This coastal route from Belfast to Derry~Londonderry offers a dizzying abundance of treats for the visitor.
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This drive along Ireland’s dramatic north coast has something for everyone. Natural wonders, wild ruins, romantic hideaways, astonishing views, formal gardens – even locations used in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones®. Whatever it is you’re after, this coastal route from Belfast to Derry~Londonderry offers a dizzying abundance of treats for the visitor.
You’ll tiptoe out over the ocean on the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge; hear the waves crash against the Giant’s Causeway; watch whiskey being made and pints being poured. You’ll spot seabirds and wildlife; bag some bargains; go for easy strolls or craggy scrambles and finish off with a great night out. And all of this in four days jam-packed with adventure. Let’s go!
Please Note: This is a sample itinerary to offer suggestions and ideas for planning trips, you can contact your local Tourism Ireland representative for further information. Any mention of specific product on this site is meant to be used only as an example and does not represent an endorsement of that product by Tourism Ireland.
Nearest airports: Belfast International Airport, George Best Belfast City Airport, City of Derry Airport.
Days: 4 (tour can be customised to 1,2 or 3 days, as required).
Touring the Antrim Coast Road
Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim
There’s so much to see in Belfast, but Titanic Belfast interactive exhibition is unmissable. It is open all year, although hours are a little shorter in winter. Tickets are timed slots every 15 minutes and hand-held media guides, guides for sight- or hearing-impaired visitors, plus good wheelchair access to everything but the Shipyard Ride, make everyone feel welcome. Go to St George’s Market for gifts – or something delicious for yourself. It runs from 10am-4pm at the weekends; there’s a shuttle bus from the city centre every 20 minutes on Fridays and Saturdays.
Belfast to The Gobbins: 29km
A path was created here more than 100 years ago, and it’s a battle with the elements to keep it in good shape. The tubular bridge, 33 feet above the sea, gives great views of the cliffs, where many seabirds live, including Northern Ireland’s only puffin colony. Wear walking shoes and outdoor gear because the path is steep in parts, with steps. Groups of up to 15 can be accommodated, and each visit lasts around 2.5 hours. Some of the path is shut for repairs, but there’s a guided tour of Portmuck Harbour to compensate. Drop into the café to refuel with soup and sandwiches.
The Gobbins to Glenarm Castle: 33km
This 400-year-old castle has been in the same family for centuries – they still live there, which gives an unexpectedly cosy air. The castle is only occasionally open to the public, but the gardens and gift shop are open seven days a week, year-round. The rambles are easy and gentle, featuring fountains, sculptures, a stunning glasshouse, a yew hedge dating to the 1820s and a kitchen garden. Drop into the newly extended tearoom to fuel up for the next stop. Groups of 12 can tour the house by arrangement; garden tours can take up to 20 people.
Glenarm Castle to Glenarriff Forest Park: 29km
An enchanting world is waiting in rural Antrim. There are nine glens, each different but all easily accessible, that can be toured by car or on foot (wear outdoor gear and good shoes), but Glenariff is the biggest. There’s an admission fee to Glenariff Forest Park, but the 4.5km Waterfall Walkway alone makes it worthwhile. You’ll find a visitor centre, exhibition, shop and caravan/camping site (Easter – October). Mix it up with stop-offs in pretty villages such as Cushendall, and Cushendun, whose caves are among the many locations around here used in Game of Thrones®.
Cushendun to Carrick-a-Rede: 26km
The rickety-looking Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge has stretched between Carrick Island and the mainland for over 250 years. It’s so popular that ticketing is now timed. All individual tickets will be sold on the day and are only valid on that day. Early morning or late afternoon, are quieter, but in July and August, come early to get a place! Group visits must be pre-booked. The coastline is open dawn to dusk, and the bridge is open all day, except in winter, when it closes mid-afternoon. There is a tearoom to settle your nerves after a thrillingly wild walk.
Carrick-a-Rede to the Giant’s Causeway: 13km
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the stunning Giant's Causeway is a must-see. Give yourself plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere – a good 2.5 hours is recommended. Your ticket includes use of the visitor centre and an audio guide, which is available in many languages, and there’s also a café on site. You can park at the site, or use the park and ride from Bushmills village 3km away. There’s also a shuttle bus to the stones for less able visitors. The stones are open from dawn to dusk all year round, although the visitor centre closes in the late afternoon.
Giant’s Causeway to Old Bushmills: 4km
The Old Bushmills Distillery is just down the road, and has been making whiskey since 1608. Take a 45- to 60-minute guided tour to discover how the whiskey is made and then settle down to sample the product (or have a soft drink) in the bar. There are tutored whiskey tastings, a specialist whiskey shop and a well-stocked gift shop. The tour is not suitable for children under eight or people with walking difficulties. Tour places are allocated on a first come first served basis, but groups of 15 and over can book in advance, though not on Sundays.
Old Bushmills to Dunluce Castle: 4.5km
It’s a wild walk to the ruined 16th century Dunluce Castle, which brims with history. The castle is open every day, although it closes at 3.30 in winter as the evening draws in. Pop into the small café and shop before swapping the craggy outcrop for the stunning sands of Portstewart Strand. The beach is 3.2km long – ideal for a blowy walk after sitting in the car or coach – or try surfing, swimming or horse riding. You can also take a nature trail through the dunes, a site of scientific interest filled with wildflowers and butterflies.
Portstewart to Downhill Demesne: 22.5km
If it’s romance you’re after, Mussenden Temple, perched on a cliff in the beautiful grounds of Downhill Demesne, is breathtaking. Inspired by the Temple of Vesta near Rome, it was built as a library in 1785 by the Bishop of Derry and gives fantastic views out over the Atlantic. Wear proper walking shoes to tackle the walk from the car park, then enjoy a cliff-top ramble or take a stroll around Downhill’s beautiful grounds. The grounds are open dawn to dusk all year, although the facilities are available March – September, weekends only in October.
Downhill Demesne to Derry~Londonderry: 44km
Round off your trip with a shot of energy in this buzzing city, where the compact size gives it a lovely, welcoming feel. This is a place steeped in centuries of history, whether you’re taking a walk along the top of the city’s ancient walls or crossing the Peace Bridge for a ramble in St Columb’s Park. Check out the Riverwatch Aquarium, stroll past the waterfall in Ness Country Park or simply throw yourself into the city’s nightlife. The place is hopping with pubs, clubs, restaurants, theatres and live music – from traditional to all-out rock.
Sheep at Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
Bikers on Downhill Beach, Co. Londonderry
This is a sample itinerary to offer suggestions and ideas for planning trips. You can contact your local Tourism Ireland representative here for further information. Please note, any mention of specific product on this itinerary is meant to be used only as an example and does not represent an endorsement of that product by Tourism Ireland.