Today, you will make your way to the village of Cushendall, the starting point for your Causeway Coast Way walking holiday. Located in the shadow of table-topped Lurigethan Mountain, Cushendall has a stunning coastal location, at the meeting point of three of the Glens of Antrim: Glenaan, Glencorp and Glenballyemon.
2 Glenariff Nature Reserve to Cushendall - 20km
7H | +45m / -272m
After breakfast you will be transported to the entrance of Glenariff Forest Park to begin your walking tour in the park. Glenarriff is referred to as ‘The Queen of the Glens’ for its size and beauty. There is a visitor centre and a range of trails to walk ranging from short 2km walks to longer 9km trails. The waterfalls walk on a shorter loop is highly recommended. The marked trail of the forest park will lead you through a variety of habitats and landscapes. The longest 9km trail takes you to a high point of the park and boasts picturesque views of the nearby glens. At the end of the day you will walk the few kilometres back to your accommodation in Cushendall for the evening.
3 Orra Beg to Ballycastle - 20km
7H | +278m / -542m
Today, you will be transferred to the beginning of your walk at Orra Beg, on The Moyle Way. This section of the trail is a mix of quiet rural roads, forest trails and mountain tracks. From Orra Beg the route takes you along a forest trail to reach the mountain track contouring the side of Agangarrive Hill, following the banks of the Glenshesk River to join the Breen Forest Trail. This nature reserve harbours pockets of ancient deciduous woodland.
The Moyle Way then takes walkers along a quiet rural road in the Glenshesk Valley. This area opens up panoramic views of the Coolaveely Forest and Glenshesk River on your right and Knocklayd Mountain on your left. The final section of the day takes you through Ballycastle Forest and finally into the town of Ballycastle where you will spend the next couple of nights.
Extra Day Rathlin Island Tour - 18km
6H | +330m / -331m
On today’s trip to Rathlin Island the ferry ride from Ballycastle to Rathlinwill should take roughly 45 minutes (approx. £8 – £9 per person return, not included). There are three different walking routes to choose from, each exploring a different corner of the island. Each of the routes is interesting and stunningly beautiful, in total the combined distance of these routes cover 24km.
The island is a rare place of wild and natural beauty, historic value and social interest, steeped in myth and legend. Rathlin is the only inhabited offshore island of Northern Ireland, with a population of just over 100 people. Shaped like a boot, the island is 6km long and almost 4km wide. Rathlin is one of 43 special areas of conservation in Northern Ireland for its unique flora and fauna. In spring and summer puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes etc… nest in their thousands along its steep on-shore cliffs, a must-see for birdwatchers.
With recorded history of the island dating back to the 7th century, it is believed Rathlin Island was the location of the first Viking raid on Ireland, but most famously it was a refuge to Robert the Bruce in the 1306 after a battle with King Edward I over Scotland’s independence from England.
Three lighthouses stand as monuments to its wild coastline, the place of over 40 recorded shipwrecks, including the HMS Drake which was torpedoed and sank in 1917. You will be returning to Ballycastle on the evening ferry.
4 Ballycastle to Ballintoy - 12km
4H | +208m / -161m
The town of Ballycastle is located on the most Northerly tip of Ulster and has a beach with views across to Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.
After leaving the town of Ballycastle, the Causeway Coast Way takes walkers along a variety of rural roads and forest trails, always following the coastline as closely as possible. Some areas of interest that you will be passing are Kinbane Castle, built in 1547. This two-storey castle was the site or many a siege and battle through the 18th century. You will also see today the world-famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge: the bridge spans a 30-metre deep and 20-metre wide chasm and was originally erected by salmon fishermen. The island has been used for salmon fishing for more than 350 years. If you do wish to cross there is a charge of £4-6 depending on group size (not included). From the rope bridge it is only a short walk to you accommodation for the evening.
Ballycastle is the start of the ‘Short Tour’ and ‘Highlight’ tour.
5 Ballintoy to Giants Causeway - 16km
5H30 | +246m / -275m
The village of Ballintoy was used for the fictional town of Lordsport in the second season of TV series Game of Thrones, if you are a fan you might spot some familiar landscapes. As you leave Ballintoy walkers will be following the coastline along beaches, grassy cliff top trails and small rural roads. Highlights for the day include St Gobban’s church rumoured to be the smallest church in Ireland and the iconic Giants Causeway. A short detour to the ruins of Dunseverick Castle and following a cliff top path will take you around Benbane Head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and Nature Reserve of the Giants Causeway. This world-famous landscape consisting of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption (entrance fee not included).
Local legend would argue that it is was constructed by a giant from Ireland Fionn MacCool, when he was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet (depending on whether you are from Ireland or Scotland this is where the two stories differ). In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner and in another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he is. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he thinks that his father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow.
The Giants Causeway is the finish of the ‘Short Break’.
6 Giants Causeway to Portstewart - 24km
7H30 | +216m / -250m
Your last day of walking The Causeway Coast Way will be predominantly flat on a mixture of promenades, small roads, beaches, gravel and grassy paths. From The Giants Causeway your trail continues along Bushfoot Strand to the picturesque town of Portballintrae. Places of interest along your route today include Dunluce Castle. Positioned on the edge of a basalt outcrop, the castle is accessible via a bridge connecting it to the mainland. The castle is surrounded by extremely steep drops on either side, at some point a large section of the cliff broke away into the sea taking with it the castle kitchens. Once the centre piece of Dunluce town, the town was raised to the ground in the Irish uprising of 1641. Archaeologists believe they have only discovered 5% of this lost town. The castle fell into disrepair after the battles of 1641. In recent years, it was taken under the care of the Northern Ireland Environmental agency and is open all year round as a tourist attraction.
Along this coastal walk today there is a selection of cafes and bistros to choose from when you take your break for lunch. From Dunluce you will continue along Curran Strand, Ramore Head, Ringagree Point, Blackrock and finally onto your accommodation for the evening in Portstewart.
After your breakfast your walking holiday on The Causeway Coast Way with us comes to an end. Ask the IrelandWays.com team about adding an extra night accommodation if you wish to rest and soak up the atmosphere in the seaside town of Portstewart or consider transferring back to Belfast to explore this cultural city.