The Best of Northern Ireland's Causeway Coastal Route with Kids

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Recently, we have taken a few long weekends to explore Northern Ireland's Causeway Coastal Route. It's a fabulous getaway for our family with so much to do within a short drive of our home. When most folks visit the North Coast of Ireland, it is typically sold as a day trip. You can visit the Giant's Causeway from Dublin or even Belfast on a day tour, but to me it is nearly impossible to see all the sights in one day, especially if you're traveling with kids! Since relocating to Northern Ireland, my husband and I have developed our own little tour for our out of town visitors. Occasionally we do it as a day trip, but if your itinerary allows, I highly recommend an overnight! The whole route is great for visitors, but some places are more child friendly than others. Check out the amazing video below by Discover Northern Ireland for an overview of the whole route!

The Causeway Coastal Route is a scenic drive between Belfast and Derry/Londonderry with many places to stop off in between. We typically cut off the first part of the drive and leave Belfast by motorway with our first stop being at the Dark Hedges, and usually end it at Benone Beach, but there is so much to see everyone has different interests.


Our first stop, the Dark Hedges, is a road of intertwining beech trees and was made famous in the HBO show Game of Thrones as the King's Road. The first time we tried to visit the Hedges we couldn't find it! Recently however, it is home to better signage which makes visiting so much easier! Take a stroll through the hedges for a photo op.


Cost: Free
Stroller Suitable: Yes, just watch out for traffic as it is a working road.
More Info: The Dark Hedges Ballymoney

Our next stop is Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Once used by salmon fisherman to reach Carrick-a-Rede Island, it is now a permanent fixture. The bridge is 20 meters across and can be a bit daunting if you're afraid of heights, but the views on the island are so worth it! It's a bit of a walk down to the bridge so be prepared for that, and it is not stroller friendly. I would recommend carrying very young children or baby-wearing them. We carried Miss P for her first visit, and once on the island, keep a close had at the kiddos as there are steep drop offs without railing on some parts.

Cost: 7GBP/adult, 3.50GBP/child, under 5's are free
Stroller Suitable: No, plan on baby-wearing or carrying young children
More InfoCarrick a Rede

Next, we visit Ballintoy Harbor. Another Game of Thrones filming location, you might recognize this as the back drop for the Iron Islands. Stop for a photo op, but if you have time, stroll the beach path for some amazing vistas. On summer days, we have even waded into the water there. There is a cafe at the harbor with AMAZING desserts and coffees, so if you have time stop for a quick snack. You won't make this stop on a tour bus as the road down isn't suitable for larger vehicles, so while it is becoming busier with tourists, it's a well kept secret!

Thrones Fans will recognize Ballintoy Harbor!

Miss P checking out the water at Ballintoy

Cost: FREE
Stroller Suitable: You can explore the harbor with a stroller, but the path would be better done by carrying young children or babies or a stroller with hiking wheels.

From Ballintoy Harbor, visit Whitepark Bay, a National Trust Beach. Park at the lot at the top of the hill, and plan on a ten minute walk down to the beach. The path is suitable for strollers, but the very last bit of it is over a small sand dune so a bit of maneuvering is required. The views - breathtaking. Swimming is not recommended as there is no lifeguard on duty, but it'll be too cold for that most of the year any how. Enjoy a nice walk along the beach and several photo ops.

A view of Whitemark Beach on the walk down

Strolling Whitepark Beach

Cost: FREE
Stroller Suitable: Yes, with some maneuvering over sand at the bottom. Baby-wearing would be easier.
More InfoWhitepark Bay

Next up is the world-famous Giant's Causeway, and the reason for most folk's visit to the North Coast. The very first time I visited the Causeway, there was nothing more than a small shack with toilets and a tiny gift shop. These days, you'll find a state-of-the-art visitor's center, with an optional audio guide, gift shop, toilets and cafe. There are a few options for visiting the Causeway itself. It's nearly a mile downhill to see the ancient rock formations, but there is a bus available at the cost of 1GBP each way. It's one of the most instagrammed spots in the country and you'll see why! Take time to walk around the rocks, climb up the paths for better views, just be careful not to fall! I took a spill on the slippery rocks during my first visit. Many times when we visit with the kids we'll walk down and take the bus back up hill. Buses run every 10-15 minutes.

A panoramic view of the Giant's Causeway

Cost: Adult 10.50GBP, Children 5.25GBP
Stroller: Yes, though keep in mind you'll be going up and down hill unless you opt for the bus
More info: Giant's Causeway

After the Giant's Causeway, we sometimes stop at Old Bushmill's Distillery. Keep in mind if you are visiting with children under 8 years old, they are not allowed on the Distillery tour. However, they are allowed in the gift shop and tasting rooms! During our last visit we skipped the tour in favor of a whisky flight in the tasting room. Bushmill's offers a fun souvenir - their Distillery Reserve whisky is only available at the distillery itself, you will not find it anywhere else in the world! Treat yourself or someone back home to a bottle and you can have a personalized label made and/or the bottle engraved. We purchased a bottle for each of our girls during our last visit with their names and birth dates which we hope to open to toast them both on their wedding days! Whisky has been distilled here for more than 400 years.

Baby Sister checking our our tasting flight

Cost: 8GBP/adult, 4.50GBP/child 8 and up
Stroller: Yes, though children under 8 are not allowed on the tour
More Info: Bushmill's Distillery

After visiting the distillery, keep on driving until you reach Dunluce Castle. Built around 1500 the castle now stands in ruins, but they are amazing and worth the exploration. Perched right on the rocky coast, the views are outstanding! Stop for a photo op and spend some time exploring the ruins.

Cost: 5GBP/adult, 3GBP/child (ages 4-16)
Stroller: Possible, but you'll be on some uneven ground. Baby-wearing would be recommended
More Info: Dunluce Castle

As you leave Dunluce Castle, you'll arrive in the coastal town of Portrush. If you've got kids, this is a great place to stop for a bite to eat, or a stroll through the town. There are plenty of old fashioned sweet shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants as well amusements. Check out Barry's Amusement if you have time. My husband spent time there as a child, and so did his father, so it's been around a while. There are plenty of rides and games for kids to enjoy. 10GBP will buy you 24 tokens and rides and amusements cost between 2 and 4 tokens. For kids who aren't tall enough, adults are required to ride with them on certain attractions, however if it's necessary for an adult to accompany the child, the adult rides without cost, which I thought was nice. Enjoy a whippie ice cream cone, or some cotton candy and ride the bumper cars or mini roller coaster with the kiddos. Admission to Barry's is free, ride tokens are 50p each or 24 for 10GBP. More information can be found here: Barry's Amusements. The town of Portrush as well as Barry's Amusements are very stroller and family friendly.


After Portrush, stop at Downhill Demense, built in the 18th century by the Earl Bishop of Derry, today the mansion stands in ruins, but walk through it to Mussenden Temple, which was the Earl's library and is perched on the cliffside overlooking Downhill Beach. The photo ops here are awesome!

Just outside the temple - check out the view of the beach!

Cost: FREE
Stroller: Yes, but you will be on gravel paths and uneven ground
More Info: Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demense

Where to Stay:
So as you can see this is a lot to pack into one day, and some of these stops just can't be done on a tour. If you have the time, I highly recommend spending the night. We like to stay at McShane Glen Leisure Homes. They're self catering, so you have a full kitchen, beautiful ocean views, and laundry in your own private home. Their rates are super reasonable, and it's located right in the heart of all the action on the Causeway Coast. If you prefer hotels, there are a few options in Portrush, Portballintrae and Portstewart, in addition to B&B's along the way. More information on accommodation can be found here: Discover Northern Ireland Accommodation

What to Wear:
Since you'll be spending time both in and outdoors and the weather can change on a dime, plan on layering your clothes for both kids and adults. Locations on the coast can be very windy and cool, and sunshine can turn to rain in an instant so be prepared for a bit of everything. Ensure you've got shoes that are comfortable for walking on uneven surfaces and pathways. My girls very often wear their wellie boots to keep their feet dry while exploring the coast. I always wear a scarf and a waterproof windbreaker jacket is always advisable.

Where to Eat:
In Portrush, check out the Ramore. They do not accept reservations so it's best to visit during off peak times, or be prepared to wait. You'll sit down, order your meal at the counter and it will be delivered to your table. Try their Tobacco Onions - I am not a fan of onions but these are AMAZING! Even their kids meals were awesome - my girls shared the Pasta Carbonara and Mom and Dad may have finished it up for them. It was delish! Save room for to visit the dessert counter and you will not be sorry!

In Portstewart, visit Harry's Shack. The Shack is a converted beach hut located right on the beach at Portstewart Strand. It's a small restaurant and very popular so be sure and make a reservation if you plan to visit. The food is fresh and local. I had a delicious fish dish, and my kids had fish and chips which was fantastic. Save room for their desserts also! It's casual but really good quality food and was very family friendly, and you cannot beat their views right out over the beach. If you don't have time to sit down for a meal, grab a coffee and at tray bake and find a seat on their deck.

Hubby & I enjoying dinner at Harry's Shack

Looking for a sit down meal that's affordable and family friendly? Check out the Tides
 in Portrush. There are some fantastic views out over the coast and the food is hearty, good and plentiful.

All in all, we always have a fantastic time when we visit the North Coast and it's not only a fabulous getaway for us living in Northern Ireland, but it's also a can't miss attraction to family and friends who visit us.

Where are you most excited to visit?