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Belfast and Northern Ireland

Causeway Coast – The UK's Hidden Gem, Only One Train Ride from Belfast

Only a short journey away from Belfast is a strip of coastline along the north of the country called the Causeway Coast. Computer Science student Russell recently checked out the sandy beaches, bustling seaside towns and historic landmarks.

Russell Unsworth at Portrush beach
As a student studying at Queen’s, I have made many a day trip to the Causeway Coast following my first-year exams

How to get there

The easiest way to access this coastline from Belfast is by train. Trains on the Belfast to Derry-Londonderry line run every hour (running every half an hour at rush hour). The train from Belfast to Coleraine is 1 hour 20 minutes and from here you can access most sites by either a quick train or bus journey.

Giant’s Causeway

This world heritage site is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world and is a must see for anyone studying in Belfast. To visit we got the train from Coleraine to Portrush. From there we got on the 402-Coastal Rambler bus. Following a 20 minute journey (passing Dunluce Castle, as featured in Game of Thrones) we were dropped off at the visitor centre where for free we were able to snake down the cliff to the site. Luckily we were visiting on a warm day, although it was still quite windy which made for some impressive sights as we sat and watched the waves crash against the tall hexagonal rocks.

Giant's Causeway hexagonal rocks

Impressive sights at the Giant's Causeway

The trail is set up in a loop where there are two ways down and up from the Giant’s Causeway. There’s an easier tarmacked path and a more rural path where you go right up the cliffs back to the visitor centre. The last bus is at 6pm so remember to keep track of time. Like the trains, the buses are every hour and sometimes half an hour but there are a couple of old pubs by the bus stop where we had a pint while waiting for our bus.

Rock formation at Giant's Causeway

A natural wonder


The next place we visited was the coastal town and beach of Portstewart. To get there, you take a short bus journey from Coleraine train station. The town’s main street is set on the rocky shore and harbour. Cafes and ice cream shops line the street where we picked up ice creams before walking over to the beach. The coastal path to the beach snakes along to the rocky shore (about a 10 minute walk) until you turn a corner and see the long golden beach.

The Portstewart Strand is a national trust site and its location away from the town makes it a really peaceful spot. Although the temperature was in the mid-20s, we only paddled our feet in the sea (although there were a couple of people braving the cold water). We walked the length of the beach until we met a wall of rocks where the River Bann meets the sea. On the other side of the river are the beaches of Castlerock and Downhill, which can be reached by train from Coleraine. I would highly recommend wearing sun cream at this time of year, as I may have been looking bright red on the train back to Belfast!

Portstewart beach

Peaceful Portstewart


The third place along the Causeway Coast that I have visited is the town of Portrush. Portrush can be reached by train just 15 minutes from Coleraine train station, but you have to make sure you switch trains at Coleraine if you are coming from Belfast. Portrush is set on a peninsula with two beaches lining each side of the town (East Strand and West Strand). The station is right beside the West Strand beach and Curry’s amusement park in the centre of town. The West Strand beach stretches to meet the harbour. The harbour is surrounded by many delicious restaurants which are cheaper than those in Belfast. There are also many nice places to eat further in the town.

Portrush beach

Portrush is a must-visit!

When we visited, it was the same day as the annual raft race. There were many stalls around the green by the beach on West Strand as well as the raft race competition. This involved teams made up of local businesses, or just groups of friends racing their homemade rafts from the beach into the harbour. It was a really fun event with many of the people on the rafts in costumes with their elaborate rafts, even though about half of them did sink!

On the other side of the peninsula is the larger of the two beaches, East Strand. This beach is more popular with people doing water sports with surf boards, paddle board, wetsuits etc., all of which can be hired from multiple shops in town. The beach starts by the Arcadia - an old building hosting a café and an art gallery right by the sea - but then meets these large impressive sand dunes. If you follow the beach along far enough these dunes turn into towering white rocks.

Portrush annual raft race

Portrush was buzzing with the annual raft race

With the last train from Portrush back to Belfast at 10pm, it’s a really nice place to go for a meal out and drink any time of year. But when you catch the good weather (which Northern Ireland isn’t known for, but it does happen!) this place is truly magical.

Overall, I think I’m going to be spending a lot of my time visiting this coastline during my time studying at Belfast - it is truly a beautiful place. I’ve only scratched the surface of the places along the coast to visit, with sites like Dunluce Castle, Mussenden Temple and many more beaches to see, all only an hour and a half away from Queen’s and Belfast.

Find out more

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VIDEO: Come with me on a trip to the Giant's Causeway!

Russell Unsworth

Chemical Engineering | Undergraduate Student | England

Once a week I take 10 min walk from my Queen's Belfast Accommodation to the local Lidl but living right in the city of Belfast means I pass some amazing sights on my little trip to the shops.

Russell Unsworth