Ireland is a dream destination for many people, and part of the reason is that it is home to endless hiking trails. The majority of them offer epic views and the chance for you to experience the country’s lush landscapes, such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Causeway Coast Way. Whether you’re looking for a short stroll or a multi-day hike, you won’t be short of options here in Ireland.
The Causeway Coast Way takes around 2-3 days to complete in its entirety and links Ballycastle and Portstewart. Along the way, you’ll encounter epic landscapes, the chance to spot marine life, and some of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions.
This ultimate guide has very helpful insider tips and it is going to detail all the information you need to know about hiking the Causeway Coast Way. That includes how to get there, what you’ll see, and the best places to stay. I’ll also include some top tips so you can truly make the most out of this hiking trail. Let’s get right into the article!
Planning Your Trip: Tips for a Successful Journey on the Causeway Coast Way
Where is Causeway Coast Way?
The Causeway Coast Way is located in Northern Ireland and links the two towns of Ballycastle and Portstewart. It runs right along the coastline and takes you to some of Ireland’s most popular attractions. This includes the Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Portrush, and Dunluce Castle.
Ballycastle is 55 miles (86 km) from Belfast, while Portstewart is 61 miles (98 km) from Northern Ireland’s capital. Wherever you choose to start, you’ll get to explore one of the country’s most breathtaking coastlines. Get ready for dramatic cliffs, beautiful beaches, and iconic landmarks on this walk, as there’s a lot to see.
How to get to Causeway Coast Way?
You can start the Causeway Coast Way in either Ballycastle or Portstewart. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to be starting in Ballycastle so that’s where you’ll need to get to. Luckily, there are several ways to get there so you don’t need to worry about transport.
Best Way to Explore the Causeway Coast Way
The best way to explore the Causeway Coast Way is on foot. You won’t be able to do the whole route if not, and you’ll then need to drive the Causeway Coastal route instead. I’ll discuss more this below, but it’s essentially a popular road trip route in Northern Ireland.
The Causeway Coast Way allows you to experience the best of Ireland’s epic landscapes and you can take your time. Not only will you get to spend time in nature, but you’ll also get to visit several iconic locations along the way. I’d also recommend doing the hike self-guided rather than joining a walking tour. This will allow you to create your own itinerary and take all the time you need. But if you want to hire a tour, I have prepared a list of the best options below.
Best Tours to the Causeway Coastal Way
If you don’t have your own form of transport, then you will need to reach Causeway Coastal Way some other way. Luckily, there are plenty of fantastic tours that will take you to the Causeway Coastal Way. Below I have listed my top -choices for you:
This 13-hour tour is a popular option for visitors who want to see the famous Giant’s Causeway, a natural wonder made up of hexagonal basalt columns. Enjoy a bracing stroll along County Antrim’s coastal paths for panoramic views and a stop at the Dark Hedges, with a local guide, and all the costs are included on this tour.
With this 9-hour tour departure from Belfast, you will get dazzled by the Giant’s Causeway, walk along the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and explore the Cushendun Caves, 400-million-year-old caves often used in the show. For fans of the hit TV series, a Game of Thrones tour can be a great way to see some of the show’s filming locations along the Causeway Coastal Route.
With this 10-12 hours private tour, you will embark on an unforgettable journey to witness the natural wonder of Giant’s Causeway with a full-day private tour. Entrust your knowledgeable guide to lead you to top Northern Ireland landmarks such as Carrickfergus Castle, the Bushmills Distillery, and the iconic Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. Immerse yourself in the world of Westeros as you visit the Dark Hedges, a filming location of the renowned TV series, “Game of Thrones.”
Hiking the Causeway Coast Way Essentials
Causeway Coast Way Itinerary
Before I dive into the itinerary, it’s important to note that the Causeway Coast Way walk can be hiked either way. You can either start in Portstewart or Ballycastle, depending on what makes the most sense to you. For the purpose of this itinerary, I’ve gone to Ballycastle. It’s closer to Belfast which is likely where you’ll be flying into!
The Causeway Coast Way is split up into six sections, so you’ll be covering two per day. This will leave you enough time to enjoy the walk, take plenty of breaks, and visit some popular attractions along the way. For the best experience, I’d recommend having a hearty breakfast or packing some high-energy food for your hiking, and then starting your hike early so you can make the most of your time.
DAY 1: Ballycastle to Dunseverick Castle
- Distance: 11.5 miles (18.5 km)
- Estimated Time: 5.5-6 hours of hiking
- Top Tip: Make an early start to your hike as there are lots of destinations to visit along the way!
Today’s Main Points of Interest:
The first day of this itinerary will see you leave Ballycastle and make your way to Dunseverick. If you’re starting in the heart of town, then you’ll need to make your way down to the seafront. From here, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Rathlin Island and the Fair Head Cliffs. If it’s a clear day, you’ll even be able to see the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.
As you continue along the Causeway Coast Way, you’ll head past several impressive sites. If you wish, you can take a 1.9-mile (3 km) detour to Kinbane Castle. Or, you can simply carry on to Portaneevy Car Park & Viewpoint where you’ll be treated to breathtaking sea views.
A must-visit along this section of the trail is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It’s been around since 1755 and is a truly exhilarating experience, as you’ll get to take in the ocean views below as you walk along. If you’re lucky, you might even get to spot marine life from here so keep your eyes peeled.
After you’ve tackled the rope bridge, continue along the trail until you beach Ballintoy Harbour. Take some time to relax here, and maybe even fuel up with a delicious piece of cake in the local cafe. Afterward, you’ll follow the trail along Whitepark Bay if it’s low tide or there’s an alternative if not.
You’ll end up in Dunseverick for the night, and your last stop for today will be Dunseverick Castle. You’ll then want to relax for the evening, and prepare yourself for another day of walking!
Best Accommodations in Dunseverick:
- TOP OVERALL PICK: Dunseverick Ramblers Rest – With beautifully-decorated rooms, sea views, and a garden area, this is the perfect option if you’re staying in Dunseverick. Packed lunches can also be provided for hikers!
- MID-RANGE: 1-Bed Apartment at Whitepark Bay – This apartment sleeps two people and features a fully-equipped kitchen, a living room, and an outside area with furniture. You’ll also benefit from free Wifi and private parking.
- LUXURY: Bayview Farm Holiday Cottages – This place is just a mile’s walk from the hiking trail and has a lot to offer. This includes a jacuzzi, BBQ facilities, a games room, a private garden, and sea views.
DAY 2: Dunseverick Castle to Portballintrae
- Distance: 8.7 miles (14 km)
- Estimated Time: 4-4.5 hours
- Top Tip: Allow yourself plenty of time at the Giants Causeway, and get there as early as possible as it gets very busy here!
Today’s Main Points of Interest:
From Dunseverick you’ll follow a grassy path that follows the headland until you reach Bengore Head. You’ll be treated to spectacular views of Rathlin Island from here, so take plenty of photographs. You’ll be walking along the trail’s highest point as you wander along this section. Naturally, the scenery here is incredible.
After Bengore, you’ll then come to Benbane Head which is another location that offers epic vistas. However, the highlight of today’s itinerary has to be the iconic Giant’s Causeway. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to over 40,000 basalt columns. These columns were thought to have been formed around 60 million years ago, and you can explore them via the network of walking trails.
Try to spend at least two hours at the Giants Causeway as there’s a lot to see. This will allow you enough time to wander around the visitor center, hit some of the hiking trails, and look out for native seabirds.
After the Causeway, there are two route options; the 5 km coastal route or the 3 km train line route. For this itinerary, I’ve gone for the coastal route as it offers the best views. It runs along the cliff edge and offers you fantastic vistas of the causeway until you head past the corner.
Some notable spots you’ll head past before you reach Portballintrae include Leckilroy Cove, Runkerry Point, and Runkerry House. Once you’ve got into town, head to your accommodation and grab something for dinner at a local restaurant.
Best Accommodations in Portballintrae:
- TOP OVERALL PICK: Bayview Hotel – With an onsite bar and restaurant, cozy rooms, and a great location, Bayview Hotel is my top pick for Portballintrae. Better yet, many of the rooms overlook the Atlantic Ocean!
- MID-RANGE: Portballintrae Beach Lodge – This lodge sleeps up to 10 people so it’s a great option for families and groups. The sea views from this property are spectacular and there’s a lovely garden too.
- LUXURY: Nanny Willow’s Cottage – This charming little cottage sleeps up to 5 guests and is the perfect place to stay if you’re after space, amenities, and a bit of luxury. There’s even a garden area at the property where you can relax.
DAY 3: Portballintrae to Portstewart
- Distance: 11.5 miles (18.5 km)
- Estimated Time: 5-5.5 hours
- Top Tip: In my opinion, you don’t need much time in Portrush as there’s not a lot to do here aside from visiting the beaches.
Today’s Main Points of Interest:
The final day of this Causeway Coast Way itinerary will see you walk from Portballintrae to Portstewart. The first part of the trail will take you inland. However, you’ll join back with the coast just before coming to Dunluce Castle. This is one of the best places to visit along this route, but you’ll only need around 45 minutes to experience the castle and take in the views.
After visiting Dunluce, head to Magheracross Viewpoint as the vistas are breathtaking. You’ll get fantastic views of the castle, the Skerries, and Whiterocks Beach so it’s definitely a place worth stopping. After admiring the views, follow the trail down onto Curran Strand. You’ll then walk along the beach until you reach the seaside resort town of Portrush.
The beaches here are impressive and the town is also worth a quick wander around. However, apart from grabbing a bite to eat and visiting some of the shops, there’s not too much to do here. You’re best off continuing from Portrush and allowing yourself more time in Portstewart.
As you walk to the end part of this itinerary, you’ll come across small coves along the coastline, Ballyreagh Golf Course, and Ringaree Point. Just a bit further, and you’ll be in Portstewart where you can celebrate finishing the Causeway Coast Way!
While here, you can grab a drink at the local pubs, have some food, and admire the views from the beach. I’d also recommend walking up to Harbour Hill for sunset as the views are pretty impressive.
Best Accommodations in Portstewart:
- TOP OVERALL PICK: Me & Mrs. Jones – The rooms here are gorgeous and spacious, and your breakfast is included. On-site, there’s a restaurant, a shared lounge area, a terrace, and a garden.
- MID-RANGE: Anchorage Inn – You’ll be staying in a quirky pub that offers food, and it’s a great place to grab a drink. Your breakfast will be included and the rooms are spacious, and feature plenty of amenities.
- LUXURY: Ocean Breeze – This gorgeous property offers a garden and a great location. Situated in Portstewart, 1,950 feet from Portstewart Strand, 11.8 miles from Giants Causeway, as well as 1,650 feet from Portstewart Golf Club
What to Pack for Hiking Causeway Coast Way
There’s no denying that the weather in Northern Ireland can be unpredictable so you’ll need to pack accordingly. As you’ll be walking right along the coast too, be prepared for bustling winds. To help you prepare for your trip, here are some items that you’ll want to pack:
- A rainjacket – this is an absolute must as the weather can change in an instant in Ireland.
- Sturdy hiking boots – having a good grip on your shoes will help you traverse the more uneven surfaces.
- A hat – although they work well to keep you warm, a hat also helps protect your face from the wind and sun.
- Waterproof backpack – go for a waterproof bag or a backpack that features a rain cover. This will help to protect your belongings.
- Microfibre towel – great if you need to dry off during those rainy days, or if you’re feeling a bit sweaty.
- Plenty of layers – it’s best to be too warm to start with and then you can take layers off, then be freezing while you’re walking.
- A change of clothes – although you don’t want to pack too much, it’s always good to have a change of clothes or two. This is in case you get soaked during one of your hiking days.
- Snacks: I recommend packing some high-energy snacks for your long days hiking
- Purifier Water Bottle: I love my water purifier bottle, as it filters your water for a safe drink.
Can I drive the Causeway Coast Way?
What about if you’re short on time and still want to catch the stunning views of the Causeway Coast Way? Luckily, you can drive instead of hike.
This route is primarily a long-distance hiking trail, designed for walkers and hikers to explore the scenic coastline of Northern Ireland at a leisurely pace. However, some sections of the trail may also be accessible by vehicle or by bicycle, depending on local regulations and road conditions.
In general, the trail is not meant for driving as it’s a walking route, and some parts may not be suitable for vehicles due to narrow paths, uneven terrain, or environmental protection. Additionally, certain sections of the trail may have restrictions on vehicle access to preserve the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the area.
That being said, some scenic driving routes run parallel to the Causeway Coast Way, such as the A2 road, also known as the Causeway Coastal Route, which is a designated scenic driving route that runs along the same coastline and offers stunning views of the landscape and attractions.
So while driving the Causeway Coast Way itself may not be possible in its entirety, you can still enjoy the scenic beauty of the area by driving along nearby designated driving routes. It’s important to always follow local traffic laws and regulations, and respect any restrictions or closures that may be in place.
Causeway Coast Way Conclusion
As you can see the Causeway Coast Way hike has so much to offer. Whether you’re looking to visit the iconic Giants Causeway or walk along the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, this hiking route has something for everyone. For the best experience, allow at least three days to do the whole route. This way, you won’t be rushed for time.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a good idea of how to split up your days and what you should see. Just remember that this itinerary can be changed depending on where you’re starting, what you’d like to see, and where you’d prefer to stay overnight.
If you’ve got any further questions about the Causeway Coast Way then just leave a comment below. For those that have already done the route, how long did it take you, and what were your highlights?
If you are planning a trip to Ireland, then here are some other guides for you:
- Ultimate Guide On How to Visit Dublin in a Day
- A Perfect 2-day Dublin Itinerary
- Wild Atlantic Way Route Planner: How to Plan a Perfect Road Trip in Ireland
- Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary: Ultimate 7 days Road Trip in Iceland
- Top Things to Do in Clifden, Ireland
- How to hike the Cliffs of Moher
- 10 Fun Things to Do in Galway
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