1. Giant’s Causeway is free to visit! You do not need to pay the Visitor Centre to see the Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre is not part of the Giant’s Causeway. It is built around 1 mile from the actual Causeway. You can totally visit the Giant’s Causeway without visiting the Visitor Centre. Inside the Visitor Centre, they have a canteen, a souvenir shop and of course, some information about the Giant’s Causeway. It is up to you whether you want to pay the GBP 11.50 per person to get in.
When you get there, they do not have a sign that says clearly you do not have to pay to see the Giant’s Causeway. They only have a sign showing you prices for parking and prices for adult and child tickets for the Visitor Centre. Most tourists would just assume that is the price for visiting the Causeway. It is not! It is the price to park your car there and the price to get into the Visitor Centre. You do not need to pay to visit or see the Giant’s Causeway. To experience and enjoy the nature is free!
If you ask a staff member (they work for National Trust, who built the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre) on duty, ask them specifically whether you need to pay to see the Giant’s Causeway, they will tell you it is free to visit. They will try very hard to convince you to pay to get into the Visitor Centre though.
2. Take the red trail in the beginning for a better view and experience
Most people would walk straight though the tunnel and down to the Giant’s Causeway. However, there is actually a trail where you can see the Causeway from the mountain top. It is a much nicer view. And after taking a few gorgeous pictures from the top, you just walk down the stairs to see the actual Causeway. Leaving the Causeway, you can just follow the usual/ more popular route back up to the tunnel.
When you are standing in front of the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre, look to your right hand side, you will find a trail. You want to go for the red trail. It is marked as a more demanding route but it is not that challenging. If you can walk for a mile and then walk down around 100 steps, you can take this route. Much more photographic and you don’t have to walk on the same route twice.
3. Best time to visit the Giant’s Causeway (if you have a flexible schedule in Ireland/ Northern Ireland)
If you are in Ireland or Northern Ireland for a few days, you might want to stay up in Bushmills/ Ballycastle for a night. That way you can go to the Giant’s Causeway early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowd. Most tourists start their tours from Belfast or from Dublin, so between 11am and 3pm would be the busiest time of the day.
4. Best route to drive to the Giant’s Causeway
Follow the Causeway Coastal route from Belfast if you want a nice view of the ocean. It is a longer route (around 2.5 hours) but you will enjoy it. Driving straight from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway is around 1.5 hours. Tourists from Dublin would need to plan ahead if they want to do the entire Coastal Route as it is quite time-consuming. Overtaking is almost impossible as the route is very windy. So if you have an unlucky day and get stuck behind a slow driver, you might end up spending 3 to 4 hours just to drive up to the Causeway from Belfast.
5. Where to park at the Giant’s Causeway
If you are planning to pay and get into the Visitor Centre, drive to Bushmills Park and Ride car park. It is the car park that is opposite to Bushmills Inn Hotel. You get a GBP 1.50 discount on your Visitor Centre entrance ticket if you park there and take the shuttle provided by the Visitor Centre.
If you are not planning to go inside the Visitor Centre (as mentioned above, the Giant’s Causeway is free to visit), you can park in Bushmills and then walk to the Giant’s Causeway (around 2 miles). You can also take a bus from Bushmills to Giant’s Causeway.
Some people would try to park on the road near the Giant’s Causeway. Not recommended. The roads are painted with double yellow lines. It means no parking allowed and you will get clamped and a massive fine. Locals living near the Causeway are really annoyed by the tourists parking on the double yellow lines outside their houses. They will call the Police on you. So there is a very very high chance your car will be clamped.
6. What to wear and how to prepare for your trip to the Giant’s Causeway
Waterproof warm jacket is a must! Giant’s Causeway is right next to the Atlantic Ocean, which means cold wind blowing all day at the Causeway. The Causeway is full of uneven surface. So please wear comfortable shoes. No high heels or sandals. There are loads of reported injuries of sprained ankle, cuts and scratches on forehead and hands etc. at the Causeway.
7. Other nearby places to visit near the Giant’s Causeway
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge*, Busmills Distillery and Dunluce Castle are popular tourist attractions nearby. Would be difficult to fit all of them in one day if you are going from Dublin. Plan ahead, check opening hours and maps if you want to see them all in one day.
*Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge has a timed-ticket system. Read more here
Written by: Robert H.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Finn McCools Tours.
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