A Guide to the Nail-Biting Torr Head Scenic Drive

torr head scenic drive
Photo left: Shutterstock. right: Google Maps

The Torr Head Scenic Drive is one of my favourite things to do along the Causeway Coastal Route.

Stretching for 14.5 miles (23km) from Ballycastle to Cushendun, the Torr Head route is not one for the nervous drive.

Each twist and turn of this often very narrow road reveals yet another breathtaking panorama and, with views to Scotland, and plenty of diversions, this drive will invoke many sharp intakes of breath!

Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Torr Head Drive, from the route to follow to what to see along the way.

Some quick need-to-knows about Torr Head in Antrim

torr head ireland
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Unlike some of the other nearby drives, the Scenic Drive can be easy to miss as you spin along the Causeway Coast, so read the below need-to-knows first.

1. Location    

The Torr Head Scenic Drive joins Ballycastle and Cushendun. You can start the route on either side, just keep an eye out for the brown signs with ‘Torr Head Scenic Route’ written on them in white.

2. The scenic drive   

Clinging to steep sloping hillside above the sea, this dramatic winding route has outstanding coastal scenery. However, the driver will have to forego the views and concentrate on the narrow road as it pitches and dips like a bucking bronco in places. Multiple sharp turns and hairpin bends will reward you with breathtaking new vistas at every turn.  

3. Views of Scotland

Torr Head Scenic Drive has outstanding sea views across to Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre on a clear day. Take a detour to Torr Head itself and you’ll be at Ireland’s closest point to Scotland. The Mull of Kintyre is just 12 miles (19km) away. 

About Torr Head  

torr head scenic route
Phoro via Google Maps

Hugging the extreme northeast corner of Antrim’s rugged coastline, Torr Head is a dramatic headland. Across the rugged waves, the Mull of Kintyre marks the shortest passage between Ireland and Scotland with the peaks of the Isle of Arran in the distance.  

Torr Head has been a strategic point in the past. In the 19th century it was topped with a coastguard station, abandoned in the 1920s but the shell remains. In the same era, it was a recording station monitoring all passing transatlantic ships and feeding the information back to Lloyds of London. 

The Torr Head Scenic Drive is now one of the most breathtaking and challenging drives in Ireland. Less than 15 miles long, it offers dramatic coastal scenery as the single-track road follows the contours and dips of the sloping headland.

An overview of the Torr Head Scenic Drive

The map above shows you the two starting points, the route and the three main stops on the way. Here’s some more info on the route:

Where to start  

You can start the Torr Head Scenic Drive either from the western end at Ballycastle, or from Cushendun. Follow the brown signposts that detour from the A2, marked “Torr Head Scenic Drive”.

Distance/How Long it takes

Torr Head Scenic Route is 14.5 miles (23km) long, and even longer if you take some of the worthwhile detours. You should allow 40 minutes for a non-stop journey as the road is narrow with many sharp turns requiring slow, cautious driving. To enjoy the scenery, plan on at least an hour.

Warning   

Be aware that this is an insanely narrow road and you will need to find passing places if you meet oncoming traffic. Keep your speed down and your eyes on the road despite the distractions of those incredible views!

Things to see on the Torr Head Drive

There are three main detours off the way-marked Torr Head Drive and they are all worth making if you have the time (and if the weather’s playing ball).

1. Fair Head Cliffs    

Ariel view of The Fair Head Cliffs
Photo via Nahlik on shutterstock.com

Just three miles east of Ballycastle, Fair Head is Northern Ireland’s tallest cliff, rising 196m (643 feet) above the sea. It’s the closest point to Rathlin Island with wild goats roaming the rugged rocks. There’s a good, paid parking area here. See our Fair Head guide for more.

2. Murlough Bay   

Murlough Bay
Photos via Shutterstock

Further along the scenic route heading towards Cushendun you’ll see a turn off signposted to picturesque Murlough Bay. The road steeply descends to a parking area and from there you can walk north along the shoreline to some ruined miners’ cottages about 20 minutes away.

This was once an area of coal and chalk mining and there’s an old lime kiln just south of the car park. It’s an area of remarkable beauty and was the requested burial place of Irish patriot and poet, Sir Roger Casement.

3. Torr Head

torr head antrim

The third turn-off from the main route takes you to rocky Torr Head headland topped with a long-abandoned 19th century Coastguard Station. Part of the longer coastal Causeway Route, it’s reached along a narrow roller-coaster road.

From here you can gaze across North Channel to Scotland, a mere 12 miles away. In the 1800s, Torr Head was used to record the passage of transatlantic ships for Lloyds of London long before GPS. In summer, the area is used for a fixed net salmon fishery; an old ice house was once used to preserve the catch. 

What to see after the Torr Head Drive

One of the beauties of the Torr Head Drive is, that when you’ve finished, you’re a stone’s throw from some of the best things to do in Antrim.

Below, you’ll find everything from islands and food to some very hidden gems and much, much more.

1. Rathlin Island 

rathlin island antrim
Photo by mikemike10 (Shutterstock.com)

The Torr Head headland is the nearest point to Rathlin Island, an inhabited offshore island. It has about 150 population who are mainly Irish speaking. Measuring just 4 miles long, the highest point is Slieveard at 134m (440 feet). Access is via a ferry from Ballycastle (there’s lots of things to do in Ballycastle, too!), 6 miles away.

2. Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge
Photos via Shutterstock

Erected by salmon fishermen in 1755, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge connects Carrick Island with the mainland not far from Ballintoy Harbour. There are just wooden slats and flimsy rope sides supporting you above the swirling waves and salty spray. Once across, the island offers stunning coastal views.

3. Ballycastle for food   

fish and chips
Photo by Pixelbliss (Shutterstock)

After all this excitement and adventure, you’ll be in need of a feed, and there’s some great restaurants in Ballycastle to nip into! The Cellar is said to be Ballycastle’s best kept secret, or try Morton’s Fish and Chips. Head for a stroll on Ballycastle Beach when you’re done.

4. The Causeway Coastal Route 

the giants causeway ireland
Photo by Kanuman (Shutterstock)  

Clinging to the coast of Northern Ireland, the Causeway Coastal Route runs from Belfast to Derry. Stunning scenery is a given, but you’ll also pass pristine beaches, clifftop walks, historic sites, the Old Bushmills Distillery, the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede.

FAQs about the Torr Head Drive

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from where does the Torr Head Drive start to whether or not it’s dangerous.

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.

Is the Torr Head Drive dangerous?

If you take your time, use caution and drive carefully then no. However, on a misty day, parts of the route become almost completely covered so yes, it can be dangerous.

Is Torr Head worth visiting?

Yes. This is a great detour on the Causeway Coastal Route. Especially if you visit on a clear day when you can soak up views of Scotland.

Is there parking at Torr Head in Northern Ireland?

There’s parking at the end of the hill, yes. Note: if you’re visiting during he busy summer months the car park can fill up quickly.

Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.

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