Planning a Giant’s Causeway day trip from Belfast is one of the most popular days out from the Northern Irish capital.
Located on the County Antrim coast in the north of Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is about as spectacular as you might think. In recent years, visiting these basalt rock formations has increased in popularity but that doesn’t take away from the beauty of this location.
So-called because, according to legend, the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) suggest a causeway to be built in order to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner – this was to explain how there are virtually identical rock formations at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa. In reality, these were part of the same ancient lava flow during the Paleocene Epoch.
Steeped in folklore, the Giant’s Causeway is just one part of the incredible Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland and a day trip to the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast is a great way to explore some of the highlights of this area.
Whether you choose to visit independently or as part of an organised tour, there is no doubt that visiting this iconic attraction is an unforgettable experience.
Getting to the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast
There are a few options for visiting the Giant’s Causeway as a day trip from Belfast and which you choose really only depends on your travel style and preferences.
By Organised Tour
The easiest way to visit this iconic natural site from Belfast is via organised tour. There are a number of day tours to the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast to choose from and it’s a great way to take the hassle of planning out of it and enjoy your time in Northern Ireland.
While you won’t have the flexibility you could have if you go independently, you will be able to fit in quite a lot on most of these tours.
For example, this full-day tour is a great option for Game of Thrones fans who also want to visit the Giant’s Causeway. It will pick you up from Belfast, allow you to spend some time at the Causeway and also take you to some filming locations from the popular HBO series.
Another great option is this full-day tour which will take you to some beautiful coastal stops including Carrickfergus Castle, the Cushendun Caves and Carnlough Harbour while en route to the Causeway from Belfast city. It includes some time at the Giant’s Causeway and also will stop at the ruins of Dunluce Castle and the Dark Hedges before heading back to the city.
If you happen to be visiting Belfast as a stop on a cruise, then this shore excursion will pick you up from the cruise port and take you to the Giant’s Causeway and a few other highlights of the area.
And if you’d prefer not to go as a group but would still rather have a tour organised for you, then this private tour can be a great option as you will have an experience tour guide all to yourself. All in all, there are lots of options for a Giant’s Causeway tour from Belfast.
By far the easiest and most flexible way to visit the Giant’s Causeway is by your own personal vehicle. When having your own car, you can arrive at the Causeway as early as you’d like (it can get very busy later in the day), see which site you want to and skip which ones you don’t.
The drive from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway itself is incredibly scenic and takes about 1-1.5 hours depending on the route. The Causeway Coastal Route, in general, is absolutely gorgeous and having enough time and flexibility to enjoy this area is far preferable to go at your own pace.
Parking prices can vary, especially at the Giant’s Causeway itself. Generally, at the majority of the stops listed in the day trip itinerary below, you won’t need to pay much for parking fees throughout the day if you know what to do.
If you’d like to hire a car for your day trip, then consider browsing Rentalcars.com to find deals across a number of major rental companies.
By Public Transport
If you want to visit the Giant’s Causeway independently but don’t want to drive, then you can do it by public transport. There are direct buses operated by Northern Ireland’s Translink that connect Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway in about 1.5 hours.
From the Giant’s Causeway, you can also hop on local bus 402 to see some of the stops on the Causeway Coast, like the town of Bushmills (if you want to go to the whiskey distillery) and Dunluce Castle.
The 402 can take you all the way to the town of Portrush (a great place for a pint or dinner). From there, it is possible to grab a train back to Belfast in about 1.5 hours (though you may need to make a change depending on the route and time).
You can map out your journey and check timetables on the Translink website.
Giant’s Causeway Day Trip Itinerary
Now that you’ve figured out how you plan to reach the Giant’s Causeway, let’s discuss what to do while you’re there. This itinerary really only works if you’re travelling independently by car, however, you can still experience the first 3 of these stops if you’re using public transportation.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is quite an active day and ensuring that you have proper shoes is essential. And, because the Irish weather can be erratic at best, having a good waterproof jacket is never a bad idea, either.
The first stop of your day trip should be at the Giant’s Causeway – it’s best to get here as early as possible in order to avoid the crowds and the tour buses that inevitably come a bit later.
It’s worth noting that, while it may not seem like it, entry into the Giant’s Causeway is actually completely free and you can visit this incredible natural site without having to pay a penny.
With this in mind, however, you cannot park at or visit the visitor’s centre – which is the closest car park to the Causeway itself.
If you choose to head to the visitor’s centre and park there, expect to pay at least £13.50 (£15 in peak season) per adult – so this can quickly add up depending on how many people you have in the car.
There are numerous other places you can park for a much-reduced fee or even for free.
If you’re up for a bit of an easy walk and want to visit the Causeway free of charge, then consider parking at the Salmon Rock Beach car park in the town of Portballintrae. Parking here is free of charge and there are also free public toilets here, as well.
From the car park, it is about a 30-minute walk to the visitor’s centre along the beach and the Bushmills railway path. It’s an incredibly pleasant walk and highly recommended. If you don’t feel like walking, you can also take local bus 402 to and from Portballintrae to the Giant’s Causeway.
Once you reach the visitor’s centre, we recommend heading on the Blue Trail to wind your way down to the iconic rocks of the Giant’s Causeway.
It’s worth noting, as well, that there is a shuttle bus that operates between the visitor’s centre and the rocks of the Causeway – it is £1 each way and can be used even if you didn’t pay to enter the visitor’s centre.
If you’re walking, continue along the Blue Trail after visiting the most iconic rock formations. The trail then winds its way up the cliffs and past the Organ Pipes formation and to the Amphitheatre viewpoint.
You can then follow the trail up the stairs until you join the Red Trail, which winds at the top of the cliffs and provides excellent views before you get to the visitor’s centre.
For those who walk all the way from Portballintrae to the Causeway and back, plan to spend about 2-3 hours in total there. If walking from the visitor’s centre, then plan to spend 1-2 hours here.
After you’ve got your fill of natural splendour at the Giant’s Causeway, it’s time to visit our next stop on this day trip itinerary – Dunluce Castle. This is a beautiful ruined castle perfectly perches on the dramatic green cliffside of the Causeway Coast.
You’re able to tour the castle if this is something that interests you — tickets are £6 per person — or, if you’re simply interested in taking in the views of this gorgeous building, make sure to head to the Magheracross Viewing Point where you can get beautiful panoramic views of the castle and the surrounding coastline.
Looping back, take the time to explore the little town of Bushmills, which is located just south of the Causeway and is an excellent stop to include on your day trip to the Giant’s Causeway. The town itself has a few pubs and shops to pop into, but the main draw is definitely the whiskey distillery.
Whiskey fans will love a visit and tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery – which claims to be the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world.
You can tour the distillery for £15 per person and the 1-hour tour includes an introduction to how the whiskey is made along with a tasting. If you’re interested, there are more premium tastings available, as well.
Causeway Coastal Route
If you didn’t drink too much whiskey in Bushmills (please remember to drink responsibly!) then take a bit more of your time to enjoy some of the other stops on the Causeway Coastal Route. There is a surprising amount to see in this beautiful area that isn’t just the Giant’s Causeway itself and it’s very much worth taking the time to enjoy some of the incredible views.
For those who have the time or energy, another popular spot on the coastal route is Carrick-a-Rede which is an old rope bridge suspended over to a small island.
You have to pay to enter this area and it is popular as it was included as a filming location for Game of Thrones. From this area, you can also view Larrybane Quarry, which was also used as a filming location for the series
If you don’t want to walk across the bridge itself, you can also get a great view of it from the Portaneevy Car Park, which also happens to be completely free of charge to visit.
Other stops on the Causeway Coast include Ballintoy Harbour, Dunseverick Castle and Falls and the beautiful White Park Bay beach.
Moving away from the coast, it’s time for the last stop on this Giant’s Causeway day trip itinerary – the Dark Hedges. While this is, in my opinion, a somewhat overrated stop – it is popular because it was used as yet another filming location for Game of Thrones.
The Dark Hedges is basically a small country road over which are some intertwining trees. It’s worth noting that, if you’re visiting in late autumn to mid-spring, you’re unlikely to see any leaves on these trees either which takes away from their charm. It’s also an incredibly popular spot and hard to get away from the tourist crowds.
Located about 20 minutes south of the Giant’s Causeway, there is a large car park where you’re meant to pay a £4 fee in the hotel. It’s then about a 5-minute walk before you can get to the trees and the laneway itself.
The actual road with the Dark Hedges is a few hundred metres long and it doesn’t take long to stroll along it. For those who are interested in seeing more Game of Thrones sites and want to imagine that they’re walking along the King’s Road, then it’s worth the stop.
Have More Time?
If you have more time than just a day trip to the Giant’s Causeway, there are lots of areas where you could enjoy yourself. Base yourself in the town of Portrush, which is a lovely seaside resort town with a beautiful beach and a little amusement park.
There are plenty of incredible walks and hikes to enjoy in this area, as well, and it is a great place to spend some time in the area if you’re a nature lover and want to explore some places at a slower pace.
For instance, if you didn’t have time to walk the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge during your day trip, having another day will definitely allow you to have this experience.
Spending a bit more time on the Causeway Coast will also allow you to have the time to spend as much time hiking at the Giant’s Causeway as possible while still allowing you to hike around other places.
Where to Stay in Belfast
Harpers Boutique B&B – Located in the Queen’s Quarter of Belfast, this boutique bed and breakfast is a fantastic base for your day trip. It is within walking distance to many of the city’s main attractions and there are several comfortable rooms to choose from. They also offer a great breakfast which is included in the nightly rate Click here to see their availability
The Warren Belfast – This centrally-located hotel is the perfect choice if you’re after a bit of luxury during your stay in the Northern Irish capital. It is also located in the heart of the Queen’s Quarter, and they offer a number of plush rooms great amenities and a filling breakfast included in the price. Click here to see their availability
Central Belfast Apartments: Citygate – If you’d like your own self-catering accommodation while visiting Belfast, then these apartments are an excellent option. They have a range of fully-furnished flats to choose from and there is also free on-site parking – perfect for those visiting the Giant’s Causeway by car. Click here to see their availability
Vagabonds – The perfect choice for budget and solo travellers, this centrally-located hostel has both dorm beds and private rooms available, clean facilities and excellent common areas to meet other, like-minded travellers. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Belfast hotels!
Visiting the Giant’s Causeway as a day trip from Belfast is an excellent way to enjoy the dramatic natural scenery that Northern Ireland has to offer within a short amount of time.
Are you planning to visit the Giant’s Causeway? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!