The Giant's causeway - a complete travel guide including how to get there
Updated: Jan 13
The Giant's Causeway is probably the most well-known natural attraction in the Northern Ireland. Located near Bushmills, the natural wonder was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1986. It is a coastal area of about 40,000 interlocking rock columns, which were formed by an ancient volcanic eruption. I was completely stunned when I first saw these columns.
I couldn't believe with my naked eyes that these were all formed naturally !
Honestly this rock formation is unbelievable. I couldn't fathom that these columns were a product of nature. I would totally believe it if I was told this was done by aliens. To me the Giant's Causeway alone was worth all the driving from Belfast.
How to get to the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland?
There is no public transport so you would need to either drive there or take a guided tour. The Giant's Causeway is only about 60 miles from Belfast centre. If you take the motorway, it will take you less than one and a half hour. I, however, recommend that you take the coastal route which is about half an hour longer but much more scenic as you will get to see the countryside of Northern Ireland and take in the view of the North sea. It will definitely make the journey a lot more fun and enjoyable. You can stop at some village on the way if you want to have a break. On the way back you can take the motorway to get back faster.
Do I need to pay to see the Giant's Causeway?
A lot of people are mistaken that you have to pay to see the Giant's Causeway. In fact, it is FREE to access and see the site. You, however, need to pay to park at the Visitor Centre. This is the part where people often get really confused and think that they need to buy tickets to see the site. The Visitor Centre doesn't charge parking on its own. Instead, they sell tickets that gives you access to the Visitor Centre, use of outdoor audio guide, orientation leaflet and parking. The price was £11 per adult when I was there. Check the latest prices in their website here. If you just want to park the car, then just buy one ticket so that you can park your car there. Alternatively, you can drive down the road to find a free car park space but it may be quite a walk. Do not park on the kerb outside the Visitor Centre. I saw a lot of cars park there despite the 'no parking' sign. When I came out, a lot of them got a ticket.
Which trail should I take to get the best out of the Giant's Causeway?
There are a few walking trails, which are clearly marked on the site. Here is the link to the National Trust website with detailed information. Basically there are four trails: Red, Blue, Green and Yellow.
The Red Trail takes you up the cliff where you can view the Causeway Coast and the North Channel from above. It is a spectacular view from the cliff. It is quite a steep walk up the cliff so prepare to get a bit sweaty.
The Blue Trail is a direct route between the Giant's Causeway and the Visitor's Centre, that is under a mile. It's a fairly easy walk so it's quite nice to walk back via the Blue Trail after the Red.
The Green Trail that is wheelchair and buggy-friendly
The Yellow Trail takes you around the whole site and also takes part in some of the Red and Green Trails.
If you are moderately fit, I think you should take the Red Trail to get to the Giant's Causeway and walk back via Blue Trail in order to get the best views.
If you decide to make your way to the Giant's Causeway, then you may want to check out some nearby attractions to make the journey more worthwhile.
National Trust Carrick-a-Rede and Larrybane Quarry
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Larrybane Quarry is a nice stop on the way to the Giant's Causeway. They are located on the coast, just about 8 miles before the Giant's Causeway.
There is a free big car park there. Once you park your car, you can go to visit Carrick-a-Rede first. Note that you do NOT need to pay to SEE Carrick-a-Rede. You only need to pay if you want to walk on the bridge. So if you are asked by the staff at the car park or the entrance whether you have bought the ticket or not, you can tell them that you don't want to go on the bridge. If you want to go on the bridge, you may want to book a ticket in advance because it's a very popular attraction and there is a limited number of people that can go on the bridge at the same time. I wasn't that interested in Carrick-a-Rede so I just walked along the coast to have a look around.
After that, walk back along the coast to Larrybane and be prepared to get amazed by the view of the Irish sea, the cliff and the white and solid rocks. There isn't much to do there so you won't need to budget much time for it unless you want to have a walk along the coast.
The Dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges is an avenue of beech trees along Bregagh Road between Armoy and Stranocum in County Antrim. The Dark Hedges is an iconic road in the Game of Thrones. The place is free to visit and it's under 30 mins from the Giant's Causeway! I would highly recommend it. Summer is probably a better time visit when the leaves grow back though.
Have you been to the Giant's Causeway? What did you think of it?
If you're a Game of Thrones fan and looking to plan a trip to see the filming locations in Northern Ireland, you can easily combine it with the trip to the Giant's Causeway as the filming locations and the Giant's Causeway are on the same route ! Check out my post on my Game of Thrones road trip here for the detail.