Exploring Three Routes on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route

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Causeway Coastal Route

This write-up was created by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Hugging the dramatic coastline of Northern Ireland, the Causeway Coastal Route, marked by gusty winds, tumultuous seas, fractured cliffs, vast grasslands, and long-forgotten castles, is a visual delight. Embark on this journey in any direction, and the aura of this land, brimming with legends of warriors and giants, soon becomes evident. The region hosts several breathtaking and iconic sites, including the Giant’s Causeway – a unique formation of basalt columns. This path offers drivers a truly majestic experience, arguably unparalleled in Europe.

  1. Journey from Belfast to Ballycastle

Must visit: Explore The Gobbins, a refurbished Edwardian trail along the Islandmagee Peninsula. During the guided tour of approximately 2.5 hours, visitors are guided through hidden tunnels and steel bridges, adorned with hard hats.

Worth a side-trip: Embark on a journey along the winding country lanes of Torr Head towards Murlough Bay. This secluded spot provides stunning views of Fair Head, Northern Ireland’s highest cliff.

Feast on: Freshly baked delicacies at the Ursa Minor Bakehouse in Ballycastle. Kickstart your day with a morning bun sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

Lodging: The Salthouse hotel overlooks Rathlin Island and beyond from its position atop Ballycastle. Newly built eco-lodges are also available.

  1. From Ballycastle to Bushmills

Must visit: The namesake of the Causeway Coastal Route, the Giant’s Causeway, is home to around 40,000 hexagonal basalt pillars. Don’t miss the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, originally constructed by salmon fishermen in the 1700s, it stretches to a rocky islet offshore.

Worth a side-trip: A guided five-mile hike starting from Dunseverick with Away A Wee Walk allows you to explore the ruins of Dunseverick Castle, concluding at the Giant’s Causeway.

Feast on: Visit Maegden in Bushmills for a grilled sandwich filled with Hegarty cheddar or Young Buck, a stilton-style blue.

Lodging: The Bushmills Inn, a heritage property in a town renowned for its whiskey, boasts original elements such as a bar with gas lamps.

  1. From Bushmills to Derry

Must visit: Enjoy a leisurely walk towards the clifftop Mussenden Temple, passing the ruin of Downhill House. Constructed as a library for an 18th-century bishop, this folly-like structure offers panoramic views over Downhill Beach and even County Donegal on clear days.

Worth a side-trip: The sprawling sandy beaches of Downhill and Benone lead towards Magilligan Point in County Derry.

Feast on: Visit Harry’s Shack in Portstewart for delicious, freshly caught seafood with a view of the strand.

Lodging: Bishop’s Gate Hotel, located in a former gentlemen’s club within Derry’s city walls, offers luxurious rooms.

This article was included in the UK & Ireland supplement, packaged with the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Click here to subscribe to the National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine (Available in select countries only).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Causeway Coastal Route

What is the Causeway Coastal Route?

The Causeway Coastal Route is a scenic drive along the coastline of Northern Ireland, famous for its stunning landscapes that include churning seas, rugged cliffs, vast grasslands, and historic castles. This route also includes the Giant’s Causeway, a unique formation of basalt columns.

What are the must-visit sites on the Belfast to Ballycastle journey?

On this route, you shouldn’t miss The Gobbins, a restored Edwardian cliff path on the Islandmagee Peninsula. Also, a drive along the country roads of Torr Head towards Murlough Bay is worth a detour for the splendid views it offers.

What attractions are there between Ballycastle and Bushmills?

The journey from Ballycastle to Bushmills includes the namesake of the Causeway Coastal Route, the Giant’s Causeway, and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. A guided hike from Dunseverick to the Giant’s Causeway is recommended.

What can one expect on the journey from Bushmills to Derry?

The Bushmills to Derry route features the Mussenden Temple, a unique 18th-century library offering panoramic views. Also worth visiting are the vast sandy beaches of Downhill and Benone, leading towards Magilligan Point in County Derry.

Where can I find the full article about these routes?

The full article was published in the UK & Ireland supplement, packaged with the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK). You can subscribe to the magazine to read more.

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Connor Murphy July 31, 2023 - 8:08 am

who needs hard hats at the Gobbins? I’ve been there and its not that dangerous. Rest of the article’s good tho.

Emma Gallagher July 31, 2023 - 9:29 am

Can confirm, the seafood at Harry’s Shack is brilliant! And the views, my God!

Sean Donnelly July 31, 2023 - 3:27 pm

urghhh! I miss home! living abroad has its perks, but reading this makes me long for the rugged beauty of NI. Well written.

John McAllister July 31, 2023 - 5:31 pm

I’ve been to Northern Ireland many times, its so beautiful. Those cliffs, the sea… just stunning. Good piece!

Eileen Flanagan July 31, 2023 - 8:57 pm

I’ve stayed at the Salthouse hotel – highly recommended! Lovely views of Rathlin Island. Article captures it perfectly.

Mairead O'Neill August 1, 2023 - 1:55 am

I love living here, Giants Causeway is just a short drive away from me. Great read, makes me appreciate home even more.


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