Giant of the Coast
Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim
It would be hard to conceive of a shoreline more varied and dramatic than Antrim’s Causeway Coast. Each mile brings a change of scenery, a new natural attraction to admire. Some sites are so celebrated that they buzz with summer tourists, but few people divert on to the coastal path that links them all together. All the better for walkers, who can appreciate the real atmosphere of the area, uninterrupted by human distraction.
The best section of the waymarked Causeway Coast Way starts at the thrilling Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, then traces the shoreline west past sandy beaches, secluded harbours, sheer cliff tops and historic landmarks. Finish at the famous 40,000 hexagonal columns of Giant’s Causeway. The Causeway Rambler and Antrim Coaster offer a return bus for tired walkers.
1 BRIDGING THE GAP
It would be a shame to start the walk without crossing Carricka-Rede’s swaying, 20m-long rope bridge. Pay your dues at the entrance kiosk then follow a well-trodden path east from the car park. Few people make it across the chasm without a quickening of the pulse. The island is particularly attractive in early summer, when puffins, guillemots and gulls can be seen nesting on its cliffs.
Return to the car park, then continue west along a cliff path, looking out across the sea to Rathlin Island and Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre. Join a minor road and turn right, descending to the harbour at Ballintoy.
2 GOLDEN BEACH
A track, then a footpath, carries you past a series of stacks and islands to a stony beach. A brief boulder-hop around the base of a cliff now brings you to the 1.5-mile sweep of golden sand at White Park Bay. Head west, crossing the beach to the cliffs. Here, clamber across more boulders to reach Portbradden, an idyllic collection of houses fronted by a small harbour. Beside the second house is the site where St Gobban’s Church once stood; no larger than a garden shed, ‘the smallest church in Ireland’ was demolished in June 2017.
3 THROUGH THE ARCH
Continue through a natural rock arch then follow the path round Gid Point, crossing a mixture of rock and grass as you walk the indented coastline to Dunseverick. Climb several more stiles to reach the atmospheric cliff-perched ruins of Dunseverick Castle.
4 HIGH ON A CLIFF
The grassy path continues north-west from here, climbing towards Benbane Head and Hamilton’s Seat, the highest point of the route. You are now tracing the cliffline some 100m above the ocean, and there are wonderful views west along the rugged coast. Midway between Hamilton’s Seat and the Giant’s Causeway you come to Plaiskin Head. This marks the final resting place of the Girona, the most famous ship of the ill-fated 1588 Spanish Armada.
5 GIANT OR LAVA?
It is not long now before you arrive at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Giant’s Causeway. If you don’t want to visit the site itself, continue along the cliff path to the visitor centre at the top of the hill.
Alternatively, a steep descent down the Shepherd’s Steps will bring you to the famous basalt columns at the shore. Legend dictates that the Irish giant Fionn MacCumhaill built the causeway as part of a bridge over to Scotland, while scientists say the hexagonal structures were created by cooling lava flows around 60 million years ago.
GUILLEMOTS, PUFFINS AND GULLS NEST ON THE CLIFFS IN SUMMER”