Summer is the perfect time to travel to Northern Ireland. With temperatures in the 60s, late sunsets (there’s plenty of light as late as 10 p.m.) and seemingly endless miles of lush greenery to enjoy, the country offers a refreshing break from city heat.
One of the best ways to explore Northern Ireland is along the country’s 120-mile Causeway Coastal Route, which takes visitors between the cities of Belfast and Londonderry along the northeast coast. Don’t be intimidated that the Irish drive on the left side of the road - a little extra caution when turning is all you need.
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The route includes nine scenic drives that loop from the causeway, offering additional points of interest. The coastal drive showcases so much of what Northern Ireland has to offer, from craggy cliffs and rolling hills to waterfalls and exquisite beaches.
The marked Causeway Coastal Route also has 17 scenic stops in addition to the nine other scenic drives. Depending on how long you plan to take on your road trip — we recommend between three and five days — you can stop at every site along the way. If you’re taking a more expedited route, we’ve highlighted some of the most iconic points from the Causeway Coastal Route:
Carrickfergus Castle: The first stop on the Causeway Coastal Route after Belfast, Carrickfergus is one of the oldest castles in Northern Ireland. Beautifully preserved, this medieval-era castle was built in the 12th century and has withstood many military conflicts.
Gobbins Cliff Path: One of the first stops after beginning the route in Belfast, the Gobbins Cliff Path was first designed in 1902 and has been renovated extensively to offer a welcoming tourist destination. It includes an exposed walkway over the Irish Sea that offers unmatched views of the basalt coastline.
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Cushendun: The small coastal village of Cushendun is a charming and scenic stop north of the Glens of Antrim, with Cornish touches built to please the area baron’s wife. The village is also surrounded by dramatic beaches with rocky outcroppings and a series of caves that visitors can explore.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: Located near Ballintoy Harbour, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge links the mainland of Northern Ireland to the tiny island of Carrick. Fishermen originally constructed the rope bridge in 1755, hanging nearly 100 feet above the rocky shore, so they could check on their salmon nets.
Giant’s Causeway: One of the most celebrated places on the Causeway Coastal Route is Giant’s Causeway. The area is comprised of 40,000 basalt columns that jut out into the ocean. The site’s name has its roots in legends that claim it was built by giants (it was actually the result of an ancient volcanic eruption - either way, it’s a completely unique geographic marvel and a Unesco World Heritage protected site).
Mussenden Temple: High above the northwestern coast of Northern Ireland, the Mussenden Temple overlooks the Atlantic. Built in 1785, the temple was originally a summer library and was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy. The temple and its surrounding views are among the most photographed scenes on the island of Ireland.