Belfast to Derry: 8+ Stops for an Epic Northern Ireland Road Trip

Belfast to Derry: 8+ Stops for an Epic Road Trip Through Northern Ireland :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

With the popularity of Game of Thrones and Derry Girls, the incredible landscapes of Northern Ireland are sought after by many. And while I have never seen Game of Thrones and only watched the majority of Derry Girls upon my return to Canada, I was still so excited to have the opportunity to experience a fraction of the brilliant views this stunning country has to offer. Whether you’re a fan of the lore, a history buff, or a chaser of vistas like myself, you’ll be blown away by the beauty of Northern Ireland.

Belfast and Derry are two popular destinations in Northern Ireland and each city has its flair and charm. However, the sights between will take your breath away. Let me retrace my steps so you can check out these stunning sights the next time you find yourself on a road trip from Belfast to Derry!

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Sheep Frolicking Along the Irish Countryside :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

The Rolling Hills of Northern Ireland

How to Get From Belfast to Derry

I don’t know about you but as a Canadian, I’m always blown away by how close many European destinations are. The drive from Belfast to Derry is just 112 kilometres (70 miles) and takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes along the A6 highway.

While most accessible by car, you can also take the train from Lanyon Place in Belfast to Derry~Londonderry Terminal which will take approximately 2 hours. This train leaves hourly from 6:15 am until 9:20 pm for £14 (~$25 CAD). The bus is also an option which takes the same duration, departing from Belfast Europa Bus Centre and arrives at the Foyle Street Depot in Derry. It leaves approximately every hour beginning at 6:30 am until 11:15 pm for the same price. You can find the full schedule and fares for both the Belfast to Derry train and the Belfast to Derry bus on the Translink website.

However, there’s no freedom like the open road and so I vote to rent a car so you can stop wherever you like! Plus this will allow you to explore the beauty of the Causeway Coastal Route, 185 kilometres (115 miles) of incredible scenery as you follow the shoreline of Northern Ireland.

Views of Carrickfergus Castle from the Harbour :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Carrickfergus Castle from the Harbour

Top 8 Stops for a Belfast to Derry Road Trip

As you now know, there isn’t much distance between Belfast and Derry (Londonderry) but there is SO much to see if you take the long way. This is just the tip of the iceberg but some quick and easy stops that are a must for your adventure along the Causeway Coastal Route.


Let’s get this show on the road! Just 20 minutes northeast of Belfast, Carrickfergus sits on the north shore of the intertidal inlet known as Belfast Lough. Not only is it County Antrim’s oldest town but it’s one of the oldest towns in Northern Ireland!

Here you’ll find Carrickfergus Castle. This beautiful fortress was built between 1177 and 1195 and despite being besieged by the Scots, Irish, English AND French, it’s one of the best-preserved medieval edifices in the country! For an admission fee, you’re welcome to explore a number of the rooms including the armoury, banquet hall and the vaults. There are numerous historical displays and you can even admire cannons from the 17th to the 19th centuries. You can find more information about visiting Carrickfergus Castle including operating hours and admission fees here

FUN FACT: Carrickfergus Castle is the only preserved castle of its age that is accessible to the public!

It’s worth popping inside as this is where you’ll find the Carrickfergus Visitor Information Centre where you can ask any questions about the surrounding area. However if you’re not much of a history buff or short on time, you can easily admire the beauty of the castle without entering. We don’t have castles like this in North America so I was blown away just by the exterior!

The Gobbins

If you’re a lover of the outdoors like me or don’t mind a little effort to enjoy some spectacular views, you have to plan a visit to The Gobbins. A vision of Berkeley Deane Wise, one of the most innovative engineers of his time, saw the tourism possibilities of these impressive rock formations crafted by millions of years of tectonic and climatic forces. Visitors continue to be captivated by The Gobbins since it was originally opened in 1902. The traditional Edwardian design shows through in line with Wise’s original vision.

Traverse numerous bridges as you soak up the sights of iconic rock formations and stunning rockpools, the most iconic being the Tubular Bridge. This replica duplicates Wise’s original design and is a beautiful juxtaposition across the surrounding rugged landscape. This trail is not easy as you have steep steps carved into the rockface and pathways that take you below sealevel through basalt outcrops. However, there’s nothing like hearing the waves of the sea reverberating through the walls. You’ll be in awe with every twist and turn as this is easily one of the most memorable experiences in Northern Ireland.

To experience The Gobbins, you must book a tour and appropriate footwear is required. If you do not have what you need, the fine folks at The Gobbins have boots, shoes, helmets and anything else you may need for rent so you won’t miss out on this incredible Irish experience!

Barbican Gate of Glenarm Castle in Northern Ireland :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

The Barbican Gate in the Fall

The Barbican Gate of Glenarm Castle

The scene of many battles and rebellions, Glenarm Castle was built in 1636. It has been the ancestral seat of the McDonnell Family, Earls of Antrim since it was constructed. A pivotal feature of the town of Glenarm, the castle remains a family abode for the McDonnell Family to this day. However, visitors are welcome to experience the stunning gardens and additional features around the castle including the welcome centre and castle shop, Antrim McDonnell Heritage Centre and Coach House Museum, the Team Room and more. Click here for full details.

However, there is a picture-perfect spot along the bridge crossing the Glenarm River you won’t want to miss. This is where you’ll find The Barbican Gate of Glenarm Castle, a fortified outpost once used as a line of defence. While it was once in disrepair, the Irish Landmark Trust has renovated it so visitors can now stay within the Barbican Gate overnight! Fitted with everything you could need for a weekend getaway, it’s the perfect destination for a romantic escape in Northern Ireland.

Of course, the bridge leading to the Barbican Gate is absolutely stunning and a perfect spot to snap a photo before continuing on your Causeway Coastal Route adventure.

Views of the Village of Carnlough and the Harbour :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Carnlough Harbour Within the Village

Village of Carnlough

Bursting with Irish charm, the village of Carnlough is a quaint destination in the foothills of Glencoy. At its centre lies the town’s focal point, Carnlough Harbour. This limestone harbour was completed in 1856 and offers a haven for pleasure crafts and small fishing boats.  Game of Thrones fans will recognize this as the Braavos Canal where Arya Stark resurfaces from the river after being attacked by the Waif in Season 6, Episode 7.

Take a moment to stroll around town and admire the charming homes and stunning architecture. The information sign located at Carnlough Harbour shares two easy walks that will show you the highlights of the Village of Carnlough. Check out the Town Hall, The Kelp Store now Rowing Club, McAuley’s Hotel and The Glencloy Inn, the Limestone Kiln and the brilliant views of the Sea of Moyle from Hurry Head.

Views from the Glendun Viaduct :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Views from the Glendun Viaduct

Glendun Viaduct aka The Big Bridge

As you continue on your journey from Belfast to Derry, there’s a chance you will take Loughareema Road crossing the Glendun River. “The Big Bridge” as it’s often referred to is the Glendun Viaduct. It was part of the Coast Road Project and built between 1834 and 1839. Engineered by William Bald and surveyor Sir Charles Lanyon, the Glendun Viaduct is said to be one of the greatest structures of its kind.

Enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding Irish countryside. If you’re lucky, you may spot some flocks of sheep in the distance! Use extreme caution if you choose to pull over to snap a photo. The bridge is narrow and you will be obstructing traffic so be quick!

Some of the Ruins within the Bonamragy Friary :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Some of the Ruins within the Bonamargy Friary

Bonamargy Friary

One of 43 friaries of the Third Order of Franciscans Regular, Bonamargy Friary was constructed by Rory MacQuillan in 1500. Its name coming from the Irish Bun na Mairge meaning ‘foot of the Margy’, it was built close to the mouth of the Carey and Shesk Rivers. While it continued to function after the Disillusion of the Monasteries, it became the possession of the MacDonnells of Antrim in 1558. Bongmargy Friary has sustained some damage over the centuries but remains fairly well preserved to this day. 

Accessible all year round, visitors are free to explore the grounds. Within the ruins you’ll find the cloister, a small gatehouse, a church and an ancient graveyard. The crypt is still intact, however it has been sealed as it contains the remains of several dignitaries including several Earls of Ulster and Sorley Boy MacDonnell. The entire complex has a very eerie feeling to it and is well worth the stop to explore!

Portaneevy & the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

As you head into the village of Ballintoy, you’ll see a pull-off for Portaneevy along the B15. This vantage point offers brilliant vistas of several islands including the Rathlin and Sheep Islands. It will also give you a spectacular view of the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. 

First constructed by salmon fisherman in 1755, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge connects the island of  Carrick-a-Rede to the mainland. Its name sourced from the Gaelic Carraig-a-Rade meaning “the rock in the road”, the island was an obstacle for migrating salmon, making it a hot spot for the fisherman.

If time permits, book your ticket and follow in the footsteps of the salmon fisherman. Tackle the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge as you’re suspended 30 metres (100 feet) above the Atlantic Ocean. It’s not for the faint of heart but those who are brave enough to cross will be rewarded with the breathtaking views from the bridge as well as the island!

Giant’s Causeway

One of the most sought-after heritage sites in Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is not to be missed when travelling from Belfast to Derry. Overseen by the National Trust, Northern Ireland’s largest conservation charity, explore the iconic hexagonal basalt stones 60 million years in the making. 

Why is it called the Giant’s Causeway? The legend of Irish giant Finn McCool says he crafted the causeway to cross the Irish Sea so he could face his rival Benandonner, the Scottish giant who then ripped up the causeway as he fled back to Scotland. However, another lesser-known fable shares that Finn built the Causeway to reach his Scottish love to only die in her arms after facing a terrible storm. 

FUN FACT: The Giant’s Causeway is the only UNESCO certified world heritage site in Northern Ireland!

Roam the incredible landscapes as you’re free to walk along these unique rock formations. See if you can find notable configurations such as Finn McCool’s giant boot, the natural throne of the Wishing Chair and Portnaboe’s most famous resident, the Camel. Snag an audio guide from the visitor’s centre or meander freely as you see fit. The views are like nothing you’ve ever seen before!

With the roaring Atlantic Ocean on one side and magnificent cliffs on the other, it’s no wonder the Giant’s Causeway has captivated millions of visitors. It’s recommended to book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment, especially during peak seasons.

Sunset Along the Giant's Causeway :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

There’s No Shortage of Views from Belfast to Derry!

More Things to Do from Belfast to Derry

As with many of my adventures, the Belfast to Derry road trip was an absolute whirlwind as I visited all of these destinations in one day. As you can imagine, there are many more places you can explore if you wish to extend this journey across 2 days or more! Here are a few more recommendations of places to visit between Belfast and Derry.

Rathlin Island – Hop on the ferry crossing the Sea of Moyle to visit the only inhabited island in this area. The Boathouse Visitors Centre shares the island’s history, what life is like on the island as well as the numerous shipwrecks surrounding Rathlin. You may catch a glimpse of the puffins between April and July and you won’t want to miss the Rathlin West Lighthouse, one of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland. 

Dark Hedges – Planted by the Stuart Family during the 18th Century, this beautiful lane of beech trees crafts a compelling landscape the Game of Thrones fans will recognize as the Kingsroad. Their iconic shape makes the Dark Hedges one of the most photographed natural wonders in Northern Ireland.

Dunluce Castle – One of the most picturesque medieval castles in all of Ireland, Dunluce Castle dates back to 1500. It was highly contested by the McQuillan and MacDonnell clans as they battled for control of this prized location. While many visitors flock to Dunluce Castle for its incredible views, it has become even more popular as it is the castle of Pyke, Seat of House Greyjoy.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are so many things to see and do from Belfast to Derry along the Causeway Coastal Route. You’ll uncover gorgeous villages strewn across the rolling Irish hills that will have you visiting again and again.

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