Following the coast from Belfast to Londonderry, our Causeway Coastal Route itinerary takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery on the island, passing many intriguing and inspiring attractions along the way. With a Northern Ireland rental car at your disposal, you will be free to take as much time as you want, or as little, if you decide as much. No other mode of transportation gives you the freedom to stop and enjoy yourself. There really is no better way to travel.
Our 4-day itinerary takes you by the best historical landmarks, the most stunning natural wonders, and the most welcoming coastal communities, leaving you to worry about nothing more than where you want to stop. So buckle up, sit back, and enjoy the drive.
Read on to Drive to Discover the adventures that await you in Ireland!
Primarily following the A2 highway, our Causeway itinerary will provide a rough guide for you to find the adventures you're looking for, but should you feel the need to deviate from the route, you can always find your way back to the main course. The A2 does not charge drivers tolls, but you should always bring cash with you when you travel in Northern Ireland, just in case. We regularly recommend that travelers come prepared with navigation information and supplies, such as extra clothes, food, and water.
As you leave Belfast behind you on the M2, take the M5 to start your journey along the A2. You will notice as the buildings and bustle of the city fade that the beauty of the scenery - with the rolling hills on your left and the calm, clear waters of Belfast Lough on your right - in this part of Northern Ireland is truly stunning. Your first major landmark is situated in the town of Cerrickfergus. Here you will find Cerrickfergus Castle, a superb example of Norman architecture that has stood for centuries. Today you can climb to the top of its crenellated tower for sweeping views of the surrounding coast.
As you return to the A2, make your way toward Whitehead. The winding road will take you on a slow descent past country pastures and homes for a climactic view of the Lough as the road turns north toward Gobbins Head. A great little detour from the A2 will take you on the B150 toward Islandsmagee where you can do a walking tour of the Gobbins Cliffs. This tour - which traverses a suspended walking bridge past cliffs and caves - is a great introduction to the kinds of sights that you will see along the rest of the route
Retrace your steps to the A2 and head north toward your first overnight destination at Cushendall. You will pass through many towns as you continue the last leg of day one. Should you have time, stop for a while in Larne, Ballygalley, Glenarm, Carnlough, or Waterfoot to experience some of the local flavor. The glens that were carved out by the glaciers in County Antrim offer scenic views along the way. The Ballygalley Castle Hotel, which really is a castle made into a hotel, is a fun stop for the supernaturally inclined. It is supposedly the most haunted place in all of Ulster. Once you have left Ballygalley, you can make your way to Glenarm for some of the best views of the glens. Glenarm Castle is worth a visit, too. As one of Ireland's oldest estates, the castle has a lot of history for travelers to learn about. A walk around the estate grounds will leave you feeling refreshed. Continue on the A2 to Cushendall and settle down for the night with a pint at a local pub. If you have sunlight left, check out the Waterfall Walkway at Glenariff Forest Park nearby.
For your second day on the Causeway Route, you will follow Layde Road to the north until you reach Knocknacarry Road. After passing Cushendun, you will take Torr Road. Exercise caution along these roads as they can be quite narrow at times. It's important to remember that these roads make up a portion of the A2.
Once you are on Torr Road, you will get to see some great scenery. Torr Road will eventually turn inland toward Ballycastle. The farms and country homes make for a nice change of pace from the coastal cliffs and beaches that you have seen so far. Travelers who are interested in history will love Ballycastle. The 1.2 kilometer walk on Ballycastle beach will take you from the marina to Pans Rock, a local site of mystery. Pans Rock has on it a carved face with an unknown origin, though local legends have sprung up to explain its existence. It is said to represent Manannan, a Celtic Sea God, by some and a little girl who tragically drowned nearby. Ask around and you may hear some amazing stories.
The nearby viewpoints of Murlough Bay and Fair Head will give you a chance to take in some of the scenery surrounding the Ballycastle area. Hikers will want to take the jaunt up to the top of Fair Head to see Raithlin Island, a nearby island that has a history dating back to the Romans. Ferries can take you to visit it if you have the time and desire. A few other history-steeped site to check out are Kinbane Castle and Bonamargy Friary. The 16th-century castle's crumbling walls and doorways will give you a glimpse into life during the late-medieval period. Be careful on the clifftop where the castle is precariously situated. The Friary, a 15th-century group of ruins, is located to the east of Ballycastle. Stop by for a relaxing walk through history.
After spending the night in Ballycastle, hop onto Whitepark Road toward Ballintoy and enjoy the quaint farms and rugged coastal stops along the way. You'll have many opportunities to park at various viewpoints along the road for some amazing pictures
Once you've driven by Ballintoy, remain on Whitepark Road/A2. This will take you toward Portrush, but be on the lookout for Causeway Road on your right, which will take you to the namesake of our itinerary, the Giant's Causeway. The natural hexagonal columns of the Giant’s Causeway are steeped in Irish myth and legend. According to the story, Fionn mac Cumhaill (actually pronounced Finn MacCool) created a bridge from Ireland to Scotland to challenge a Scottish giant who had been causing trouble. When Finn saw that the size of the Scottish giant, he fled to his home, because he knew that he would be defeated in battle. His wife came up with an idea - she wanted to disguise him as a baby in order to fool the Scottish giant. And that's what she did. When the other giant crossed the bridge and came to Finn's home, the size of the baby put fear in his heart, because surely a baby so large must have a massively strong father. On his way back to Scotland, the giant destroyed the bridge, whose remains can still be seen on both sides of the channel today. It's certainly a great story to hear, but the Causeway itself is an even more amazing sight to see.
After seeing the Giant's Causeway, you can continue on Causeway Road to reconnect with the A2. When you reach the village of Bushmills, remain on the A2 to your right to continue toward Portrush. The nearby Dunluce Castle is a great place to stop, if you want to see a superb example of a 13th-century castle. The grounds of the castle give it a certain fantastic appeal with its rocky coastal views, as if it was created for a fairy tale. Magheracross monastery is also located in the area, so look for signs to visit this early-medieval religious center. Your destination for the day at Portrush has lots to do, as well. Once you arrive, you have the option to go golfing on a world-class course, swimming at the beach, and later, experiencing the fun night life.
On your final day, the Causeway Coastal Route will take you from Portrush to the city of Londonderry on the western border of Northern Ireland. From Portrush, take the A2 to Portstewart, where surfing, shopping, and sunbathing await.
Follow Coleraine Road to Coleraine, just past Ulster University. Near Coleraine lies the oldest settlement on the island, Mountsandel Wood, a 9000-year-old Irish homestead. You can cross the River Bann and travel toward Castlerock on the A2. Mussenden Temple, an 18th-century Italian-influenced library built by the 4th Earl of Bristol, is a great place to stop and take in the scenery. Check the hours of operation before going. If it's open, admission is free. Even if you don't get to enter the temple, the grounds offer expansive views of Portstewart and Downhill along the Inishowen Peninsula. A short jaunt to the southwest will bring you to to Binevenagh Mountain, where a climb to the top can give you stunning views of the countryside. Ireland's artistic center is just a hop and a skip to the south at Limavady, where you can check out some of the work of the local art scene.
Londonderry is your final destination. Make sure you check out one of the walking tours along the city wall for a history lesson of the city. The wall dates variously from the medieval period to the 17th century and passes by some amazing sights. For those who don't want their trip to come to an and, you're in luck. Londonderry is the point at which the Causeway Coastal Route connects with the Wild Atlantic Way, which extends across the entire west coast of Ireland. You can find more information in our WAW itinerary.
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