In this guide, you’ll find a Causeway Coastal Route map, the main stops (in order) and an itinerary to follow.
Packed with scenery, historical sites and colourful coastal villages, the 313km/195-mile Antrim Coast Road packs a punch.
Home to the Glens of Antrim, the world-famous Giant’s Causeway and plenty of walks and hikes, there’s a reason this is one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland.
Below, you’ll find an interactive Antrim Coast map with the attractions plotted along with info on each of the stops.
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. It’s worth taking a minute or so to look over our Causeway Coastal Route map above to get a sense of the route.
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 (see our Causeway Coastal Route map above for reference).
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
The Antrim Coast Road attractions (in order, starting in Belfast and ending in Derry)
You’ll find a speedy overview of each of the Antrim Coast Road attractions below in order, starting in Belfast and ending in Derry.
Now, you don’t have to visit every single stop on the Northern Ireland coastal route – pick the ones you like and skip the ones you don’t!
1. Belfast City
So, the Antrim Coast Road drive 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
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. Whitehead Coastal Pass to Blackhead Lighthouse
Stop number two is the first of many strolls on the Northern Ireland Coastal route, and it’s just 13 minutes from Carrickfergus Castle.
This is a nice, short ramble that begins at Whitehead Car Park and that follows rugged coastline to Blackhead Lighthouse.
As you make your way along the 5km trail you’ll be treated to an eyeful of sea caves and, at times, dolphins.
Just keep in mind that there’s a good 100 steps to be conquered if you want to reach the lighthouse, which dates to 1902.
4. The Gobbins
You’ll find one of the most unique Causeway Coastal Route attractions, the Gobbins Cliff Path, a 5-minute spin from our last stop, 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.
5. Chaine Memorial Tower
Our next stop, Chaine Memorial Tower, is less than a 20-minute spin up along the Antrim Coast Road.
Known locally as “The Pencil”, Chaine Tower is an impressive, 27 metres tall, beacon made out of Irish Granite.
It celebrates the memory of the late James Chaine who represented Ireland in the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland from 1874 until 1885 and founded the sea route from Larne to mainland Scotland.
There’s a handy flat walk that’ll take you up to it, boasting breathtaking views out to sea.
6. The Black Arch
The unique Black Arch isn’t really a stop in itself. It’s actually just a short tunnel that you’ll drive through as you cruise along the Antrim Coast Road.
The road clings to the sea, with cliffs looming up on the other side.
As you approach Larne, about 5 minutes from Chaine Tower, the craggy cliffs cross over the road, which tunnels through.
It’s only short, but it looks pretty cool and is a popular spot for photographers.
7. Carnfunnock Country Park
Carnfunnock Country Park is a short, 5-minute spin from the Black Arch and it is, in our opinion, one of the more overlooked attractions on the Antrim Coastal Route.
The park boasts a whopping 191 hectares of woodland, finely manicured gardens, trails and coast, and it’s an excellent place to stretch the legs.
Now, if you’re looking for a one-day Causeway Coastal Route itinerary, you’re probably best skipping this, but if you have time, it’s well worth a look.
8. Slemish Mountain
Another place that often gets committed from many Causeway Coastal Route itinerary guides is the historic Slemish Mountain. It’s 30 minutes inland from Carnfunnock.
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 flick back to our Causeway Coastal Route map you’ll see that Slemish isn’t too much of a detour.
9. Glenarm Castle
Glenarm is one of the most impressive castles along the Antrim Coast Road. It’s home to the McDonnell family – the Earls of Antrim.
The present castle at Glenarm was built by the first Earl of Antrim (Sir Randal MacDonnell) in 1636 and, while the castle and gardens are part of the private residence, there’s a popular tour on offer.
You can also explore the Walled Garden or tackle the relatively new Woodland Walk.
10. Cranny Falls
You’ll find one of the more unique Northern Ireland Coastal Route attractions a 10-minute drive from Glenarm – Cranny Falls.
There’s a car park (here on Google Maps) at the start of the trail and then you’ll want to all 30 – 45 minutes to walk up to it (gentleish walk but a fair bit of incline).
Now, if you’re doing a 1-day Causeway Coastal Route itinerary, skip this one. If you have a decent bit of time, it’s worth seeing!
11. Glenariff Forest Park
Our next Antrim Coast Road stop is a 30-minute spin from Cranny Falls, and it takes you away from the coast and inland.
A morning spent in Glenariff Forest Park is one of my favourite things to do in Ireland.
It’s here that you’ll discover 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.
12. Cushendall Beach
Cushendall Beach is a 15-minute drive from Glenariff and you’ll find it right in front of Cushendall Town where it stretches for around 250 metres along the coastline.
Cushendall is a handy little stop if you fancy a coffee or a bit of lunch.
It’s also a good base to use if you’re doing a 2-day Causeway Coastal Route itinerary, as it makes a good half-way point.
13. Cushendun Caves and Beach
Our next stop on the Antrim Coastal Route is Cushendun – a short 10-minute drive from Cushendall.
When you arrive, park up and head for a wander around the town. There are two main attractions here – the beach and the caves.
Cushendun Beach is a lovely sandy bay where you can wet your toes, if you fancy.
Cushendun Caves, which are one of several Game of Thrones filming locations in Ireland, are reasonably easy to walk down to and are worth a look if you have the time.
14. Torr Head
Now, our next stop isn’t really a stop and it isn’t on the official Antrim Coast Road route.
The Torr Head Scenic Route 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.
Aim for Torr Head, first – it’s a 20-minute spin from Cushendun. It’s about a 15-minute walk to the top and on a clear day you’ll see Scotland off in the distance.
Need to skip this one? If you scroll back to our Causeway Coastal Route map you’ll see that this is easily bypassed
15. Murlough Bay
When you’ve had your fill of Torr Head, hop back in the car and take the 20-minute drive to Murlough Bay.
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.
Now, as you could easily spend many hours at Murlough Bay, it’ll only suit those of you on a 2-day Causeway Coastal Route itinerary.
It’s secluded, quiet and boasts an endless amount of raw coastal beauty.
16. Fair Head Cliffs
The Fair Head Cliffs are 15 minutes from Murlough Bay and the rise an impressive 196km (643 feet) above the chill waters below.
There are several way-marked trails and they all kick-off from the car park. The longest is the 2.6 mile (4.2km) Perimeter Walk with Blue markers.
Many of these trails are close to the cliff edge so PLEASE take extreme care during windy weather or when visibility is poor.
Ballycastle is one of the busier towns along the Northern Ireland Coastal Route.
While there’s plenty of things to do in Ballycastle, it’s a great place to stop and grab a bite to eat before you hit the final stretch of the road trip.
Ballycastle was once a Viking settlement and the original wall from their harbour can still be seen to this day.
18. Rathlin Island
Rathlin Island is another of the more overlooked attractions off the North Antrim Coast Road.
The reach the island, you can take a ferry from the harbour in Ballycastle. There are a good few crossings each day and the journey takes just 30 minutes.
When you reach the island, you can tackle one of the trails, explore by bike, visit the Seabird Centre or take a guided walk.
19. Kinbane Castle
Kinbane Castle is one of the more uniquely located castles in Northern Ireland, a 5-minute drive from Ballycastle.
To say that the location of Kinbane Castle is dramatic and other-worldly would be doing it a fair aul 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.
Take the 10-minute spin from Kinbane and you’ll arrive at the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. A ‘must’ for many Causeway Coastal Route itinerary guides.
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.
21. Larrybane Quarry
Larrybane Quarry is right next to Carrick-a-rede and it’s one of several Antrim Coast Road attractions that was used during the filming of Game of Thrones.
It featured in season 2 in a scene where Catelyn Stark visit a camp to try and negotiate an alliance between King Stark and King Renly.
Apparently (not confirmed) you can walk from the rope bridge down to the quarry. There’s also a big car park here, so you can easily spin down, too.
22. Ballintoy Harbour
Ballintoy Harbour is under 10 minutes from Larrybane and it’s another GoT filming location.
Now, if you’re visiting the Northern Ireland Coastal Route during summer, this place will likely be wedged and, as it has a tiny car park, it can be a bit chaotic.
The coast here has some unique features and it’s a fine spot for a gentle stroll if you’re looking to escape the car for a while.
The harbour is also popular with divers, as you can dive or snorkel from the beach, the rocky outcrops or from the ‘secret’ beach to the east.
23. The Dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges are one of the most overhyped attractions along the Causeway Coastal Route, in my opinion.
They shot to fame after appearing on Game of Thrones but 99.9% of photos that you see online aren’t accurate representations of how they look in real life.
They’re 20 minutes inland from the last stop, Ballintoy, but I’d recommend giving them a miss, unless you’re a big GoT fan.
There’s a car park a 2-minute walk from the Dark Hedges that you can pull into.
24. Whitepark Bay Beach
Next up is Whitepark Bay Beach (a 15-minute spin from the Dark Hedges) – one of the best beaches in Ireland.
This beach sits between two headlands and it’s an impressive sight to take in from afar.
Whitepark is backed by sand dunes that are covered in wild flower during the mild summer months.
Flick off your socks and shoes and saunter along the sand. This is one of our favourite Northern Ireland Coastal Route beaches for good reason!
25. Dunseverick Castle
Another cliff-side ruin, Dunseverick Castle, is a 5-minute drive from Whitepark.
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.
26. 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 (it’s 10 minutes from the last stop).
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.
27. The Old Bushmills Distillery
The Old Bushmills Distillery is 10 minutes inland from the Giant’s Causeway.
The company that operates the Bushmills Distillery was formed in 1784 and it has been in constant operation since a fire in 1885 required the distillery to be rebuilt.
The distillery survived WW2 and changed hands several times before before bought by Diageo in 2005 for £200 million. They later traded it to Jose Cuervo, famous for tequila.
There’s an excellent tour here that lasts around 40 minutes and that offers an insight into the company’s past.
28. Dunluce Castle
The now-iconic ruins of Dunluce Castle (8 minutes from Bushmills) are perched atop some craggy cliffs.
Like many castles in Ireland, Dunluce has a fine bit of legend attached to it. It’s said that on a stormy night back in 1639, part of the castle’s kitchen fell into the icy water below.
Apparently, only the kitchen boy survived, as he managed to tuck himself away in a corner of the room, which kept him safe.
You can take a tour of the castle or you can admire it from afar!
Whiterocks Beach is located just off the Causeway Coastal Route in the busy town of Portrush (an 8-minute drive from Dunluce).
This is another handy stop-off point if you fancy a bite-to-eat and it also makes a good base to stay.
The stunning coastline here is dominated by limestone cliffs with hidden caves and bright turquoise waters.
30. Portstewart Strand
It’s a 25-minute spin to one of the final stops along the Causeway Coastal Route – Portstewart Strand!
Arguably one of the best beaches in Northern Ireland, Portstewart Strand is the perfect spot for a long ramble without any inclines.
It’s also one of the few beaches that you can still drive onto.
31. Mussenden Temple
Mussenden Temple is going to be the final coastal attraction on the Northern Ireland Coastal Route before you reach Derry City.
It’s an 8-minute drive from Portstewart and it looks like something from a Disney movie!
Located in the beautiful Downhill Demesne, Mussenden is perched dramatically on a 120-foot high cliff overlooking the sea and sand below.
It was constructed in 1785 and its architecture was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome.
32. Derry City
You’ve a 45-minute drive to the final stop on your Causeway Coastal Route itinerary – 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.
And that is a wrap!
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 start 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
- Stop 2: The Gobbins
- Lunch: The Lighthouse Bistro
- Stop 4: Cranny Falls
- Stop 5: Glenariff Forest Park
- Night 1: Cushendall for the night
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
- Stop 2: Torr Head Scenic Route
- Lunch: Find a spot in our Ballycastle restaurants guide
- Stop 4: Kinbane Castle
- Stop 5: Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge
- Stop 6: Whitepark Bay
- Stop 7: Giant’s Causeway
- Stop 8: Dunluce Castle
- Night 2: Portrush
Frequently Asked Questions about the Antrim Coast Road
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 our Causeway Coastal Route map 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).
Thursday 16th of February 2023
Thank you for all the information you have provided. We are hoping to possibly travel June or July, is the weather usually good for these months?
Wednesday 18th of January 2023
This is by far the best travel guide I have found, and I have seen many! I am looking to do the tour this summer. We will be starting in Belfast (Traveling over from Liverpool). Do you have any tips on the way back journey, Derry to Belfast? We will be taking the ferry back from Belfast to Liverpool on the way home so need to do the trip back as well. Should we just follow the coastal route back or do across country?
Many thanks :)
Tuesday 13th of December 2022
We are planning to visit and drive the coast in 2 weeks in the Peak winter! How much of this route is bad weather friendly? Is a lot of it park and then walk to points or can some be accessed by car if really poor weather.
Planning to drive from Dublin to derry then drive the coast back to Belfast. Have 4 nights in total but want to spend a night or 2 in Belfast.
Then head to Dublin again to drop car and enjoy nye and few days in Dublin!
Great guide! Huge thanks
Tuesday 17th of May 2022
Me & my partner plan to do as much of the causeway coast on motorbike with me as a passenger over 2 days with a 1 night stay maybe around the bush mill area. Is the Torr head scenic route ok for motorbikes ?
Wednesday 18th of May 2022
Yep, but just be aware that it's a trecherous route when mist rolls in.
Tuesday 5th of April 2022
Hi Keith, thank you, really well done. We, the Dinosaurs are planning a week with the 2 who live with us and don't pay rent !! Ages 17+ 19. All are in thanks to your plan and especially your photos.
Wednesday 6th of April 2022
Hi Jo! I'm glad you found it useful. I've done this route a couple of times now and it never fails to disappoint. Have a great trip!