| | | |

The Giant’s Causeway And Other Northern Ireland Natural Beauties

Spread the love

Updated October 8, 2023

Our road trip exploring the natural beauty of Northern Ireland was a trip to remember. Full Irish Breakfast – Sheep – Irish Sea – Sheep – Giants Causeway – Sheep – Royal Portrush Golf Course – Sheep – Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge – Sheep – Baaaaaaah!

We drove from Dublin to Portrush on our last visit to Ireland! The ride takes just under three hours if you go straight through. The scenery was so beautiful, we stopped frequently to just enjoy the breathtaking vistas, indulge in a nibble to two, and chat with interesting locals. We took this trip in November, 2016, when the tourist industry was just getting on its feet in Northern Ireland.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. Travel With Sandi also participates in the Awin and CJ Affiliate programs.

Road Trip From Dublin To Portrush

We connected with friends who were coincidentally in Dublin, he is a native son, and began our journey north very early in the morning. Our goal was to get to our Portrush hotel by dinner. We took the scenic route, stopped frequently, and simply enjoyed the journey.

Northern Ireland

We stopped at a small hamlet for breakfast just outside of Dublin. Nothing but the Full Irish Breakfast for the guys – rashers (bacon), black and white pudding (sausage), eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms, beans, and potatoes all fried in butter! On the side was fresh soda bread with more butter and jam, tea and orange juice. So much food – a real diet killer! I had beans (which just came from a can – disappointing) and toast; not the best vacation breakfast I’ve ever had, but fortifying. The guys, needless to say, were in a food coma!

Port Carnfunnock Bay Slipway

We skirted Belfast and made our way up the coast, stopping frequently to take in the beautiful seashore along the Irish Sea, Like Tweed’s Port Carnfunnock Bay Slipway. It was a chilly day by the water and a cup of coffee took the edge off the cold weather.

Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland

We stopped for lunch in Carrickfergus, aka “Carrick“, a coastal town on the shore of Belfast Lough. It was a chilly November day, but there were still plenty of boats in the harbor.

After lunch we wandered around Carrickfergus Castle. The castle was built in 1177 by John de Courcy, an Anglo-Norman knight. The castle ruins are open to the public and you can wander around the ancient walls.

Northern Ireland

While we were exploring the castle, we could hear loud Christmas music. Following the lively sounds we stumbled upon a Christmas celebration. The town holiday street fair was filled with happy children covered in face paint and totting balloons. It was an unexpected treat and a delightful diversion from riding in the car.

The Inn On The Coast

Portrush, Northern Ireland

We reached our designation, the Inn on the Coast, just in time. It was beginning to snow and the temperature dropped well below freezing.

The Inn on the Coast is a sweet little hotel with a view of the Atlantic and close by the Royal Portrush Golf Club. The Inn’s staff was super nice and the rooms were comfy, spotless, and welcome after a long day.

We headed to the bar and restaurant for dinner, it was exactly what you would expect,a cozy Irish pub with a roaring fire, lots of Guinness, and hearty entrees. After a leisurely dinner, we enjoyed a few games of high-stakes, bragging rights pool. Complemented by a few more Guinness drafts just for fun.

Ready for our next adventure, a drive along the stunning Antrim Coast running from Portrush to Ballycastle.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Northern Ireland

The morning brought lots of black ice. The Inn’s parking lot was a skating rink, but we ventured out anyway. We only had one day to explore the north coast and its scenic beauty. Off to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge first. We climbed the steep rocky mountainside along the Atlantic towards the bridge. The experience was exhilarating and unnerving at the same time.

Northern Ireland

Your reward for the long walk is the intrepid trip across the rope bridge to the enormous rock outcrop. Built in 1755, crossing the bridge is not for the faint of heart. It is bouncy and sways a bit – don’t look down, it’s a long drop. But once your reach the cliffs, you have a magnificent, panoramic view. Of course, there is only one way back to the car — the rope bridge.

Pro Tip: There is a per-car entry fee to hike the trail to the bridge.

The Giants Causeway

Northern Ireland

Our next stop was the Giants Causeway. The hike from the parking lot seemed much shorter than it was, we were so focused on the stunning scenery; it was spectacular. Chris was climbing around the weathered rock formations like he was 12 years old. I was shocked by his mountain goat agility navigating the hexagonal stone columns. I am sure his sure footedness was spurred on by the excitement of the amazing view.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre offers guests a guided Visitor Centre Experience tour with local naturalists. You will learn about the stone columns geological features and a fascinating glimpse into the formation of this natural phenomena.

Pro-Tip: Pre-booking your Visitor Experience tickets is recommended, walking the giant stones is free of charge.

The History Of The Giant’s Causeway

Northern Ireland

Formed almost 60 million years ago, the Giant’s Causeway began when Europe broke away from North America. Rifts and cracks were escape valves for lava and molten rock from volcanic activity. Eventually more lava filled eroded river valleys and the formations coole. The glaciers scraped away top layers of rocks, the Atlantic Ocean waves completed the process forming these unique and interesting columns of rock.

Folk legend tells the tale of Irish giant Finn McCool who created the Giant’s Causeway. He formed the stepping stones to reach Scotland by crossing the Irish Sea. His quest — to face off with his rival, Scottish giant Benandonner. After their ferocious battle, Benandonner fled back to Scotland ripping up the crossing stepping stones leaving just the few left in Ireland.

What To Expect When Visiting The Giant’s Causeway

Northern Ireland

We swung by the Royal Portrush Golf Cub to get a peak at a few of the golf holes. The 148th Open (British Open) was played there in July 2019. Chris would have loved warmer weather and another day in Portrush to get in a round.

Giant’s Causeway Guided Tours

Northern Ireland

If we weren’t traveling with a native Irishman, I would have booked a guided tour out of Dublin. Joining a day tour of the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast or Dublin allows you to sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery. No driving – no navigating.

Game of Thrones fans will love the Giant’s Causeway tour that includes a stop at Iconic Dark Hedges which was used as the Kings Road in Game of Thrones.

Pro Tip: They drive on the left in Northern Ireland, another great reason to book a tour.

Back to Dublin

With our sightseeing complete – we hustled back to Dublin to meet Chris’ cousin for dinner and a little family catch up time. Dublin is a story for another day — several days staying in this charming college centric city was a wonderful adventure.

A Northern Ireland Road Trip

Northern Ireland

The beautiful natural features encountered on a northern coast road trip from Dublin to Portrush, along with hundreds of adorable little lambs, make the north a worthwild adventure. Storied Irish giants, charming coastal towns, stunning rock formations along the Atlantic Ocean, tasty traditional cuisine, rich Guinness, and a ride along the North Antrim Coast are all perfect excuses to take a trip to Northern Ireland.

The people of Northern Ireland just absorb you into their life, you feel like you have always belonged and can stay forever. The natural beauty will hang in my memory forever.

Happy travels,



Wish you were having a Guinness? Check out this post about making a Baby Guinness!

Don’t you just hate it when your phone battery is in the dreaded red zone? I always carry Fuel Rods with me. They give me a battery boost, they are rechargeable, and they work with iphones and androids. 

Travel health insurance when you are heading out of the country is an important consideration. Many policies don’t fully cover you outside of the US. I use Safety Wing for my international travels. I use the one-time coverage option for individual trips – luckily I haven’t had to use it, but it’s comforting to know I have it in place. And, if you are traveling in a country that may require you to be airlifted for proper medical attention, Medjet is the best option for evac insurance. 

If you know me, you know I love a glass of wine (or two). My favorite mail order wine company is Naked Wines. I order a case every month or so – no judgment please. I love that they work with small independent winemakers and I get to choose what wine I want and when I want it delivered. 

Don’t forget to download my free packing list! It’s the perfect jumping off point to get your adventure started.

Similar Posts


  1. Looks like fun! I’ve only ever been to Dublin, but I hope to make it back over there to explore more of Ireland and actually visit Northern Ireland.

  2. Oh well, thanks for sharing about Carrickfergus. I instantly remembered the name cause I had wondered what it meant. A German band Subway to Sally has a song titled Carrickfergus. And, I couldn’t find the translation until a friend informed me it was a town in Ireland.

  3. Ireland looks like such a ruggedly beautiful country. Love to visit there someday!

  4. How fun! Gosh you have me wanting a Full English! My husband is from the UK so we either eat that or a full Scottish, but I’ve never had a full Irish with white pudding! Yum!

  5. It’s my husband’s dream to go to Ireland someday. We both have ancestors from Ireland. It would be fun to find out if any of our extended family is still there. What were you drinking in the picture in the morning? Was it a coffee drink?

  6. The pictures look beautiful and I love accidentally coming upon a town’s celebration while traveling.

  7. I can’t wait to go to Ireland someday. I used to work with a number of Irish immigrants and they were some of the best people I knew.

  8. We have some Irish heritage and my mother has been talking with family we have over there. My uncle has gone to visit Ireland several times (and I’m soooo jealous). Visiting Ireland has always been on my bucket list, near the very top. This just made me want to go even more.

Comments are closed.