To join your exciting Giant’s Causeway and Glens of Antrim Tour From Dublin, you should make your way to Connolly Station, Dublin, by 0710h (07:10am) for the 0735h (07:35am) departure to Belfast.
The tour operator’s representatives (wearing yellow jackets) will be waiting for you beside the customer service desk. They will check you in and show you to your reserved seats on the train. A dedicated host will be available on the train to assist you and may also act as a guide on sightseeing tours. There is a dining car on the train serving light breakfast (payable direct). Ask your host for details.
Your departure point, Connolly Station, was built in 1844 as the terminus of the Dublin & Drogheda Railway and is now the administrative headquarters of Iarnród Éireann – Ireland’s National Railway. You depart northwards through the Dublin suburbs, which soon give way to farmland.
Pass the exclusive coastal village of Malahide before crossing the wide Broadmeadow Estuary, followed by Rogerstown Estuary. Fine views of the sea appear as you go through the coastal town of Skerries, followed by the fishing village of Balbriggan. A few kilometres further on you’ll see Gormanston – an Irish Air Corps military airfield – on the landward side.
The track swings inland to Drogheda, where you make your first stop. Immediately north of Drogheda you cross the historic river Boyne by a magnificent viaduct, with great views of the town. Drogheda was stormed by Oliver Cromwell in 1649 with massive loss of life and close by is the site of the Battle of the Boyne, where [Protestant] King William of Orange defeated dethroned [Catholic] King James in 1690 – an event still celebrated annually by ‘Orangemen’ or ‘Northern Protestants’ on the ‘Twelfth’ of July.
Next stop is the border town of Dundalk – an industrial seaport, famous for brewing and tobacco products. In more recent times it became famous as the hometown of the family musical sensation, The Corrs. The train now begins to climb into the foothills of the Camlough Mountains and border country. The actual border is unmarked and, as a result of the peace process, there are no customs or border controls. Since the creation of the border in 1922, there has been freedom of travel between the two jurisdictions without a passport.
Newry, which gained city status in 2002 by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, can be seen below on the seaward side, and is the third stop.
The final stop before Belfast is Portadown, where you veer sharply to the east and head up the Lagan valley.
Please ensure that you use the ladies and gents facilities on the train before arrival at Belfast to ensure a swift transfer from the train to the bus.
On arrival in Belfast – Ireland’s second largest city – at 0945h (9:45am), you will board a motor coach for the tour to the Antrim Coast and the Giant’s Causeway. One of the city’s principal landmarks can be seen upon arrival – the two Harland & Wolfe Cranes – nicknamed Samson and Goliath. It was here that many great ships were built – most notably for White Star Line, whose ships included the Olympic, Britannic and (perhaps the most famous ship of all), RMS Titanic.
At its peak, Harland & Wolfe boasted a workforce of 35,000 and reflected the industrial nature of Ulster – Ireland’s Northern Province. However, the rest of Ireland remained predominantly agricultural and economically less well off than their northern counterparts. Coupled with religious differences, when Ireland sought independence from Britain in 1922, the six counties of Ulster opted out and to this day remain within the UK.
Leaving Belfast you head out to the town of Carrickfergus for a short photo-stop and take the coast road north from here. Further north the coach arrives at the fishing village of Carnlough, where you stop for about 15 minutes for tea (payable direct). (This may have to be curtailed if the train from Dublin arrives late).
Continue on past the coastal villages of Glenariff, Cushendall and Cushendun. There are stunning views of the sea to the right and the mountains – or the Glens of Antrim –to the left. Most impressive are the spectacular views of Mull of Kintyre, Scotland – clearly visible on a fine day. Moving inland, we come to the town of Ballycastle – home to Ireland’s oldest town fair. The Lammas fair dates from 1606 and takes place over the August bank holiday weekend every year.
The next stop is the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, a slender suspension bridge across a vertiginous drop. There is a nominal charge to cross the bridge.
You then head for Dunluce Castle for a photo stop before arriving at the Giant’s Causeway, where you stop for about 2 hours. The Causeway consists of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns resulting from a volcanic eruption. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 and is owned and managed by the National Trust.
Legend has it that the Irish giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill (pronounced ‘Fyun Ma Cool)’ built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight another giant called Benandonner. The story goes that Fionn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he didn't arrive, the much larger Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him. To protect Fionn, his wife Úna (pronounced ‘Oo-na’) laid a blanket over Fionn and pretended he was Fionn's baby son. When Benandonner saw the size of the 'infant', he assumed that Fionn must be gigantic indeed! He fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway in case he was followed by Fionn. The Scottish side of the causeway on the Isle of Staffa has similar basalt formations at the site of Fingal's Cave.
Leaving the Giant’s Causeway, you head back to Belfast via the main road in time for the 2010h (8:10pm) train back to Dublin, where you e arrive at 2215h (10:15pm) approximately –there are bar and snack facilities onboard.
The tour ends back at Connolly Station.