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Belfast to Derry drive

We're planning 1 day for this segment of our trip, planning to see at least Giants Causeway and Dunluce castle. Is this easily doable? We don't want to rush. What do others recommend as must see along this route?

Posted by
6478 posts

We did roughly this route on an Irish tour many years ago only in the opposite direction - from Derry to Belfast. We didn't go to Dunluce castle, but in addition to Giant's Causeway we visited Bushmill's Distillery, Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, and stopped for lunch at Portrush. So, yes, I think you could visit both the Causeway and Dunluce between the two cities. We spent about an hour and a half at the Causeway because it is a little hike out to it that took about 20 mins each way. It really depends on traffic between them and crowds at the attractions how long it will take you. It's a beautiful area and a scenic drive, at least some of it.

Posted by
2225 posts

If you plan to do this as a day trip from Belfast, ie returning there in the late afternoon, then it will be a long day but not an unpleasant one provided the weather cooperates and assuming that you get an early start. It's about 1.5 hrs by car from Belfast to the Giants Causeway Visitor Center, and Dunluce is only about 5 miles further on. From there to Derry is another hour or so, then another 1.5 hrs back to Belfast - all dependent on traffic of course.
Stops at the Causeway, Dunluce, and Derry itself will pretty much use up your day so I wouldn't recommend exploring any further afield - not on this trip anyway.
If on the other hand your intention is to make a day of it and stop in Derry for the night then you could drive north from Belfast along the Glens of Antrim - one of Ireland's great scenic drives on a sunny day. Carrickfergus Castle would be one suggested stop along the way, as well as the pretty little village of Glen Arm and its castle, though all of "the glens" are equally welcoming and picturesque.
One tip for visiting the Giants Causeway: access to the rocks is free, but you have to pay a nominal fee for parking at the visitor center, then another fee to access the Visitor Center itself. You can save yourself some money by going next door to the Causeway Hotel and parking there for free, then use the money saved for lunch or tea and stroll over to the entrance at your leisure.

Posted by
5113 posts

This is quite doable. I don't read this as a day trip, but as a segment of a longer journey. You should have plenty of time.

If you are up for walk/hike. You can park in the public lot at Port Ballintrae and have a lovely hike along the beach and headlands to the Giant's Causeway. It is quite scenic and you even pass a small memorial to an air crew that perished along this stretch of coast. This hike takes about 30 minutes. It is an extremely pleasant approach that removes you from the tourist hordes until your actual arrival at the Causeway. You can take the public bus back, retrace your steps, or take the alternate path that goes back toward Bushmills.

Dunluce Castle would be a 5 minute drive from this location.

Posted by
925 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
Doable, especially one way. The Giants' Causeway. My wife and I walked in on the trail 20 minutes or what ever. At the end there was a bench. But we turned around and headed back before we stopped ourselves. WE had traveled more than 6000 miles to get to this spot. We took our places on the bench and listened to waves break so far below us for a long time. Bliss.

Don't ignore the Green Glens of Antrim. Glenarm and Glenariff. Famous for their beauty. The Antrim Coast Road hugs the coast, but a roads head away from the coast up one side of each glen and down the other side, making the trip a V shape drive.

Stop at Mauds in Ballycastle for an ice.

Derry is a city worth walking around in the commercial area. Just don't call it Londonderry.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
43 posts

Hello James Woods,

Our trip is planned for one way/one 8-10 hour day from Belfast to Londonderry. It sounds like some of the Glens should be seen/visited, but I'm sure there's lots of other stops to consider. So if you were guiding us along the Antrim Coast, what highlights would you suggest we see?

And as a bonus question, we have 2-3 days after we leave Londonderry to make our way to Galway. Where would you recommend for highlights as we spend those days?

Thanks for your help.

Posted by
205 posts

Another thank you, Mr. Woods…re Derry vs Londonderry…I was concerned about that very issue, and just picturing myself saying the wrong thing in a pub in Newtownstewart! I just don’t want to offend anyone!

Posted by
39 posts

We enjoyed the scenic route between Cushendun and Ballycastle via Torr head. It’s a small and winding road along the coast with stunning views – Ireland at it’s best.

How important is Giant’s causeway to you? If you arrive there early afternoon, it will be very crowded. Be early or late or both to avoid the crowds. That would mean to stay a night in Bushmills or any accommodation close to Giant’s causeway.
If you go there coming from Ballycastle I would recommend to use the first parking option to the right. https://goo.gl/maps/CnW3kcUVyxEFvYnGA
From here you can do a walking roundtrip, first above the cliffs, walk down to “the Organ” and return down at the coastline towards visitor center. That will take about 1 hour.
Heading south towards Galway next night could be in Donegal (the town not the county).
My highlights for that section were:
Grianán of Aileach – an old ring fort
https://www.thewildatlanticway.com/waw/grianan-of-aileach/
Glenveagh National Park – beautiful landscape. You might use the shuttle bus to Glenveagh Castle and do a short walk from there.
https://www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie/
Slieve League Cliffs – the highest cliffs in Ireland.
https://www.theirishroadtrip.com/sliabh-liag-cliffs/