Driving the Giants Causeway coastal route of Northern Ireland, we found ourselves instantly entangled in the mystery of the region. Volcanic activity created the Giants Causeway 60 million years ago. Standing at its base, I could begin to appreciate its magnitude. Across the Inner Seas sits its mirror, Fingal’s Cave on Scotland’s Isle of Staffa. The matching formations gave way to the legend of a giant’s bridge once connecting the two.
The popularity of the coastal route has exploded in recent years thanks to HBO’s Game of Thrones. Last year more people visited the Giants Causeway than Belfast’s Titanic Museum.
As the name implies, the route runs along the coast from Belfast to Londonderry. We drove the segment from Lorne, where we entered Northern Ireland via ferry, to Coleraine. Our highlights were the Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and the ruins Dunluce Castle.
Staring at the Giants Causeway, I couldn’t help wonder if the legend was true. Could it be the remains of a destroyed bridge built by giant Finn MacCool to walk to Scotland? My favourite version of the fable is told by my daughter Sarah at A Waking of Worlds.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
To the east of the Giants Causeway hangs an opportunity to step across a rope bridge. It is so narrow you can’t help but look down into the swirling waters 30 metres below, as you wonder if you will make it across to the other side. While not nearly as long as the Capilano Suspension bridge we crossed in Vancouver Canada last year, Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge has an only 18-inch wide walkway surrounded by, well, nothing. Aware of the open space, one can’t help but look down, all the while remembering that to date, no one has fallen off this bridge. I can’t speak for the original bridge built by salmon fishermen in 1755.
Ruins of Dunluce Castle
The ruins of the medieval Dunluce Castle stand towards the western end of the Giants Causeway Coastal route. Fans will recognise it as the House of Greyjoy in Game of Thrones. Filled with historical intrigue, the site once held an Irish Fort and has been the battlegrounds of early Christians and Vikings.
Landscape along the Giants Causeway Coastal Route
For me, the lush hills reflecting green into the turquoise waters held my attention. Both from the road and the long walks to each site, the journey was a part of the adventure that I will never forget.
Travel Tips for the Coastal route
- Drive on the left in Northern Ireland. Plan to stop often and enjoy the endless scenery.
- The route is one of our three favourite coastal drives to date. The Great Ocean Road in Australia and the Oregon Coast in the United States are the other two.
- You can see the Giants Causeway for free if you take a bus to get there. The on-site parking is not free and requires a Visitor’s Center entrance ticket, a building that was not there when we visited. (We took a bus from Coleraine.)
- Beginning in April 2017, timed tickets are required for Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, each with a one-hour time span. It is currently closed to visitors, as the bridge was vandalised in May 2017. Once open again, tickets can only be purchased at the site, or as part of a regional tour.
- Dunluce Castle is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. There is a fee for entry.
- We hired a car in London and drove through England and Scotland before a ferry crossing to Northern Ireland. In retrospect, we should have returned the car in Glasgow and flew to Belfast.
- Using Lonely Planet Western Europe Travel Guide, we set our travel route. If you prefer to take tours, Viator offers several options from Belfast (Including Game of Thrones tours).
- We found Premier Inns to be clean, comfortable and affordable. They are the ideal place to stay if travelling through the UK on a budget. The Premier Inn in Coleraine is perfectly situated to visit Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, Dunluce Castle, and even Bushmills Distillery. We always check prices at Booking.com.
On our travels:
This post is part of a throwback series encouraged by moving 40K+ photos to Lightroom. The images on this page have not previously been published. We drove the Giants Causeway coastal route in 2012 as part of a six-week exploration of the UK.
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Have you driven the Giants Causeway coastal route? Would you cross the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge? Do you love old castle ruins?
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