Northern Ireland’s North Coast is an area blessed with so much spectacular scenery and so many attractions that even we as locals struggle to visit everywhere on a regular basis. Recently we realised that the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s 60 million-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site, was somewhere that we hadn’t visited for close to three years. So last Sunday, on one of the few calm and sunny days that we have been able to enjoy in recent months, we headed for the North Coast, eager for some fresh air and exercise and some of the finest scenery you could wish for!
The small country town of Bushmills, famous around the World for its Whiskey Distillery, was our first port of call, for some lunch, before making the short drive to Portballintrae. Parking at the main car park with its beautiful view across Runkerry beach we started our walk crossing the bridge over the Bush River. The tide was out so we were able to turn left once across the bridge and walk along the beach. If the tide should be in you can follow the boardwalk path to the right which follows the Bush River and eventually a train track for the steam train which operates during the summer months. The train track continues on to close to the Giants Causeway Visitor Centre but it is also possible to cut back onto the cliff path walk at the far end of the beach.
We took our time walking along the beach and taking photographs before crossing a small bridge across to the start of the cliff path around the far headland. The pathway hugs the cliff top all the way around to the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre from where you can either walk probably about a mile to its famous hexagonal rock formations or take the shuttle bus, which costs £1 each way. It’s important to point out that it is actually free to visit the Giant’s Causeway, apart from car parking and it’s open 24 hours a day every day of the year. If however you wish to visit the visitor centre then that costs about £9 per adult and less for children. There is a cafe in it and souvenir shop plus information on the Causeway itself. You can also have a guide tell you about the geology of the area etc. We think the admission fee may also include the car park charge.
The main area of the Giant’s Causeway can get quite crowded at peak times, so if photography is your thing – go early or late when it’s quiet! There is also a cliff top path above the Causeway, which also offers great views over the area.
Our walk from Portballintrae to the Giant’s Causeway and back took about four hours to allow time for photos. We could have stayed longer but with it being late February, we didn’t want walking back to the car in the dark! We actually took a short cut back following the path from the small steam railway station just below the Causeway Hotel, which saved us about half an hour compared to going back via the cliff path. That may be worth remembering if you should take our particular route.
Below are some photos that Nigel took, which will hopefully make you want to come here.