I first discovered the wild beauty of Northern Ireland on a road trip along the Causeway Coastal Route. I knew I would go back to explore this breathtaking stretch of coast at a slow pace. So I decided to walk the Causeway Coast Way. And it was an amazing experience!
A bright azure sky and a strong wind welcomed me as I arrived in Portstewart. I left a very gloomy Dublin in the morning, and I was not expecting the pleasant sunshine.
After a quick check-in at the lovely At The Beach Bed & Breakfast, I headed toward the seashore for a short walk and got ready for what was likely to be a stunning sunset. I was not disappointed. As the sun began to set, the scattered clouds turned orange, red, and purple. I looked in awe at the sky on fire, oblivious to the howling wind.
Once the dark fell, I went for a quick bite and then off to bed. In the morning, I would start the Causeway coastal walk.
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Walking the Causeway Coast Way: Basic Facts
- Distance: 52 km (32 mi).
- Trail directions: From Portstewart to Ballycastle (or the other way).
- Time needed: 2-3 days (I recommend 3 days since it gives you time to have breaks and take in the magnificent views.
- Grade: easy to moderate.
- The Causeway Coast Way is a section of the Ulster Way, a 1070 km (665 mi) circular long-distance trail in Northern Ireland.
- I love hiking alone, and the Causeway Coast Way is perfect for solo hikers. But you can also have a self-guided trip with a tour agency.
After a sound sleep, I woke up to the sound of the wind. A ray of sunshine cast a beautiful light, and I got ready in anticipation of my first day hiking the Causeway Coast Way.
But first… A hearty breakfast. The dining room had large window panels overlooking the beach and the sea. I savored the delicious north coast smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and wheat bread, and I could hardly imagine a better start to the day.
Day 1: Portstewart to Portballintrae (19.3 km / 12 mi)
The path from Portstewart to Portrush is an overall easy 10.5 km (6.5 mi) walk that takes about 3 hours.
The trail is close to the sea and follows the coast, which in this section is almost flat. After about 2 1/2 hours, I reached the Arcadia, one of the most iconic buildings in Portrush. The elegant white house overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is a lovely spot for a short break.
From here on, the landscape became more dramatic. The path follows a beautiful 2 km (1.2 mi) long beach with golden sand. The day was gorgeous and unusually warm, so I decided to take my hiking shoes off and walk barefoot on the shoreline, close to the water.
East Strand, as the locals call this beach, ends up in one of the most scenic spots along the Causeway Coast: White Rocks. This is precisely the point I visited a couple of years ago during my road trip along the Causeway Coastal Route and where I decided I wanted to come back and walk the trail.
Imagine high white limestone cliffs blanketed at the top by emerald green grass overlooking the ocean and its blue and white shades and above the sky covered in grey clouds running on the horizon. The view was mesmerizing.
From here to Portballintrae – including the short detour to visit Dunluce Castle – the walk follows the paved road. Although the traffic is generally limited, I avoid as much as possible walking on the tarmac and flanked by cars. I had already visited Dunluce Castle during my previous trip, so I decided to skip the last 3 km to Portballintrae and catch the Ramblers bus to get back to Portstewart.
I got back to my lovely room, tired and happy after my first day enjoying the Causeway coastal walk. It was time for a good sleep to get ready for another fantastic stretch of the Causeway coast path.
Day 2: Portballintrae to Dunseverick Castle
If you have time for only a 1-day hike along the Causeway Coast Way, this is the leg you should walk. The 11.6 km (7.2 mi) trail will make you discover the otherworldly beauty of this stretch of the Northern Ireland coast, reaching its peak at the awe-inspiring Giant’s Causeway.
Since I had Portstewart as a base, I walked this leg “backward” from Dunseverick to Portballintrae. If you have the chance, I would recommend doing the same since you’ll end your hike (almost) at the climax: the Giant’s Causeway.
I met Ray, my guide from Dalriada Kingdom Tours, and together we caught the bus to Dunseverick Castle. A strong wind swept the wild and rugged coast, and the clouds ran fast across the sky. The view was breathtaking, and I felt like I was contemplating infinity.
I’m not used to walking with a guide, and I enjoyed Ray’s company and the many fascinating stories about Northern Ireland and the Causeway Coast trail. Except for a handful of other hikers, we were almost always alone. Oh, well, there are the sheep!
The quiet ended as we approached the Giant’s Causeway. The basalt stones and columns lining the seashore were swarming with tourists busying themselves by taking selfies. Lots of people come on a day tour from Belfast or Dublin to visit this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the most intriguing in Europe. Looking at the dramatic scenery, it’s easy to understand why. But I prefer the Giant’s Causeway early in the morning or at dusk when it’s more intimate.
The best hotel on the Giant’s Causeway?
If you have the chance, I strongly recommend you to stay at the Causeway Hotel. Not only this hotel has a unique atmosphere. Spending the night at the Causeway Hotel allows you to have the Giant’s Causeway (almost) all by yourself, early in the morning and at sunset. Without the crowds, you’ll experience the real magic of this unique site.
Day 3: Dunseverick Castle to Carrick-a-Rede (about 13 km / 8 mi)
I woke up to another sunny day, an unexpected and most welcome surprise. It was my last day walking the Causeway Coastal Way, and once again, it was more convenient hiking this final stretch from West to East. I also hoped that if I didn’t get too late to Carrick-a-Rede, I might avoid at least in part the crowds.
When I first visited this fantastic spot during my previous road trip on the Causeway Coastal Route, I had crazy weather. Or maybe that was just Northern Ireland weather? Cold wind, pouring rain, and a couple of short dry intervals when a shy ray of sunshine peeked through the clouds. Luckily, I managed to walk on the suspension bridge during a brief moment of respite from the wind.
Carrick-a-Rede and the surrounding cliffs were as beautiful as I remembered. I walked along the grassy trail, listening to the gulls’ shrills and the whisper of the wind. Nature offered an incredible color palette, with countless shades of green and blue.
As I continued to hike, I thought of how many magnificent landscapes I’d seen in only three days. I reckon I’ve seen the best this incredible coastline can offer. And then, I reached the charming Ballintoy Harbor, and I marveled once again. This minuscule picturesque fishing village is just picture-perfect. I was glad to have time still ahead of me since this is a lovely spot to take a break and have a picnic. It’s not surprising that such a quaint small harbor was one of the filming locations for the popular Game of Thrones TV series.
I got ready to walk the last leg of my hike along the Causeway Coast Way. Boulders, golden sand, and a beautiful deep sky. I couldn’t have asked for a more unforgettable end to a fantastic long-distance hike.
Hiking the Causeway Coast Way: Practical Information
How to get to the Causeway Coast Way
Whether you decide to walk the entire Causeway Coast Way from Portstewart to Ballycastle or vice-versa, or you wish to walk only one day, you can get there from Belfast and Dublin by bus or rent a car.
Getting around the Causeway Coast Way
The trail is linear; therefore, the best option to get around is the Translink Rambler bus.
How to walk the Causeway Coast
If you plan to hike the entire trail, you can start in Portstewart or in Ballycastle. You can easily do like I did, choosing a town as a base and then reaching the section you want to hike every day.
Alternatively, you can overnight along the way. There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses along the Causeway Coastal Route, but the downside is that your backpack will be heavier. Another option is to take a self-guided tour with a local company which will transfer your luggage every day.
Causeway Coast Way map
Where to stay on the Causeway Coastal Route
As there is not such a vast amount of accommodations, it’s advisable to book the Causeway Coast hotels in advance. Find a selection of charming hotels and bed&breakfast in the area below.
- I had a wonderful stay at the Luxury At The Beach Bed & Breakfast. The view is breathtaking, the house tastefully decorated, and Glenda delighted me with her delicious breakfast.
- Strand House overlooks the seafront and features charming, bright rooms. A boutique B&B perfect for a romantic getaway.
- On my previous trip to Northern Ireland, I had a fabulous stay at the Bushmills Inn Hotel & Restaurant. At this former coaching inn which dates back to the 17th century, you’ll enjoy a quintessentially British atmosphere.
- The Causeway Hotel is located on the UNESCO WHS Giant’s Causeway and is the perfect choice to experience the site without the crowds.
Day trips to the Causeway Coast from Belfast or Dublin
In case you have limited time or hiking is not your thing, there are many day trips to the Causeway Coast from either Belfast or Dublin. These are some of the most popular tours:
- Giant’s Causeway Day Trip from Belfast: a full-day tour, including a short stop at Dunluce and Carrickfergus castles to snap beautiful photos.
- Giant’s Causeway Tour Including Game of Thrones Locations: an exciting excursion from Belfast.
- Day Tour from Dublin to Giant’s Causeway: a long but exhilarating day to discover the beauty of Northern Ireland coast.
Walking the Causeway Coast Way: 5 essential items
- Sturdy and waterproof hiking boots. Although the trail is easy, you’ll walk on different kind of terrains. Furthermore, the weather can change abruptly, and you might walk in mud and under the pouring rain. I’m pleased with my La Sportiva boots, which are comfortable and waterproof.
- Gore-Tex jacket with a hood to protect yourself from the wind and the rain. I’m in love with my lightweight Arc’teryx Women Hoody.
- Lightweight waterproof dry bag. Chances are you’ll have with you your smartphone and a camera. A dry sack will ensure they keep dry even if it’s pouring down heavy rain.
- Compeed blister cushions. I never, ever go hiking without blister cushions, and I never regretted having them with me.
- Waterproof rain over pants. In Northern Ireland more than an option rains is almost a certainly. I always add a pair in my day backpack so that I have them handy if needed.
Find out about my day hike packing list.
ALSO: Don’t forget Travel Insurance, for your peace of mind. Even for short trips, I always buy coverage. Check insurance plans and rates on Visitors Coverage.
Note: I was invited by Tourism NI to walk the Causeway Coast Way. As always, opinions are my own, as is the amazement in front of such a beautiful stretch of coast.
This article contains affiliate links to products and services I tested or selected carefully. If you make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost for you.
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