The Northern coastal fringe of Ireland offers some great opportunities for touring holidays. The north channel links the Irish Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, framing some dramatic scenic drives with roads that hug the water’s edge, often separated only by golden beaches.
The Causeway Coastal Route is the perfect location for any driving enthusiast; uncovering breath-taking scenery, a wild landscape and a mysterious and magical past. Journey through this area of outstanding and natural beauty to create an unforgettable experience!
Day 1: Belfast - Waterfoot
Travel Northwards on the Causeway Coastal Route to the historic town of Carrickfergus. Standing on the edge of Belfast Lough, Carrickfergus is dominated by the famous Castle, built in the 12th Century, and is Ireland’s oldest and best preserved Norman castle which is open to the public. Follow towards Islandmagee and take a trip back in time to a late Victorian Visitor Attraction known as ‘The Gobbins’.
The Heart of the Glens welcomes you as you travel towards Glenarm. Here, take time out to visit one of Ireland’s oldest walled gardens at Glenarm Castle. Head northwards towards Waterfoot enjoying the breathtaking scenery on your journey. Overnight Waterfoot area.
Day 2: Waterfoot - Ballycastle
From Waterfoot climb up the side of Glenariff which has stunning panoramas. On the way up there are a couple of active roadside waterfalls before you arrive at Larragh Lodge, the access to one of the most visited waterfalls in the glens. Further up the road you can enter Glenariff Forest Park which has some outstanding forest and river walks as well as picnic sites. Glenariff is a U shaped valley cut by glacial activity some 10,000 years ago.
Continue on the Causeway Coastal Route to Ballycastle, visiting the picturesque villages of Cushendall, and Cushendun on the way. As an alternative, the Torr Scenic Route takes you off the main A2. This narrow road highlights the spectacular views across the North Channel to Scotland and the Mull of Kintyre. Returning on the A2, head toward the seaside resort town of Ballycastle. Its pretty seafront will give you the opportunity to refuel on traditional fish and chips and locally produced ice-cream! Overnight Ballycastle area.
Day 3: Ballycastle - Bushmills
An option here, if time permits, is a visit to Rathlin Island. Only 6 miles offshore by ferry, it presents a perfect opportunity to leave the tourist trail and enjoy island life. The Island is perfect for bird-watchers, botanists and anyone with a love of rugged scenery. Back on the Causeway Coastal Route, follow the A2 to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Managed by the National Trust, this is a relic from the coastal salmon fishing trade of years gone by. The rope bridge creates an exciting crossing over a 20m chasm to the rocky island where spectacular views can be found.
Continuing along the Causeway Coastal Route, you will find many beaches along the way providing plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and clear your head. You may even have the company of cows on the beach at White Park Bay! Overnight Bushmills/Portstewart area.
Day 4: Bushmills - Portstewart
On the approach to Bushmills, the Giant’s Causeway, Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-see attraction for many whilst in Bushmills, you will find the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland, ‘The Old Bushmills Distillery’. Enjoy a tour and some tastings before heading onwards to Portrush. The stunning coastline continues along the A2 as you make your way towards Dunluce Castle and the long stretch of sand at the White Rocks. Visit the castle and if you want to keep active, why not walk the beach and the cliff walk at the White Rocks.
The seaside town of Portrush, the home of the famous Royal Portrush Golf Club, with its picturesque harbour, local pubs and restaurants and sandy beaches is the next potential stop on your journey. Three miles further along the coast, you will find Portstewart with its cliff walks, numerous coffee shops and ice cream parlours. Overnight Bushmills/Portstewart area.
Day 5: Portstewart - Limavady
As you leave Portstewart towards Downhill, take the opportunity to visit the historic town of Coleraine which sits on the banks of the River Bann. The largest of the towns on the coastal route, you can do some shopping or follow the walking heritage route that is available. Following the coastal route head towards Downhill, where you can visit Mussenden Temple and follow the trail of the Earl Bishop of Derry. For spectacular views, follow the Bishop’s Road from Downhill to Gortmore Viewing Point and find yourself within the Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The market town of Limavady, where the world famous melody of Danny Boy originates from, is your final stop on this leg of the journey. Leaving Limavady, follow the A2 Seacoast Road to catch the Lough Foyle Ferry (seasonal only). While you wait for your ferry, you will notice the well preserved ‘Magilligan Martello Tower’built during the Napoleonic Wars. Overnight Limavady area.
Day 6: Greencastle - Donegal Town
Crossing Lough Foyle on the ferry, you will arrive at Greencastle and continue your journey onto the Wild Atlantic Way. Follow the Inishowen Peninsula and be rewarded by beautiful beaches and outstanding views. If you fancy a change of transport, you can ride many of these beaches on horseback or just stroll along golden sands as you visit the most northerly point of Ireland at Malin Head.
Follow the road northwards towards the Fanad Peninsula, and enjoy the fantastic driving roads with switchbacks and fantastic views of Lough Swilly. Follow the coastline through the Downings and Dunfanaghy before joining the N56 and continue your journey to Glenveagh NationalPark, a stunning 16,000 hectare national park containing a visitor centre and restaurant. From Glenveagh, follow the R250 which joins the N15, through Barnesmore Gap into Donegal Town. Overnight Donegal Town.
Day 7: Donegal Town - Derry/Londonderry
Return on the N15 for Stranorlar and Letterkenny and take the N13 to the historic walled city of Derry. Derry, the 2013 UK City of Culture is the next destination on our itinerary but not without stopping at the Grianan of Aileach an impressive stone fort first constructed around 1700 BC. A visit to the City of Derry/Londonderry is not complete without a tour of the Walls, which are embedded in history and heritage. From Derry, return via the most direct route to your starting point in Belfast via A6 across the Glenshane Pass. Overnight Derry/Londonderry.