The Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland is a breathtakingly scenic and world-renowned coastal road trip that stretches approximately 130 miles along the northeastern coast of the country. This iconic route winds through some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the region, offering a blend of rugged coastal cliffs, pristine beaches, picturesque villages, and lush green countryside. Throughout the journey, travelers are treated to breathtaking views of the North Atlantic Ocean, with opportunities for scenic hikes, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting. The Causeway Coastal Route is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone seeking an unforgettable road trip along one of the world's most stunning coastlines, and in this blog we’re going to share our top 7 must-see sights along this bucket list route!
Check out our “Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route” video for a closer look at our experience! 👇🏻
⬇️ Best Northern Ireland Tours & Experiences ⬇️
The best way to visit all of the sights is to rent a car and drive, but if that isn’t in the cards for you, there are plenty of guided day trips that will take you to many of these sights. If that sounds more up your alley, then check out the tours below.
⬇️ Where to stay in Northern Ireland ⬇️
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1. The Dark Hedges (Bregagh Rd, Stranocum, Ballymoney BT53 8PX)
Around 1775 James Stuart built a new house named Gracehill House after his wife Grace Lynd. Along with the construction of the new home, Stuart planted over 150 beech trees along the entrance road to the estate to create an impressive approach for visitors (As of 2016 only around 90 of the original 150 trees remain). The iconic avenue’s mesmerizing tunnel of beech trees and their gnarled branches intertwining overhead create an otherworldly canopy making it a popular destination for tourists and photographers alike.
The Dark Hedges' hauntingly atmospheric appearance has been featured in various films and television series – most notably in "Game of Thrones” Season 2, Episode 1: ‘On the King’ s Road’ where The Dark Hedges were featured during a scene where Arya Stark escaped from King’s Landing.
Tips for visiting: Park in the gravel lot located in front of The Hedges Hotel (141 Ballinlea Rd). From there, you’ll follow the path and signs to the Dark Hedges which is about a .2 (2/10ths) mile walk. As tempting as it may be, do NOT walk on the road! The Dark Hedges starts to get crowded around 8:30am, so if you want the most peaceful experience and some time to get photos without other people in them, we recommend arriving by 7:00am. Speaking of photos, I recommend shooting with a long/zoom lens (at least a 70-200mm on a DSLR or 3x zoom on an iPhone). Wide angle lenses just can't do this sight justice.
2. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (Ballycastle BT54 6L)
The 66 foot long Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge that swings 98 ft above the rocks below was first established in 1755 and was designed to connect Carrick-a-Rede Island to the mainland. The original purpose of the bridge was to allow fishermen to cross the deep, tumultuous waters below in order to access the island and its rich salmon fishing grounds. Over the years, the bridge has undergone numerous renovations and improvements to enhance safety while maintaining its rustic charm.
Today, Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the world who seek not only the thrill of crossing the swaying bridge but also the opportunity to appreciate the stunning natural beauty of the Antrim Coast. It remains a testament to the ingenuity and determination of the local fishermen who first created it, while offering a unique and memorable experience for all who visit.
Tips for visiting: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge regularly sells out, so it’s imperative to purchase your timed entry ticket in advance. Ticket includes reserved parking, crossing the bridge (timed entry), and access to all facilities.
Cost: £13.50/adult (aged 18+). See website for more pricing options.
3. Ballintoy Harbor (49 Harbour Rd, Ballycastle BT54 6NB)
Originally established as a fishing port ideal for fishermen to launch their boats into the Atlantic Ocean, Ballintoy Harbor has a rich history dating back centuries. Over the years, the harbor played a vital role in the local fishing industry, supporting the livelihoods of many families in the area. In more recent times, Ballintoy Harbor has gained international recognition due to its appearances in popular television series and films – most notably as a filming location for the globally acclaimed "Game of Thrones" series.
Today, visitors to Ballintoy Harbor can take in the breathtaking scenery, explore the quaint village, and enjoy leisurely walks along the cliffs. The harbor's historical significance, coupled with its natural beauty, continues to make it a must-visit destination for those looking to immerse themselves in the beauty and history of Northern Ireland's coastline.
Tips for visiting: A visit to Ballintoy Harbor is pretty straightforward. Parking is ample and free, so simply find a spot and explore the beautiful seaside village on foot.
4. Old Bushmills Distillery (2 Distillery Rd, Bushmills BT57 8XH)
Established in 1608, the Old Bushmills Distillery holds the distinction of being the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world, with over four centuries of whiskey-making expertise. The distillery's history is rich, filled with legends and traditions, and its iconic copper pot stills have been producing world-class Irish whiskey for generations.
The Old Bushmills Distillery not only produces exceptional whiskey but also welcomes visitors to take guided tours, offering a glimpse into the art and science of whiskey-making. It is a testament to the enduring legacy of this historic distillery that continues to produce high-quality Irish whiskey, beloved by connoisseurs and enjoyed by whiskey enthusiasts worldwide.
Tips for visiting: If you plan to do a distillery tour, you’ll want to book your tickets in advance. We unfortunately didn’t have time for a tour, but we did do a tasting! We went with one basic and premium tasting (3 whiskeys each with one overlap) which we definitely recommend. Doing this allows you to try 5 different whiskeys rather than just the 3 provided in a single tasting. We decided that the 12 year and 21 year were our favorites, but let us know which ones you like most!
Cost: Visiting is free, but if you want the full experience, you’ll want to take a distillery tour (starting at £15) and do a tasting (starting at £10).
5. The Giant’s Causeway (44 Causeway Rd, Bushmills BT57 8SU)
This unique geological formation is a breathtaking natural wonder renowned for its striking and perfectly hexagonal basalt columns that appear as if they were meticulously sculpted by ancient giants. The causeway was created around 50-60 million years ago, during a period of intense volcanic activity. Molten basaltic lava rapidly cooled upon contact with the cold waters of the North Atlantic, resulting in the formation of the iconic hexagonal pillars. The result is a stunning display of over 40,000 interlocking columns, varying in height, that create a surreal, mosaic-like pattern along the coastline.
Today, the Giant's Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for tourists and geology enthusiasts alike. Visitors can explore the site's unique rock formations, hike along picturesque coastal trails, and immerse themselves in the fascinating geological history and captivating folklore that surround this extraordinary place.
Tips for visiting: Being the most popular attraction on the Causeway Coastal Route means that The Giant’s Causeway can get extremely crowded. To avoid the bulk of the crowds, we recommend visiting as early or as late in the day as possible.
Cost: £13.50 (off-peak); £15 (peak)/adult (aged 18+). See website for more pricing options.
6. Dunluce Castle (87 Dunluce Rd, Bushmills BT57 8UY)
Dunluce Castle is a breathtaking medieval ruin known for its stunning location, perched on the edge of a rugged basalt outcrop overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean.The history of Dunluce Castle is both intriguing and tumultuous. It was originally built by the MacQuillan family around the 13th century and later taken over by the MacDonnell clan in the 16th century. This transition in ownership was marked by fierce battles and power struggles. In 1584, the castle became the center of the MacDonnell's burgeoning power, with significant improvements made to its fortifications. The castle's tumultuous history took a dark turn in 1639 when a substantial portion of it, along with the kitchen and several servants, plummeted into the sea during a storm. This event ultimately led to the abandonment of the castle, with the seat of the MacDonnell clan relocating to a more stable location nearby.
Today, Dunluce Castle stands as a captivating, picturesque ruin. It has become a popular tourist attraction, thanks to its unique setting and being featured as the “House of Greyjoy: The ruler of the Iron Islands” in Game of Thrones. Don’t expect to see the same castle as shown in the series though, thanks to CGI (Computer Generated Image). Visitors can explore the remains of this once-mighty fortress, witnessing its remarkable location and gaining insight into the tumultuous history of the region.
Tips for visiting: The free onsite parking lot is TINY, so if you want to take advantage of that, you’ll need to arrive early! Plus, you’ll avoid the larger mid day crowds by doing so!
Cost: Some areas like the lower grounds are free to visit, but it will cost you £6.00/adult (aged 18+) to tour the castle. See website for more pricing options. Tickets are purchased from the ticket office located on site. Online booking is not available.
7. Mussenden Temple (Mussenden Rd, Castlerock, Coleraine BT51 4RP)
This iconic structure was built around 1785 by Frederick Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, as part of the estate of Downhill Demesne. The temple was designed by architect Michael Shanahan, who drew inspiration from the Temple of Vesta in Italy. Its most distinctive feature is its stunning location, with the temple overlooking the rugged and picturesque Downhill Strand and the North Atlantic Ocean. Mussenden Temple served as a library, and its purpose was to house the Earl's extensive collection of books and act as a picturesque retreat for contemplation.
Over the years, erosion and coastal weathering have threatened the stability of Mussenden Temple, and efforts have been made to preserve this historic structure. The temple, along with the Downhill Demesne, is now managed by the National Trust and is a popular tourist attraction due to its breathtaking views, historical significance, and romantic architectural design.
Tips for visiting: While the main attraction here is the Mussenden Temple, if you aren’t pressed for time, take the time to explore more of the area and grounds like Downhill House, The Walled Garden, The Bog Garden, and more!
Cost: £7.50/vehicle (all day). You can also pay using the PaybyPhone app and the location code 805919.
We hope that this guide has helped you make the most of your Causeway Coast road trip, and if it has, we hope that you’ll consider following us on Instagram and subscribing to our YouTube Channel for more travel content!