Summary of content of this post
Welcome to the seventh stage of our route through Ireland! This seventh and penultimate stage is undoubtedly one of the most interesting of the trip and in it we cover only 134 kilometres (the ones that separate Derry from Belfast if you travel along the coast) because we wanted to reserve time to enjoy the places we were going to visit in peace. So in this stage, in which we were 100% of the time in Northern Ireland, we visited such great places as the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede suspension bridge or the irreverent Belfast.
And as good geeks who love Game of Thrones, this is also a stage full of emblematic places for the series, which of course we will show you 😉
COMPLETE GUIDE TO IRELAND
If you want to read more information about our route in Ireland you can find it here: complete guide of Ireland.
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Here is the video guide for the seventh stage of our route through Ireland by car, in case you don’t feel like reading:
Detailed tour of the seventh stage of our route through Ireland
On the following map you can see in detail what our journey was like on this seventh stage of our route through Ireland and also all the interesting points of interest you will find along the way, including some you may want to take a detour to if you have time:
We have also prepared this other map with all the points of interest of the seventh stage of our route through Ireland so that you can get an idea of what you will find at each point of the route (these are undoubtedly our favourite places):
Route and points of interest of the seventh stage of our route through Ireland: Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Bridge and Belfast
You can download HERE the map in high quality to see it better.
What to see on the route between Derry and Belfast: Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede and Belfast
The truth is that in this stage of our route through Ireland we reserved a lot of time to visit the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede because we wanted to enjoy them to the fullest. They both have quite interesting treks so we wanted to do at least one in each place. So that day we got up early enough to be able to get to the first point we wanted to visit: the Giant’s Causeway.
On this road from Derry to the Causeway, which takes about an hour, we had several points of interest written down that we would have stopped at if we had had more time. Anyway I leave them here in case you can fit them into your route planning 😉 Shall we start?
As well as a beautiful beach, at Downhill you’ll find the Downhill Demesne, an old historical site that houses the former residence of the Bishop of Derry (built in 1774), a curious cliffside temple (Mussenden’s temple, which once served as a library) and Hezlett House, one of the oldest thatched houses in Ireland.
If you are a Game of Thrones lover, many scenes from Rocadragon were shot on this beach in Downhill during the time the series lived there, Stanis Baratheon. In fact, Mussenden’s temple (which is not in the series) overlooks the beach and is the location of the fortress in the series.
Benone Strand cataract for Game of Thrones
The visit to this place looks pretty interesting, actually. It was a shame we didn’t have more time at this stage. The site is open from sunrise to sunset, but the buildings are subject to opening hours (you can check them here). The entrance fee to visit the entire site is £6.50 per person and if you want to visit Hezlett House you’ll have to do so with a tour that costs £8.50 per person.
From what we have seen, from the beach you can also get beautiful views of the temple, so if you want to save money, it can also be a good option to visit only the beach 😉
The ruins of this impressive castle are located on the edge of a cliff and have a beautiful view of the sea. Built at the beginning of the 16th century, it is possible to visit its interior and imagine what life would be like in one of the most important castles in the county of Antrim.
Dunluce Castle. Photo by Alex Ranaldi
There is a mobile app to guide you through the tour, which costs 5.50 GBP per person. The castle is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (last entrance at 3:30 p.m.)
And we started already with our first visit in this seventh stage: the Giant’s Causeway (although the truth is that we would have loved to do the two previous ones). As I said earlier, the Giant’s Causeway is about an hour east of Derry.
This marvel of nature is formed by a rocky area full of basaltic columns with a hexagonal shape that impresses every way you look at it.
Seventh stage of our route through Ireland: the Giant’s CausewaySeventh stage of our route through Ireland: the Giant’s Causeway
There are a lot of theories about paying or not paying the entrance fee or not entering the road, but we arrived super early (and willing to pay) and there was nobody there so we didn’t pay because everything was closed. The ticket, which costs £12.50 per person, is supposed to give you access to the visitor centre and entitles you to use the car park and toilets. So it is also assumed that the visit to this natural wonder is not paid. And I say supposedly, because we’re still not 100% clear.
Seventh stage of our route through Ireland: the Giant’s Causeway
A visit to the Giant’s Causeway is undoubtedly a must on any trip to Ireland, because it is truly breathtakingly beautiful. We have written a SUPER post with everything you need to know to visit the Giant’s Causeway. You can find it here:
Visit the Giant’s Causeway: how to get there, opening hours, prices and useful information
Our advice is to book at least a couple of hours in order to enjoy the place in peace and to get up very early so as not to run into the millions of tour buses. We have also read that it is also quite quiet at sunset, so this may be another option. Being a natural place, you can visit it 24 hours a day, although perhaps without light it is something dangerous if you are a little clumsy like me (because of having to walk between rocks).
Once the visit to the Giant’s Causeway is over, we set off for the second highlight of the day, but first… we must have breakfast! And we do it with an impromptu picnic in front of the ruins of Dunseverick Castle.
This small castle is located on the edge of a cliff on a tongue of land and the views are really beautiful. If you go there in time, it is possible to get close and admire the place up close. And if not, you can do like us and stop for breakfast while you enjoy the scenery.
With the batteries recharged thanks to the breakfast with a view, we set off for the Carrick-a-Rede bridge, which is only a few minutes away from the Calzada del Gigante. This famous hanging bridge, suspended 30 meters above the sea, was built to make it easier for fishermen to catch salmon and when they stopped using it, it became a beautiful tourist attraction.
Seventh stage of our route through Ireland: Carrick-a-Rede bridgeSeventh stage of our route through Ireland: Carrick-a-Rede bridge
The visit to the bridge costs 9 GBP per person. The site is open every day and the schedule for crossing the bridge is as follows (yes, it has a schedule, because there is a staff person making sure no one does anything irresponsible):
From April to October from 9:30 to 18:00.
From November to March from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm (a few years ago it was only open in spring and summer, but now it is open all year round).
As with the Giant’s Causeway, we have written a SUPER post in which we tell you everything you need to know about visiting the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge and you can find it here:
Visit the Carrick-a-Rede suspension bridge: how to get there, opening hours, prices and useful information
For the visit to the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge you must book between 2 and 2 and a half hours, as to get there and cross it (sometimes there is even a queue!) you must walk along a path of just over a kilometre (it is a return path). This walk is already wonderful even without a bridge, and on clear days you can even see Scotland.
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Do you remember the scene in Game of Thrones where Arya leaves King’s Landing after the death of his father? Well, it’s rolled in between these beautiful, ancient trees.
Seventh stage of our route through Ireland: The Dark Hedges
Visiting them is free and they are very close to the Carrick-a-Rede bridge, so even if you are not a fan of the series, it is a great place to stop, admire the landscape and take a million beautiful pictures.
After a super intense morning full of wonderful places that are undoubtedly super essential on this route through Ireland, we needed to make a technical stop to eat and rest a little. We chose the charming town of Ballycastle. You have several options for eating, so you’ll have no problem finding a place that fits you.
We ate at The Diamond, but I’ll tell you about it a bit further down in the ‘where to eat’ section.
If you feel like going for a walk after lunch, the village is quite charming, so it can be a good place. In addition, ferries to Rathlin Island, which can be an interesting visit if you have time, depart from Ballycastle harbour.
Torr Head Scenic Road
On the way to our next point of interest, the village of Cushendun, we cross this beautiful road with beautiful views of the cliffs. We don’t have any photos because we couldn’t stop for sure anywhere, but I leave you this one from Google Maps which is a wise guy and he knows/see everything, so you can see that the road is worth a lot.
Seventh stage of our route through Ireland: Torr Head
If you feel like it you can make a detour to Torr Head, a cape famous for being the closest point in Ireland to Scotland.
And we arrived in Cushendun! A charming little stone town with several beautiful beaches that also hides a Game of Thrones secret. Remember the cave where Lady Melisandre gives birth to the black smoke in the shape of Stanis Baratheon who murders his brother Renly Baratheon? Well, this is it! Of course, you know how the magic of the cinema works, because in the end the place does not stop being a cave next to the sea without much more to say.
Seventh stage of our route through Ireland: Game of Thrones Cave in Cushendun
Glenariff Forest Park
A few kilometres south of Cushendun is the Glenariff Forest Park, a vast forest through which you can do a lot of hiking, including a short one (about 800 metres) to visit the beautiful Ess-Na-Larach waterfall. On this website you can consult all the information about the different routes, their length, difficulty…
Leaving the car in the forest car park costs 4.5 GBP. We didn’t go in because we preferred to get to Belfast at a good time so we could take a walk, but we saw super cool pictures of the waterfall.
How we Commies love a good road along the coast! It’s like seeing a ‘Scenic Route’ or ‘Coastal Route’ sign and we’re going straight. It doesn’t matter if it takes longer or the road is narrow. Does it happen to you too?
Well, that, we couldn’t help but get on the Causeway Coastal Route from the town of Waterfoot to Ballygalley. Along the way, in addition to the beautiful views of the coast, there are several charming stone villages with mile-long beaches such as Carnlough or Glenarm.
Seventh stage of our route through Ireland: Causeway Coastal Route from Waterfoot to Ballygally
In Glenarm you can also visit the castle (only the enclosure and surroundings) and its gardens. We found them closed, but we read that it’s an interesting visit. It costs 6 GBP per person. The schedule varies a lot depending on the events they hold (in fact when we were there they were setting up a fair with stands of a lot of different types of flowers), so it’s best to check their website.
Past Ballygalley and very close to Belfast is Carrickfergus Castle, one of Northern Ireland’s most impressive medieval fortresses.
Besieged by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland today. You can visit its interior, which houses historical exhibits and cannons from the 17th to the 19th century.
Seventh stage of our route through Ireland: Carrickfergus Castle
The castle is open for visits from 9:00 to 16:00 and the entrance fee is 6 GBP per person. We could only see it from the outside because when we arrived it was already closed.
And we arrived in Belfast! The capital of Northern Ireland and one of the most interesting cities on the trip. And the truth is that we couldn’t help but be surprised, because we hadn’t seen a city this size for MANY days 😝. In fact, here in Belfast we experienced our first Irish traffic jam.
Seventh stage of our route through Ireland: Belfast CathedralSeventh stage of our route through Ireland: Peace Wall BelfastSeventh stage of our route through Ireland: Titanic MuseumSeventh stage of our route through Ireland: Cathedral Quarter Belfast
Belfast, like Derry, is a city full of history, and that is something you can breathe in its streets. But… what’s that story? Northern Ireland’s largest city has been the subject of news reports from around the world because of a longstanding territorial (and religious) conflict between Ireland and the United Kingdom.
During the second half of the 20th century, the city has suffered numerous violent episodes and terrorist bombings. So much so that it had its own ‘Berlin Wall’ to separate the Protestant zone of the city from the Catholic one. Today that place is known as the Peace Line or Wall of Peace.
We’ll write a post about what to see in Belfast in one day (including our recommended itinerary for touring the city), but we’ll leave you with the city’s most important points of interest here:
Shankill St. and Grosvernor St.
St. George Market
Donegal Street Place
Albert Clock Tower
Even if it is only for its history, you must visit this city because it is very worthwhile.
Where to eat on the seventh stage of the Route through Ireland
In this seventh stage, as in most stages of this route through Ireland, we did a super meal and another in a restaurant. In this case, we ate at a restaurant in Ballycastle at lunchtime and threw out the food we had bought at the supermarket at dinnertime.
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At lunchtime we needed something warm and nutritious after the two treks on the Calzada del Gigante and the Carrick-a-Rede bridge, so we ended up at The Diamond, a cozy local pub where we were treated to luxury. We had garlic bread to share, some mussels and a hamburger for GBP 37,80 (about 45 euros). The truth is that everything, even though it was simple, was delicious.
Lunch at The DiamondLunch at The Diamond
Here are some other options for eating at Ballycastle:
Here are some interesting options for dinner in Belfast:
Where to sleep on the seventh stage of the Route through Ireland
In this seventh stage we stayed at All Seasons Guest House, a Bed and Breakfast with a super nice and peculiar owner who is happy to receive travellers in his typical English house. So much so, that after living all his life in the city, he gave us many recommendations about Belfast, the surrounding area and told us a lot of curiosities about the history of the city.
The house was super original, although in general it needs a renovation, but to spend one night it’s not bad.
We paid 60 GBP (about 67 euros) for one night’s accommodation in this B&B with breakfast included (which we couldn’t enjoy because we got up so early), but the truth is that we would only repeat if we didn’t find some other cheaper option. The room and the bathroom were super spacious, but they needed a good washout.
Accommodation in Belfast
Below I show you some superb accommodation options in Booking in Belfast and surroundings:
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