The Causeway Coastal Route features beautiful shorelines, sandy beaches and picturesque cliff tops. It’s a place of discovery, thrills and adventure, as well as peaceful retreat. The variety along the coastal route means there’s something for everyone – whether you’re interested in history, culture, nature or simply getting off the beaten track.
Beaches, Cliffs & Harbours
Ballycastle Marina is based in a seaside town famous for the “Old Lammas Fair”, which has been held at the end of each August for over 400 years. The 74 berth marina is a Blue Flag Award winner, and is located close to Ballycastle town, where there is a bus link to Belfast and ferry out to Rathlin Island.
Ballintoy Harbour, known as a raised beach, is located alongside the coast road, five miles west of Ballycastle. The small fishing harbour offers a true sense of rural Irish life, and also features as a filming location in HBO’s Game of Thrones as the ‘Iron Islands’.
White Park Bay is a secluded sandy beach, perfect for a spot of quiet relaxation. It’s backed by ancient dunes which provide rich habitats for birds and plant life, making it the perfect spot for nature lovers.
In the heart of a popular seaside resort, West Strand combines promenade, beach and harbour. With easy access to the local town centre and an excellent water rating it’s easy to see why this is a busy spot. There are lots of great eateries, shops and even amusements contributing to the traditional seaside atmosphere.
Portballintrae sits within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Antrim Coast & Glens, and plays host to beautiful walking routes. The best known takes in the Three Quarter Mile Bridge, sand dunes on Runkerry Beach, and a cliff top path all the way to the National Trust Giants Causeway Visitors Centre. This ‘green’ building features a grass-covered roof that can be walked over – a unique experience to tick off your list!
White Rocks beach is a Blue Flag Award winner, featuring limestone cliffs which stretch from Curran Strand to Dunluce Castle. A magnet for water sports enthusiasts, this is a great spot for surfing, body boarding and kayaking. The huge stretch of beach also makes it popular with horse riders, which can be enjoyed on a daily basis almost year round.
A Norman castle located on the northern shore of Belfast Lough, with a history dating back 800 years. It played an important military role until 1928 and today offers a window into the not-so-distant past. Fun for all the family - but beware of limited access.
A 2.5- hour fully guided walking tour through suspension bridges, tunnels and pathways offers visitors the opportunity to experience the abundance of nature, which exists along this unique, dramatic coastline. (Seasonal opening hours, please check in advance).
Glenariff Forest Park
Located at the heart of the Glens of Antrim, and set in a classic u-shaped valley, the unique Waterfall Walkway opened 80 years ago. The forest trail follows a boardwalk through the nature reserve, past spectacular scenery, river gorges and three waterfalls. This is a big attraction for nature lovers and those after a pretty picture too!
With its striking lighthouses and picturesque backdrop, Rathlin Island lies just six miles off the coast and can be reached via a regular ferry service from Ballycastle. Take a walk or hire a bicycle to get around and explore, and look out for the Boathouse Visitor Centre, which paints a picture of the rich cultural heritage of island life. Did you know? Rathlin Island was Robert the Bruce’s refuge when driven from Scotland by Edward I of England in 1306.
Rathlin is also home to the upside-down lighthouse, otherwise known as Rathlin West Light, which offers a unique opportunity to gain insight into light-keeping life. It was built into the cliff face in 1912, and housed light-keepers until it was automated in 1983. These days, over 250,000 seabirds return to call the island home every year, when guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars and puffins fly back to breed. The experience of getting up close to these birds and admiring them in their natural environment is unforgettable, and one every bird lover should aim to tick off their list!
Carrick-a-rede & Giants Causeway
Carrick-a-rede offers a unique cliff top experience, with unrivalled coastal scenery. The rope bridge at this National Trust site transverses a 30m-deep and 20m-wide chasm, which was originally erected by salmon fishermen. On a good day you’ll enjoy uninterrupted views of Rathlin and the Scottish Islands, and nature lovers will find themselves surrounded by unique geology, flora and fauna.
World-famous for its history, geology, myths and legends and arguably Northern Ireland’s most famous attraction, the Giants Causeway was formed over 60 million years ago, when molten lava cooled suddenly on contact with water. It’s an awe-inspiring landscape featuring hexagonal basalt columns, and has left behind distinctive stone formations with fanciful names including the camel, wishing chair and the organ. When you’re there, make sure to head for the world-class Visitor Centre, where you’ll learn how the Causeway came to be, and take advantage of four stunning trails including Runkerry Head (accessible).
This medieval 17th century castle sits perched on rocky cliffs overlooking the North Atlantic. During a stormy night in 1639, part of it fell into the sea and it was abandoned. The magical setting and influence of the castle however is timeless, and modern credits include inspiration for the Cair in CS Lewis’ Prince Caspian. Recent archaeological excavations of Dunluce Castle also revealed an incredibly well preserved merchant town, built in 1608, so there’s lots to see and do here.
The popularity of the Dark Hedges in Ballymoney has sky-rocketed since their appearance in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Fans will instantly recognise this is as the spot where Arya escaped from King’s Landing, and yet the beautiful avenue of beech trees is a delightful landscape feature to behold even without knowledge of the show. Planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century, the trees line the entrance path towards the Georgian mansion Gracehill House. Today it is one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland, and rightfully so.
For more inspiration on what to do, see and enjoy along the Causeway Costal Route, you’ll find a downloadable map here.