My trip to Northern Ireland last month was unreal! I was back in London for a work trip and really wanted to tack on some time for vacation. Amsterdam was the top of my list, but I was meeting a friend, and staying in the UK was going to be the easiest option.
At first I was kinda ‘bleh’ about it.
I’m a weirdo and like to go to experience new places. Since I’d studied abroad in London and had been to Ireland a few times, those were out of the picture for me.
I was hoping for something different.
After some back and forth we decided on Northern Ireland. I’d heard how amazing the coastline was and that’s about it.
This was going to be right up my alley….new uncharted territory.
Naturally, I looked at quite a few blogs and Pinterest boards of Northern Ireland hot spots to get me prepped. The best pics seemed to be from the N. Ireland coast and once seeing photos of the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giant’s Causeway I knew I had to do the Causeway Coast Route drive. I only had a few days to spare on the route (Saturday mid-day – Tuesday), and new I had to pack it all in.
We started our trip mid-day in Belfast, which is a fascinating city in itself (post of Belfast here).
Here’s the route we took for 3 days on the Causeway Coastal Route.
*Also, keep in mind every town is VERY close in proximity relative to distances in the U.S. We couldn’t believe how far we got in only 15 minutes!
We left our hotel in Belfast around noon and headed to the first stop on our route, Carrickfergus.
Carrickfergus: We first stopped to tour the Carrickfergus castle, which, if you’ve been in other Irish castles, wasn’t the coolest castle you’ll ever see. Could be something to skip over if you aren’t obsessed with castles. It did, however, give an amazing view of the town/ocean and we had fun visiting it!
Larne- Stopped quickly in Larne and had a hard time finding a place to eat. We ended up finding a fried food place and had a plate of fried sausages and fries. Woah, gut bomb!
The views started getting better and better as the trip went on!
Glenarm– This is what the guidebooks confused me about the most! I had heard all about the Glens, but didn’t get what they were or where to stop.
Glenarm happens to be the beginning to one of the most beautiful areas we saw in N. Ireland.
The entire area is called the Glens of Antrim. Glens stand for valleys. It’s essentially a large area with a lot of woodland, greenery, hiking areas, views on the coast. We drove up to a few Glens and were REALLY excited that we booked our B&B for the night a little town down the road at the Cullentra House in Cushendall. We didn’t get a chance to go to the Glenarm Castle because it was too late, but from the outside we really wish we had!
Cushendall- This is where we ended up staying the night at our first B&B. The view from this B&B is one one for the books. We got there later at night around 8pm, but it was still light outside and decided to go hike up to one of the Glens (Glenariff) to get some majestic views. I felt like I was on the set of Game of Thrones!
Cushendun and Torr Head- Day 2 we left Cushendall and took the Torr head route along the coast. I recommend following signs for Torr Head because you CANNOT miss these views.
Ballycastle and Dark Hedges- We didn’t stop in Ballycastle, just took tons of photos of the scenery along the drive. Armoy is the closest town to the Dark Hedges so once we arrived to Ballycastle we put in the GPS to Armoy. I highly recommend going into the gas station in Armoy and asking for directions. Luckily the lady that owned the gas station had her son drive us to the Dark Hedges. It took about 10 minutes, but we would have been lost for years had it not been for his kind hospitality. The Dark Hedges, if you like GOT, is a MUST see.
*Pro-tip: Be sure to stop and ask for directions to Dark Hedges because finding them is no easy feat.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – This was just as incredible as in the photos. It’s a swinging bridge made by fishermen to get fish between two large cliffs in the ocean. We went across it and got some amazing views on the other side. I’ll admit it was super freaky to cross but the views were worth it.
Giant’s Causeway – This entire area of rock formations was UNREAL. I can’t even explain how cool this place is and highly recommend seeing it at least once in your life. It is a huge tourist attraction, though. Be prepped for lots of crowds.
Portrush- We loved this town! It’s got amazing little shops, restaurants, and an award winning golf course. I highly recommend going to Harbor Bar (Ramour Restaurant) to have a drink and dinner. It was one of my highlights! This was also our last stop on the trip around the route. After Portrush we really wanted to continue to Derry, but didn’t think we’d have time to make it back for my friend’s flight. We ended up going back to Belfast and checking out the Titanic museum instead.
Northern Ireland truly is a site for sore eyes and driving along the coast is almost like having a religious experience. I can’t stop daydreaming about the trip! If you have a few days, and a car, I recommend doing the drive.
Everything is pretty close together so you’ll cover more ground in one day than you think. I would say you probably need a minimum of 3 days to do it all, but you CAN do it all in 3 if that is all you do have. Below is a map of the entire route.