There are other things to do along the route that you can see on our interactive map of things to do in Ireland – just zoom in on the Antrim coast.
If you’ve any other questions just give me a shout in the comments below!