Best Ireland Road Trip: 11 What Not To Miss in Northern Ireland
The best road trip in Northern Ireland and probably one of the best in the world is the Causeway Coastal Route. Starting in Belfast and ending in Derry (or the other way around), the route goes by some of the most interesting man-made and natural sights in Europe. It also goes along the Atlantic coast, so there are beaches, cliffs, and amazing views everywhere. Here is a list of our favorite places to stop along the way. It assumes you’re starting in Belfast, so if you’re leaving from Derry, just read the list backwards!
Table of Contents
And whether you have your own car or not, driving a vintage camper van along the Causeway Coast is the most memorable way to see it.
Best Ireland Road Trip: #1 The Gobbins
Early in the 20th century, people could start using the Gobbins Cliff Path. At the time, it was a great example of engineering, and people came to see it and the views from the cliffs. Over the years, it got worse and worse, so they had to close it. Now, though, after a lot of work was done to fix it up and give it a new look, the tubular path is once again a wonder.
#2 The Castle of Glenarm and the Walled Garden
Glenarm is one of the oldest estates in Northern Ireland, and there has been a castle there since the 1300s. The current castle was built in 1636, and in 2005, it was opened to the public. There are water features, vegetable gardens, and, of course, flowers in the walled garden. The walled garden and tea room are open to the public from April to the middle of October. The castle itself is only open on certain days. The castle shop has a variety of clothes for men and women and could be a good place to buy a souvenir.
The nine Glens of Antrim are Glentaisie, Glenshesk, Glendun, Glencorp, Glenaan, Glenballyeamon, Glenariff, Glencloy, and Glenarm. That’s a lot of Glens, and they’re all equally beautiful. Each has its own beautiful drive, and Glenariff, which is sometimes called “the Queen of the Glens,” is known for its beautiful forest walk. It goes through a National Nature Reserve, which has paths along rivers, waterfalls, and green hills that roll up and down.
The famous architect Clough William-Ellis made Cushendun for Ronald McNeill, who later became Lord Cushendun. It is a small coastal village in Glendun, which is one of the Glens of Antrim. William-Ellis designed the village hall, many of the homes, and a public hall that was never built so that the town would look like a Cornish village. Most of the village is now owned by the National Trust, and there are still less than 200 people living there. It’s the perfect small beach house!
Best Ireland Road Trip: #5 The Dark Hedges
This row of beech trees became well-known after they were used as The King’s Road in the HBO show Game of Thrones. Given how well-known they are and how striking and almost intimidating they feel, you might be surprised to learn that The Dark Hedges is just a driveway. They were built as a way to get to Gracehill House, but now they are their own attraction and might be more popular than the house.
#6 Rathlin Island
You might want to spend a whole day on Rathlin Island during your road trip. Take the ferry from Ballycastle and spend the day walking along the cliffs and quiet trails on the island. Not only does the island draw people because of its lighthouse, seal colonies, and beautiful views, but also because of its birds. Rathlin is home to a lot of seabirds, especially puffins, and birders come from all over to see them. The public can visit the recently remodeled RSPB seabird center, which also gives tours of the island’s lighthouse.
#7 Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-Rede is a tiny island off the coast of County Antrim. It’s so tiny, in fact, that it contains only one building, a fisherman’s cottage. Although the island is beautiful and well worth visiting, the real attraction is the bridge to the island. Suspended 100 feet (30 metres) above the waters below, the bridge, originally erected by salmon fishermen, now sees thousands upon thousands of visitors every year, every one of them eager to brave the rope bridge.
Best Ireland Road Trip: #8 The Giant’s Causeway
This one is obvious, since we’re talking about The Causeway Coastal Route, but with all the other things to see, it’s still important to remember. The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is made up of 40,000 basalt columns that were formed by a volcanic eruption. The visitor’s centre explains the myth behind the causeway, which looms large in Irish legend. As well as the columns, the area around the causeway has some other interesting rock formations, such as Giant’s Boot, Wishing Chair, and Granny.
#9 Old Bushmills Distillery
Bushmills Distillery is the oldest whiskey distillery in Ireland that is still making whiskey. In 1608, King James I gave the adventurer Sir Thomas Phillips a license to distill. The Bushmills brand was started in 1784. After being closed for a few years, it reopened in 1885 and has been going strong ever since. Now, anyone who wants to learn more about whiskey or Bushmills’ history can take a tour and try different kinds of whiskey.
Best Ireland Road Trip: #10 Dunluce Castle
Archaeological site, Bridge, Historical Landmark
Dunluce Castle is a beautiful ruin on a cliff, with steep drops on three sides. In fact, it is surrounded on all four sides because it is built on a rocky outcropping that is connected to the main land by a bridge. The castle has been a source of inspiration for many artists, from C. S. Lewis to Led Zeppelin. Fans of the TV show Game of Thrones may notice striking similarities between the castle and Pyke, the home of House Greyjoy.
#11 Roe Valley
Forest, Museum, Park
On the edge of Limavady, this park is a great place to stop for a peaceful break before the end of your trip. The park has a path that was made to show off the animals that live in the forest. The museum and countryside center give the area a bit of historical background and explain why the “Leap of the Dog” sculpture is there in the park. The name of the nearby town Limavady comes from the Irish Léim a’ Mhadaidh, which means “Leap of the Dog.”
Become a member of Our Community on Facebook “I Left My Heart in Ireland”. A place where members open up to one another, share their stories, travel photos, and experience a different way to travel Ireland – together.
Welcome to Travel Pixy at travelpixy.com! We're your go-to source for amazing travel tips, reviews, and deals. Founded in 2015 by Slattery Sarah, a travel agent with 24+ years of experience, Travel Pixy is your gateway to unforgettable adventures.