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Stage 2: Belfast to Belfast Road Stage (Saturday 10 May 2014)

Route Overview


Titanic Belfast (Titanica Sculpture)The 218km Saturday leg starts once again at Titanic Belfast.

Marker 2: Antrim Road

Cave Hill, BelfastOn to the Antrim Road in Belfast and then heads out of the city to begin the loop around the North Coast, visiting Antrim Town and then onward to Ballymena.

Look out for:

Belfast Zoological Gardens,one of the oldest attractions in Northern Ireland, home to 140 species, many of which are in danger in their natural habitat.
Belfast Castle which is set on the slopes of Cavehill Country Park in a prominent position 400 feet (120 m) above sea level.  Don’t forget to check out Napoleon’s Nose, a basaltic outcrop which resembles the profile of the famous emperor Napoleon.
Crumlin Road Gaol, a Victorian prison with a long, colourful history, reborn as a major visitor attraction.

Marker 3: Antrim Town

Antrim TownSituated on the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles, and on the banks of the Six Mile Water, Antrim Town has many buildings of historic note. These include the courthouse which sits at the end of High street, near the Barbican Gate, the old gateway to Antrim Castle. There is also a fine c10th century Round Tower.

Look out for:

Loughshore Park, an area steeped in history and natural beauty with many attractions and activities to enjoy; the magnificent, 400-year-old Antrim Castle Gardens; Junction One International Outlet Centre.

Marker 4: Ballymena

Ballymena, Co. AntrimBallymena is an area rich in history; you’ll notice many ancient buildings, churches and historical sites in the town and the surrounding villages of Gracehill, Cullybackey, Kells and Portglenone.

Look out for:

The Braid, home to the Mid-Antrim Museum and a lively arts centre; the distinctive Slemish Mountain, where Saint Patrick is said to have spent six years as a slave tending sheep, where you can walk to the summit and take in the views of the surrounding countryside.

The route then heads northwards towards the Causeway Coast.

Marker 5: Bushmills

mapPicBushmillsBushmills is a designated conservation village with over ninety listed buildings of architectural and heritage interest. The village is also home to the famous Old Bushmills Distillery, Ireland's oldest working distillery, dating back to 1608 when King James I of England granted Captain Thomas Phillips a license to distil whiskey.

Look out for:

The Old Bushmills Distillery, where you can watch whiskey making take place and enjoy a wee taster too.
Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Railway - travel on a steam locomotive along a magnificent coastal stretch of line between Bushmills and the Giant's Causeway.
The French Rooms, an exciting new venture in the heart of the village and already described in the Georgina Campbell’s Ireland Guide as “easily the most elegant and stylish restaurant on the Causeway Coast”.

Marker 6: The Giant’s Causeway

mapPicGiantsCausewayThe stage passes by the iconic Giant’s Causeway before it makes its way along the North Antrim Coast.

Flanked by the wild North Atlantic Ocean on one side and a landscape of dramatic cliffs on the other, for centuries the Giant’s Causeway has inspired artists, stirred scientific debate and captured the imagination of all who see it. Renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, the Causeway is Northern Ireland's only World Heritage Site. Resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, this is the focal point of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Rising and blending into the landscape, with walls of glass, basalt columns and a state of the art interior designed by award winning architects Heneghan-Peng, the new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre is truly innovative. The energy efficient building boasts a number of exhibition areas and a grass roof with 360 degree views of the coastline. Explore the interactive spaces, watch Finn McCool on the big screen and unlock the secrets of this inspirational landscape.

Continuing along the Causeway Coastal Route

The Causeway Coastal Route is a 120 mile trail of outstanding scenic drives and attractions which, taken together, make up what has deservedly been described as 'one of the world's great road journeys.' The route is an odyssey of astonishing natural landscapes, from patchwork hills, mountain streams and waterfalls to a dazzling coastal road with majestic cliffs, golden sands and the unique glory that is the Giant's Causeway. The Causeway Coastal Route passes by the foot of each of the nine famous Glens of Antrim.

Look out for:

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, an exhilarating rope bridge experience over a 30m deep and 20m wide chasm, leading to Carrick-a-Rede island.

Marker 7: Cushendall

Lurigethan Mountain and CushendallCushendall is the meeting point of three glens: Glenann, Glenballyeamon and Glencorp. In this picturesque seaside village, preserved Georgian houses line the four streets, and the Curfew Tower is still a centrepiece. Views of Scotland add the final touch to this wonderful place.

Look out for:

• The pretty nearby village of Cushendun, with its distinctive Cornish-style village square and cottages by architect Clough William Ellis, today run as craft shops and tea rooms.
• Loughareema Vanishing Lake: the lake sits on a leaky chalk-bed with a 'plug hole' that often becomes jammed with peat causing the depression to fill, especially during heavy rain. When the plug clears, the lake disappears when the water drains rapidly underground.

The last stretch of the journey back to Belfast sees the route pass through:

Marker 8: Larne

Carnfunnock Country Park, LarneLarne is a busy coastal town and ferry port, ideal for exploring the Glens of Antrim and Islandmagee. 

Look out for:

Carnfunnock Country Park, with its colourful gardens, coastal views, walking trails and wealth of activities for children.

Marker 9: Whitehead

Whitehead, Co. AntrimOne of Northern Ireland’s most popular resorts, the rugged and varied Antrim Coast is nowhere better appreciated than along the Blackhead Path, which runs from Whitehead. The town boasts two popular golf courses, Whitehead and Bentra.

Look out for:

Blackhead Lighthouse which was once the guardian of Belfast's glory days of shipping.  Blackhead guided many great ships on their journey, none more than the famous RMS Titanic.

Marker 10: Carrickfergus

mapPicCarrickfergusCastleBest known for its famous 12th century castle, Carrickfergus has a historic town centre enclosed within 16th century stone walls, complemented by contemporary shops, cafes and restaurants. The town has a superb coastline setting along Belfast Lough, with views to Scotland.

Look out for:

Carrickfergus Castle - originally built in 1177 by John de Courcy, it has been altered throughout the centuries and has been in use as a garrisoned property until as late as 1928; Andrew Jackson Cottage, a traditional thatched Ulster-Scots farmhouse built in the 1750s.

End: North Queen Street

The stage arrives back into Belfast City Centre finishing on North Queen Street to conclude Stage 2.

RouteGallery  324-RouteOverview2

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