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.

ballintoy harbour game of thrones
Photo by Patrick Lennon

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 a filming location in HBO’s Game of Thrones for exterior Pyke shots and as 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.

Dunseverick Castle antrim
Photo via Wikipedia

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.

the giants causeway coastal route
Photo by Arthur Ward

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.

giants causeway
Photo by Arthur Ward

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 center 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.

bushmills tour
Photo via Bushmills

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.

bushmills whiskey tour
Photo via Bushmills

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.

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

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.

the dark hedges ireland
Photo by Arthur Ward

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.

dunluce castle antrim
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

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.

dunluce castle antrim
Photo via Alamy

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.

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.

portstewart strand
Photo by Chris Hill

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.

And that's a wrap!

One of the things that makes the route so special is the 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 this route

Things to do/getting thereAccomodationMisc

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.

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