Exploring the Causeway Coast from Ballycastle

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The Sunday Times has previously named Ballycastle as the best place to live in Northern Ireland, and one of the best in the UK. Just a short visit to Ballycastle will let you see how appropriate this accolade is. From the stunning setting on the Antrim coastline, to the fabulous pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, and not forgetting the friendliness of the locals.

Ballycastle lies within the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there is no doubt this area contains some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland.

Just a short drive from our self-catering Causeway Coast Apartments in Ballycastle will take you to several locations used in the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, including the Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle and Ballintoy Harbour. Within a 30 minute drive you can visit the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Giants Causeway, which is a World Heritage Site. Driving east from Ballycastle you can also explore the famous Glens of Antrim, do you have time to visit all 9 Glens?

Our holiday apartments are the perfect base for exploring this amazing part of Ireland. Check our calendar for availability and best nightly rates.

Rathlin Island20146_Rathlin_Island

Rathlin Island is Northern Ireland’s only inhabited offshore island and home to a spectacular array of wildlife located five miles north of Ballycastle on the North Antrim Coast.  With the re-opening of the RSPB Seabird Centre and first time access to the Rathlin West Lighthouse, it’s an unique visitor experience not to be missed.

Rathlin Island lies just off the famous Causeway Coastal Route journey and offers a distinctive island holiday experience, so why not take a ferry from the seaside town of Ballycastle to visit this idyllic destination. The island’s ultimate experience will be immersive and memorable.

Imposing iconic lighthouses, sporadic deep sea shipwrecks, a dramatic coastal scenery shrouded in a rich cultural heritage, Rathlin Island is on the northern edge of the Atlantic Ocean. There are many ways on offer to explore the island’s heritage from walking, cycling and rigid inflatable boats.

Rathlin’s beguiling coastal landscapes adorned with stunning natural assets are popular to visitors looking to  escape life on the mainland.  You’ll have no choice but to succumb to the islands’ charms.  Explore the rugged terrain of the island a dramatic patchwork of idyllic green fields, towering sea-cliffs and sensational sea-views.  The island appeal is very diverse and opportunities exist to get up nice and close to nature with wildlife in abundance.
Known for its rich history and traditional culture, as well as its stunning landscapes, seascapes and diverse wildlife these qualities have made it an inspirational retreat for visitors from all walks of life who can enjoy the peace and tranquility of island-life. 

About a hundred people live on Rathlin Island today. The many ruined cottages and old dry stone walls and pillars are a strong feature of the landscape and stand witness to violent incidents in the island’s past.

Rathlin West LighthouseYou can now take a tour of the only ‘upside down’ lighthouse in Ireland. Visitors can now access this legendary icon. Whether you are interested in wildlife, curious about engineering or maritime heritage, or simply want to experience life on an island, Rathlin West Lighthouse is the place for youEnjoy the spectacular vistas as you walk, cycle or bus it up from the ferry terminal.  Rathlin West Light is a lighthouse and one of the largest seabird colonies in the UK and part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland trail.


Every year thousands of migrating seabirds return to breed here.  The sights, sounds and even the smell of so many seabirds at such close quarters is an experience you’ll never forget and the RSPB NI team will be on hand to help you identify the 

puffinsunique birdlife. It’s also home to one of the most extensive ranges of sea life in Europe, with birds, dolphins and seals visiting the island.


You can book boat tickets to visit Rathlin at the Ballycastle Harbour.



The Dark Hedges

http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/causeway/images/carousel/10.jpgThis iconic archway of intertwining beech trees has become one of our most photographed natural phenomena. It was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century to impress visitors approaching the entrance to their Georgian mansion. Today the site is perhaps best known as a filming location in HBO’s Game of Thrones®; it doubled as The King’s Road in Season Two of the epic series.


Leave Ballycastle heading for Ballymena After about 5 miles, at Armoy village follow the signs. Please use the recommended car park and walk to the Dark Hedges as cars should not drive along the roadway.

Car park charges apply.







http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/causeway/images/carousel/12.jpgCarrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

A short coastal footpath leads to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. On the way, there are wonderful vantage points to stop and take in the natural beauty. The geology, flora and fauna have won Carrick-a-Rede recognition as an area of special scientific interest. Fulmars, kittywakes, guillemots and razorbills breed on the islands close to the rope bridge.

Of course, Carrick-a-Rede also boasts an exhilarating rope bridge experience. Traditionally fishermen erected the bridge to Carrick-a-Rede island over a 23m-deep and 20m-wide chasm to check their salmon nets. Today visitors are drawn here simply to take the rope bridge challenge!

The rope bridge originally consisted of a single rope handrail which has been replaced by a two-hand railed bridge by the National Trust. Once you reach Carrick Island, the reward is seeing the diverse birdlife and an uninterrupted view across to Rathlin Island and Scotland. There is only one way off the island – back across the swinging bridge! Don’t look down!



The ropebridge is one of Northern Ireland’s best-loved attractions because;
• Rocky island connected to the cliffs by a rope bridge
• Exhilarating coastal path experience
• Stunning views of Rathlin and Scottish islands
• Site of Special Scientific Interest: unique geology, flora and fauna
• Fantastic bird-watching
• Guided tours by arrangement for groups of 15+ people

• Viewing platform suitable for visitors with disabilities
• Dogs not permitted to cross bridge

Admission charges apply.


The Giant’s Causeway

http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/causeway/images/carousel/15.jpgThe Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland and in 2015 was awarded the UKs Best Heritage Attraction at the British Travel Awards.

Resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, this is the focal point of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has attracted visitors for centuries. It harbors a wealth of local and natural history.

Sea birds can be seen off the coast around the Causeway, with species such as fulmar, petrel and razorbill being frequently observed alongside rare and unusual plant species on the cliffs and nearby rock formations.

The Giant’s Causeway is also steeped in myth and legend. Some say it was carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool who left behind an ancient home full of folklore. Look out for clues of his existence – including The Giant’s Boot and Wishing Chair.

Rising and blending into the landscape, with walls of glass, basalt columns and a state of the art interior designed by award winning architects Heneghan-Peng, The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre is truly innovative. The grass roof offers 360 degree views of the Causeway coastline. Explore the interactive spaces, watch Finn McCool on the big screen and unlock the secrets of this inspirational landscape.

There are four stunning trails at the Giant’s Causeway suited to every ability, from a pram friendly jaunt to a challenging coastal hike and in addition, a new accessible cliff top walk for families and people with disabilities. The area is suitable for picnics, cliff and country walks, and dogs are welcome on leads (guide dogs only within the Visitor Centre).

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Ballintoy Harbour can be discovered in the picturesque village of Ballintoy. Known as a raised beach, it is located alongside the B15 coast road, 17 miles north-east of Coleraine and five miles west of Ballycastle.

The small fishing harbour can be found at the end of a small narrow steep road down Knocksaughey Hill, which passes by the entrance to Larrybane and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The village itself, which is just one kilometre from the harbour, has a charming array of small shops, two churches, including the quaint white Ballintoy Parish Church on the hill above the harbour, as well as tourist accommodation, restaurants, commercial and social facilities.

For those looking to capture a true sense of Irish rural life, it is an ideal stop over whilst touring the coastal route.

It has been used as a filming location in HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones. This stunning harbour location has been used for exterior Pyke shots and as the Iron Islands.

This picturesque coastal nook is where Theon Greyjoy arrives back in the Iron Islands and where he later admires his ship, the Sea Bitch. This is also where he first meets his sister Yara.

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Kinbane Castle

Located just 3 miles from Ballycastle, Kinbane Castle is a must see during your visit. While there is not a lot left of the Castle, it was after all built in 1547, the headland on which it sits is stunning. There is a narrow access road leading to a car park, then a lot of steps to the Castle. Access is free.

Dunluce Castle

http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/causeway/images/carousel/17.jpgThe iconic ruin of Dunluce Castle bears witness to a long and tumultuous history. First built on the dramatic coastal cliffs of north County Antrim by the MacQuillan family around 1500, the earliest written record of the castle was in 1513.

It was seized by the ambitious MacDonnell clan in the 1550’s, who set about stamping their mark on the castle under the leadership of the famous warrior chieftain Sorely Boy MacDonnell during an era of violence, intrigue and rebellion.

In the 17th century Dunluce was the seat of the earls of County Antrim and saw the establishment of a small town in 1608. Visitors can explore the findings of archaeological digs within the cobbled streets and stone merchants’ houses of the long-abandoned Dunluce Town.

The dramatic history of Dunluce is matched by tales of a banshee and how the castle kitchens fell into the sea one stormy night in 1639.

Admisson charges apply if you want to get inside the remains of the castle, but you can walk around it for free.






ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Henderson


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