The Giants Causeway is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. This UNESCO world heritage site has been popular among tourists for generations and has even played a role in ancient Irish mythology. This is my guide on how to experience this Irish landmark
How to See the Giants Causeway. The best way to see the Causeway is from the nearby town of Bushmills, about 2 miles away. From the town you can make your way by either foot or public transport to the causeway. This will be free to visit, unless you decide to use the visitor centre.
When you arrive at the Giants causeway there will be plenty to take in, from the beautiful and underrated Antrim coastline, to the causeway itself. The nearby area also has plenty of hidden gems that are well worth taking in, if you know how to see them!
Getting to the Giants Causeway
There are a variety of different ways to get to the Causeway, depending on where you are coming from. I will go into detail here on how to reach this landmark from various locations in Ireland.
One thing that you should note on this journey is that the Giants Causeway is in Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro, while the UK uses the Pound Sterling, so make sure you plan accordingly.
Dublin is the main city on the island of Ireland and as such, most of the people who arrive in Ireland will use this city as a base to see the rest of the country from. One of the most popular destinations for travellers staying in Dublin is the Giants Causeway. The Causeway is located about 250 kilometres (155 miles) away from Dublin, so getting there will take some time, and remember: you will need to budget time for getting back too.
The journey is about 3 hours by car and over 5 ½ hours by public transport. There are also coach tour companies that will take you from Dublin in the morning, bring you around Belfast and the Causeway and return you to the city that evening. Unless you have rented a car for your trip to Ireland, this is probably the best way to experience the Causeway on your trip.
There are multiple companies that offer this experience, the best value for money one I am aware of is Finn McCools Tours. Named after the legendary giant who built the causeway In Irish mythology, this tour will bring you to the causeway itself and several nearby attractions including the carrick-a-rede rope bridge and Belfast city. This tour costs €56 and lasts the full day.
For your convenience, I have created the following reference table for the different ways to get to the causeway from Dublin:
|Journey Time (Each Way)
|Approximate Price (€)
|Company Link, for Further Details
|€43 (24 hours rental)
|Public Transport (Trains + Busses)
|5 Hours 40 Minutes
|Full Day (13-14 Hours)
|Finn McCools Tours
If you are staying in Belfast, getting to the Giants Causeway is a lot easier. The biggest city in Northern Ireland offers great transport links to various attractions nearby. Located about 100 kilometres (60miles) from the causeway, getting there via public transport becomes a lot more viable than from Dublin.
There are tour companies that will offer you a day trip around the local area and these can still be well worth your time. Finn Tours offers a great value for money service. While you will see many of the same sights that you would from Dublin, you will also get to see many of the filming locations used for Game of Thrones, among many other things.
Please consult the table below on the various methods of getting to the causeway from Belfast:
|Journey Time (Each Way)
|Approximate Price (€)
|Company Link, for Further Details
|1 ½ Hours
|From £13 per day
|Public Transport (Trains + Busses)
|Full Day (12 Hours)
This is probably the best way to see the Giants Causeway. If you are staying in Belfast, then my advice would be to make your way to the small town of Bushmills, located less than 2 miles away from the Causeway itself. The town is within walking distance of the causeway, but there are also some bus services that will shuttle visitors between the two. If you are driving to the causeway, this town also offers the best parking nearby.
I will go into detail on the various things to see and do in this town later in this article.
Things to do Nearby
Once you have seen the Giants Causeway, you don’t have to head home straight away, there are plenty of things to see and do nearby. You might even enjoy some of these smaller sights more than the Causeway, as many of them will have a lot less tourists!
The Visitors Centre
The controversial visitors centre to the Giants Causeway was opened in 2012 and cost the taxpayer about £18 million. The centre was designed to emulate the Basalt columns along the coast, and you can clearly see that as you enter near the carpark. This was a great decision and the centre suits the natural landscape beautifully. Inside you will also find a great educational area, which goes into detail on the geology and wildlife in the area. The educational display was designed for children and conveys the information excellently. There is also a movie on a continuous loop, which wordlessly tells the story of Finn McCool and Brendonner, the two giants who built the causeway in Irish mythology.
Though there are many good things about this centre, it has caused controversy amongst locals. There is about as much floor space devoted to the giftshop as there is devoted to the educational display. While the stuff on offer is of excellent quality (I have bought stuff there myself), I feel this could be done better. There is also an issue with the toilet facilities. Thousands of people go through this centre every day, less than 10 of whom will be able to go to the toilet at any one time. The food on offer is not great either, but this is an issue with pretty much everywhere run by the national trust.
The main issue for most people will be parking. The space for people to park will be limited, unless you arrive early in the morning. Most people are forced to park at the town of Bushmills, 2 miles away.
You do not have to use the Visitors Centre in order to experience the Giants Causeway.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Almost all the tour companies that go to the Giants Causeway make a stop here. Whenever I bring groups around this part of Ireland, I certainly always try to bring them here! Carraick-a-Rede is a tiny island that has been used by fishermen for generations, and in order to access this island, they created a rope bridge from the mainland.
The old bridge has been replaced many times. Today the ropes are made from solid steel and are much sturdier than they once were. In fact, the only real danger that you will face here will be losing your phone on the bridge, trying to take a selfie!
While the bridge and the island are both great experiences to be had, my favourite part of this trip is the walk up to them. If you get some good weather here, you will be able to see some great views off the northern Irish coastline. You can see islands like Rattlin island or the Isle of Skye. If the weather is super, you might even be able to see the Mull of Kintyre on the mainland of Scotland! The views from here are some of my favourite on the whole island of Ireland.
For planning purposes, I would allot about 30 minutes for the walk to and from the bridge, about half an hour to explore the bridge and the island; for about 1 ½ hours total. It is located about a 5-minute drive from the Giants Causeway.
The price for an adult ticket to cross the bridge is £9, though I don’t feel like crossing is a must. The hike there and back are worth are worth a trip here, even without the bridge.
Of all the 800 ruined castles in Ireland, Dunluce must be one of the most breath-taking. Located within about 10 minutes of the causeway and Rope-Bridge, this castle was once home to a powerful Irish family who had strong connections to Scotland. Having been abandoned for over 400 years, today you will be able to see the castle along the coastal road. Most of the bus tours that go to the Causeway will also make a stop here for some photos. You only really need about 15 minutes to take this sight in as there is no easy access to the castle and traffic will prevent you from stopping for too long.
There are many local legends about this castle that claim it was uninhabitable due to the collapse of the kitchen into the sea. According to these legends, one night in a terrible storm, part of the cliff the castle rests on fell into the sea and took all the kitchens with it. The only survivor was a small boy, who was hiding in the far corner. While this is a good story, if you have a tour guide who tells you it, try and ask them what the clearly visible chimney stacks were for, if the kitchens supposedly fell away!
This small town in Northern Ireland only has a population of about 2,000 people, yet it is famous the world over. One of the oldest whiskey distilleries in the world was founded here way back in 1608 and today the Bushmills distillery is still in operation. You can do tours of this establishment and learn about how it became the oldest and longest running whiskey distillery in Ireland.
The town itself is proud of its history and wandering around you will be able to find monuments to some of it more notable inhabitants and people who were associated with it. It is well worth wandering around this small town in Northern Ireland!
Bushmills is also the best place to go to if you want to see the Giants Causeway. Since the opening of the controversial new visitors centre, Bushmills has been the best place to go for parking. The town is about 2 miles away and is well within walking distance of the site, though there are transport links available. If you choose to use this method to access the Causeway, you will also be able to avoid using the visitors centre and access everything directly. If you decide not to use any of the coach tours, this is what I recommend.
North Antrim Coast
County Antrim is located at the very north-eastern corner of the island of Ireland and has some of the best scenery in Europe. The route is roughly right the way along the coastline between the cities of Belfast and Derry, the two biggest cities in Northern Ireland. This is one of the best things you can do if you decide to rent a car on your stay in Ireland and it is regularly ranked as one of top five routes to drive in the world.
On this route you will be able to find many different sites. Including:
- The Giants Causeway
- The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
- Dunluce Castle
- The Gobbins
- Cushendun Caves
- Mussenden Temple
While we have already spoken about many of these attractions, some of the others are well worth seeing if you get the chance to do so. Portstewart and Portrush are both popular resort towns and have great access to scenic beaches along the coast. In fact, Portrush is so scenic it will host the British Open golf tournament this year (2019).
You might also be able to see the famous Glens of Antrim while driving along this route. This is a series of nine glens, created from glacial movements at the end of the last ice age and are today regarded as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Some of these other sites may seem familiar, if you are a fan of the T.V. show Game of Thrones. A lot of this production has been filmed in Northern Ireland and they have used various parts of the beautiful scenery to stand in for Westeros. This leads us nicely into our next topic for this article…
Game of Thrones Locations
With such amazing natural scenery, Northern Ireland has seen many Hollywood productions filmed here, the most famous of these is undoubtedly Game of Thrones. If you are not a fan of this show, feel free to skip this section. Also, if you haven’t finished the show, you also might want to skip as there will be spoilers ahead!
On your trip to Ireland, you will be able to walk in the footsteps of some of your favourite characters from Game of Thrones. Here are just some of the many different sights that you will be able to visit and what they were used for in the show:
- The Dark Hedges – The Kingsroad.
- Tollymore Forest – Where they come across the young Dire wolves.
- Ballintoy Harbour – The Iron Islands.
- Portstewart – The Coast of Dorne.
- Bineveigh – Where Daenerys was rescued by Drogon (the dragon).
- Downhill Beach (Mussenden Temple) – Where Stannis Sacrificed to the Lord of Light.
- Castle Ward – Winterfell.
- Cushendun Caves – Where Mellisendre gave birth to the shadow monster.
The only issue with experiencing them this way, is that you will need a car. Otherwise, if you want to see these sights, companies have started to offer specific Game of Thrones tours of the area. My recommendations for tours are below:
- From Dublin. If you want to see these sights from Dublin, then the best tours are operated by Irish Day Tours. It costs €65 and runs the entire day. It includes many of the nearby attractions and doesn’t just cover the sights from the show.
- From Belfast. The best tour I am aware of that starts in Belfast is run by Game of Thrones Tours. All of the guides with this company have been extras on the show and the tour covers the movie sights and locations from seasons 1-7, as well as some of the more traditional tourist locations nearby. This tour costs €53 and runs all day.
Is it Free to Visit the Giants Causeway? Yes, it is free to experience the Giants Causeway and hike any of the cliff walks. However, you will have to pay to use the visitors centre. Admission fee for an adult is £8.50 or £4.50 for a child. You do not need to use this centre to enjoy the causeway.
How Long do You Need at the Giants Causeway? You will need at least 2 hours to fully experience the Giants Causeway. Though you should allow for a little more time if you are making your own way there and plan to see any of the great sights nearby.
How Many People Visit the Giants Causeway? About 1 million people visit the Giants Causeway each year. In recent years this number has been rising with the increase in tourism in Northern Ireland. Arrive early to beat the crowds.