If you mention to anyone that you’re taking a trip to the north of Ireland, one of the first things they’ll tell you to do is to visit the Causeway Coast. Planning your trip for the IAT is no different as the trail encompasses the entirety of the Causeway Coast Way including those famous sites such as the Giant’s Causeway and all the other beauty spots along the journey.
We’ll work our way from West to East as the trail is set out but there is no rule on how you walk the trail.
Gortmore Viewpoint and Manannán mac Lir
The perfect panoramic view to welcome you into the Causeway Coast and Glens section! As you make your way to Gortmore viewpoint your gaze will be filled with the beautiful view that stretches all the way from Donegal over to Benone and Downhill beaches, Mussenden Temple, and across to Portstewart and beyond. You’re never alone on Gortmore viewpoint, protected by the statue of the sea God, Manannán mac Lir. He stands upon his ship, arms out, calling to the sea. A popular thing to recreate when you’re up there next to him. It’d the perfect place to stop and plan then next pit stop along the trail.
Food and Drink
Speaking of pit stops, it’s never too early in your journey to start thinking about where to fuel up on coffee, snacks or maybe a few pints at the end of the day. We’ve compiled a list on our website of loads of great places to grab a coffee or some food but her are our top hits. In Benone, Sea Shed is definitely worth checking out on the beach and now in their Downhill Forest location, which is home to a number of peacocks. In Portstewart, the promenade has a great selection of great cafes and plenty of ice cream selection, including the famous Morellis and another local favourite, Roughans. If you happen to reach Portstewart at the end of a long walking day, there are some great restaurants such as Harry’s Shack on the beach. Amici looking over the golf course, or the Anchor. Portrush is much the same, but everyone should make it their mission to visit the Harbour Bar for the best Guinness in town. There are lots of options for eating including the Ramore complex with six different eating options and if you’re into your burgers and craft beers, Kiwis is the place to go. If you’re looking for a lovely lunch with a coffee, 55 Degrees North has a super view.
Halfway between Portrush and Ballycastle sits the Bothy in Ballintoy, and it has some really tasty treats. In Ballycastle there are some brilliant places to stop including O’Connors and the Marine Hotel. The Salt House is worth a visit for its panoramic views too.
Along the north coast there is no shortage so amazing food and drink, with fresh local ingredients being used throughout the venues, it’s easy to see what makes it such a popular destination. Now back to the views and must-see attractions!
Mussenden Temple is a beacon of the north coast; you can’t miss it as it’s visible from both sides of the river and from further beyond. Nestled on the top of the hill between Downhill and Castlerock, it’s easily accessed and is a National Trust protected site. You get a full 360-degree view from up there and it’s a great place to spot dolphins and seals from the high vantage point. On a clear night there’s nowhere better to look up and see the stars or if you’re very lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
The promenade in Portstewart is a great spot for tourists. As mentioned before there are lots of brilliant eating and drinking options to choose from but it’s also a bustling tourist hub in the summer months with children playing in the park, and lots of activity happening in the water. There are lots of benches along the way to sit down with your ice cream, take in the scenes and recover for the next leg of the journey.
Once you are through Portrush and before getting to Bushmills, you’ll see the ruins of an old castle on the hill. Dunluce castle is a super sport to look over Portrush and has plenty of history to learn about when you’re there.
White Park Bay
White Park Bay is a beautiful sandy beach forming a white arc between two headlands. It’s a more secluded beach compared to the rest of the coast but it’s no less impressive. You can walk along the back of the dunes or along the beach towards ‘elephant rock’ and keep an eye out for the cows that might appear during your visit.
Moving further round the coast is Ballintoy Harbour, which you might recognise as the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones. This is a beautiful little rest stop and if you’re interested in seeing some of the coast from the water, there’s kayak and stand-up paddleboarding tours from here in the summer months, giving a totally unique way to see the coastline and the famous Rope Bridge at Carrick-a-rede.
The Giant’s Causeway
The jewel in the crown on the North Coast is the World Heritage Site of the Giant’s Causeway. Although biologically it was formed by volcanic activity on the basalt rock, mythically it was built by giant Finn McCool and reached all the way over to Scotland. It’s a truly unique site and one not to be missed. The trail itself takes in the upper causeway but it’s well worth detouring to stop foot on the famous stones and learn all about the Giant story.
Cushendun and Cushendall
These small villages along the trail are renowned for their unspolit beauty and feels a little bit like going back in time. There are stunning views and the communities here are some of the friendliest around. Make sure you keep an eye out for Johann the Goat in Cushendun. From this side of the trail, you can look up to see Tievebulliagh and moving further into Waterfoot, you’ll see Red Bay Castle.
This is a seriously impressive spot with waterfalls as the main attraction. Glenarriff has lots of walking options around the forest to suit everyone with spectacular views and surroundings it’s the perfect way to finish off the Causeway Coast and Glens part of your IAT Ulster-Ireland journey.
We hope you enjoy your time touring the Causeway Coast and Glens, all the way from Binevenagh to Glenarriff Forest. This really is just a snapshot of some of the wonderful places you can explore on foot when you follow the IAT Ulster-Ireland route. Share your own discoveries along this epic trail with us on social media using #IATUlsterIreland.