One of the best things to do on any trip to Northern Ireland is to take a Giants Causeway Tour from Belfast and see this unique piece of geology on the coast. The tour takes in some of the region’s best-loved attractions and follows the beautiful and windswept Antrim Coast Road.
Most tours to the Giants Causeway also take in famous landmarks of Northern Ireland such as Carrickfergus Castle, Bushmills Distillery and the Dark Hedges. The tours also include some of the filming locations from the popular television series Game of Thrones.
I took the Giants Causeway tour from Belfast in November 2021 and found it incredible value for money as well as being very informative. Below you can find more information and a detailed review.
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About the Giants Causeway
The Giants Causeway is a series of some 40,000 hexagonal basalt pillars rising out from the Antrim coastline. This UNESCO World Heritage site is considered one of the top four landmarks in the UK. And attracts millions of visitors every year.
The pillars were formed as the result of volcanic activity 40 to 50 million years ago. As the lava cooled, it contracted and split onto the hexagonal columns. The tallest of these is up to about 12 metres high.
It is possible to climb over and around the pillars for a closer look (though be careful on windy days).
The Legend of Fionn mac Cumhail (Finn McCool)
Finn McCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill in Gaelic) was a giant who ruled Ireland! But, he wasn’t happy with his lot and wanted to take over nearby Scotland too.
As he couldn’t swim he built a walkway the short distance across the Irish Sea to Scotland. He made pillars and sank them down into the seabed and created a path over the sea.
Now, Finn wasn’t the only giant in these parts, and the Scottish giant, Benandonner, was much taller and stronger than McCool. When Benandonner found out that Finn had arrived and wanted to take over Scotland, he flew into a rage.
One thing Finn didn’t realise was that Benandonner was much bigger than himself. Fearing he would be defeated and killed, he fled back to Ireland.
Nevertheless, the Scottish giant came looking for Finn. McCool’s wife Sadhbh was smart. She devised a plan to trick the Scottish giant. She made a large baby’s crib, dressed MCool in baby clothes and put him to bed in the cot.
When the Scottish giant eventually found Finn McCool’s house, he entered ready to do battle. However, all he could see was the giant baby. “If that’s the baby, I’d hate to meet the father,” he thought and scarpered back to Scotland, smashing the bridge behind him.
And what can be seen today is the remains of Finn McCool’s bridge to Scotland…
What is included on the Giant Causeway tour?
The price of the tour includes transport on a modern coach with a driver who is also the tour guide.
Transport from Belfast city centre.
The coach leaves from the Europa Hotel on Great Victoria Street in Belfast and returns to the same place.
- Antrim Coast Road
- Carrickfergus Castle
- Carnlough Village
- Cushendun Caves
- Ballycastle (lunch extra)
- The Giants Causeway
- Dunluce Castle Ruins
- The Dark Hedges
How long is the Giants Causeway Tour?
The tour departs Belfast at 08:30 and returns at between 17:30 and 18:00 (depending on traffic).
Some tours also include a visit to the Bushmills Distillery and Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, but both of these were closed to tourists in November 2021 due to the pandemic.
The coach stops at a pub in Ballycastle for lunch. This is optional and you can order food on the bus and the order will be placed in advance.
Cost of Tickets
The cost of a ticket for the Giants Causeway Tour is just £20! ($26.50).
If opting for the pub lunch at the Fullarton Arms, expect to pay around £16 ($21.50) for a meal and drink. See the sample menu below.
- Breaded Chicken Goujons £11.95
- Fullerton Beef Burger £11.95
- Chicken Escalope £12.95
- Spiced Chickpea Salad £10.95
- Steak and Ale Pie £12.95
- Grilled Salmon £12.95
How to Book Tickets
Tickets can be booked online via our partners at Get Your Guide.
What to Bring
Ireland’s weather can be notoriously wet and windy so pack accordingly! In summer be sure to bring sun cream as the cliff path to and from the Causeway is exposed. Likewise, in winter a good windproof jacket is essential!
- Good walking shoes and thick socks
- Windproof Jacket
- Hiking backpack
- Drinks and Snacks
- Packed Lunch (there is also the option of a pub lunch)
My Giants Causeway Tour from Belfast
I arrived at the meeting point (Europa Hotel) a little before 08:30. One of the tour operators checked my name against a list (didn’t need a printout of the ticket but had it on my phone) and ushered me onto the coach.
The coach was almost full with around 40 other tourists from around the world. The driver welcomed us onboard and gave a short introduction of where we would be going. We set off a few minutes late thanks to some stragglers and made our way to the first stop, Carrickfergus Castle.
The Antrim Coast Road
Much of the tour follows the A2, known colloquially as the Antrim Coast Road. The road hugs the coast for most of the journey and passes below and over cliffs and through rock-walled tunnels. The views for most of the trip are incredible!
The Norman castle was built in 1177 and is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Northern Ireland. The castle sits on the shores of Belfast Lough about 15km east of Belfast city.
It was just a quick ten-minute stop to take photos as the castle was not open at this time. There is also a small statue of William of Orange in front of the caste.
We were told to check the menu for lunch which was stuck to the front of the coach and asked to put in our pre-orders if we wished to eat at the Fullarton Arms in Ballycastle (completely optional).
After an hour or so of driving, with intermittent information and terrible jokes from the driver, we reached the small fishing village of Carnlough in County Antrim.
We were given half an hour to explore the harbour or make use of the local coffee shop/convenience store. Villages and towns in the north of Ireland usually display their affinity to either Ireland or the UK and Carnlough had a large Irish tricolour waving in the wind.
As well as being a charming little village, Carnlough also offers wonderful views of the dramatic north Antrim coastline. Some steps that lead from the beach up to the road were featured in Game of Thrones.
After another hour or so driving along the Antrim Coast Road, we stopped in the tiny hamlet of Cushendun to have a look at some caves that were also featured in Game of Thrones.
The tide was coming up and getting to the caves proved to be a little challenging, but they provided a nice photo opportunity.
It was then a short drive to the village of Ballycastle where we stopped for lunch at the Fullarton Arms. The Fullarton was a pleasant traditional pub with a large dining room. I opted for the burger which as juicy and tasty, with a large serving of traditionally-cut chips.
The Giants Causeway
It was a short twenty-minute drive on to the highlight of the tour, the Giant’s Causeway! The driver dropped us off at the entrance to the walking paths and instructed us to be back in three hours sharp (he could only park for five minutes).
There are three main paths; the blue, red and yellow. The blue path is a direct, paved road down to the basalt columns of the causeway and takes about 15 minutes to walk.
The red path follows the clifftop and then swings back to the causeway. It’s not a difficult hike, but takes about 40 minutes and is slightly more strenuous than the blue route. I opted for the red path and was rewarded with stunning coastline views. It was however very windy up there!
The yellow path is not suitable for the Giants Causeway tour as it is a four-hour round-trip hike! If you make your own way here then I’m sure it’s well worth doing!
After reaching the causeway, I spent an hour or so climbing the pillars and taking photographs. I will say that the tourist brochure photographs of the place are slightly misleading as I was expecting something a little bigger. Still, the scene was impressive and well worth a visit combined with the wild coastline. The grey/black basalt and crashing waved made me think of Iceland.
I took the blue route back up to the top of the cliff and there was just enough time to enjoy a pint of Guinness at the Causeway Hotel!
We made our way to the nearby ruins of Dunluce Castle for a quick photo stop. The castle sits high up on the cliff and cuts a dramatic picture. Unfortunately, at the time we arrived the sun was in exactly the wrong position to be able to get any decent photographs though!
Dunluce was the seat of the McDonnell Clan and built in around 1513AD. However, the area had been an important defensive position long before thanks to its inaccessible position at the top of the cliffs.
The Dark Hedges
The final stop of the Giants Causeway tour was the so-called “Dark Hedges”. The Dark hedges consist of a tree-lined road in the Antrim countryside. The large beech trees intertwine with each other over the road creating a tunnel.
Game of Thrones fans will recognise the hedges as the “Road to Kings Landing”.
We then made our way back to Belfast, this time taking the inland route (it was by now dark, so didn’t miss out much in the way of scenery on the return journey).
Along with the political walking tour, the Giants Causeway tour from Belfast was one of the absolute highlights of my trip to Northern Ireland. It is excellent value for money considering how much is packed in, but at the same time there is enough time to get the most out of the places visited. I’d highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Northern Ireland! You can book a place with our partner at Get Your Guide here.
About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang, the tropical paradise of Sanya and Hong Kong.
He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.