An Afternoon on the Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland
For visitors to Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is top on the To Do list. Aside from this famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Causeway Coast has plenty to offer. If you’re staying in Ireland for a short while you might not have time to drive the entire Causeway Coastal Route but there are a number of incredibly scenic sights that you can fit into an afternoon. Here’s the itinerary my friend and I followed on a recent trip to Co. Antrim.
We stumbled across this beautiful beach while looking for our first (planned) sight of the day. There are plenty of sandy beaches dotted along the coastline but, having recently been awarded a prestigious Blue Flag Award, Whiterocks Beach is worth visiting. It’s also off the tourist map, meaning it will be quieter than many other spots you may visit.
Although we hadn’t heard of Dunluce Castle before making our way up north, it came highly recommended by our Airbnb host and we decided to give it a go. This atmospheric medieval ruin, perched on a basalt outcropping and joined to the mainland by a small bridge, turned out to be the highlight of my trip (yes, over the Giant’s Causeway).
The £5 entrance fee was inclusive of an audio guide, which you can pick up from the “audio department” (read: the next desk over, a mere shuffle away) as we were informed by a bemused staff member at the till.
While I’m not always the biggest fan of audio guides, I would recommend this one in particular as it helped to build up a picture of what was once a bustling castle. The ruins still offer the opportunity to make your way up winding staircases and take in the breathtaking sea-view.
The next stop along the Causeway Coast is the attraction that draws most people here in the first place: Giant’s Causeway. Although most tourists won’t realise, it’s possible to enter the site for free. Entrance through the visitor’s centre is £8.50 including audio guide.
The walk down to the Giant’s Causeway offers some beautiful views and, of course, the attraction itself is stunning. It goes without saying that this is a place to visit if you are in the area. However, the reason I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would is because of the people. As one would expect, it is a particularly busy area and I found it hard to immerse myself in the experience with such a crowd around me.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Another few miles along the coast you will find a famous rope bridge, which crosses a 30-metre deep chasm to the small island of Carrick-a-Rede. It’s not just sitting there for all and sundry to cross though. Oh no, you’re going to have to work for this one. There’s a kilometre walk to the stairs leading down to the bridge, which is pleasant enough although it will leave the less fit (i.e. me) a bit winded. But it’s the walk back that’s the killer; I found this one harder than that time I climbed 423 steps to reach a temple in India.
The bridge itself is slightly terrifying to cross for anyone who is afraid of heights (i.e. me again) but worth it for the “I did that” bragging factor.
I’m pleased to confirm that we survived the walk back to the car but we were officially beat for the day. This itinerary took roughly five hours, naturally including a stop for tea and scones. Add on an extra hour each way for the drive from/to Belfast if that’s where you are based.
The Causeway Coast is by far the most wonderful coastline I have laid my eyes upon so far. If you have the time and the weather is right, you can follow the Causeway Coastal Route for spectacular views along its full 200km stretch. This website suggests some great itineraries for a longer stay.