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  • Writer's pictureVeronica

Exploring the Causeway Coast: hiking from Dunseverick Castle to the Giant's Causeway

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Overview:

  • Date: 10 August 2023

  • Location: Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

  • Total distance: 8.4 kilometres (5.2 miles)

  • Elevation gain: 415 metres (1370 feet)

  • Highlights: Dramatic views along the coast, exploring the Giant's Causeway, a short wild swim in perfectly clear waters

  • Summary: Making up part of the Causeway Coast Way, the hike between Dunseverick Castle to the Giant's Causeway is a well maintained stretch between two unique locations on the Causeway Coast, offering stunning views of impressive geological features

Hiking on the North Antrim Cliff Path from Dunseverick Castle to Giant's Causeway

Trip log:

This August, four years after our last family trip, we were finally back together exploring a new country! Our "slow travel" trip took us across Northern Ireland by train, visiting Derry, Portrush, and Belfast over the course of a week. The main goal for our time in Portrush: explore the Causeway Coast!


With only one full day in Portrush, we knew we needed to make the most of it. After a lush breakfast at our hotel, we caught the bus to Bushmills, where we toured the Bushmills Distillery – the world's oldest licensed whiskey distillery! While I'm not a fan of whiskey, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the production process. Highlights included seeing the wooden casks being filled, watching bottles fly through the bottling line, and getting to taste the whiskey after the tour.

After picking up sandwiches in Bushmills, we caught the bus back out towards the coast. Although the bus ride itself took just a few minutes, the process of boarding the bus took over 10 minutes, with people cramming into the aisles. Unsurprisingly, almost everyone piled out at the stop outside the Giant's Causeway, so the bus was nearly empty as we continued on to Dunseverick Castle.

Dunseverick Castle in Northern Ireland

We ate our sandwiches overlooking the castle ruins and then set off on the North Antrim Cliff Path at around 15:30. With the last bus back to Portrush leaving from the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre at 19:00, we knew we couldn't afford to dawdle. Within minutes of starting the hike, we were greeted with spectacular views of a green-soaked coastline.

Looking down towards the Port Moon Bothy, it felt like we had stepped into Scandinavia. The horizon was shrouded in mist, giving the landscape an almost mystical quality.

Unfortunately, we quickly realised we had timed our hike to coincide with "flying ant season," so we had flying ants swarming around us for most of the hike. It made stopping to take photos challenging – we didn't get a single family photo on the hike because Ash refused to stop (fair enough, really). We spent the whole hike frantically wiping the ants off our bodies and hair.

Despite the ants, I was still able to enjoy the dramatic views that the hike offered. We could tell we were getting closer to the Giant's Causeway when we started seeing hexagonal-shaped rocks below us. I was reminded of my love for hiking on the coast – like on the South West Coast Path in England, the landscape changed with every headland we rounded, with new vistas revealed in front of us.

The path followed along the top of sheer cliff faces, but never once felt unsafe. I'd never seen geology quite like this before.

After hiking up a hill particularly thick with flying ants, we rounded a headland and could finally see the Giant's Causeway visible in the misty bay below us. After the dramatic cliffs we had seen up to this point, the little peninsula appeared a little underwhelming.

Leaving the cliff path, we made our way down a steep staircase, known as the Shepherd's Steps, before turning towards the main peninsula jutting out into the water.

Just two hours after setting off from Dunseverick Castle, we arrived at the foot of the Giant's Causeway – it seems like the flying ants made sure we didn't delay too much along the hike! Although I had felt a little underwhelmed while viewing the Giant's Causeway from above, I was not at all disappointed when we got down and began to explore the hexagonal stones. (As you might know, Hexagons are the Bestagons). The rocks were busy with people, but it was probably less crowded than if we had visited earlier in the day, when tour buses offload their masses.

We spent a few minutes exploring the impressive rocks...

...before Ash convinced me to join her for a swim. The water was calm and beautifully clear – the seaweed under the water was very colourful! Definitely a highlight of the day, and especially memorable as it was my 150th wild swim! (A little post-swim Google search returned this blog post, which says wild swimming is not allowed at Giant's Causeway...oops).

We dried off and began the walk up to the National Trust Visitor's Centre. We were a little nervous to see we were the only ones waiting for the bus – we had expected lots of people would be catching the last bus of the day! But thankfully, the bus arrived on time and we made it back to Portrush with no problems.


Thinking of visiting the Giant's Causeway? Here are some tips!

  • You do not need to buy a ticket from the National Trust in order to visit the Giant's Causeway! Buying a ticket, of course, does come with some perks – an audioguide and access to the National Trust cafe, parking lot, and "Visitor Experience" centre. But if you are visiting the Giant's Causeway by public transport or on foot, you don't need a ticket.

  • While there are no toilet facilities once you're down at the Giant's Causeway, there are free toilets outside the The Causeway Hotel, near the Visitor Centre.

  • As of August 2023, the bus between Portrush and the Giant's Causeway does not take card payments, so make sure you have cash with you! Because we were stopping in Bushmills on our way to the Causeway Coast, buying a day ticket was the cheapest option for us.

Looking for another coastal hike nearby?

The afternoon before we hiked to the Giant's Causeway, we got the bus from Portrush to Dunluce Castle and then hiked back along the coast. While the geology wasn't quite as dramatic as the area around Giant's Causeway, there were some impressive white cliffs. This hike was around 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) and also makes up part of The Causeway Coast Way. The first few kilometres were on a sidewalk along a road, before the path turns off onto the coastal path and then down to the White Sands Beach. Because the tide was low, we could walk along the beach all the way back to Portrush (I'm unsure if you're able to do this at high tide - check before you go!).


Postcript:

These two hikes make up part of the longer 'Causeway Coast Way,' which typically takes 2-3 days to hike. Having seen how spectacular this stretch of coastline is, I hope to be back in the future to complete the whole 51-kilometre route!

 

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