Giants & Dragons Trail Northern Ireland

We only had 24 hours of travel time, but we made the most of it, you could do the same. We set off from LARNE PORT at 10am over the road less travelled, thrilled at Autumnal colours, turning in at SHILLANAVOGY in search of Dragons. Off the beaten track, only room for single-lane traffic, we soon discovered the rolling fields and curios cattle that surrounds SLEMISH mountain.

Twenty-five minutes into our journey (45mins from Belfast) is Shillanavogy Valley (land of the Dothraki). A token sign marks the spot, no computer-generated effects today of Game of Thrones®, but stunning scenery to admire. A few options to take for the onward journey, we chose to go via BROUGHSHANE, stopping off for take-away coffee & a snack from RACEVIEW MILL.

Joining part of the motorway we headed for Ballintoy, just another 50minutes drive. STANOCUM directed us via THE DARK HEDGES and we parked up for a quick view.

Our first sight of the North Coast, what an unexpected view we drove into! Never have I seen RATHLIN, THE MULL OF KINTYRE, ISLAY and YONDER SCOTLAND so clear and inviting from our shore. PORTANEEVY viewpoint was breathtaking!

A stop off for coffee led us to the FULLERTON ARMS home to Game of Thrones® Door No 6 (one of 10 in Northern Ireland) and face to face with a dragon, an amazing piece of art carved from the Kings Road Dark Hedges fallen trees. Plenty on the menu for lunch, dinner or drinks & a unique menu of Mussels, we’ll be back.

THE BOTHY was a welcome stop for a quick lunch as we only had 40 minutes until our 1pm tour appointment that we booked in advance. Goats Cheese & Beetroot Salad and a Pesto, Buffalo Mozzarella & Sundried Tomato open toastie in front of the backyard open fire. Heading along the Causeway Coastal Route we had our first view of DUNSERVICK CASTLE on route to the GIANTS CAUSEWAY. Waiting on us was DALRIADA KINGDOM TOURS and we were met with a warm greeting to start our personal tour of the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE. Sharon filled us with a great appreciation of the Giants Causeway, it’s history, generational heritage and her personal love of this special place. We could not have been in better hands as we strolled along the first view of Runkerry, the windy gap, stood North, looking West towards the South! The story of the Mad Marys, the houses no longer visible and ‘Giant Baby Finn’ reconnected us to this special place. After measuring ourselves against the famous columns to see if they are still taller than us, we captured the moment to add to our road trip photo album.

Check-in time at the CAUSEWAY HOTEL, after Hot Chocolates and & local Gin at the bar, we met our cool coloured driftwood decorated room for the night that overlooked PORTBALLINTRAE BEACH & THE SKERRIES. Spotless clean, with white chocolate strawberries to welcome our arrival, we relaxed then dinner at 6pm in the dining room. Locally sourced Beef Burgers, with red onion relish and Garlic Potatoes (every time), followed by homemade apple pie and custard.

A few hours’ sleep and rested up from our first day we joined the mixture of guests at breakfast from all over the world, visiting the Causeway Coastal Route, I wanted to ask each one where they came from and where they were going next. Perfect fluffy homemade pancakes for breakfast filled our tummies for the road ahead. We explored BUSHMILLS home of the world’s oldest whiskey distillery and enjoyed a brief stop at the BUSHMILLS INN with a perfect temperature Cappuccino and a browse town in THE DESIGNERIE. It is home to local handmade crafts, artist work and a studio of classes. Approaching noon, we considered our route back to Larne, we joined the Causeway Coastal Route, dropping into BALLINTOY HARBOUR to inspect the waves, onward to BALLYCASTLE we stopped off at URSA MINOR to meet Flip from GIANT TOURS IRELAND to hear about his GAME OF THRONES® tours. It was perfect for a late (vegetarian menu) lunch of poached eggs on toasted sourdough with parmesan shavings.

We had to pick just one more scheduled stop on our journey back, where would we go next? MURLOUGH BAY was calling us and we named the sheep along the way as they munched on the very green grass either side of the single lane track, no fences here! Not for the faint hearted or those with fear of height or the sea, drive carefully as you discover the stunning views of Murlough bay, back to Rathlin and across the sea to Scotland. Not a noise to be heard you may feel a strong and spiritual connection to land and sea. The sun was beginning to set, and the emotive place was hard to leave behind but we were rewarded with an amazing cloud formation on KOCKLAYD, looking like a volcanic eruption was beginning.

A quicker road home, we passed the lake that had ‘vanished’, home of the vanishing lakes of LOUGHAREEMA, we admired the hilltop view of CUSHENDUN, passed over the GLENDUN VIADUCT and snapped a quick photo of the ‘Broccoli’ Trees in full rusty Autumn colours.

With CUSHENDALL a quick stop for yes, more coffee, we headed towards WATERFOOT, waved at the smiling redheaded cave just in time to see the sun setting in full glow against the valley of GLENARIFF & GARRON Headland. No luck today in spotting any seals or dolphins we kept driving in and around each headland and stopped at GLENARM ESTATE TEA ROOMS to purchase some GLENARM ORGANIC SMOKED SALMON just before closing time.

A short journey remained, just 20minutes to go, we chatted about our road trip and thought about where & what we would do and of course where we would stop to eat on our next adventure.

We had an amazing time in just 24 hours and maybe you will write a story just like this about your own trip in Northern Ireland. (Portia & daughters October 2018)