Driving From Belfast to Derry: Embracing the Coastal Route on Our Girl’s Trip to Northern Ireland – Part 2

Giant's Causeway iconic shot at sunset, walking with giants, embacing my giant spirit

Are you ready for an adventure that will fill your heart with joy and your camera roll with epic moments? It’s part 2 of The Ultimate Northern Ireland Road Trip With Girlfriends and we are driving Driving From Belfast to Derry On The Coastal Route.

Northern Ireland is the perfect balance of culture, adventure, and great food. Looking for a bold and rugged road trip? Northern Ireland will elevate your girlfriend’s road trip to the next level. Pack your sense of humour and adventurous spirit. This is more than just a road trip in North Ireland; it’s a journey of discovery with your girlfriends.

Thank you for joining us for the ride for Part 2. In Part 1, we arrived in Dublin and drove to Newcastle in Northern Ireland and enjoyed Castlewellan before driving onto the amazing city of Belfast. Now we are departing Belfast with the destination of Derry. The coastal drive from Belfast to Derry offers stunning scenery along the Northern Irish coastline.

Remember when I started to detail the amazing Northern Ireland Road trip I went on with the girls? You can read part 1 here! There was so much we saw and did that there was no way I could contain it all into one blog post, so I am doing a second one for the second part of the road trip – leaving from Belfast and driving to Derry by car.

Our fearless leader… driver… is Billy Scott from Touring Around Belfast.

No shortage of amazing views all over Northern Ireland!

Leaving Belfast, Driving to Derry

Leaving Belfast was exciting and sad all at the same time. We were heading from Belfast to Derry by car on our Ultimate Northern Ireland Girl’s trip and taking the Causeway Coastal Route. Derry and Belfast aren’t very far from each other – only 70 miles or 122 kilometres if you drive straight across on the A6 motorway. However, there is a different way to get to Derry by car from Belfast and that is the Causeway Coastal Route of Northern Ireland.

Leaving a city I love, Belfast, before I had a chance to fully explore it, hurt my soul. I mentioned in a post on Instagram that Belfast is the most comfortable city in Europe that I have experienced. I’m a Toronto girl, so I’m not a lover of big cities when I travel. I mean, I live in one and I always try to escape to the wilderness. I’ve been to Paris, it’s gorgeous. London? It’s huge and overwhelming! Beautiful Barcelona? Just too much to take in. Lisbon, I loved, but Belfast? Belfast took my heart. It just seemed like the right place for me to want to hang out in.

Think you’d like to check out Belfast as well? Look for accommodations on this map here:

Please note that if you do make a booking, I receive a very tiny commission at no extra cost to you.

Although I could have stayed in Belfast and wandered for many more days, we were off to Derry. And to get there, we were taking the scenic route – we were driving from Belfast to Derry on the coastal route. And an amazing day we were in for.


Belfast to Derry By Car

We are driving to Derry from Belfast by car and I couldn’t be more excited.

The coastal drive from Belfast to Derry is full of stunning scenery along the Northern Irish coastline. No lie, this is one of the most scenic and interesting drives you could ever take. And I am so stoked for this day’s road trip. Causeway Coastal Route stretches for 120 miles from Belfast Lough to Lough Foyle.  AND… we had great weather and a full-day itinerary in front of us, starting with a stop at Carrickfergus Castle. 

CarrickFergus Castle in Northern Ireland with the author in front at the harbour

Carrickfergus Castle is a well-preserved medieval castle and one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Northern Ireland. Situated on the northern shore of Belfast Lough, Carrickfergus Castle shows off impressive views of the surrounding landscape. Over the centuries that it has stood, Carrickfergus Castle has been part of numerous sieges, battles, and historical events. It served as a royal castle, a military garrison, a prison, and even a military hospital during World War I. Carrickfergus Castle is a symbol of Northern Ireland’s cultural heritage and visitors are welcome.

Our stop here was quick as we were going to The Gobbins Cliff Path next, but it was worth the quick stop to explore!

CarrickFergus Castle, Northern Ireland

The Gobbins Cliff Path

The Gobbins gets its name from the Irish ‘An Gobain,’ which translates to ‘the points of rock.’ It’s truly one-of-a-kind, offering an exhilarating coastal trek along dramatic cliff faces, complete with breathtaking bridges, tunnels, and staircases. The revamped Gobbins, unveiled in August 2015 (original walkways date back to 1902), feature new walkways that run alongside the weathered remnants of the original structure. Tip – do not try to access or utilize any of the original structures. They’re old, weathered and damaged. Not worth the potential danger!

When you arrive, you get a taste of the visitor center. Before you take the hike, you must be wearing proper footwear and a helmet and you will be outfitted at the Gobbins Cliff Walk Visitor Centre. From there, you will take a shuttle bus to the start of the hike. And you can only make this hike in good weather. The Cliff Hike has been closed to visitors in strong winds and inclement weather.

Northern Ireland Road trip girl friends at the Gobbins hike selfie by Nadine
Northern Ireland Road trip at the Gobbins hike -selfie by Nadine

When you get past the gate for that hike – The scenery is unlike anything you’ll ever see anywhere else. Walking the Gobbins cliff path is like stepping into a natural wonderland where the raw power of the sea meets the rugged beauty of the coastal landscape. As you navigate the narrow paths and winding staircases, you’re treated to a sensory feast of sights, sounds, and sensations.

Trail-and-tunnel-on-Gobbins-Hike-on-the-cliff in Northern Ireland on the drive from Belfast to Derry

Whether you’re bathed in the golden glow of sunrise or the soft hues of sunset, the scenery of the Gobbins cliff walk never fails to enchant and inspire. We visited at noon and the light was just right. The sun was bright and reflected off the rocks in such golden hues.

The Gobbins hiking adventure typically takes about 2 hours, but that can vary depending on the group’s fitness level. It can be a challenging 3-mile hike, with a steep initial descent to the lower cliff path. The path itself is narrow, with intricately carved steps that wind along the base of the cliffs, making it feel like you’re ascending and descending the equivalent of 50 flights of stairs.

While I’m not completely convinced the helmet and boots were necessary, safety is key. It’s likely a reaction to someone banging their head on a windy day. Or something about Darwinism?

Hanging out on the Gobbins Hike in Northern Ireland on a beautiful day!

Driving From The Gobbins To The Giant’s Causeway

When you are driving from the Gobbins to the Giant’s Causeway, there are so many scenic and historic places to stop and check out. They all make for a great photo opportunity! Truthfully, all of Northern Ireland is a photo waiting to happen.
Personal note – I will say, even when travelling with your girlfriends, tension do arise. It’s best to have a plan to take time away from each other for a breather when those moments happen. Like hopping out at any of these stops and wandering for 10 minutes on your own is good for the soul.

Barbican Gate at Glenarm Castle

At the foot of Castle Street in the village of Glenarm, you’ll find the imposing gateway to Glenarm Castle. Before the 1820s, the bridge at Castle Street was the only crossing over the Glenarm River, with the current structure dating back to the early 1700s after a flood swept away the original. When a new bridge was built in 1823, the castle’s occupants constructed the Barbican and walls to separate their estate from the village. The Barbican Gate, built in 1825 by Edmund McDonnell and his wife Anne Katherine, features defensive elements like a portcullis and boiling oil holes, reminiscent of medieval fortifications, though more for the show over function.
At the Barbican Gate of Glenarm Castle

Carnlough Village

Carnlough, from the Irish “Carnlach” meaning ‘place of cairns’, is a charming village in County Antrim. Located on the shores of Carnlough Bay, it boasts a picturesque harbour frequented by pleasure boats and small fishing craft. The area is a haven for both sea and freshwater angling enthusiasts.
But what adds a touch of magic here is its connection to “Game of Thrones”—the Braavos Canal scenes were filmed right here. So, as you stroll along the harbour, you can almost picture Arya Stark resurfacing from the river after being attacked by the Waif in Season 6, Episode 7.
Carnlough is a must-visit spot in Northern Ireland.
GOT filming location _Braavos Canal

Bonamargy Friary

Constructed in 1500 by Rory MacQuillan, Bongmargy Friary is among the 43 friaries of the Third Order of Franciscans Regular. Nestled at the ‘foot of the Margy’ (Bun na Mairge in Irish), it stands close to where the Carey and Shesk Rivers meet. Despite enduring centuries of history, including the Dissolution of the Monasteries and transitioning to the MacDonnells of Antrim in 1558, this site remains preserved. Lindsay from I’ve Been Bit Travel Blog and I did roam this space and we were excited and creeped out all at the same time.

You can explore its serene grounds all year round and uncover the cloister, a small gatehouse, a church, and an ancient graveyard. The intact crypt, although sealed, holds the remains of notable dignitaries like several Earls of Ulster and Sorley Boy MacDonnell.

The eerie yet captivating atmosphere of Bongmargy Friary is a must-visit for history enthusiasts and curious wanderers alike! The video I put together on Instagram shows this way better than a photo. Check it out by clicking here.

Bonamargy Friary graveyard

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Portaneevy Viewing Point

Due to time constraints (maybe also known as we made a lot of pee stops), we had to view the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge from the Portaneevy Viewing Point only. I was a touch disappointed because my boyfriend, Paul told me all about it and his experiences as a kid visiting it. Portaneevey, an important trailhead for the Causeway Coast Way and International Appalachian Trail, offers visitors a viewing platform to enjoy stunning views of Rathlin, Carrick-a-rede, and Sheep Island.
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (which you can maybe see in the photo below) is a (thrilling to cross, so I have heard)suspension bridge that spans 20 meters between the mainland and Carrick Island, offering amazing views of the rugged coastline and the deep blue sea below.

Embrace A Giant Spirit – The Giant’s Causeway

Imagine stepping into a place where legend and geology collide—that’s the magic of the Giant’s Causeway.

This stunning natural wonder, with its 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, looks like it was crafted by giants. According to myth, it was built by the giant Finn McCool as a bridge to Scotland. The reality is, these incredible formations are the result of ancient volcanic activity.

Wandering across the hexagonal stones, I could not help but marvel at the raw beauty and ancient power that shaped this UNESCO World Heritage Site. This landscape does not exist anywhere else in the world. It’s an awe-inspiring experience that captures the wild spirit of Northern Ireland.

Giant's Causeway iconic shot at sunset, walking with giants, embacing my giant spirit

As you explore the Giant’s Causeway, every step reveals another breathtaking sight. It’s hard to believe this is the other side of the Atlantic Ocean from Canada! I cannot belive we lucked out on sunshine and such gorgeous weather for this day. The site’s natural beauty is complemented by the rich folklore and the sense of standing on a geological marvel that has fascinated both scientists and storytellers for centuries.

The nature lover in me found the Giant’s Causeway to be an unforgettable journey of Northern Ireland’s landscape and legends. This is an absolute must-visit destination and this day really was the best day of the trip – topped off right here at the Giant’s Causeway. I needed this reconnection with nature and the landscape badly and this is what filled my heart with Ireland.

Welcome to the Giant's Causeway!

Driving From Belfast to Derry – Arrival in Derry

After a day of driving and exploring the Coastal Route from Belfast to Derry, we arrive in the walled city. The walled city of Derry, also known as Londonderry, is a place of historical significance and cultural heritage. Founded in the 6th century by Saint Columba and later fortified in the early 17th century, Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland. Its walls, which stand up to 8 metres high and nearly 1.5 kilometres in circumference, were built as a defence against invading forces and have witnessed pivotal events in Irish history.

Derry is a city steeped in history and is a lovely place to visit. The city is situated near the border with the Republic of Ireland, but it is not divided between England and Ireland. Northern Ireland, including Derry, is geographically on the island of Ireland, but politically part of the United Kingdom.

The walls form a walkway around the inner city, providing a bird’s eye vantage from which to view the layout of the original town.

Welcome to Derry from the wall

Where To Stay In Derry

We checked into Hotel Ebrington in Ebrington Square upon arrival. Imagine stepping into a blend of history and modern luxury—that’s what you’ll find at Hotel Ebrington in Ebrington Square. This gem of a hotel, nestled in the heart of Derry, offers the perfect mix of old-world charm and contemporary comfort.

Ebrington Square, once a military parade ground, has been transformed into a modern hub, and Hotel Ebrington stands in its center. From the moment you walk through the doors, you’re greeted by stylish decor that nods to the past while offering all the modern amenities you’d expect. The rooms are spacious and well-decorated and comfortable. When you walk outside, you are treated to stunning views of the River Foyle and the Peace Bridge. And there are top-notch spa services available on-site.

Executive King Bedroom room at the Ebrington Hotel in Derry / LondonDerry

And let’s talk about location—you’re just steps away from some of Derry’s best attractions. The hotel is next door to the Walled City Brewery (so, yeah, I liked the location for that). From Hotel Ebrington, you can stroll across the Peace Bridge to the historic city center, or explore the nearby dining and attraction hotspots. Whether you’re staying at this hotel for the history, the scenery (the VIEW!), or just a relaxing getaway, Hotel Ebrington offers a stay that’s both memorable and quintessentially Derry.

Peace Bridge in Derry across the River Foyle

Are you thinking that you’d like to check out Derry/Londonderry as well? Look for accommodations on this map here:

Please note that if you do make a booking, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Museums To Visit In Derry

The city of Derry is home to numerous museums, that are worth a visit.

The Tower Museum – Situated within the historic walls of the city, the museum offers an in-depth look at the rich heritage and turbulent history of the region. It covers key events such as the foundation of the city by Saint Columba, the construction of the city walls, the Siege of Derry in 1689, and the complex history of the Troubles. Through a mix of artifacts, interactive displays, and multimedia presentations, visitors gain a deep understanding of Derry’s cultural and historical significance.

Guildhall – The Guildhall was originally built in 1890 and has served as a central hub for political, social, and cultural activities in Derry for over a century. It has been the seat of the city’s council and has played a pivotal role in the civic life of Derry. The Guildhall has been a key location for significant political events. USA President Bill Clinton delivered a speech in 1995 during his visit to Northern Ireland and this visit and speech was a landmark moment in the peace process.

Guildhall from the wall in Derry/Londonderry

The Museum of Free Derry – This museum is dedicated to educating visitors about the events surrounding the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, with a focus on the pivotal events of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This era was marked by intense conflict and civil unrest, particularly in Derry, where the struggle for civil rights and political equality was especially pronounced. The tragic event known as Bloody Sunday, which occurred on January 30, 1972, is highlighted through a detailed account of the events leading up to the day itself, and its aftermath, including the long campaign for justice by the victims’ families.

Derry is an emotional and moving city. Take the time to see the photos, hear the recordings and bear witness. It’s not an experience to rush and it’s not one I feel respectful of sharing some of the photos and newspaper clips and artifacts from the troubles from inside. These were real people who lay dying on the street and real pieces of clothing with their blood and real ID cards. It’s an experience that cannot be captured in a blog post. You have to go there. I went with Nadine and Lindsay and all 3 of us were really shook when we left.


What To See And Do In Derry

Whether you’re strolling through its historic streets or enjoying its bustling cafes and shops, Derry seamlessly blends the old with the new, promising an engaging and unforgettable experience. The city of Derry has played such a pivotal role in the history of the country, that it’s only fitting that you take it all in.

Take A Walking Tour of The Walled City

If you are going to do a walking tour or any historical walk around the wall or neighbourhoods of Derry, you will hear and see about the troubles. During the Troubles, the walls of Derry played a symbolic and practical role. The Troubles, a period of intense conflict from the late 1960s to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, saw Derry as one of the focal points of violence and political strife.

The city walls became a symbol of division between the Catholic nationalist community and the Protestant unionist community. Prior to that, and there are markers along that way that tell the stories. The walls were built between 1613 and 1619 by the Honourable The Irish Society, a consortium of London livery companies. The walls were constructed as part of a major colonial and defensive project during the Plantation of Ulster, where English and Scottish settlers were established in Ireland.

The design of the wall includes four main gates: Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Shipquay Gate, and Butcher Gate. Over the years, these original gates have been supplemented with additional gates. One of the most famous events in the history of the walls is the Siege of Derry. During the Williamite War in Ireland, Protestant settlers in Derry closed the city gates against the approaching Catholic forces of King James II, leading to a prolonged and brutal siege that lasted 105 days. The defenders, who supported William of Orange, endured severe hardships but ultimately prevailed when the siege was lifted in August 1689. This event is commemorated annually in the city and remains a significant part of its historical identity.

Today, the walls are one of the best-preserved examples of 17th-century fortifications in Europe. You can walk the walls solo or with a guide who is adept at pointing out different spots. Having done both – I walked the walls alone early in the morning and then later in the day with a guide and the girls – I recommend doing it with a guide.

A Bit of Derry From The Wall

Visit Bogside, Bloody Sunday Memorial and Free Derry Corner

These two locations are very close in proximity, so I feel like you cannot visit one without the other.

At Bogside, you’ll witness the poignant Bloody Sunday Memorial, which commemorates the tragic events of January 30, 1972, when British soldiers shot and killed 14 unarmed civil rights protesters. The memorial stands as a powerful tribute to the victims and a reminder of the struggle for justice and equality.

Free Derry Corner

Nearby, the Free Derry Corner is an iconic landmark painted with the words “You are now entering Free Derry,” symbolizing the area’s significance during the civil rights movement and the Troubles. These sites offer a profound and moving glimpse into the history and resilience of the local community.

Please note that at the time of my visit, this is what the landmark looked like. Throughout the past decade, it has been painted numerous colours and in support of numerous flags and countries with which the people of Ireland support and identify the troubles. When my friend, Lauren from Justin Plus Lauren visited, the ironic landmark was denoted with support for Catalonia and you can see that image here. When my mother visited, it was bright pink and said “Derry Girls Against Borders”.

Far And Wide Tours

Far and Wild Tours in Derry offers a unique and adventurous way to explore the stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage of Northern Ireland. From midnight kayaking the River Foyle to guided hikes and Indigenous Experiences in Ireland, Far and Wild specializes in eco-friendly and sustainable tourism. Far and Wild provides a range of outdoor activities that cater to all levels of fitness and interest. From cycling to paddling boarding, midnight kayaking, hiking and Indigenous Ireland experiences, Far and Wild Tours in Derry provide diverse outdoor and cultural experiences. I think this was one of Lindsay’s big highlights!

Visit the Spa at Hotel Ebrington

What? I’m recommending a spa experience over something outdoors. Yes, I am. Not normally one to head off and partake in spa activities, it was something that I felt like doing at that moment. An hour-long massage was exactly what I needed to regain my energy after a soak in their therapeutic pool.

I ran into Lindsay and Nadine in there as well, so we all had the same idea.

Spa at the Ebrington interior pool

Take A Picture with the Derry Girls Mural

Have you heard of a little show on the telly called Derry Girls? My daughter and I binge-watched it on Netflix, season by season and died of laughter at each episode. If you haven’t heard of the show, Derry Girls is set in Derry (Londonderry), Northern Ireland, during the 1990s, against the backdrop of the Troubles. The series follows the lives of five teenagers—Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle, and James—as they navigate the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Despite the political turmoil surrounding them, the friends deal with typical teenage concerns such as school, family, friendships, and love. As their themes related to growing up, I had no problem sharing this show with my daughter, Miss M.

The show is humourous, relevant and a wee bit vulgar, but it is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Derry Girls authentically represents Northern Irish culture and captures local dialects and social dynamics. It provides a window into the daily lives of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

The Derry Girls Mural was created by a local not-for-profit company, UV Arts, and is located on the side of Badger’s Bar and Restaurant, opposite the Foyleside shopping centre.

Me With Derry Girls Mural 2

Where to Eat In Derry

Like any other city in Europe, the food is good. The image of Ireland that normally springs to my mind is potatoes, but there is much more than that to feast on!

Browns in Town

Situated in the heart of the city, Browns in Town is an award-winning Michelin-recommended restaurant, renowned for providing a casual dining experience in modern and comfortable surroundings. This trendy venue is a hit with foodies who enjoy Browns great quality food combined with excellent service and exceptional value. As well as superb specialty cocktails, Browns in Town offers a wide-ranging gin and local craft beer menu, the perfect accompaniment to any delicious dish.

Great service, and ambiance for a local restaurant. Doesn’t look like what you would expect from a Michelin restaurant, seems like a simple place at first glance.

Browns In Town

Oak Restaurant at Ebrington Hotel

If you’re looking for a top-notch dining experience, Oak Restaurant at the Ebrington Hotel is where it’s at. Set in the historic Ebrington Square (just like the hotel!), this place perfectly blends a modern vibe with cozy charm—ideal for anything from a laid-back dinner to a special celebration. The menu is all about the best local ingredients, showcasing the rich flavours of Northern Ireland. I think I mentioned this before, I assumed there would be a lot of potatoes to eat in Ireland. I ate a lot better than that!

The chefs here are magicians, turning fresh, seasonal produce into stunning dishes that taste as good as they look. Whether you go for a juicy steak or one of their creative vegetarian options, every bite is a delight. The staff are super friendly and know their stuff, making you feel right at home. With its warm atmosphere, stellar service, and mouth-watering food, Oak Restaurant is a must-visit when you’re at the Ebrington Hotel.

Oak Restaurant Entree at Ebrington Hotel in Derry

Walled City Brewery

Walled City Brewery in Derry is an absolute gem. Combining delicious food with incredible craft beers, all in a charming, historic setting at Ebrington Square. The menu showcases local ingredients with a creative twist, from hearty mains to mouth-watering small plates. I started with their signature beer flight, which offered a fantastic variety of their expertly brewed beers, each one perfectly complementing the meal. My main course was locally sourced—cooked to perfection and packed with flavour. The crispy sweet potato fries on the side were just right.

The service was top-notch, with staff who are both knowledgeable and passionate about their menu and brewing process. The relaxed yet vibrant atmosphere, paired with exceptional food and drink, made for an unforgettable evening. Walled City Brewery is a must-visit for anyone looking to enjoy great food and craft beer in a fantastic setting.

Walled City Brewery Flight of beer and an appetizer


So there you have it, the ultimate girls’ trip! From the seaside charm of Newcastle, and the buzzing energy of Belfast, we’ve hit all the high notes. The coastal drive from Belfast to Derry, with its breathtaking cliffs, picturesque villages, and iconic stops like the Gobbins and Giant’s Causeway was an absolute highlight. Finally, exploring the historic walls and lively culture of Derry wrapped up our adventure perfectly.

This trip was all about adventure, laughter, and making unforgettable memories with the girls. Here’s to the next one—let’s do it again soon!

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