Ireland Part 3: The Causeway Coast Way

Not to be confused with the Causeway Coastal Route, which is for drivers, the Causeway Coast Way is a 31 mile (51 km) path from Portstewart to Ballycastle.

Our original intention had been to hike the ENTIRE coastal route, but we just didn’t have the time. So we chose the choicest bits in the middle, and skipped the beginning and end.

If you’d like to download the route information, click here for the Portrush to Dunseverick, and click here for Dunseverick to Carrick-a-Rede. You can put the map files into your GPS, or use them on your phone with this android app.

From Belfast we took a 2 hour train ride north the the coastal town of Portrush. Little did we know Portrush is a major weekend destination for Northern Irish people. And since it was Easter weekend people were there en masse getting their weekend on.

Our singular afternoon in Portrush was, in a word, foggy. Like literally.

We couldn’t see a thing in the distance. But all the same there were people relaxing on the beach, enjoying the carnival, and walking around like it was sunny Mallorca. We walked up some cliffs, but didn’t see much due to the fog. We weren’t complaining though, we almost never see fog. And if we had wanted a sunny coastal walk we would have stayed in Mallorca. So we walked around, got a “Toffee Knickerbocker” (a sundae), and watched heard the waves hit the rocks. But, at one point when the fog lessened up we saw….a dolphin. A real life dolphin jumping through the water about 200 ft off shore.

Later we ate the best fish and chips either of us has ever had at a place called Chequers. It was kind of a curse though, we would never have fish and chips even half as good for the rest of our trip.

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Yes, that is a Coors Light. They were available in almost every pub and convenience store, and no, it did not taste like Coors Light, and I seriously doubt it was even “light”.

Day 1:

Portrush to Dunseverick Castle.

Our BnB made us a huge Irish breakfast, and then we set off. We were worried about fog and rain, but instead we had relatively bright blue skies.

After this incredibly long beach we found our first destination…

Dunluce Castle:

The castle was originally built in the 1200s and was used until 1690. There is a legend that the owners moved out when a chunk of the castle fell into the sea, but in reality the noble family that lived there just ran out of money. A chunk did fall into the sea, just much later.

This castle is more recently famous for being CGI’d into the castle of Pike from Game of Thrones.

Today you can walk through the ruins, climb the surviving tower, and get some amazing views of the coast. We overheard a local woman talking about how the weather was the best she had ever seen it, and she was furiously taking photos to try to preserve this beautiful sunny day.

From there we walked through Portballintrae, a nice little seaside town full of people enjoying the Easter weekend. Just beyond that town was ANOTHER long beach. This took forever to get across, and at the end of the beach was a mansion. I have no idea what it’s used for, but it was seriously fancy.

The Giant’s Causeway:

Around this point we started to get seriously tired. We hiked down from the cliffs amongst bus loads of tourists which was shocking since we had been mostly alone for the duration of the hike.

The main challenge once you get there is getting away from all the people. It’s impossible, but most of the crowds hang out near the edges of the Causeway. So we walked around a bit until we found a nice place to sit and rest our feet.

All visitors have completely free range on the rocks, but there are “safety personnel” who will blow whistles at you if you get too close to an edge or to the rough sea.

To get back to the trail we climbed all the way back up from the sea. The part immediately after the Giant’s Causeway was actually the most fantastic part of the entire trip, and we were super happy to have such clear skies.

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The hotels close to the hiking trail are VERY expensive, but the ones a bit further away are pretty cheap. So we got a hotel about 1.5 miles away from the walking path. It didn’t seem like a problem since it looked like there was a road branching off from the path heading more or less towards the hotel. Well you know how it goes, there was no road. So we had to walk 2 more miles to the closest trail exit, then backtrack another 2 miles or so to the hotel. We were so tired that we didn’t even notice when a water bottle fell out of our bag.

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Our hotel was actually a roadside tavern in a tiny village. Village is a bit generous, it was maybe a hamlet? So we barged into our hotel and found ourselves in a bar full of locals drinking beer, and got checked in by the bartender. We were starving so we asked if they had any food, but no. Apparently the guy next to us with a plate full of sausages must have brought them from home. So we made due with some Pot Noodles, warm Guinness, and some cherry bakewell tarts that we had packed with us.

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Walking distance: 16.7 miles.

Day 2

Dunseverick Castle to Ballintoy.

While our tavern failed to provide us with dinner, it did have a mega huge complimentary Irish breakfast, served by a man who spoke the most heavily accented English I’ve ever met.

After checking out we went back to see Dunseverick castle. Today it is little more than a single ruined tower. It was built at least as far back as the 400s, and survived at least one viking raid in 870.

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The castle was destroyed by the English in the 1650s during one of Ireland’s attempted rebellions.

The trail from here on was closer to the sea than the day before, we almost got trapped by the tide at one point (at Portbradden) , thankfully it was receding but if we had been an hour earlier we would not have been able to pass.

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From Ballintoy Harbor we walked to Carrick-a-Rede, a very famous and picturesque rope bridge connecting a small island to the mainland. Too bad for us, they have timed entry, and the nearest time we could visit was 4 hours later. Oh well. But we still managed to walk to it, so while we didn’t cross the bridge we at least got to see it.

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Then we caught our bus right across the street from the Carrick-a-Rede visitor center, enjoyed a leisurely ride to Coleraine, then took a train to our next stop: Derry, Londonderry!

These 2 days of hiking gave us some of the most beautiful views we’ve ever seen. Choosing pictures for this post was almost impossible, and I had to leave out dozens of beautiful views etc.

This train ride is supposedly one of the more beautiful train rides you can take in the world, and it was, but we were almost too tired to notice.

Walking distance: 10 miles.

We got into Derry with enough time to enjoy an afternoon here, but that’s for the next post.


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