Ruins of the ancient Dunseverick Castle atop the green cliffs of the Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

Top places to visit on the Causeway Coastal Route

For an epic coastal drive that’s top and tailed by two lively cities, you can’t beat Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route. Sure it may not be the quickest route between Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, but it is by far the most spectacular. With medieval castles, stunning ocean views, quaint villages and plenty of local cuisine along the way, it's a short but sweet road trip that takes in Northern Ireland’s most famous attractions. And the best part? Sailing with Stena Line takes you straight to the starting point.

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Belfast
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Kick off your road trip with a feast of food and culture in the city of Belfast. The cobbled streets of the Cathedral Quarter are packed with pubs, restaurants, music venues and art galleries – all within easy walking distance. Or get to grips with Northern Irish history at the Ulster Museum, which has excellent exhibitions on the Troubles. If you prefer living history, a Black Taxi Tour will take you to the flashpoints, peace walls and murals that often made the headlines. In the east of the city, Titanic Belfast captures the now-faded thrum of the shipyards and the fated journey of their most famous build. And if you are here for the weekend, browse artisan crafts and feast on local produce at the busy St George’s Market, set in a grand Victorian trading hall.

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Belfast Cathedral Quarter, Cobbled Streets
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Image courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland
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Carrickfergus Castle and the Gobbins
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Head north out of Belfast to Carrickfergus and the Marine Highway will take you past the town’s imposing 12th century Norman castle. Stop for a look around its well-preserved medieval walls before heading on to The Gobbins, a reimagined feat of Victorian engineering that literally bridges the marginal space between land and sea. Suspended walkways and tunnels carved out of basalt rock weave impossibly across the cliff face. If you’re lucky, you might even see seals, dolphins, kittiwakes or puffins. 

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Gobbins Cliff Walk
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Glenarm and the Glens of Antrim
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The Antrim Coast Road curves around Northern Ireland’s eastern edge, stringing together quaint coastal villages. Make sure to pause in Glenarm to explore Glenarm Castle, the ancestral seat of the McDonnell family since the 17th century. The sprawling estate is surrounded by woodland walks, a beautiful walled garden and a very pleasant tearoom. Only a quick 20min drive inland, and you’ll be standing at the foot of a spectacular waterfall in Glenariff Forest Park, often called the ‘jewel of the Glens’.

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Glenarm Castle Co.Antrim Northern Ireland
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Cushendun and the Game of Thrones®
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Like many places along the Causeway Coastal Route, the small village of Cushendun has become a tourist stop thanks to its starring role in the HBO series, Game of Thrones®. Visit the caves which birthed the Stormlands ‘shadow baby’, or head inland to the Dark Hedges which doubled as the King’s Road in Westeros. Even if you are not a fan of the series, the locations have an atmosphere that will reel you into their mystical charm.

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Cushendun Village and Beach Co Antrim Northern Ireland
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Ballycastle and Rathlin Island
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Ballycastle is a great base from which to explore the Causeway Coast. With its beach, golf course, cafes, pubs and freshly caught fish to go with your freshly cut chips, it’s got everything you need for a leisurely stay. It’s also where you catch the ferry to Rathlin Island, the only inhabited island in Northern Ireland. With only a few cars, a handful of residents and a lot more wildlife, most visitors head to the Rathlin Seabird Centre at the western end of the island. Home to Northern Ireland’s largest seabird colony, it also welcomes migrating puffins in May to July. 

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a pair of puffins sitting on a cliff together, great saltee island, ireland, europe
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Ballintoy and Carrick-a-rede rope bridge
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The harbour at Ballintoy is as scenic as they come, with a steep switchback road leading down to the sea and lots of sea stacks and jagged rocks confusing the coastline. It’s easy to imagine pirates and smugglers making the most of its hidden coves in previous centuries, and more recently it doubled as the moody Iron Islands in HBO’s Game of Thrones®.  
Not far away, anyone up for their own adventure can take on the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. A wooden walkway strung high above the Atlantic Ocean, it’s a short crossing to a rocky outcrop that makes for a memorable experience – and a great photo.

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in Northern Ireland rope bridge, Carrick-a-Rede
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Bushmills and the Giant's Causeway
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Have you even been to Northern Ireland if you haven’t set foot on the famous basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway? The UNESCO World Heritage site on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean has dramatic cliffs, sunken Armada ships and plenty of giant stories about how the 40,000 hexagonal columns came to be. The nearby conservation town of Bushmills is a great place to stay and eat. And for whiskey lovers, a tour of the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery at Bushmills is a must.

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Unesco heritage landscape of the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim. Tourism in Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom.
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Portrush and Dunluce Castle
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There’s been a castle at Dunluce for more than 800 years, and even though it is now crumbling into the sea, its legend lives on as it is rumoured to be C.S. Lewis’s inspiration for Cair Paravel in Narnia, as well as starring as the seat of House Greyjoy in Game of Thrones®. From Dunluce Castle, follow the coast road on to White Rocks beach for a swim or surf, and then into Portrush, home to great food and golf courses – the Open was held at Royal Portrush in 2019 and will be again in 2025.

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Ruined medieval Dunluce Castle on the cliff in Bushmills, Northern Ireland at sunset. Filming location of popular TV series
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Portstewart and Mussenden Temple
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Another of the Causeway Coastal Route’s lengthy golden strands, Portstewart has the added bonus of views of the Donegal mountains. Swimming and bodyboarding are popular on this family-friendly beach, as is stretching your legs or enjoying an ice-cream. In this part of the world, you are never too far from a finely brewed coffee either. Overlooking the beach is the iconic Mussenden Temple - an 18th Century library based on the Temple of Vesta in Italy. Part of the Downhill estate, it no longer houses books but still commands spectacular views and is a popular venue for weddings and clifftop walks.

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Portstewart Strand, Coleraine, Ireland - on a bright sunny day.
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Derry/Londonderry
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The final destination of this road trip is Derry/Londonderry. A city with a turbulent history, it’s now loved by visitors for its warm welcome, music and festivals, and of course for the hit television series, Derry Girls. A walking tour is a great way to get to know it, from the city walls to the Peace Bridge. There are plenty of pubs and bars to drop into for a traditional music session, or plan your visit for the end of October and you’ll find yourself deep in Europe’s largest Hallowe’en celebrations. Derry/Londonderry is the perfect place to end your Causeway Coastal Route adventure – or the perfect place to begin the Wild Atlantic Way, another epic Irish road trip that’s waiting to be explored.

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The Peace Bridge and Guild Hall in Londonderry / Derry in Northern Ireland
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Quick Facts

Distance from Port of Belfast to Derry

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Distance to Derry/Londonderry
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The distance from Belfast Port to Derry ~ Londonderry is 111km, taking the quicker inland route. If you go via the Causeway Coastal Route and the places mentioned in this guide, it is 217km.

Main towns along the route

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Main towns along the route
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Carrickfergus, Larne, Ballycastle, Coleraine, Limavady, Derry/Londonderry.

Food fact

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The Belfast bap. Stop by St George's Market in Belfast at the weekend for the best of an Ulster fry, served in a soft, floury bread roll.

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