Everything you need to know when visiting the Giant’s Causeway (just about!)
The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most well-known places to visit in Ireland. We must admit that we were underwhelmed by our visit many years ago, much preferring the Carrick-a-rede bridge a little further along the coast. This time, it wasn’t just a visit to tick off the Giant’s Causeway but to appreciate the greater surroundings of the Causeway Coast and understand why UNESCO deemed the area worthy of listing as a world heritage site.
How to get to the Giant’s Causeway
Service from Belfast or Derry to Coleraine then onward via bus route 172.
Ulsterbus Service 172 is the main coastal bus route.
Causeway Rambler Service 402 in operation June to September.
For train and bus information visit www.translink.co.uk or telephone 028 7032 5400
Route 93 of the National Cycle Network in Northern Ireland runs round the coast from Newry to Ballycastle.
Follow the Causeway Coastal route from Belfast if you want a nice view of the ocean. It is a longer route (around 2.5 hours) but you will enjoy it. Driving straight from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway is around 1.5 hours.
There is a car park at the top of the hill near to the Giant’s Causeway. This is part of the National Trust site here. Pre-book your ticket here. For the entry price you get on-site parking, entry to the visitor centre, audio guide and a guided walk.
Otherwise, there is parking available at Bushmills Park and Ride Car Park, opposite the Bushmills Inn Hotel. Here you can get a bus (402 as mentioned above) or walk 2 miles.
Whatever you do, don’t park on the road. This annoys locals and causes congestion and problems.
What to wear for your visit to the Giant’s Causeway Coast
A waterproof jacket! It may be a summer’s day but you are beside the Atlantic Ocean so it can get a bit windy. Comfortable shoes are a must as well, the paths are of mixed terrain from gravel to mud and then there is the causeway with its uneven surfaces. The bus to the stones is also not currently running as a result of COVID-19 so plan to do a bit of walking – it’s not too far, say 15 minutes in each direction but is uphill on the return.
If you believe the story, the columns are what’s left of a fight between the Irish giant Finn MacCool and the Scottish giant Benandonner. With Finn building the causeway (a raised road or path, as across low or wet ground) from here to Scotland so that the two giants could meet.
There are differing versions of the story, in one telling, Finn simply defeats Benandonner, but in a more animated tale, Finn hides from Benandonner when he discovers that there is quite a size difference between the two giants so Finn’s wife, disguises Finn as a baby and when Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he panics, thinking that his father must be enormous so he runs back to Scotland and destroys the rest of the causeway so that Finn couldn’t catch him. In Scotland, there are similar basalt columns (formed from ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa near Mull, and we have also heard versions of the story mentioning ‘The Whangie’ rock formations just north of Glasgow.
What to see
You can walk down to the Giant’s Causeway itself for free, however, a visit to the National Trust Visitor Centre gives you a look at the history and geology of the area, as well as a toilet stop! There is also a cafe, shop and when you pay for your entry ticket you also get on-site parking, a guided tour and an audio guide.
As a result of COVID-19 pre-booking is now essential so click here to do so.
There’s much more to the area than just the Giant’s Causeway itself. There’s a whole chunk of coast that is also UNESCO registered. We’d recommend not just doing a smash and grab of the causeway, like we did many years ago but instead take time to enjoy the full surroundings. The views are breathtaking and we felt that it was the proper way to experience the full location.
“Away a wee walk” has a Giant’s Causeway Clifftop Experience. This is a fantastic five-mile hike that showcases the stunning scenery along the Causeway Coast. Click here to see what you can expect to see on the walk.
We didn’t stay in the area so can’t recommend anywhere ourselves. However, Discover Northern Ireland has a section, especially for accommodation. We also have a couple of affiliate links below to Hotels.com and Lastminute.com.
Food and Drink
There is a selection of places to eat and drink near the Giant’s Causeway. From casual grab and go dining at the National Trust site, to The Nook, which seemingly has a lovely fire. We were also recommended to visit The Bothy at Balnaolish, The Red Door (Ballintoy), The French Rooms (Bushmills) for lunch time eats. For larger meals, Tartine in the Distillers Arms in Bushmills and Bushmills Inn, especially for their Sunday carvery.
Fish and chip recommendations include Mortons (Ballycastle), and also Harry’s Shack at the Strand, Port Stewart. Ice Cream at Morellis in Port Stewart (see below for ice cream, milk shake and bakery goodies).
Many thanks to everyone at the Giant’s Causeway National Trust visitors centre for their warm welcome and especially to Eimar at Away a Wee Walk for the awesome afternoon.
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