Depending on when you go, your Giant’s Causeway visit can be amazing or average. We are going to share how to visit the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland to help you fall in love with it the way we did.
The Giant’s Causeway is the most popular attraction in all of Northern Ireland and with good reason. It is truly incredible.
Tips for Visiting the Giant’s Causeway
We have visited the Giant’s Causeway on three separate occasions totaling 5 visits (sunrise and sunset) and it never ceases to amaze us. However, out of our five visits, one Giant’s Causeway visit was less than stellar due to crowds. So to help you avoid making the same mistake we did on our first visit, we’re going to share the best ways to visit the Giant’s Causeway.
Where is the Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is located in Country Antrim on the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. It is just 2.5 miles north of Bushmills and 1 hour and 20 minutes from Belfast. Many people visit the Giant’s Causeway on a road trip around the Causeway Coast or as part of a day tour from Belfast. Many bus tours stop at the Giant’s Causeway starting at 10 am.
If you aren’t driving, this is a good day tour that includes a visit to Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle and the Dark Hedges. Visit RentalCars.com to see prices for car rentals from Dublin or Belfast.
What is the Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was formed 60 million years ago during a volcanic eruption. It is truly a wonder of the world. There are more than 40 thousand basalt columns that are perfectly stacked creating what looks like a giant set of interlocking bricks leading out to the sea.
The basalt columns were formed during the eruption when the flowing lava crashed into the waves of the sea. As the ocean cooled the lava, it turned them into volcanic stones. There are similar basalt columns around the world including in Iceland and Scotland but the Giant’s Causeway is probably the most famous. We’ve seen others and they just don’t seem to compare.
Other Places with Columns in the World
A quick Google search will show you that there are dozens of hexagonal columns around the world. We noted Iceland and Scotland but they can be found from Mongolia to Thailand. Ones that we’ve seen with our own eyes are Iceland, Namibia, Australia, and California.
Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Center
The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Center opens at 10:00 am and closes depending on the time of year, anywhere from 5 pm to 9 pm. But you can visit it on your own and walk down anytime if you are staying at the Causeway Hotel. From the parking lot, you will walk through a tunnel taking you to the Blue Trail which is a half-mile walk downhill.
If you are staying at the Causeway Hotel you can visit the Giant’s Causeway for free. If you are driving, you will need to purchase a parking ticket. Parking is per person so it adds up quickly making the Causeway Hotel a desirable option. The cost for parking is £13 per each adult in the car. £32.50 for a family and £6.50 for children.
When you purchase a ticket online, it includes parking, a guided tour, and audio guides. You also have access to the Visitor Centre’s exhibition. If you book a tour from Belfast or Dublin, you won’t need to worry about any of this. This full-day guided tour is highly rated and takes you along the Causeway Coastal Route to see the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle, The Dark Hedges and Giants Causeway.
If you want to save a bit of cash, The Causeway Coast Way Car Park is a 6-minute walk and will cost you £10.
If you are not staying at the Causeway hotel you will need to pay for parking or you can walk. Some of the guest houses near Giant’s Causeway are not too far away as well. There are some good hiking trails to the Giant’s Causeway as well and if you are up for a hike, you can walk from Dunserverick Castle or Portballintrae.
Giant’s Causeway Walking Trails
Blue Trail – This is the common trail that is along the paved road leading to Giant’s Causeway from the Visitor Centre.
Green Trail – This is a 3.2 km (2 miles) hike that takes 1.5 hours. This trail starts at the Causeway Hotel and follows the path toward path towards Runkerry Head. This trail is suitable for people with disabilities and is wheelchair friendly. It is also kid-friendly for buggies. This trail takes you out to see the Portcoon Cave, 150 yards long and 40-foot high, sea cave.
Red Trail – The Red Trail is a moderate trail that takes about 1.5 hours. It starts at the visitor’s center and goes along the top of the cliffs.
Yellow Trail – The Yellow Trail is a challenging hike, that begins at Runkery Head and ends at Hamilton’s Seat. The trailhead is accessible near the village of Portballintrae and goes past the Causeway Hotel and Visitors Centre. You’ll meet up with the Blue Trail and can go down to the Giant’s Causeway or stay high to continue on the yellow trail. There are sheer cliffs on this path so make sure to take caution.
Where to Stay at the Giant’s Causeway
We highly recommend spending more time at the Giant’s Causeway than just on a quick day trip. The reason being is that if you join a tour, you will arrive at the Giant’s Causeway at midday with all the crowds. On two of our visits, we stayed at the Causeway Hotel and could walk down to see the Giant’s Causeway at sunrise and sunset. During these times of the day, we had it all to ourselves.
The Causeway Hotel is the closest hotel to the Giant’s Causeway located directly at the visitor’s centre. But there are plenty of BnBs around the area and other hotels in Bushmills which is just 2.5 miles away. You can then easily drive to the Giant’s Causeway for sunrise or sunset. See reviews on TripAdvisor and Check prices on Booking.com
The Causeway Hotel has a bar and restaurant so you don’t have to leave at all and can spend maximum time at the Giant’s Causeway. The rooms are pretty basic though and need an update. What the rooms lack in ambiance is made up for in its location.
The Bushmills Inn is another great option located in town. We ate here and had an amazing meal. It dates back to 1600 and was a coaching inn at the time. It has been completely renovated and the rooms are now a 4-star luxury. If you want something more upscale and don’t mind needing to drive to the Giant’s Causeway, this is a great option. See reviews on TripAdvisor and Check Prices on Booking.com
Finn McCool – Legend of the Giant’s Causeway
Inside the visitors center there is a gift shop, a snack bar, and a coffee shop. There is also a film telling the story of Finn McCool. Before science, it was believed that the Giant Finn McCool made the Giant’s Causeway to create a bridge to Scotland.
Legend says that rivals Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) of County Antrim in Ireland were constantly bickering with the Scottish Giant Bennandoner. One day Finn McCool decided to build a bridge to cross the sea and challenge Bennandoner to a fight. It’s an easy legend to believe as each stone seems as if it was placed there for a purpose. Read the full legend at The Legend of the Giant’s Causeway – Do You Believe?
Best Time to Visit the Giant’s Causeway
The best time to visit the Giant’s Causeway is at sunrise or sunset. We visited both times in different years and times of year and both times we had it virtually to ourselves. We walked down at sunrise well before the visitor’s center opened and could hike all over the rocks taking in views from different angles. By the time the buses started arriving, we had our fill and went back to the hotel for breakfast.
We did the same thing at night. Once the buses left is when we walked down to watch the sunset with a group of two other people. When you are along the Giant’s Causeway it is truly magical.
The one time we were on a bus tour we arrived in mid-day and it was chaos.
Mobility and the Giant’s Causeway
For those with mobility issues, there is a bus that you can take down and up to the Giant’s Causeway from the visitor’s center. They also have wheelchairs and scooters available to borrow at the visitor centre. Note that they are available on a first come first serve basis. The bus costs
Things to do Near the Giant’s Causeway
After the morning visit, there are plenty of things to see and do nearby. Giant’s Causeway is located along the Causeway Coastal Route and it is one of the most spectacular road trips on earth.
Make sure to continue driving west to stop at the viewing platform just a short distance further. This just opened this year and there are two fantastic lookouts where you can see Dunluce Castle on one side and the high sea cliffs of Northern Ireland on the other.
Bushmills is Dave’s favourite whisky and we always stop to pick up a bottle of their signature 16-year-old. You can do a distillery tour and it is highly recommended. Even if you don’t do a tour, you can get into the grounds for a peak and into the gift shop to purchase a bottle or two. Bushmills is just a five-minute drive from Giant’s Causeway
The Dark Hedges is 20 minutes from Giant’s Causeway and they are the most photographed place in Northern Ireland. The Dark Hedges are located on Bregagh Road near the town of Ballymoney in County Antrim. It is lined with 90 beech trees forming an arch all the way along the road. It was used as The King’s Road in Game of Thrones.
Carrick a Rede
The Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge is another amazing stop that is located just 15 minutes from Giant’s Causeway. It was once a dangerous bridge to cross only used by fishermen, but today it has been restored and tourists can walk across this suspension bridge for unparalleled views of the coastline.
The Giant’s Causeway and the Causeway Coast are extraordinary places to visit. Spending time in this part of Northern Ireland is sure to create memories to last a lifetime as you explore one of the most beautiful coasts in the world.
Giant’s Causeway Belfast Tours
You can book day tours to the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast if you aren’t doing a self-drive around the Causeway Coastal Route. This highly rated tour takes you to see famous sights along the Antrim coast before reaching the Giant’s Causeway. Places you’ll see en route to the Giant’s Causeway are Cushendun Caves, Carnlough Harbour, and the Dark Hedges. Learn about the history from live commentary on board.
Another excellent option for a tour from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway is this popular Game of Thrones Tour. You’ll enjoy the beauty of the Antrim Coast before hitting the world-famous Giant’s Causeway. During this guided day tour you’ll stop at places like Carrickfergus Castle, and the nine Glens of Antrim before seeing the coastal town of Ballycastle. It’s then time to see HBO’s Game of Thrones filming locations like Magharmorne Quarry which is the location of Castle Black and the Dark Hedges to see King’s Road.
Tours to the Giant’s Causeway even be booked from Dublin. This highly rated tour is the perfect day trip for people with limited time but who still want to enjoy some of the top Northern Ireland destinations when they visit Ireland. Visit the Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle, and Giant’s Causeway, and spend some time in Belfast on a guided tour from Dublin.
Admire the formations of the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage SiteHead to Portaneevy View Point to see the Carrick-a-Rede Rope BridgeMarvel at the stunning scenery of the Antrim coastal routeHear stories of folklore and history with a few myths and legends tooSee some of the Game of Thrones sites throughout the day