Past Cushendun, the northern coast becomes even more dramatic. Sea-battered cliffs tower 185m over white beaches before giving way to the spectacular geology of Giant’s Causeway, for which the region is named. Thousands of visitors swarm to the site today, but few venture beyond the visitors center to the stunning and easily accessible coastline that stretches beyond.

TRANSPORTATION. Ulsterbus ( 7043 334) #172 runs between Ballycastle and Portrush along the coast (lhr. 3-7 per day, 3.50). The Antrim Coaster #252 runs from Belfast to Portstewart via most small towns along the coast (2 per day). The open-topped Bushmills Bus traces the coast between Coleraine, 8km south of Portrush, and the Causeway (July-Aug. 7 per day).

BALLYCASTLE AND ENVIRONS. The Causeway Coast leaves the sleepy glens behind when it hits Ballycastle, a bubbly seaside town that shelters tourists bound for Giant’s Causeway. Ulsterbus #162A goes to Cushendall via Cushendun (50min. M-F daily, 3), and #131 goes to Belfast (3hr. M-Sa 5-6 per day, 6.10). The tourist office is in Sheskbum House, 7 Mary St. ( 2076 2024. Open July-Aug. M-F 9:30am- 7pm, Sa 10am-6pm, Su 2-6pm; Sept.-June M-F 9:30am-5pm.) Sleep at the friendly and comfortable Castle Hostel (IHH) , 62 Quay Rd. (2076 2337. Dorms 7.50.)

Just off the coast of Ballycastle, bumpy, boomerang-shaped Rathlin Island (Fort of the Sea) is home to more puffins (pop. 20,000) than people (pop. 100). A minibus drives to the Kebble Bird Sanctuary, 7km from the harbor

Caledonian MacBrayne (2076 9299) ferries run to the island from the pier at Ballycastle, up the hill from Quay Rd. (45min. 1- 3 per day, round-trip 8.40).

Eight kilometers west of Ballycastle, the modest village of Ballintoy attracts the crowds on their way to the tiny Carrick-a-rede Island. From the mainland, cross the fishermen’s rope bridge (about 2m wide) over the dizzying 30m drop to rocks and sea below; be extremely careful in windy weather. A sign marks the turn-off for the bridge from the coastal road east of Ballintoy. The island’s Larrybane sea cliffs are home to a variety of species of gulls. The Sheep Island View Hostel (IHH) O is at 42A Main St. in Ballintoy. ( 2076 9391. Continental breakfast 3. Laundry 2. Dorms 10. Camping 5 per person.)

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY. Geologists believe that the unique rock formations found at EilGiant’s Causeway were formed some 60 million years ago. Comprised of over 40,000 perfectly symmetrical hexagonal basalt columns, the site resembles a large descending staircase that leads out from the cliffs to the ocean’s floor below. Ulsterbuses #172 to Portrush, the #252 Antrim Coaster, and the Bushmills Bus all drop off visitors at the Giant’s Causeway Visitors Centre. A minibus ( 1.20) runs from the center to the columns. (Causeway open 24hr. Free. Visitors Centre open July- Aug. daily 10am-7pm; June 10am-6pm; Sept.-Oct. 10am-5pm; Nov.-Feb. 10am- 4:30pm; Mar-Apr. M-F 10am-5pm, Sa-Su 10am-5:30pm; May daily 10am-5:30pm.)


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