Skip to Content

The Best 2-day Antrim Coast Road Trip For Game of Thrones Sites and Giant’s Causeway

You can visit the Antrim coast as a day trip from Belfast, but don’t. The coast’s historical sites, craggy coastline and Game of Thrones filreming sites are plentiful enough to keep you busy for several days. So skip the bus tour, rent a car and take your time on the Antrim Coast road.

For fans of Game of Thrones, you can strap on your sword and chase down a few of the 22 filming locations throughout Northern Ireland. And if you are a fan of stones, then this Antrim Coast road trip will reward you with crazy geology, rocky cliff walks and stone castle ruins.

Taking this road trip from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway combines the best of Thrones and the best of Stones into a robust two day itinerary.

Antrim Coast Road Trip: Belfast to Giant’s Causeway

In the airport, stop at the tourist information desk and they’ll give you a map and guide to Northern Ireland which will help get you from Belfast to Giant’s Causeway. Then, download the Game of Thrones app from the tourist bureau. It will give you a detailed map for finding all of the filming sites along the Causeway coast.

Pro Tip: You can rent a car from Budget in Belfast. Don’t expect an an automatic transmission, and if you aren’t accustomed to driving on the left, get the full insurance coverage. When you return the car, you can catch an inexpensive shuttle bus into central Belfast.

Score a deal on your rental car by using this link to compare pricing.

Dark Hedges via Belfast to Antrim Coast
The not so Dark Hedges

THRONES: Visit the Dark Hedges

The beautiful avenue of beech trees was planted in the 18th century as an entryway to Gracehill House near Ballymoney. But the trees have more recently been re-purposed as the Kings Road in a number of Game of Thrones scenes. Arya Stark was seen traveling down the Dark Hedges when she escaped from Kings Landing. The shots on HBO show a dark and moody laneway. But on my lovely July summer morning, the trees were leafed out and peaceful.

Dunluce Castle Antrim Coast
Rocks and ruin at Dunluce Castle

STONES: Visit Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle was the 17th century home-base for the MacDonnell clan. The great stone castle is a bit of a ruin, but there is still enough of it standing to give a good visual overview of the medieval history of the Northern Ireland. And as the castle sits perched right at the cliff edge, it will also give you a great visual overview of the coastal cliffs. Admission is only £5 and the coastal views alone are worth the price of admission. The Castle is open daily from 10a-6p.

On the Giant’s Causeway Coastal Route

Giants Causeway Antrim Coastal Route
Finn MacCool’s bridge on the Giant’s Causeway

(Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that if you chose to purchase, I’ll get a small commission.) 

STONES: The Best Way to See Giant’s Causeway

When it comes to Giant’s Causeway, you have a choice. You can choose to believe that the natural wonder comprising 40,000 interlocking basalt stones was caused by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. Or, you can chose to believe that it was built by Irish giant Finn MacCool, as a way to bridge the North Sea for a fight with the Scots. I’m choosing to believe the latter. The geography of the stones is so unlikely that the myth of the giant makes them more believable. How are they so perfectly geometrical? How have they not eroded way? Did Finn MacCool use an architect?

When you visit the Giant’s Causeway coastal route, think about going very early or very late in the day. The visitor’s center and parking lot are only open from 9a-7p. But the causeway itself is open dawn to dusk. So if you are visiting in the summer, it leaves a lot of daylight during which you can visit the causeway sans the tourist hoards.

We stayed very close to the Giant’s Causeway, so we awoke early, walked down and had the site largely to ourselves. They have a main paved path, but on the way back up, you can chose the dirt path winding up to the Causeway Coast Way. There are a lot of great hikes in Ireland and the Coast Way path is no exception. It runs 52 miles adjacent to the Antrim coast road and you can supplement your Giant’s Causeway visit with a longer hike if you wish.

Where to Stay: We chose the Carnside B&B for convenience to the Giant’s Causeway. There are also several other B&Bs nearby and plenty of lodging in Bushmills. (here are listings from Trip Advisor and Booking.com.

A word about Bushmills Distillery. It’s located in the town of Bushmills and they offer distillery tours. They also have a large parking lot which generously accommodates tour buses, making us leery us about the value of the visit. Rather, we waited until we were in Belfast and then we sampled some local craft spirits at a few fun bars in the University district. But if you are into Bushmills and wish to visit, it open from 10-4:45 most days.

Whitepark Bay Antrim Coast Road
Whitepark Bay on the Antrim Coast Road

STONES: Stroll Whitepark Bay

The nice thing about a road trip is that it affords you the opportunity to stop whenever you see something interesting. We did just that and had a delightful walk in Whitepark Bay. It’s located on the coastal road just northeast of Giant’s Causeway. We parked at the top of the rocky cliffs and made our way down to the half moon shaped beach. Strolling the beach, it was just my husband and I, the great blue sea….and a herd of cattle.

Ballintoy Harbour Game of Thrones Antrim Coast Road
The wreck of the Iron Islands at Ballintoy Harbour

THRONES: Sunset at Ballintoy Harbour

Drive the Antrim coast road a bit further east of Whitepark Bay to Ballintoy Harbour. In Game of Thrones, the harbor is a stand-in for Pyke and the Iron Islands. It’a also a nice little spot to visit in its own right. You can climb out on the cliff rocks at sunset, take a seat and fill yourself up with views of the Atlantic.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge Northern Ireland
Feeling small relative to the sea at Carrick-a-Rede

From Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge to Belfast

STONES: Visit the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

As I have mentioned in my Disobeying Rick Steves series, I’m always leery of visiting top tourist sites. Sometimes they are top sites because they are truly unique (like the Eiffel tower). And sometimes a top site exists because someone built the tourist bus infrastructure and the spot got written into a guide book. The Carrick rope bridge is a bit of the latter. But we went anyway. It’s perch out on the ocean offers expansive views of the stark, rocky coastline.

The rope bridge itself isn’t as scary as it sounds and no one could realistically call crossing it “adventure travel.” It also gets busy there so, again, you’ll have the advantage with a car. That way you can go early or late and beat the Belfast tour buses. If you have to wait more than 10 minutes to make the bridge crossing, then it’s not worth it. Just drive to back to Whitepark Bay or Ballintoy and walk the coastline there.

Cushendun Caves Game of Thrones Giants Causeway Coastal Route
Scary smoke murder baby at Cushendun caves

THRONES: Creep Around in Cushendun Caves

You remember Melisandre, the Red Priestess? She’s that witch/adviser/scary lady who’s always telling Stannis what to do. There is a particularly chilling scene in which she gives birth to a murderous smoke baby in a cave. The cave is in Cushendun. I was ever so grateful that the murderous smoke baby was out running errands the day we visited. Cushendun is a sleepy village, but in addition to dodging smoke babies, you can wander around the harbor and walk along the small rocky beach.

From Cushendun, it’s about an hour and a half drive back to Belfast along the Giants Causeway Coastal route. You can detour up the Glenballyeamon valley, eat lunch at one of the many small towns along the way or stop at the Carrickfergus castle.

Pro Tip: Get prepared for your Thrones trip by reading the books and immersing yourself in George RR Martin’s bloodthirsty world.

Read More: Plan a longer trip in Ireland by using this road trip guide to hit all of the top sites as a relax pace.

Planning your Antrim Coast Trip

Antrim Coast Road Map

Once you are done with your Antrim coast road trip, get ready for Belfast. Check out my post on Disobeying Rick Steves in Northern Ireland and a tour of the Belfast’s murals.

Melisandre commands you to Pin this Post!

Fill up on Game of Thrones filming sites and rocky Atlantic coastline on this Antrim Coast road trip in Northern Ireland

Want more Wayfaring Views? Subscribe to the newsletter

Greetings from Chicago Street Art
A Neighborhood Guide to Discovering Chicago Street Art
← Read Last Post
Cuba Packing List for What to Bring to Cuba
What to Bring to Cuba- Packing Your Perfect Bag
Read Next Post →

Enola of Game of Hodor

Friday 8th of September 2017

Going somewhere on a road trip is really a very exciting thing to have. I have always wanted trips like these and thanks to this post you have given me just the right idea of the next place to visit. It is the perfect time for me and my husband to be free from the stress from work. I have never been to northern Ireland and judging by your post those spots looked really amazing. We have to visit soon...

Adam

Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

Northern Ireland has many amazing sights ... need to book a trip there someday!

Carol Guttery

Thursday 3rd of August 2017

It's pretty compact and you can see a lot in 3-4 days

Mri

Monday 24th of October 2016

This is such a fantastic itinerary! Thanks for all the wonderful ideas. Haven't been to Ireland yet, but planning in it soon. (:

Carol Guttery

Monday 24th of October 2016

Tons to see on both parts of the island

snaphappytravels

Sunday 23rd of October 2016

I love how your photos capture Ireland so perfectly. I'm from Ireland and haven't done this trip yet - I really need to be a tourist in my own country. The dark hedges are a must-see for me.

Carol Guttery

Monday 24th of October 2016

Thank you- I live in SF and find myself being a tourist in my hometown too

The World in a Weekend

Sunday 23rd of October 2016

Yes! I love this! I went (only for a day though) and loved Giant’s Causeway, the Dark Hedges and Cushendun Caves. We skipped the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, but it looks awesome in your photos! Thanks for sharing!

Carol Guttery

Sunday 23rd of October 2016

Thanks- if I were to go again, I would leave even more time for hiking