The Causeway Coastal Route is arguably one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland.
Packed with scenery, historical sites and colourful coastal villages, the 313km/195-mile Antrim Coast Road packs a punch.
In the guide below, you’ll find an interactive Causeway Coastal Route map with the attractions plotted along with info on each of the stops.
Table of Contents
Some quick need-to-knows about the Causeway Coastal Route
The now-famous Northern Ireland coastal route is fairly straightforward, once you have a clear idea of what you want to see and do. Here are some quick need-to-knows to get us started:
1. Where it starts and ends
The Antrim Coast road 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 – Derry.
The entire Antrim Coastal Route is 313km/195-mile in length. You can tackle it all at once, or you can split it up into several visits, depending on how much time you have to play with.
3. How long you’ll need
You can explore a good chunk of the Antrim Coast road in a day, but you’ll be rushing through the various stops. If possible, allow at least two days to give yourself some breathing space.
4. Where to stay
If you’re doing the drive over a weekend, we’d recommend creating a rough Causeway Coastal Route itinerary (or use our one below). You can then pick a halfway point and use that as your base for your first night on the road.
A Causeway Coastal Route map with the attractions plotted out
The Causeway Coastal Route map above contains many of the various different things to see along the Antrim Coast road. If you scroll down further, you’ll find an overview of each place.
Further down you’ll find an easy-to-follow 2-day Causeway Coastal Route itinerary. But first, here’s what each of the markers in the map above represents:
- Orange markers: Beaches
- Dark purple markers: Castles
- Yellow markers: Main attractions
- Green markers: Game of Thrones filming locations
- Light purple markers: Unique attractions
An overview of the different Antrim Coast Road attractions
You’ll find a speedy overview of each of the Antrim Coast Road attractions below, with everything from the most popular spots to some hidden gems.
There’s also info on the different towns that we tend to stay in any time we tip along the Northern Ireland coastal route. Dive on in!
1. The most popular stops
First up are the more popular Antrim Coast attractions – these are the tourist favourites that people have been flocking to for years.
For these attractions, we’d recommend arriving early (if you’re visiting during the summer months) to avoid the crowds:
2. Unique attractions
There’s plenty of unique places to explore on the Causeway Coastal Route, many of which are often missed by those that drive/cycle it.
Below, you’ll find everything from walks and hikes to waterfalls, some of the highest cliffs in Northern Ireland and much more:
3. Castles galore
You’ll find some of the most unique castles in Northern Ireland dotted along the Antrim Coastal Route.
While many, like Kinbane, are in ruin, there are also several castles that are finely preserved, like Carrickfergus Castle. Here are our favourites:
4. Beautiful beaches
If you have a flick back up to our Causeway Coastal Route map, you’ll see that there’s an almost never-ending number of incredible beaches to be found along the way.
Each sandy spot makes the perfect stop-off point for those of you that fancy breaking up the drive with a ramble. Here are some of the best:
5. Towns and villages
There are some lovely places to stay situated along the Antrim Coast Road, from sleepy seaside villages to lively harbour towns.
Below, you’ll find some of our favourites. If you’re struggling to decided where to stay, scroll down to our Causeway Coastal Route itinerary:
6. Game of Thrones locations
The Antrim Coastal Route is home to some of the most popular Game of Thrones Ireland filming locations from the hit HBO series.
A clatter of places on in Northern Ireland were used during filming and, while some are better-known that others, each is worth a visit:
Our favourite stops on the Northern Ireland Coastal Route
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
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 33 attractions to visit to keep you busy.
If you’re in Belfast and you’re looking for organised Causeway Coastal Route tours, here’s a few to check out that have great reviews (affiliate links):
2. Carrickfergus Castle
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
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.
4. Slemish Mountain
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
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 Torr Head Scenic Route
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.
7. Murlough Bay
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.
8. Kinbane Castle
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.
9. 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, 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!
10. The Giants Causeway
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.
11. County Derry
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.
A 2-day Causeway Coastal Route itinerary
So, the Causeway Coastal Route itinerary below makes two assumptions: the first is that you’re starting the route on the Belfast side, the second is that you have a car.
If you don’t have access to a car, we’ve stuck some recommended Causeway Coastal Route tours from Belfast at the end of this guide.
Day 1: Belfast to Cushendall
The first day of our Causeway Coastal Route itinerary is nice and handy, with not a whole lot of driving and plenty of walks and tours.
I’m going to recommend you stay in one of the B&Bs or hotels in Cushendall on night 1, as it’s a good halfway point to set us up for day 2:
- Stop 1: Carrickfergus Castle (25-min drive from Belfast)
- Stop 2: The Gobbins (15-min drive from Carrickfergus)
- Lunch: The Lighthouse Bistro (5-min drive from The Gobbins)
- Stop 4: Cranny Falls (45-min drive from lunch spot)
- Stop 5: Glenariff Forest Park (30-min drive from Cranny Falls)
- Night 1: Cushendall for the night (5-min drive from Glenariff)
Day 2: Cushendall to Portrush
Although the second day has more stops, several are only mini-stops. If you feel the day is too busy for you, just cut some spots out.
On night 2, I’d recommend staying in one of the many hotels in Portrush, as it’s a lively little seaside town that’s home to plenty of pubs and places to eat.
- Stop 1: Cushendun Caves (10-min drive from Cushendall)
- Stop 2: Torr Head Scenic Route (40-minute+ route to Ballycastle)
- Lunch: Find a spot in our Ballycastle restaurants guide
- Stop 4: Kinbane Castle (5-min drive from lunch spot)
- Stop 5: Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge (10-min drive from Kinbane)
- Stop 6: Whitepark Bay (10-min drive from rope bridge)
- Stop 7: Giant’s Causeway (20-min drive from beach)
- Stop 8: Dunluce Castle (10-min drive from Causeway)
- Night 2: Portrush (15-min drive from Dunluce)
Frequently Asked Questions about the Antrim Coast drive
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what is the best Causeway Coastal Route itinerary to where to find a Causeway Coastal Route map.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
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.
How long does the Causeway Coastal Route take?
To drive the entire 313km/195-mile route, you’ll need 3-5 days to give yourself enough time to soak it all up. You can see a lot of it in 1 – 2 days (see itinerary above).
What are the best stops on the Antrim Coast road?
I’d argue that the Torr Head Scenic Route, Murlough Bay and the various beaches are the best stops (see our Causeway Coastal Route map above for all the stops).