Picture this: a ruined castle sitting atop a rugged coastline, an old distillery bursting with history, and a rope bridge passing over a deep quarry featured in the popular HBO TV show, “Game of Thrones.” These three images may sound disparate, but they are, in fact, all features of the award-winning Allen’s Tours. This tour is indubitably the best way to experience The Giant’s Causeway, as it makes time for every part of the surrounding area worth seeing.
The bus departs at 9:30am and begins the day by taking you to the beautifully scenic town of Carrickfergus. This town, located a little way north of Belfast, is steeped in history as it is one of Ireland’s oldest settlements. A great place to learn about the rich history behind this town is the Carrickfergus Museum, however there’s no better way to learn about history than to truly walk among it, and you this is achieved when the tour stops off at Carrickfergus Castle. Built in the 12th century, Carrickfergus Castle is a fine example of Norman architecture and is one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland. This is despite it being besieged multiple times by the Scots, the English, and the French. Its walls go right up to the very edge of the coast, creating a beautiful image that you could hardly believe still exists in the 21st century.
After visiting Carrickfergus, the tour continues along the Antrim coast road which provides views not only of the Irish Sea, but also of the Glens of Antrim, which are the next stop on the tour. While at the Glens of Antrim, you get the opportunity to climb Glencorp, one of the smaller of the glens, which is home to a Bronze age burial mound. Following that, you will pass over a bridge that crosses Glendun, home to some deeply beautiful woodland and a 16th century carving of the crucifixion. After passing over Glendun, the tour briefly stops at Ballycastle before continuing on to what is, quite possibly, the most famous rope bridge in Ireland.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge has stood for over 200 years over the Irish Sea connecting the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede, or “Rocky Island,” as it is more colloquially known. This bridge provides stunning views of the clean waters of the Irish Sea and of the caves that are in abundance along the Irish coastline, but it is perhaps best known for its appearance in “Game of Thrones” as part of Renly Baratheon’s camp. The tour will also stop by at Larrybane Quarry, also featured in “Game of Thrones.”
After taking a half-hour breather for lunch, why not make time for a digestif? The next stop along the tour is bound to excite the drinkers out there, as it is the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery, Bushmills. While visiting the only distillery in Ireland to product triple-distilled whiskey, you will have the opportunity to take pictures of the cask and, at the end of the visit, purchase your own little bottle of smooth, rich history.
After leaving the distillery, the next stop is the highlight of the tour: The Giant’s Causeway itself. The result of an ancient volcanic eruption, The Giant’s Causeway is an area made up of staggering basalt columns. Named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the UK, these columns reach heights of up to 12 meters and have an almost unnatural looking hexagonal shape to them. After a hop around these stunning columns, the tour begins its return to the Allen’s Belfast Bus Tours office, making one more quick stop for photos along the way at Dunluce Castle.
Dunluce Castle is a ruined medieval castle that stands proudly on the edge of the Irish coastline. This castle, which was once owned by Winston Churchill, can only be reached by bridge and also features in “Game of Thrones,” as Pyke, home of the Greyjoy family. This photogenic castle nicely bookends the tour: from Carrickfergus Castle to Dunluce.
This tour really does have something for everyone: stunning landscapes, rich history, high-quality whiskey and the chance to re-enact scenes from everyone’s favourite fantasy TV show. This tour, provided by Allen’s Tours, is unarguably the best way to visit not only the Giant’s Causeway, but also the equally fascinating areas surrounding it. So make those beautiful images you conjured in your head a reality, and start planning your trip to the Giant’s Causeway today.