Causeway Coastal Route Driving Tour
Causeway Coastal Route: A Driving Tour
Recommended duration: 5 days
Total distance: 314km / 195mls
1. Don't go anywhere just yet - Belfast's got a whole load of sights to see. Make sure you sample the fine restaurants, Victorian pubs and electric nightlife. Top places to visit include the brand spanking new entertainment complex, Waterfront Hall, and the bohemian Cathedral Quarter where you'll find the stained-glass wonder of St. Anne's Cathedral.
Causeway Coastal Route
1. Leave Belfast and join the Causeway Coastal Route at Newtownabbey with the beautiful Belfast Lough providing stunning views to your right. Stop at Newtownabbey's Loughshore Park with spectacular views of ships sailing from Belfast (this is where the fateful Titanic first sailed as she headed out from the famous shipyards of Harland & Wolff).
2. A few miles on, you'll get to the pretty seaside town of Carrickfergus with its well-preserved 12th century Normancastle. Stroll around the town's modern marina or pop into the newly opened museum. Also worth a look are the town's stocks and St. Nicolas Parish Church!
3. Next on the route is Kilroot, where Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver's Travels) made his first living as a minister. Continue to Larne, gateway to the beautiful Glens of Antrim. Make time for Carnfunnock Country Park. Here you can take the loop around Islandmagee to Portmuck Harbour. Nearby are the Gobbins Cliffs, home to a breathtaking variety of seabirds.
4. Back on the mainland, head northwards through a selection of villages and the Glens of Antrim will unfold before you. Slip off the side road to Gleno where four waterfalls create picture-postcard views. Just outside Larne, take the famous Antrim Coast Road. At Carnlough, stop to admire the beautiful harbour and, close by, some distinctive houses and pubs, exuding true Irish charm.
5. The Causeway Coastal Route passes by the foot of each of the nine glens: from the south there's Glenarm (the army glen), Glencloy (the glen of the hedges), Glenariff (the ploughman's glen and known also as the queen of the glens), Glenballyeamon (Edwardstown Glen), Glenann (glen of the rush lights), Glencorp (glen of the laughter), Glendun (the brown glen), Glenshesk (sedgy glen) and Glentaisie (the glen of Taisie, the Princess of Rathlin Island).
6. At the foot of Glenarm there's the charming little village of the same name, set slightly inland. It's the setting of the delightful Glenarm Castle and the beautiful public parkland of Glenarm Forest. Less obvious - but equally worth discovering - are the traditional folk music sessions, which are characteristic of the area.
7. You could spend the night here, or drive a little further to Cushendall. Here, the town's four-storey red sandstone Curfew Tower, built "to imprison idlers and rioters" is surrounded by pretty buildings and some convivial watering-holes.
1. Start off exploring one of the glens before taking in the striking views at Torr Head and the natural glories of Murlough Bay, via the picturesque village of Cushendun, with its quaint cottages.
2. Returning to the Causeway Coastal Route, head towards the seaside resort of Ballycastle (where ferries leave for Rathlin Island) with the option of taking in the final two glens, Glenshesk and Glentaisie. Head inland to Armoy and enjoy equestrian activities and immersing yourself in the local culture at Causeway Coast Discovery Centre.
Rathlin itself is well worth visiting (allow 45 minutes for the crossing to the island and the same for the way back).
3. Heading west take in the stunning scenery of the Causeway Coast before arriving at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge spanning a 24-meter chasm. Head inland to the village of Bushmills, home to the world's oldest licensed whiskey distillery.
1. Head out of Bushmills to the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Giant's Causeway, an iconic symbol of the region. Ships from the Spanish Armada once floundered off this rugged coastline and it was at nearby Port na Spaniagh where divers recovered the treasures of the galleon The Girona, now on display at The Ulster Museum in Belfast.
2. Heading west take in the romantic ruin of Dunluce Castle before continuing on through Portrush and Portstewart, lively seaside resorts with cosmopolitan night life.
3. There is the opportunity here to divert to the beautiful Bann Valley, Drumaheglis Marina and the market town of Ballymoney, continuing on perhaps to Coleraine for a spot of shopping.
4. Returning on to the Causeway Coastal Route head towards Limavady, along by Castlerock. Look out for the glorious Mussenden Temple, the cliff top folly said to have been inspired by the Temple of Vesta at Rome.
5. Drive down to Downhill, Benone or Magilligan Beach and go for a walk. These windswept and dramatic beaches are so long you'll often be the only one around.
6. Limavady is a vibrant market town and is next along your route, after which there is an option of travelling through the magnificent Roe Valley, where you can visit the beautiful country park before heading to Londonderry to spend the night.
1. Londonderry is the perfect place to end the trip and is the only completely walled city in the British Isles. Stroll along the 17th century walls and enjoy the utter friendliness of the locals.