48 Hours In Antrim: Road Trippin Along The Causeway Coastal Route (Detailed Itinerary)

Caves, castles, rope bridges and lots more

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

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 a spin and a half and it’s up there with the best road trips in Ireland.

Those of you that follow the guide below will be treated to some of the finest coastal views that Ireland has to offer over 48 adventure-packed hours on the Antrim coast.

In the guide below, you’ll find:

  • A detailed Causeway Coastal Route itinerary for 2 days
  • A full guide on what to do and where to eat, sleep and drink
  • Advice on tours and loads more

The Causeway Coastal Route Road Trip

causeway coastal route
Views along the route: Photo by Arthur Ward

OK, first things first – where will the route take you and what will you see. Here’s a quick outline so you know what you’re in for:

  • The Gobbins Cliff Path Walk (one of the most unique things to do on the Causeway Coastal Route)
  • The Cushendun Caves (one for the Game of Thrones fans)
  • The beautiful (and nail-biting inducing) Torr Head Scenic Route
  • Kinbane Castle
  • The Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge
  • Ballintoy Harbour
  • Dunseverick Castle
  • The Giants Causeway
  • Bushmills Distillery
  • The Dark Hedges
  • Dunluce Castle
  • Portstewart Strand

Causeway Coastal Route Map 

Here’s a look at the route that we’ll be taking over the two days as we spin along the Antrim coast.

Now, if, for example, you live in Donegal or Sligo, you’ll want to start the trip from the opposite end of the route that’s plotted on the map above.

That’s fine. Just work backwards from the end of this guide and adjust where ever you need to.

About The Causeway Coastal Route

causeway coastal route cycle
The Causeway Coastal Route: By Chris Hill

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.

For those of you looking to drive the entire 313km/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.

The Causeway Coastal Route starts in Belfast (there are loads of things to do in Belfast) and ends in Derry (there are also plenty of places to visit 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.

Day 1: Kicking off the road trip

the antrim coast drive
The Antrim coastline: Photo via Tourism Ireland

Right, get your arse out of bed nice and early and get to stop one, the Gobbins, for 9. A visit to the Gobbins is one of the most unique things to do in Northern Ireland and it’s a fine aul way to kick things off.

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.

You can either adjust the timings below or just pick and choose from the attractions listed and make up your own itinerary!

Day 1 Stop 1: The Gobbins Cliff Path

// Arrive for 09:00 and spend an hour and a half doing the tour and soaking up the views. //

Gobbins Antrim
Photos by Cushla Monk + Paul Vance (shutterstock.com)

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.

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 a slice dramatic coastline up close and personal.

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

Day 1 Stop 2: The Cushendun Caves

// The Gobbins to the caves – 1 hour and 12-minute drive (leave the Gobbins at 10:30, and arrive to the caves for 11:45) //

cushendun caves
Photo by Nick Fox (shutterstock)

Our second stop of the day is one that’ll strike a chord with fans of the Game of Thrones series – the Cushendun Caves. I love a good cave. They half frighten the shite out of me, 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 that 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.

We then 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 above. 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.

Scenic route stop 1: Torr Head

Scotland from the causeway coastal route
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.

Scenic route stop 2: Murlough Bay

Murlough bay antrim
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.

Day 1 Stop 4: Ballycastle for Lunch

fish and chips
Photo by Pixelbliss (Shutterstock)

// 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 fuel up on coffee. We’ve a few places left to see before the day is over.

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!).

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.

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) //

carrick a rede bridge
Photo by @storytravelers

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!

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) //

pint of guinness kilkea bar
A very creamy pint

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

giants causeway
Photo by Arthur Ward

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.

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) //

ballintoy harbour
Photo by Chris Hill

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 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.

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) //

Dunseverick Castle antrim
Photo by Ondrej Prochazka (Shutterstock)

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

Saint Patrick is reported to have visited Dunseverick castle in the 5th century to baptise a local man who later became the 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) //

the giants causeway coastal route
Photo by Arthur Ward

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 centre. 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. //

the giants causeway game of thrones
Photo by Arthur Ward

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 milled out of it in the visitor centre.

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 centre at 14:10, arrive at the distillery for 14:25) //

bushmills tour
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.

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) //

the dark hedges ireland
The Dark Hedges: Photo by Matthew Woodhouse

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.

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) //

dunluce castle antrim
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

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.

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) //

portstewart strand
Photo by Chris Hill

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.

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 the Saltwater Bed and Breakfast for the night.

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

And that’s a wrap on our road trip along the Antrim coast

One of the things that makes the Causeway Coastal Route so special to explore is its surprise factor.

You’ll be a couple of hours into the journey, thinking to yourself that surely there’s nothing else to see and then BAM, you’re hit with another piece of breathtaking scenery.

From craggy coastal cliffs to rural glens and villages, you’ll find yourself constantly glancing around in search of a safe spot to pull in from the minute you set off.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Causeway Coastal Route

We published this guide to the 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.

Is there a Causeway Coastal Route map that I can follow?

Yep, the lads at Discover Northern Ireland created this lovely little map here.

Can this itinerary really be done in two days?

It can indeed. I’ve driven the route above with friends twice now, and it’s a perfect amount of time to see everything outlined above.

If you’re looking to explore by foot, the itinerary above won’t suit. There are heaps of great walks in Antrim that you’d definitely need more time for.

I’m not sure where to stay along the Causeway Coastal Route… HELP!

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.

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

So, I’ve done the route above in two days on two occasions. That being said, there’s lots more to discover in and around Antrim. Personally, I believe that 2 days is more than enough.

If you’ve any other questions just give me a shout in the comments below!

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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