The Causeway Coastal Route: 19 Superb Places To Visit (Includes Map + Itinerary)

Causeway coastal route
Photo left: Leo Pinheiro. Right: shawnwil23 (shutterstock)

Hello and welcome to a very straightforward guide to the best of the Causeway Coastal Route in County Antrim (Northern Ireland).

If you’re reading this guide then hopefully you’re about to head off on a road trip along the Antrim coast road for the first time.

It’s a spin and a half and the route is home to many of the best things to do in Antrim! In the guide below, you’ll get:

  • An interactive Causeway Coastal Route map with all stops
  • A detailed Causeway Coastal Route itinerary that you can follow
  • Advice on where to stay, eat and drink

Table of Contents

About the Causeway Coastal Route

Causeway coastal route itinerary
Photo left: Leo Pinheiro. Right: shawnwil23 (Shutterstock.com)

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.

This is one of many road trips in Ireland that can be tackled in a couple of days or spread out over a week, depending on how long you have. 

It can, and I’m speaking from experience, here, be squeezed into one long, adventure-packed day, for those of you stuck for time and that want to conquer many of the best things to do in Antrim.

1. How many miles is the Causeway Coastal Route?

The entire Antrim coast road route is 313km/195-miles. This can, however, be shortened if you’re stuck for time (more on this below).

2. How long does it take to drive the Causeway Coastal Route?

For those of you looking to drive the entire 313km/195-mile route, you’ll need to set aside 3-5 days to give yourself enough time to soak it all up. For those looking to do it in a day or two, it is possible – just follow our Causeway Coastal Route itinerary at the end of this guide.

3. Where does the Causeway coastal route start and finish?

The Causeway Coastal Route starts in Belfast City and ends in Derry. It follows the coast road through the nine Glens of Antrim, peaking at the Giant’s Causeway before powering on through to its final destination.

4. What is there to see along the way?

There’s plenty of things to see on the Causeway Coastal Route, as you’ll discover in the compact guide below. Some of the highlights are:

  • Carrickfergus Castle
  • The Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge
  • Dunluce Castle
  • Torr Head
  • The Giant’s Causeway

5. Is this the Northern Ireland coastal drive?

It could be… there are a number of different unofficial names that this route has been given over the years, including ‘the Northern Ireland coastal drive’. Other’s that I’ve heard used are the Antrim coastal route, the North Antrim coast drive and the Causeway route.

Causeway Coastal Route map with attractions

The Causeway Coastal Route map above contains many of the various different things to see along the Antrim Coast road.

Now, if you have a bit of time, by all means, visit all of the various things plotted above (note: I haven’t included Belfast or Derry above, you’ll see why below).

However, if you’re stuck for time and you’re looking for a route to take over a day or a day and a half, you’ll want to follow a different route to the one above.

Later in this guide, you’ll find a 48 hour Causeway Coastal Route itinerary with the stops to visit along with where to eat, sleep and, if you fancy, drink.

Things to see on the Causeway Coastal Route / Antrim Coast Road

The second section of our guide highlights what we believe are the best things to see on the Antrim Coast road, along with one or two places that are a little off-the-beaten-path.

Below, you’ll find everything from ancient castles in Northern Ireland to walks, hikes, beaches, whiskey tours and much more.

1. Belfast City

things to do on the Antrim coast
Photo left: Ester Lo Feudo. Right: Joe Carberry (Shutterstock)

So, the Causeway Coastal Route officially kicks off in Belfast City. Now, as you can probably imagine, there are tonnes of things to see and do in Belfast.

I won’t pop them in here, as there are so many, but if you jump into our dedicated guide to the best things to do in Belfast, you’ll find over 25 attractions to visit to keep you busy.

2. Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle Antrim
Photo by Nahlik (shutterstock)

Our first stop on the Antrim Coast road takes us to the mighty Carrickfergus Castle. You’ll find this impressive structure in the town of Carrickfergus on the shores of Belfast Lough.

It was constructed by John de Courcy, who used it as his headquarters, in 1177. De Courcy was an Anglo-Norman knight and he stayed in the castle until 1204.

He didn’t leave out of choice – he was evicted by another Norman named Hugh de Lacy. Over the years, Carrickfergus Castle saw its fair share of action, which you can learn about on a guided tour.

3. The Gobbins

the gobbins
Photos by Cushla Monk + Paul Vance (shutterstock.com)

You’ll find the very unique Gobbins Cliff Path just 35-minutes from Belfast, where it has been making visitors ‘Ohh‘ and ‘Ahh‘ for over 100 years.

Originally aimed at Edwardian ‘thrill-seekers’, the Gobbins Cliff Path walk now gives ordinary Joe Soaps like you and I the chance to experience a slice dramatic coastline up close and personal.

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.

Here’s loads more info on the Gobbins to give you a better idea of what to expect if you take the tour.

4. Slemish Mountain

Slemish Mountain at Sunset
Photo by ShaunTurner on shutterstock.com

Another place that often gets committed from many Causeway Coastal Route itinerary guides is the historic Slemish Mountain.

Saint Patrick is said to have worked as a Shepherd on the slopes of Slemish after he was captured by pirates at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland.

There is a lovely little walk on Slemish that should take between one and two hours to complete, depending on the weather and your pace. 

If you fancy giving this a bash, you’ll find a full trail to follow in our guide to the Slemish Mountain walk

5. Glenariff Forest Park

the most overlooked stop on the causeway coastal route
Photo by Sara Winter on shutterstock.com

I’d argue that Glenariff Forest Park is hands-down the most underrated of the many different things to do in Northern Ireland.

In fact, you’ll see this hidden gem excluded from the vast majority of Causeway Coastal Route maps and itinerary guides, for some bizarre reason.

You’ll find it just over 20 minutes from Ballymena and just under an hour from Belfast, where it’s home to a gorgeous waterfall and one of the best walks in Northern Ireland.

If you fancy stretching the legs, the Glenariff Forest Park walk is a mighty, 8.9km circular trail that’ll take 2 – 3 hours.

6. The Cushendun Caves

cushendun caves
Photo by Nick Fox (Shutterstock)

Fans of the HBO blockbuster series Game of Thrones will recognise our next stop, the Cushendun Caves, as one of the filming locations from the show.

The Causeway Coastal Route’s Cushendun Caves were used as the location for the place where Melisandre birthed the shadow assassin.

The Cushendun caves were formed over 400 million of years of extreme weather conditions. They don’t take much time to explore, so head down and have a little ramble around.

7. The Torr Head Scenic Route

torr head scenic route
Photo via Google Maps

I didn’t realise that this route had a name until long after I stumbled upon it. I was driving along the Antrim Coast road with a friend and we had just left Cushendun.

We then somehow managed to get half-lost/half-intrigued after copping a sign-post for the Torr Head Scenic Route.

This is the ‘alternative route’ to Ballycastle and it clings to the coast, taking 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.

There’s a reason this road ranked high in our guide to 13 of the narrowest and bendiest roads in Ireland.

8. Torr Head and Scotland in the distance

torr head antrim
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Torr Head was another place that I had never heard of until the trip that I mentioned previously. 

We arrived on a nice clear-ish day and had a view out towards Scotland (you can see it on the horizon in the photo above).

Admire from afar or drive the winding road down to the little car park and head for a wander.

9. Murlough Bay

Murlough bay on the antrim coast road
Photo by Matthew Woodhouse

When you’ve had your fill of Torr Head, hop back in the car and point it in the direction of Murlough Bay (pop it into your GPS as the turn is easily missed).

Take the narrow track to the clifftop 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 coastal beauty.

10. Rathlin Island

rathlin island antrim
Photo by mikemike10 (Shutterstock.com)

Next up is the often-missed Rathlin Island which is, interestingly enough, Northern Ireland’s northernmost point. 

A passenger and car ferry run from Ballycastle and Rathlin Island nice and regularly (nine sailings per day). The car ferry takes 45 minutes and the passenger-only ferry takes 20.

The island is a popular destination for bird watchers (you can see everything from puffins to kittiwakes) and walkers (there are several guided walking tours that take place from April to August).

You can also take a bus tour, rent a bike and see the upside-down lighthouse… yes, it’s upside down! AND it’s fully operational!

11. Kinbane Castle

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

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!).

To say that the location of Kinbane Castle is dramatic and other-worldly would be doing it a colossal injustice.

Built in 1547 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.

12. The Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

the carrick-a-rede rope bridge
Photo by iLongLoveKing (shutterstock.com)

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, a quick heads up – the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge hangs 25 feet 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 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!

13. Ballintoy Harbour

ballintoy harbour
Photo by Chris Hill via Ireland’s Content Pool

Next up is another place that’ll spark the interest of the 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 was used for 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.

14. Dunseverick Castle

Dunseverick Castle
Photo by Ondrej Prochazka (Shutterstock)

Next up is another often-missed attraction on the Antrim Coast road – Dunseverick Castle.  According to legend, Dunseverick was visited by the man himself, Saint Patrick, at some point during the 5th century.

It’s said that Ireland’s Patron Saint visited the castle in order to Baptise a local man who later went on to become the Bishop of Ireland.

If you fancy visiting Dunseverick Castle, park up in the little car park beside it and take the short ramble over to its ruins. 

The original stone fort that occupied the area was attacked by Viking raiders in 870 AD. It is now one of the many cliff-side castles in Northern Ireland that is now in ruins.

15. The Giants Causeway

causeway coastal route map
Photo by Gert Olsson (Shutterstock)

Next on the list is a place where, according to legend, an Irish giant named Fionn MacCumhaill 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.

16. The Bushmills Distillery 

bushmills distillery
Photo via Bushmills

I’ve known 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 distil back in 1608, and there has been distillation on the site ever since.

I’ve heard good things about 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. 

17. The Dark Hedges 

the dark hedges
Photo by Michael Rocktaeschel (Shutterstock.com)

In 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 entrance.

They decided to plant 150 beech trees along the avenue that led to the house. Over the years they 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.

18. Dunluce Castle 

dunluce castle antrim coast
Photo by Daz Stock (Shutterstock.com)

You’ll find the iconic ruins of Dunluce Castle perched on dramatic cliffs along County Antrim’s magnificent coastline.

A source of wanderlust for travellers the world over, the castles unique appearance and quirky legend has seen it receive enormous attention online in recent years.

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.

19. County Derry

derry girls mural
Photo by Gardiner Mitchell via Tourism Ireland

As was the case with Belfast City, there are no end to the number of things to see and do in Derry City and out across the wider county.

If you hop into our guide to the best things to do in Derry, you’ll find over 20 things to do, from hikes and walks to tours and more.

Causeway Coastal Route itinerary (1.5-day road trip)

If you’re looking for a Causeway Coastal Route itinerary that you can follow, quite literally, from start to finish, then the final section of the guide will tickle your fancy.

It contains a detailed, 2-day guide that lays out timings, places to stop for a great view, places to eat and places to sleep that fit into the road trip nicely.

Day 1: Kicking off the road trip

You need to get on the road early to make the most out of day 1. Now, if you’re driving from somewhere far from the beginning of the Causeway Coastal Route, don’t worry.

You can either adjust the timings below or just pick and choose from the attractions listed and make up your own itinerary! Have a quick look back at our Causeway Coastal Route map to see what’s in store on day 1.

Stop 1: The Gobbins

Our first stop-off point, the Gobbins Cliff Path Tour, is only a short 35-minute drive from Belfast and it kicks things off with a thunderous bang.

Arrive for 09:00 (adjust the time if you need) and spend an hour and a half doing the tour and soaking up the views

Stop 2: The Cushendun Caves

Our second stop of the day is one that’ll strike a chord with fans of the Game of Thrones series – the Cushendun Caves

It’ll take 70 minutes to get from the Gobbins to the Cushendun Caves. Aim to leave the Gobbins at 10:30, and arrive at the caves for 11:45.

Stop 3: Take the Torr Head Scenic Route

The Torr Head Scenic Route is a gorgeous (and very tight and bendy) section of the Causeway Coastal Route.

Take some time to stop at Torr Head (you can see Scotland from here on a clear day) and the gorgeous Murlough Bay

You could spend the day at Murlough Bay. It’s secluded, quiet and boasts an endless amount of raw coastal beauty.

Stop 4: Ballycastle for Lunch

When you leave Murlough Bay, head for the Central Wine Bar (it’s a handy 14-minute drive – 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 fuel up on coffee. We’ve a few places left to see before the day is over.

Stop 5: The Crumbly Kinbane Castle

It’ll take you just under 10 minutes to get from Ballycastle to Kinbane – aim to arrive at Kinbane. 

To say that the location of Kinbane Castle is dramatic and other-worldly would be doing it a colossal injustice.

Stop 6: The Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

The last stop on day one of our 48-hour Causeway Coastal Route itinerary is the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. You’ll find it a short 7-minute drive from Kinbane.

Stop 7: Chill time, dinner, pints and bed

I’m going to recommend that you stay in the Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy, as it’s a handy 3-minute drive from the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. 

Staying here also lines us up nicely to continue our road trip on day two. Check-in and chill for a while before heading down to the restaurant for a bite to eat. 

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’ve plenty to see, but the majority of the attractions are located nice and close together, so there’s no need to rush out of the nest.

We want to get on the road for 10:00, so grab breakfast in the hotel and then hit the road for another adventure-packed day. Have a quick look back at our Causeway Coastal Route map to see what’s in store on day 2.

Stop 1: Ballintoy Harbour

It’s a handy 5-minute drive from the Fullerton Arms to the first stop of the day – Ballintoy Harbour. Aim to leave the hotel at 10:00 and arrive at Ballintoy for 10:05.

This is a grand little spot for an early morning ramble, thanks to the unique landscape that you encounter just minutes from the parking area.

Stop 2: Dunseverick Castle

Next up is Dunseverick Castle (15-minute drive from Ballintoy Harbour – aim to leave the Harbour at 11:00 and arrive at the castle for 11:15.

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.

Stop 3: The Giants Causeway

We’re off to the Giant’s Causeway, next. This is a short 15-minute drive from the castle (leave Dunseverick at 12:00, arrive to the Causeway for 12:15).

 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.

Stop 5: Bushmills Distillery 

The Giants Causeway to Bushmills – 15-minute drive (leave the visitor centre at 14:10, arrive at the distillery for 14:25).

Spend some time soaking up the history, the smells and the sounds of Ireland’s oldest working distillery.

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).

Stop 7: Dunluce Castle 

The Dark Hedges to Dunluce Castle – 20-minute drive (leave the hedges at 16:30, arrive at Dunluce for 16:50).

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.

Stop 8: A walk on Portstewart Strand 

Dunluce Castle to Portstewart Strand – 20-minute drive (finish up at Dunluce at around 17: 30 and arrive at 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 the sand.

This two-mile stretch of golden sand is one of the finest beaches in Northern Ireland, and it offers brilliant views of the Inishowen headland and the Mussenden Temple.

Stop 9: Dinner, a drink and bed 

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 kick-back in Bailey’s by the beach for the night.

Check-in to your room and if you fancy a nightcap, take the short 11-minute stroll to Shenanigans Venue.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Causeway Coastal Route

the giants causeway ireland
Photo by Kanuman (Shutterstock)

We published this guide to the Antrim Coast road / Causeway Coastal Route a few years back. During this time we’ve received a heap of emails with questions about the route.

The same questions come up time and time again, so I’m going to lash them into the section below.

What is the best route to follow?

If you follow the Causeway Coastal Route map that I’ve stuck in under the itinerary above, you’ll be able to do the best parts of the route in under 2 days.

What are the must-see attractions on the Antrim Coast?

  • Torr Head
  • The Gobbins
  • Murlough Bay
  • Carrick-a-rede
  • Dunluce Castle

Where to stay on the Causeway Coastal Route

Where you stay will depend on your itinerary. if you follow the guide above, we’ve recommended where to stay based on where day one and day two finish up.

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

4 COMMENTS

    • Hi Richard,

      I’ve driven it from Belfast twice and found that route great. I can’t really comment on doing it from the other side (it could be just as good!).

      If you’re on a schedule, just start it from wherever is most convenient. You’ll enjoy it either way!

      Cheers,

      Keith

  1. Hello Keith,
    My God you have done a huge amount of work. The best travel guide I have ever seen.

    I would like to venture to suggested “difficult” routes like the Torr Head, for instance. Is a small car suitable for those types of routes? I live in Bolivia so I am used to difficult roads. I am renting a VW.

    Thanks for your advice and keep the great work

    • Sorry Luz! I missed your comment!

      Thanks for the kind words! Yep, a small car is absolutely fine – it’s the larger vehicles that’ll have trouble here.

      Cheers,

      Keith

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