Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway coast and glens

The Giant’s Causeway coastline, Northern Ireland, is a uniquely atmospheric part of the UK. Here are those once-in-a-lifetime sights to see there

The Giant’s Causeway at sunset. Credit: Northern Ireland Tourist Board

It’s been named one of the greatest road trips in the world and rightly so: the 120-mile waymarked route between Belfast and Derry takes in some true wonders of the natural world, from the wilds of the north Antrim coast to the genteel greenery of the glens.

Steeped in Northern Ireland’s rich Celtic history and unique folklore, medieval warriors, giants and ghosts are as commonplace as the real-life kings and queens who lived in this mythical land’s storm-lashed castles, many of which pepper the coastline.

Scroll down our gallery and admire the natural beauty of this magical land:

Divis Mountain. Credit: Northern Ireland Tourist Board

A short drive out of Belfast into the peaks that form the backdrop to city’s skyline lie the rolling hills of Divis and the Black Mountain. The landscape is abundant with wildlife while there are also walking trails along heathland, on stone tracks and along boardwalks.

The beautiful Lough Neagh shore. Credit: Lough Neagh Partnership

Head west towards the scenic Lough Neagh and you are transported to the untamed heartland of Northern Ireland.

Slemish Mountain. Credit: Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Heading north towards the coast, you’ll pass the remains of an extinct volcano, Slemish Mountain. This is believed to have been the first Irish home of Saint Patrick.

The Dark Hedges of Ballymoney. Credit: Northern Ireland Tourist Board

In the north the Dark Hedges of Ballymoney are an avenue of intertwined beech trees planted in the 18th century by the Stewart family to form an approach to their home, Gracehill House. It remains a stunning site and one of the most photographed places in Northern Ireland.

Rathlin Island. Credit: Northern Ireland Tourist Board

From here, head to the coast and hop on the ferry across the Sea of Moyle to Rathlin Island – the only inhabited outcrop off the coast of Northern Ireland. Measuring just six miles long and one across, Rathlin is a haven for wildlife and a boon for walkers.

The Giant’s Causeway. Credit: Northern Ireland Tourist Board

The jewel of this coastal route is surely the puzzling geometric riddle that is the Giant’s Causeway – a stepped landscape of around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that lies about three miles northeast of the whiskey town of Bushmills, in County Antrim. This UNESCO World Heritage site was formed after a volcanic eruption around 50 million years ago – the cooling lava formed the distinctive hexagonal shape of the columns.

Coney Woods. Credit: Lough Neagh Partnership

Back in Lough Neagh Coney Island lies 1km off shore from Maghery Country Park and has a fascinatingly rich history with evidence of human occupation here dating back to 8000 BC. Now owned by the National Trust the island was one of the most westerly outposts of the Normans during their occupation of Ireland.

Jetty at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island. Credit: Lough Neagh Partnership

Miles of footpaths, birdwatching hides, woodland, ponds and wildflower meadows make the Oxford Island Nature Reserve on the shores of Lough Neagh a nature lover’s paradise.

Ballintoy Harbour. Credit: Clearview/Alamy

Meanwhile Ballintoy Harbour on the northern coastline is a small fishing harbour at the end of a narrow, steep road down Knocksaughey Hill, which passes by the entrance to Larrybane and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The village of Ballintoy is just one kilometre from the harbour and has plenty of charming shops and two churches, including the white Ballintoy Parish Church on the hill above the harbour.

Find more travel inspiration in our annual BRITAIN – The Guide 2015, on sale now.

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