The Causeway Coastal Route is rated as one of the Top Five Road Trips worldwide and when you drive it, you’ll see why.
The journey starts in Belfast, follow the Coast Road to the Larne area, the gateway to the Nine Glens of Antrim, Glenarm (home to Glenarm Castle and Walled Garden, one of Ireland’s oldest walled gardens, dating from the eighteenth century), Glencloy, Glenariff, Glenballyemon, Glencorp, Glenaan, Glendun, Glenshesk and Glentaisle.
The road hugs the narrow strip of coastline between the sea and high cliffs. Around sixty million years ago, three great lava flows were laid down here, cooling the basaltic plateau of North Antrim. You can still the different layers in the cliff face. At the end of the last Ice Age, ten thousand years ago, massive glaciers scoured the deep valleys that form the Glens. Time, weather and man have created the beautiful landscape that you see today. Inland, near Ballymena, Slemish Mountain is all that’s left of an ancient volcano. Saint Patrick is said to have spent six years there as a slave, herding sheep.
Glenariff Forest Park is at the heart of the Glens of Antrim. Set in a classic u-shaped valley, it offers a choice of bracing walks through stunning scenery.
Take a detour to Torr Head, with its views across the Mull of Kintyre. It’s a reminder that before the road was built in the 1830s, this region was closely connected to Scotland. Many local families have Scottish surnames.. This mix of Scots and Irish cultures has meant that North Antrim and the Glens have always been known as “a place apart”.
Rathin Island, with its striking lighthouses and backdrop, lies just six miles off the coast and is reached by a regular ferry from Ballycastle. Take time to cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridgeand enjoy a drop of whiskey at the Old Bushmills to Northern Ireland’s most famous attraction and recognised World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway. Formed over sixty million years ago, when molten lava cooled suddenly on contact with water. It is an awe-inspiring landscape of mostly hexagonal basalt columns.
Be sure to experience the impressive, new world-class Giant Causeway Visitor Centre.
A round of golf at Royal Portrush is the perfect way to finish the day, before following the Causeway Coastal Route west, towards Londonderry, taking in the beautiful Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne at Castlerock.
· Experience the world-class Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre
Go on a journey of discovery and learn about the history, geology, biodiversity, myths and legends of the Causeway area in a building which itself is an architectural masterpiece.
· Drive the stunning Causeway Coastal Route (CCR)
It is easy to see why these one hundred and twenty miles (including nine scenic loops) of driving route were voted fifth in the world’s top ten scenic views. Enjoy these views along the 52km Causeway Coastal Way which starts at Ballycastle continuing along the coast with a finish at Portstewart.
· Tee off at the renowned Royal Portrush Golf Club
Join the many famous golfers who have been enjoying this course over the years since it opened in 1888. 2013 promises to be a big year for the club that hosted the 2012 Irish Open, as they will be celebrating their 125th anniversary.
· Travel the stretch of line between Bushmills and the World Heritage Site at the Giant’s Causeway in style
The Bushmills Railway has been built to the Irish narrow gauge of three feet and runs for two miles along the track bed of the former Giant’s Causeway Tram.
· Scullion’s Hurls and Marion Woodburn Jewellers
Watch the artisans at work at Scullion Hurls and Marion Woodburn Jewellers. Both of these workshops are part of the Northern European Economusee Artisans at Work tourist trail.
· Soak up the culture with a range of events in the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre, Limavady, the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine or the Braid in Ballymena.
Did You Know….?
· Slemish Mountain near Ballymena, County Antrim is said to be where Saint Patrick was held as a slave and herded sheep for his master, Miluic, in the fifth century. It is still a place of pilgrimage to this day with people climbing Slemish in his memory every Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17.
· The iconic Mussenden Temple was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome. It was built by the Earl Bishop of Derry, Frederick Hervey in 1785 as a summer library, and occupies a dramatic clifftop setting overlooking the seven-mile Benone Strand.
· Rathan Island was Robert The Bruce’s refuge when driven from Scotland by Edward I of England in 1306. It is believed that while on the island he watched a spider persevering until it bridged the gap with its web. He took heart from this and raised fresh forces to return to Scotland and fight for his kingdom. He succeeded in 1314 and regained the crown of Scotland.
· The Causeway area, particularly the Glens, abounds with myths and legends and tales of saints, scholars, heroic deeds of daring, fairies, banshees and bogeymen. Learn more as part of a guided or self-guided tour.
· Mountsandel Wood is one of the earliest known settlements of man in Ireland dating to between 7600 and 7900 BC.
· In 1883 the first hydro-electric tramway in the world was opened between Portrush and Bushmills.
· Recent archaeological excavations of Dunluce Castle have further demonstrated the significance of the site, revealing an incredibly well preserved merchant town built in 1608.
· Carnfunnock Country Park in Larne has a maze in the shape of Northern Ireland.
· Ballymoney has strong international road racing connections. Visit the Joey and Robert Dunlop Memorial Gardens and reflect on the achievements of these racing legends.
WOTT Top 10 Causeway Coast & The Glens Experiences……
The craft of whiskey making has been carried out at Bushmills for over four hundred years using the same traditional methods to create the finest Irish whiskeys. Why not join us to see for yourself in the company of an experienced guide who will take you through the heart of the oldest working distillery in Ireland.
Two miles west of Ballymena lies the village of Gracehill, where you can step back two hundred and fifty years in time. This small village was founded by the Moravians between 1759-1765 and is Ireland’s only Moravian settlement. The layout of the village and unique Georgian-style architecture remains unchanged. In 1975, it was designated Northern Ireland’s first Conservation area.
Enjoy the space and freedom of this beautiful forest park. It is a rambler’s paradise with woody glades, small lakes, tumbling waterfalls and a seasonal café. Take a leisurely coastal drive to Carnlough, where fishing boats rest in the harbour. Call in for refreshment at The Londonderry Arms Hotel, an 1848 coaching inn once owned by Winston Churchill. Like this? Also visit: Roe Valley Country Park.
Nestling at the foot of Glendun, is Cushendun, with its distinctive Cornish-style village square and cottages by architect Clough Williams-Ellis. Artists Maurice Wilkes, Deborah Brown and Charles McAuley were inspired by its beauty. Along the coast, only twelve miles separate rocky Torr Head from the Mull of Kintyre. Many Scottish clansmen settled along this North Antrim Coast.
5. Bonamargy Friary, Ballycastle, Rathlin Island; RSPB Viewpoint
On the outskirts of Ballycastle are the picturesque ruins of Bonamargy Friary, founded around 1500 by the Franciscans. It contains the remains of the chieftain Sorley Boy McDonnell. In Ballycastle there is a memorial to Guglielmo Marconi who carried out the first tests on radio signals here in 1898. Take the 20-40 minute ferry trip to Rathlin Island. Thousands of nesting seabirds can be viewed from Kebble National Nature Reserve. Come to Rathlin in May and welcome back hundreds of Guillemots, Puffins and Kittiwakes.
Northern Ireland’s iconic only World Heritage Site and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is home to a wealth of local history and legend. The Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt resulted from a volcanic eruption sixty million years ago and is famously stepped in myth and legend. Some say it was carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool who left behind an ancient home full of folklore. Have fun searching for distinctive stone formations fancifully named the Camel, the Wishing Chair, the Granny and the Organ. Unlock the secrets of the Causeway landscape with the interactive exhibition in the Visitor Experience and explore the great outdoors with an audio-visual guide available in a range of languages or avail of a free walking tour with a member of the National Trust team. There are four stunning trails to discover – from the all-accessible walk at Runkerry Head to the more challenging Causeway Coast Way and Ulster Way.
This Medieval seventeenth century castle, strikingly perched on rocky cliffs and overlooking the North Atlantic, was the headquarters of the MacDonnell Clan. Constantly fought over, it eventually succumbed to the power of nature, when part of it fell into the sea one stormy night in 1639. It was abandoned shortly afterwards. The magical setting of the castle was also an inspiration to CS Lewis when writing his legendary works and was included in BBC Countryfile Magazine’s top ten romantic ruins in Britain.
There cannot be a more wild and dramatic place in Northern Ireland than the landscape park of Downhill. The romantic vision of Frederick Hervey, Earl Bishop of Derry, he created an elegant mansion at Downhill, which now lies in ruins. On the nearby cliff top, the Earl Bishop built the circular Mussenden Temple as his library. As an extra treat you can learn about the reality of life in the rural seventeenth century cottage of Hezlett House, told through people who once lived there in one of Northern Ireland’s oldest buildings.
Take an exhilarating rope bridge challenge to Carrick-a-Rede Island (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) and enjoy a truly cliff top experience. Near the North Antrim Coast road, amid unrivalled coastal scenery, the thirty-metre deep and twenty-metre wide chasm is traversed by a rope bridge that was traditionally erected by salmon fishermen. Open all year (weather permitting, excluding December 25/26).
Glenarm Castle was the ancestral home of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim, and the Walled Garden dates from the eighteen century. Memorabilia on the ancestors of the present Earl of Antrim are displayed on various occasions. A nineteenth-century Mushroom House has also been converted to a charming tea-room. When visiting the castle and walled garden be sure to experience the signed heritage trail around the town. Closed October-February.
The Causeway Coast & Glens can be visited in conjunction with a visit to Belfast and/or any other part of Ireland. World of Transport Travel will be delighted to sit down with you and work out an itinerary to suit your requirements, including the booking of accommodation and flight and/or ferries. Why not contact us with your requirements.
Don’t forget, if there is a group of you that wish to travel, we may be able to arrange for group rates (minimum party size rules apply, and everyone must travel together), so please ask us for details.