Great Walks: Giants Causeway Coast Way

Though tour buses from Belfast descend upon the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland every day, the causeway coast is best explored at a slower pace over the course of at least an overnight or two. Some of the best vignettes of the causeway coast can be seen from along the 16.5 kilometer (10+ mile) walk between the Giant’s Causeway and the infamous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Beyond the volcanic columns that sink into the cerulean sea there are miles of dramatic cliffs, white sand beaches, over-saturated fields of grazing sheep, and quiet fishing harbors to behold.

After landing in a bitter cold and rainy Dublin only 48 hours earlier (which had me reevaluating my decision to bring only two sweaters on my “summer” vacation), I woke up to flawless weather in County Antrim. When the sun shines in Ireland, the color palate is unbelievable; you feel as if you may have mistakenly wandered into a Photoshopped version of the world, one in which someone has cranked up the saturation beyond credibility.

But it is real life. For reals.

Lacing up the hiking boots that had carried me through the Himalayas last fall, I set off on my walk. Having visited the Giants Causeway the previous night to watch the sunset and had the place almost entirely to myself, I was a bit overwhelmed by the multitudes gathered by daylight at Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site. I challenged my glutes to the stairs that led me up the causeway cliffs and moved beyond the masses. From there, I passed the occasional couple or small guided tour group, but was left mostly alone to contemplate the views, my thoughts, and my hangover with the ocean to my left and rolling hills of sheep pastures to my right. Hugging the cliffs for the first half of the walk, the path eventually winds down to reveal several kilometers of sand and dunes known as White Park Bay Beach. While no stranger to the strange, I was not expecting to share the beach with more cows than humans. Apparently this is just a day “down the shore” in Northern Ireland. Feeling like a beached cow?

Only kilometers from the finish, I passed through Ballintoy Harbour and was wooed by the Harbour Cafe’s afternoon tea special, a ritual that I wouldn’t mind adopting in my regular life. As soon as I sat with my pot of tea and warm fruit scone, I became cognizant of my heavy legs and worn-out feet. I could have easily sat in view of the harbor for an hour reading the collection of Colum McCann short stories that I had brought along for the journey, but something told me I should keep walking. Female intuition? I finished my walk just in time to catch the last bus and headed back to a much appreciated hot shower at my hostel.

Though a five hour walk is not an inconsequential undertaking, the coastal walk is not terribly strenuous; save for a few short uphill climbs (the highest cliffs are about 100 meters), the walk is almost flat. In windy or rainy weather, I can imagine it to be rather treacherous, but with mild temperatures and sunlight it is pleasant and refreshing– especially after a long night involving copious amounts of Irish spirits! Pack plenty of water (there are a couple places to refill along the way), a snack, and lots of layers, as the weather on the Emerald Isle has a tendency of changing every five minutes.

Tip: If you are staying close to one of the end points of this stretch of the causeway, get a ride or take a bus to the opposite end and work your way back. Staying up past sunrise the previous night (slash that morning?), I got off to a late start and didn’t begin my walk until almost noon. Though not limited by daylight when the sun sets at 10:30 pm, the local buses stop running fairly early. I reached Carrick-a-Rede in time for the last admission for the rope bridge, only to realize that the last bus back to the Giants Causeway/Bushmills was leaving in 10 minutes– not enough time to walk another kilometer to the bridge, wander around the tiny island, and walk back. Had I taken the bus in the morning, I would have explored Carrick-a-Rede and had plenty of time left to set a leisurely pace for the way back. You live, you learn.

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80 Responses to Great Walks: Giants Causeway Coast Way

  1. Dounia says:

    Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing. Congrats on freshly pressed!

  2. Your photos certainly do make me want to visit the Causeway Coast! . . . Really beautiful!!

    http://arabianmusings.wordpress.com/

  3. These photos are spectacular! I was at Giant’s Causeway about 2 months ago and LOVED it there! It’s one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been…it’s hard to believe that it was formed naturally!

    Aww…your photos are making me wish I was back in Ireland. πŸ™‚

  4. beyondanomie says:

    Some great photos there, esp. the boats in the little cove.

  5. Great photos with lovely colour quality – particularly taken with the cattle on the beach – many thanks for sharing

  6. Joy says:

    Such natural opulence!

  7. Ahh such lovely photos! Those yellow flowers are strikingly beautiful! Grazing sheep by quiet harbors–I love rustic towns like this one. Thanks for posting.

  8. lilacflower49 says:

    I just love N.Ireland, I have been many,many times, in fact most of my relations live in N.Ireland, my Mother is from Belfast. N.Ireland has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.I love to go to N.Ireland, one of God’s gifts to us.

  9. Great post and great pictures!! I visited Giant’s Causeway and was astounded by the beauty. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is definitely worth it, once you get to the smaller island there are some great views back along the coast. The header photo of my blog is of me crossing that rope bridge!

    Thanks for the wonderful post.

    • even just from your one photo, it looks awesome. I definitely regret not planning better to fit it in, but maybe one day I’ll return! I would definitely love to go back to Ireland/Northern Ireland as a whole, but I think that during a second trip I’d like to concentrate more time up in Northern Ireland as well as explore the Donegal area of Ireland. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Beautiful photos – love the cows hanging out at the beach:) Congrats on being FP!

  11. xmasters says:

    nice palces πŸ™‚ like heaven πŸ™‚

  12. Carlie Chew says:

    Beautiful pictures! I have been dying to go to Ireland for a long time and you have just convinced me even more that it’s a trip I have to take. Great post and congrats!

  13. Taku says:

    YOUR COWS ARE ADORABLE. YES CAPS ARE NECESSARY. THEY’RE ALWAYS NECESSARY FOR COWS.

  14. Giant’s Causeway is one of the most beautiful places! I love the geometric fractures. I recently wrote a post that included a few photos from Giant’s Causeway.

    http://amorninggrouch.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/these-irish-peepers-give-others-the-creepers/

  15. fantastic photography ….

  16. conniewalden says:

    Makes me want to be Irish. Thanks for sharing. Connie
    http://7thandvine.wordpress.com/

  17. Lindsay Hinkle says:

    I love love love the photo of the cows on the beach. And your comment about the colors of Ireland on a day with sun is spot on. Enjoyable read.

  18. Pingback: UK News | Great Walks: Giants Causeway Coast Way

  19. Beautiful! I need to visit Ireland now. *adds to bucket list*

  20. claracasey says:

    These are so beautiful! Now I really want to go to Ireland.

    Clara
    http://lovehateandinbetween.com/

  21. cool pictures!!! they make me want to go to that place… c:

    http://travellersdiningdepot.wordpress.com/

  22. newsy1 says:

    Great photos. I’m Irish and Ireland is on my bucket list.

  23. basangsisiw says:

    Ireland has been one of topmost places I dreamed of visiting one day. And seeing this pictures fuels my desire to make it a reality. I do wish one day I’ll be leaving my footprints on the Irish shore.

    Thanks posting this breathtaking pictures! I so loved it!

  24. kingstar says:

    I like the scence and the picture , I like lomo effect. I like travel ,be happy to see your blog.
    welcome to my blog and have a look.
    lomo life :
    http://cameraskill.wordpress.com/
    may be you like it.

  25. crosanachd says:

    Love the place. My ancestral home, my grandmother was born at Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.

  26. A. S. Ellis says:

    Beautiful descriptions, beautiful photography. One of the most worthy of Freshly Pressed I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Thank you, and congratulations.

  27. I wish we had seen the cows, what a sight.
    We shared your experience…the awesomeness of natural beauty there really makes you think or not think, and realize how wonderful the world can be.
    We went in early December- bitter cold, but so lovely to have it to ourselves. Nothing a trip back to Bushmills couldn’t cure.
    Thank you for sharing!

  28. Aloha, nothing compares to getting out along a trail and seeing what the world offers up. Mahalo, Dohn

  29. Particularly like the photo of the boats in the bay. Beautiful cool tones and a very gentle feel. Lovely

  30. wow, beautiful photos. Look great.

  31. Sue says:

    Those pictures are simply amazing! Great job!

  32. Beautiful photos! I love Giant’s Causeway. It’s gorgeous around there. I wish I had had the time to stroll down the coast when I was there.

  33. ditchthebun says:

    One day… one day… one day… I love Ireland and desperately want to go, my ancestors were Irish and I would love to go and see it. My fav photo is the one with the purple flowers in the foreground!

  34. littlelin says:

    so so beautiful , just like my gundepapa’s home ,feel very comfortable .

  35. Pingback: Neue Esther & Sepalot Kollaboration! « Esther & Sepalot

  36. jammymonkey says:

    Sounds lovely. I’m living in Asia at the moment, but your photos reminded me of some walks I took along the Cornwall coast not too long ago and made me feel a little bit homesick!

  37. lotterydotnet says:

    I’ve never been to Ireland but these photos make it look beautiful!

  38. dhani28 says:

    Never been to this country, but the photos are beautiful! πŸ™‚

  39. You have given me an idea for my next walk! My last long walk was along Hadrian’s Wall in England: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/hadrians-wall/

  40. Good to see little old ‘norn iron’ on FP, and a great post to share.

    I remember taking my mam up there a few years back, just after I moved to Belfast but we couldn’t walk far along the cliffs – the path had dropped off into the sea! Glad it sounds like it’s all sorted now. Beautiful mysterious place.

    Ps. My hubby tells me that despite him visiting Carrick-a-Rede several times he has never been able to cross it as it closes often for renovation and adverse weather conditions. Just A heads up if anyone’s planning.

    • Oooh – pps. It’s also nice to drive the Coastal route up to the causeway. It takes you up along the glens of Antrim. Very very beautiful scenery, and some half decent pubs for eating in along the way πŸ˜‰

  41. These pictures are very good and shows something special.

  42. sinaway says:

    Thank you very much for this beautiful fotos, when I was there it was raining so much that I could not take so nice pictures.

  43. So jealous. Lovely photos and what a fantastic place to kick off those boots….

  44. i would love to see this place someday! πŸ™‚

  45. Fantastic, loved it, and don’t forget the other end, you have to visit the isle of Staffa in the Hebrides as well. Great memories.

  46. Cheyenne.B says:

    Beautiful, very much like a dream.
    My dream is to travel.

  47. Huffygirl says:

    I have been to Ireland before but not this part. This makes me want to go back, and fininsh the Ireland photo journal I keep planning to put on my blog. Sounds like a wonderful trip. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  48. Dev says:

    Christ ….its Beautiful!!

  49. Lovely photos. I think the one of the cows all staring at the camera is funny. You’ve certainly piqued my interest in one day visiting the Causeway Coast!

  50. Cassie says:

    This reminds me so much of Kiama, Australia. The cows on the beach especially. Love it. Brings back happy memories.

  51. EternalForms says:

    Very beautiful! I’d love to take a walk!

  52. Stubborn says:

    WOW, stunningly beautiful. Always wanted to plan a trip to Ireland. Glad I found your blog..will be checking out more of your travels!

  53. keshavdubey says:

    beautiful scenes.I like.

  54. Wow – these pics are incredible – great description too! I want to go there right now…

  55. Walking-Girl says:

    Sounds like a good idea for the next holiday…

  56. gaycarboys says:

    It looks a little like to gorgeous village in Doc Martin.

  57. minlit says:

    We live in NI and my husband is from that neck of the woods, and as he’s regularly sent there to capture it for the NI Tourist Board. Did you get to Dunluce or Whitepark Bay? Some extraordinary views and sunsets – if you missed them, I’m pretty sure he has some pics on http://www.brianmorrison.co.uk

    • Sadly I did not get to Dunluce, but I did get to Whitepark Bay (the photo of the cows as well as the preceding photo are both from the beach at Whitepark Bay) and it was lovely– there’s something special about a quiet day at the beach when it is sunny but not quite bathing suit temperatures. Your husband’s photographs are incredible!

  58. minlit says:

    That’s very kind of you – I’ll tell him! Whitepark Bay is his favourite place. But in my experience, it’s never bathing suit temperatures in Whitepark Bay! I look forward to seeing more of your travels!

  59. suzy farrell says:

    Two years ago I started annual trips to Ireland. What a beautiful country it is! I have always wanted to visit Northern Ireland but I grew up in the 80s and remember a lot of turmoil. Anyway, I hear so much from other people that I am truly missing out. Great blog and beautiful photos for sure! Thanks for the awesome read.

  60. sheokhanda says:

    wonderful pics……. best reflections of Ireland…

  61. Michelle Cotter-MacDonald says:

    Lovely post and photos of a unique place, brought back some very happy memories.

  62. Pingback: ROPE BRIDGE + GIANTS CAUSEWAY + BELFAST CITY ON 15/01/2012 ONLY €35 « seachranaidhe1

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