Top Tips for Visiting The Giant’s Causeway

A guide to visiting one of Northern Ireland's most famous sites - 2024

Getting there, entry fees, what to expect and a wee story about a giant

44 Causeway Rd, Bushmills BT57 8SU

Introduction to Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway, a listed UNESCO world heritage site, is probably Northern Ireland’s most famous tourist destination and it is certainly worth a visit. It is located on the north coast, also known as the Causeway Coast, a 1 hour 20 minute drive north of Belfast /  a three-hour drive from Dublin.

Many people pop in to visit the Giant’s Causeway as part of their multi-stop Causeway Coastal Route Tour, barely stopping a minute. We believe that the best way to enjoy the site is to stop a while so that you can walk around, take in the views and soak up the atmosphere.

Quick-link menu

Please use this menu to jump to the topic of interest.

  1. Tips for getting the most out of your visit + site map
    • Amenities and access at the Giant’s Causeway – quick overview
    • Getting to the Giant’s Causeway rocks from the visitor centre
    • What to expect once you get to the Giant’s Causeway rocks
    • Dressing for the occasion
    • Food & Beverage
    • Accessibiity
  2. Entry charges to The Giant’s Causeway / is it free?
  3. Opening Times
  4. All about parking at Giant’s Causeway
  5. Getting to Giant’s Causeway by public transport, tour or on foot 
  6. Accommodation at the Causeway and in the area
To help you plan your trip we have created a downloadable PDF
of this page for you to keep on file. (no email required – just a simple download
🙂 )

 


Giants Causeway rocks and waves

 


1. Tips for getting the most out of your visit

Map of Giants Causeway and its amenities
Map of Giants Causeway and its amenities

Amenities at the Giant’s Causeway – a quick overview

  • The site is managed by The National Trust who have built a visitor centre at the cliff top, next to the Causeway Hotel and about a mile from the actual rocks.
  • If you purchase a Visitor Experience ticket (see prices and details below) you can park in the car park by the visitor centre and make use of the facilities (shop, café, mini exhibition) as well as get your hands on an audio guide, and avail of a guided tour.
  • If you don’t want to make use of the visitor centre amenities, tours and car park, you can access the site for free. However, you will need to either come by public transport, or on foot or bicycle, or park in a carpark a little distant from the visitor centre. Jump to: more about the different ways you can get to The Giant’s Causeway, and about the alternative parking options.
  • Besides the Causeway Hotel, for F&B options you also have The Nook and a cafe at the station (which may not be open). There are plenty of F&B options in nearby Bushmills.
  • There are no amenities at the rocks themselves.

Getting to the Giant’s Causeway site from the visitor centre:

Bronze map / Grassy slope by the visitors centre
Map overview of The Giant’s Causeway / the grassy slope by the visitors centre to access the cliff-top path
  • The famous hexagonal stones are situated about 0.8 mile / 1.2 km from the visitor centre down a road that descends quite steeply to the shore. The road is not open to private vehicles and while most people will take the 25 minute walk down to the site, there is the option to hop on a bus that runs between the rocks and visitor centre. The bus is operated by Ulster Bus (not The National Trust), and runs approximately every twenty minutes and costs £1 per person each way. This means you can walk down and get the bus back up the hill!
  • The walk down the road from the visitor centre takes you past Portnaboe (Bay of the Cows) where you will probably see cows grazing, then past Port Ganny Bay and on to the Giant’s Causeway site itself. You can return the same way either on foot or on the bus, or walk on to Port Noffer Bay then walk up the steep Shepherd’s Steps and return by the cliff-top path described in the next paragraph.
Looking down from The clifftop path to the Giant's Causeway below
Looking down from the cliff-top path to The Giant’s Causeway below – and the Ulster bus which carries people back and forth from the visitor centre for £1 per person each way.
  • Take the cliff top path: Our preferred route to the rocks is to walk up the grassy bank by the visitor centre and follow the cliff-top path with its stunning views before coming down the Shepherd’s Steps into Port Noffer Bay, just beyond the Giant’s Causeway promontory. As well as views out to Scotland, you’ll also get a bit of a thrill walking out to the outcrop that gives you a bird’s eye view over the Giant’s Causeway – but take care if you are walking with kids or feisty dogs as there are no guard rails!
  • If you have time you can walk further along the cliff top to look down into The Amphitheatre, a cauldron-like cove with steep cliffs and turbulent currents. Then walk back to the Shepherd’s Steps to descend to the Giant’s Causeway promontory. In fact, if you have a lot of time you can just keep on walking because this path is part of the Causeway Coast Way and will take you to Dunseverick Castle and beyond.
Views from the clifftop path, and looking down the Shepherd's Steps
Views from the cliff-top path, and descending the Shepherd’s Steps

What to expect once you get to the Giant’s Causeway rocks

The causeway is made up three promontories jutting into the Atlantic ocean and covers an area about the size of a football field. This may not seem that big but the setting is magnificent with sheer cliffs towering above and, more often than not, big waves crashing in over the rocks. Even on a stormy day, you should still get some decent photos for sharing back home.

Advertisement – Search flights for best prices

Surprisingly (for such a heritage site) but thankfully for the intrepid visitor, you can clamber out over the stones. This can be a bit tricky, especially in the wet. Make sure you have suitable shoes!

Coins pushed between the rocks for good luck
Coins pushed between the rocks for good luck

Things to look out for:

  • Look out for the rusted coins stuck between the rocks near the pass behind the rocks. We presume these have been put there for good luck.
  • The Giant’s Boot – an unusually shaped rock that does look like a giant’s boot, possibly Bennandonner’s boot left behind when he fled back to Scotland?
  • The Organ Pipes – if you head up the path beyond the Giant’s Causeway and continue past the Shepherd’s Steps you will see a rock formation described as the Organ Pipes. You can continue along this path at your own risk to look into the Amphitheatre Bay (described previously) from a lower angle.
  • Beyond the Amphitheatre Bay is a bay known as Port Na Spaniagh where in 1588 one of the ships of the Spanish Armada ran aground with the loss of close to 1,300 lives which is horrific to imagine. Artifacts and gold from the ship, The Girona, are now on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

There are no toilets or F&B outlets at the site itself so for this reason alone you might wish to buy a Visitor Experience ticket so that you can use the toilet facilities at the cliff top visitor centre. For F&B why not take your own picnic to enjoy on the rocks, or the cliff top.

Giants Causeway promentory

Dressing for the occasion

Dress for the weather! Even on a sunny day, in winter that northerly wind can be biting!
Dress for the weather! Even on a sunny day, in winter that northerly wind can be biting!
  • Dress for the weather: There is nothing more miserable than being cold and as this is a coastal site with lots of fresh air, make sure you take warm clothes and a waterproof coat.
  • Dress for the walk:Even if you don’t take the 50 minute round-trip walk to the rocks, you will need flat shoes with a reasonable grip if you want to walk out over the rocks.

Food and beverage

The Nook restaurant built in an old school house
The Nook restaurant built in an old school house
  • Have an al fresco picnic:  Our top recommendation, if the weather allows, is to take a snack or picnic so that you can sit down and soak up the atmosphere while at the rocks or on the cliff top path to enjoy the views. There are also picnic tables on the cliff tops to the west (to the left if you are looking at the sea) of the visitor centre.

There is a café in the visitor centre however this is off limits if you don’t have a Visitor Experience ticket, but there are other F&B options at the cliff top. These are:

  • The Nook, an old school house located at the entrance to The Giant’s Causeway visitor centre now serving traditional pub fare. Note that you need to find a table then place your order at the bar. Many a tourist has gone quite hungry waiting for table service!
  • The Causeway Hotel – this is a finer dining option with their elegant 1836 Ballroom Restaurant.
  • The Heritage Railway Cafe – if open you may be able to get a snack at the café at the train station located just outside the entrance to The Giant’s Causeway visitor centre.
  • There are numerous restaurants and cafés in nearby Bushmills.

Accessibility

For those in need of a little assistance to get around, the visitor centre has mobility scooters and wheelchairs available for ticket holders‘ use on a first come, first served basis. You can also make use of the bus, operated by Ulster Bus costing £1/person each way to get from the visitor centre to the rocks. As an alternative to making the journey down to the rocks, there is an accessible path that heads out on the headland from the visitor centre giving great views over The Giant’s Causeway.


2. How much is entry to the Giant’s Causeway – is it free?

  • Entry fees: Entry is free for  National Trust members and for those not using the National Trust facilities. Otherwise charges (checked March  2024) are:
    • peak season (4 March 2024 until 3 November 2024): £15.50/adult, £7.75/child 5+ years, or £38.75 for a family (2 adults, 3 children) or £23.25 for a one adult family.  
    • off peak: Price are a little lower off peak.
  • Ticket price includes reserved on-site parking, guided tours, audio guide, and access to the Visitor Centre shop, exhibition and cafe. Visitors are encouraged to pre-book an entry timeslot.  Book tickets here.
  • You can access the site for free so long as you are not using any of the National Trust’s facilities mentioned above, including the toilets and main car parks. You would also miss out on the audio guide. As you cannot use the car park by the visitor centre, you would need to park at the Causeway Coast Way Car Park (60 Causeway Road) or arrive on foot/by bicyle or public transport (see below).
  • Is it worth joining the National Trust to gain access to Giant’s Causeway and other National Trust managed sites?  Family membership is £159.00 per year and while entry to Giant’s Causeway and Carrick a Rede rope bridge will set you back close to £80, you would have to visit several more National Trust managed sites to make this worth your while, eg. Castle Coole or Florence Court in Fermanagh. However, if you are a Great Britain based visitor it might be worth your while if you are likely to visit National Trust sites in GB as well.
Port Noffer Bay
Port Noffer Bay with paths leading up the the Shepherd’s Steps and the cliff-top path


3. Opening times

While the National Trust visitor centre website advises that the rocks are ‘open’ dawn to dusk, there is nothing to stop you making your own way there whenever you want as it is a public footpath.

The visitor centre is open 9am to 6pm in summer, and 9am to 5pm in the winter months.

Download Holiday Inspiration Resource Visitor Map for Northern Ireland download - banner

4. All about parking at Giant’s Causeway

If you are arriving by car (BT57 8SU for your SatNav) you have a few choices for parking:

    • Park at the visitor centre but you must have Visitor Experience Tickets (check prices).
    • Park at the Heritage Railway Station car park for a fee of about £5 but this is often full or closed.
    • Park at the public Causeway Coast Way Car Park with a charge of £10 per vehicle which you pay in cash or using the PayByPhone system. It is just under 1/2 a mile (0.6km) from the main entrance to Giant’s Causeway but don’t forget the additional 25 minute walk from the entrance to the site itself.
    • Either stay or dine at the olde worldy National Trust-managed Causeway Hotel* which is cliff top and next to the visitor centre. Overnight visitors can park for free and get complimentary  access to the visitor centre. If you are just planning to eat, check first (Tel: +44 (28) 2073 1210) as it is sometimes fully booked up with an event.

To help you plan your trip we have created a downloadable PDF
of this page for you to keep on file. (no email required – just a simple download
🙂 )


5. Getting there by public transport, tour or on foot

Runkerry beach hike to Giant's Causeway
Hiking to Giant’s Causeway – Runkerry Beach

By public transport – train from Belfast then take a bus

  • Ulster Busses 172/ 402 / 402a run regular services between Coleraine (for trains to Belfast and Derry~Londonderry) and Ballycastle, passing Portrush, Dunluce Castle, Giant’s Causeway and other Causeway Coast sites.  Use the Ulster Bus Journey planner for schedules.
  • The main Belfast~Derry Londonderry train line: Trains take about 1 hour 20 minutes from Belfast Lanyon Place train station to Coleraine and depart hourly Monday to Saturday. The service is a bit erratic on a Sunday. The short trip from Coleraine to Derry~Londonderry is absolutely stunning, passing along the coast and under Binevenagh cliffs and along the shores of Lough Foyle with the hills of Donegal beyond. It’s worth taking this trip just for the ride (but this information probably belongs under another post :-)!)
  • The bus station in Coleraine is right next to the train station. Train tickets cost £14 one way, and if you travel after 9:30am you can get a discounted day return. Check Translink’s Journey Planner tool to plan your train and bus journeys.

 

The heritage train station at Giants Causeway
The Causeway Bay terminus station of the Bushmills Heritage Railway – 6 Runkerry Rd, Bushmills BT57 8SZ

Take a ride on the narrow-guage heritage train from Bushmills

The Giant’s Causeway & Bushmills heritage train departs from the Bushmills train station (24 Ballaghmore Rd, Bushmills BT57 8RH) finishing at the Giant’s Causeway terminus (6 Runkerry Rd, Bushmills BT57 8SZ), just a short walk to the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre.

You can buy tickets on the train or on the platform at Bushmills which cost £8 adults / £6 children / £7 concession / £27 family (2 adults, 3 children). The service only offers round-trip tickets so if you walk or take the bus one way, you will still need to pay the full price to travel one way but if you’d like a ride on a heritage train, we think it’s worth it!

The train operates daily through July and August with a weekend-only schedule the rest of the year. Departures from Bushmills are at 11am / 1pm and 3pm, returning from Giant’s Causeway at 11:30am, 1:30pm and 3:30pm. While the train does officially run year round, off season it might be worth giving the railway a quick call on the day –  028 2073 2844 – to check the trains are running and not off line for maintenance.

Limited car parking is free at the Bushmills train station. Note that the Bushmills train station is little more than a platform besides the Bellaghmore Road – so you may easily miss it if you don’t keep your eyes peeled.

Prices and schedule correct as at April 2024

Hike to Giant’s Causeway along the Causeway Coast Way

  • Hike from Dunseverick Castle along the Causeway Coast Way. This is a 20km/10mile round trip but a dream walk for the passionate hiker as it takes you along the cliff tops along a well maintained path with spectacular views. You could also take the local bus for one leg of the journey if the round trip seems a bit much. Note that the bus only accepts cash.
  • Hike/walk from Portballintrae along Runkerry Beach and around Runkerry Headland. There is a the free car park, Salmon Rock Beach car park,  in Portballintrae (Beach Rd, Bushmills BT57 8RT) or from the Bushmill’s Heritage Railway station just outside Bushmills (24 Ballaghmore Rd, Bushmills BT57 8RH).This is a gorgeous beach and cliff-top walk along Runkerry Beach and Runkerry Head (pictured above) with the Giant’s Causeway as your destination. You can make this a circular walk, taking the longer coastal route on the outward journey, and returning via the more direct route following the train track. 7–10km total round trip. You could also walk there and back along the train track path but that is not so interesting.

Bushmills Park & Ride

The Bushmills Park and Ride service is apparently not in operation this year.

Take a tour from Belfast, Portrush or Dublin:

No car, no problem! Check ‘Get your Guide’* for a list of half-day or full-day tours departing from Belfast or Dublin as well as private tours where you can arrange pick up.

Tours cost from £30 per person upwards – with some that will also include other key Causeway Coast or Game of Thrones attractions on the itinerary. When booking be clear whether the schedule includes a view of a site, or actual entry and exploration 🙂 –  Learn more >>


To help you plan your trip we have created a downloadable PDF
of this page for you to keep on file. (no email required – just a simple download
🙂 )


5. Booking accommodation at or close to Giant’s Causeway

Causeway Hotel
The Causeway Hotel at Giant’s Causeway

The Causeway Hotel was built in 1836 to accommodate visitors to the Giant’s Causeway and still sits cliff top besides the new visitor centre. All 28 rooms are en-suite rooms with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. Some have a private terrace. The hotel has a top-class restaurant and cosy bar so you can really make the most of your visit. Being on site also means that you can venture down to the rocks at any time, in particular before or after the crowds, or at sunrise or sunset so you can really capture the magic.

Overnight visitors can park for free and get complimentary  access to the visitor centre. Check prices and book.


There are also a number of holiday cottages, Bed & Breakfasts, hotels and apartments dotted around the countryside close to Giant’s Causeway with the closest accommodation being the Causeway Hotel, which is right by the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre. Stay there and you get your entry to the Visitor Centre included!

You can also look at accommodation in Ballycastle, Bushmills, Portballintrae, Ballintoy, Portrush and Portstewart – all of which are within a short drive from the Giants Causeway.

Click the map below to go through to Booking.com to view properties (opens in a new window).

 


The Giant's Causeway looking back to the clifftops
The Giant's Causeway looking back to the cliff tops

Inspiration, Tips, What's On, New Articles

Simply unsubscribe when our info is no longer useful