Exploring the Antrim Coast: Our Top Things to See Near Giant's Causeway

Lengthy beaches, stunning landscapes and a renowned golf course are not the only reasons visitors come to the seaside town of Portrush.

Ideally located along the scenic Causeway Coastal Route (A2), the town is a short drive to Northern Ireland’s most famous sights and a great base for those wanting to explore County Antrim.

The Remarkable Giant’s Causeway

This 5 mile long stretch of coastline is Northern Ireland’s most popular attraction due to its distinct basalt columns shaped hexagonally at various heights. It is estimated that around 40,000 of them extend from the cliffs all the way into the sea.

After driving 15 minutes from Portrush, we spent close to two hours exploring these exquisite rock formations and walked along some of the trails that contoured the coastline. The site is stunning, especially at low tide, where the gray and at times blackened uneven basalt columns create a rugged yet, peaceful scenery.

Tip: As the Causeway is one of the most visited sites in the country, the site’s tranquility soon ends when crowds start arriving slowly by bus. So your best bet is to arrive early in the morning.

Meandering Through Towering Ruins

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Nearby, sitting on the edge of a cliff facing the North Atlantic, are the leftovers of Dunluce Castle. This 14th century center of Gaelic Lordship is a must go for those who enjoy ruins or just want to appreciate some stunning coastline views.  

Take some time to read the castle's rich history - it was the highlight of the site for us - we tried to envision its former grandiosity as it previously had a working town which burned down and was later abandoned.

Carrick-A-Rede: Go for the Landscape

Brown signs along the scenic A2 will indicate the entrance to the Carrick-A-Rede, another very popular attraction in the Antrim Coast. 

After parking on a separate lot facing the ocean, walk through a dirt trail until you reach a rope bridge.

This bridge used to be more treacherous than the sturdy one today. It was originally made by salmon fisherman to cross a 65 foot wide chasm between the mainland and a small island.

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I actually arrived having reservations about the site - it almost seemed like a tourist trap for us - but after walking along the 1 mile dirt trail to the bridge, we were astounded by the area’s natural beauty.

Truly mesmerizing, the contrast of the dark and bright blue waters along the coast made for beautiful landscape scenery. Trying to focus on it as you walk across the weaving bridge adds a little more excitement to the experience!

The Dark Hedges: A Photographer’s Paradise

For those who enjoy landscape photography and don’t mind getting lost to get your perfect picture, venture inland and go through farmland to arrive at one of the most serene spots in the area. 

The Dark Hedges is a covered avenue of beech trees planted by the Stewart family in the 18th century as a compelling landscape to impress visitors approaching the entrance of their Georgian Mansion.

Today, the trees still stand creating a gloomy and mystical atmosphere as they form a tunnel of branches.

Hidden Ruins and the Cliff’s Edge Temple

Down a narrow and long set of stairs, you will curve around a limestone cliff until you find the ruins of a 16th century castle atop a jutted peninsula along the coastline. This is Kinbane Castle, one of the more elusive and stunning ruins we visited.

Tip: To reach the castle, follow brown signs along A2 that will lead you through small roads and then to an open lot facing the ocean.

In the opposite direction and 20 minutes from Portrush is Mussenden Temple, located near the village of Castlerock. Built in 1785 by the eccentric Earl of Bristol, this small domed rotunda can be found perched at the edge of a sheer cliff.

The temple is located in the landscaped park of Downhill Demesne alongside the Earl's 18th century hollowed mansion ruins.

You can follow a path along the vast estate, leading through the gloomy manor and then to the temple located at the cliff’s edge. 


The Wrap-Up: If you are heading to Ireland, I recommend spending at least a few days to explore County Antrim. We arrived in Portrush at night, after a five hour drive from Galway. It took us a full day to see the sights along the Antrim coast and another to drive back to Dublin along the Causeway Coastal Route.

The B&B: Links view Bed & Breakfast. This wonderful and modern inn is located on the outskirts of Portrush. If you do not mind paying a little bit more, opt for the rooms with views to the golf course in front of it - you will not be disappointed!

The Restaurant: 55 Degrees North is a modern restaurant located in the heart of Portrush, facing the ocean. The prices on their early bird menu can’t be beat.

- Want to see the full trip and plan your next? Check out our Ireland Two Week Itinerary!