The Causeway Coastal Route is Northern Ireland’s best road trip, and probably one of the best in the world. Starting in Belfast and finishing in Derry (or vice versa), the route passes some of Europe’s most remarkable sights, both man-made and natural. What’s more, it follows the Atlantic coastline, so it’s brimming with beaches, cliffs, and phenomenal views. Here’s our list of the best stopping points along the way. It assumes you’re starting in Belfast, so if you’re departing from Derry, just read the list backwards!
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And whether you have your own vehicle or not, the most memorable way to tour the Causeway Coast is from behind the wheel of a vintage camper van.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The Gobbins Cliff Path first opened to the public in the early 20th century. At the time, it was a marvel of engineering and attracted visitors on the strength of its design as well as the cliff views. Unfortunately, it fell into disrepair over the years and had to close. Now, though, after an extensive renovation and reimagining, the tubular path is once again a marvel.
Glenarm Castle and Walled Garden
Glenarm is one of Northern Ireland’s oldest estates, and there’s been a castle on the grounds since the 13th century. The current castle, built in 1636, opened to the public in 2005. The walled garden contains water features, vegetable gardens, and, of course, flowers. The walled garden and tea room open to the public every April, closing in mid-October, and the castle itself is open on select dates. The castle shop provides a range of ladies’ and gents’ fashions, and may well be the perfect place to pick up a souvenir.
The Glens of Antrim
The nine Glens of Antrim are Glentaisie, Glenshesk, Glendun, Glencorp, Glenaan, Glenballyeamon, Glenariff, Glencloy, and Glenarm. That’s a lot of Glens – and they’re all as beautiful as each other. Each one has its own scenic drive, and Glenariff (sometimes known as ‘the Queen of the Glens’) has a famously beautiful forest walk. It passes through a National Nature Reserve, full of riverside paths, waterfalls, and verdant rolling hills.
Cushendun, designed for Ronald McNeill (later Lord Cushendun) by the noted architect Clough William-Ellis, is a tiny coastal village sitting in Glendun, one of the previously mentioned Glens of Antrim. Working to create something reminiscent of Cornish villages, William-Ellis designed the village hall, many of the homes, and a public hall that was never completed. The National Trust now owns most of the village, and its population has yet to exceed 200. It’s a perfect, tiny seaside retreat!
The Dark Hedges
This avenue of beech trees became famous after HBO’s Game of Thrones featured them as The King’s Road. Given their fame and striking, almost imposing atmosphere, it might be surprising that The Dark Hedges is essentially a driveway! Built as a feature approach for Gracehill House, they’ve now become an attraction in their own right, arguably eclipsing the house in terms of popularity.
You may want to dedicate an entire day of your road trip to Rathlin Island. Catch the ferry from Ballycastle, and then spend a day exploring the island’s cliff walks and quiet trails. The island attracts tourists not only for its lighthouse, seal colonies, and stunning views but also for a more unexpected reason: its birds. Rathlin is home to a large seabird population, particularly puffins, and it draws birders from miles around. The recently refurbished RSPB seabird centre is open to the public and also offers tours of the island’s lighthouse.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-Rede is a tiny island off the coast of County Antrim. It’s so tiny, in fact, that it contains only one building, a fisherman’s cottage. Although the island is beautiful and well worth visiting, the real attraction is the bridge to the island. Suspended 100 feet (30 metres) above the waters below, the bridge, originally erected by salmon fishermen, now sees thousands upon thousands of visitors every year, every one of them eager to brave the rope bridge.
The Giant’s Causeway
This one goes without saying, given that we’re talking about The Causeway Coastal Route, but with all the other things to see, it’s an important location to remember. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Giant’s Causeway is composed of 40,000 natural basalt columns, formed by a volcanic eruption. The visitor’s centre explains the myth behind the causeway, which looms large in Irish legend. As well as the columns, the causeway area contains other stone formations, including the interestingly named Giant’s Boot, Wishing Chair, and Granny.
Old Bushmills Distillery
Bushmills Distillery is the oldest operating whiskey distillery in Ireland. In 1608, King James I granted a distillation licence to the adventurer Sir Thomas Phillips. The Bushmills brand specifically was established in 1784, and after various periods of non-operation, it re-opened in 1885 and has operated uninterrupted since then. Now, the distillery offers tours and tasting experiences for anyone who wants to know more about whiskey or Bushmills’ heritage.
Dunluce Castle is a stunning cliffside ruin, surrounded on three sides by steep drops. In fact, it’s technically surrounded on all fours sides, as it actually sits on an outcropping, accessible via a bridge connecting the rocks to the mainland. The castle has inspired artists ranging from C. S. Lewis to Led Zeppelin, and eagle-eyed TV buffs might notice striking similarities with Pyke, the seat of House Greyjoy on Game of Thrones.
Located on the edge of Limavady, this park is a perfect tranquil rest stop before ending your journey. The park has a specially curated path designed to showcase the forest’s wildlife. The museum and countryside centre lends a little bit of historical context to the locality and explains the reasoning behind the ‘Leap of the Dog’ sculpture in the park. The nearby town of Limavady gets its name from the Irish Léim a’ Mhadaidh, meaning – you guessed it – ‘Leap of the Dog’.
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