The Irish Road Trip

Visiting The Giant’s Causeway: History, Parking, Tickets + Seeing It For Free

By Author Keith O'Hara

Posted on Last updated: January 30, 2024

Visiting The Giant’s Causeway: History, Parking, Tickets + Seeing It For Free

I’ve a love/hate relationship with the Giant’s Causeway, mainly due to the ridiculous parking charges .

You can visit the Giant’s Causeway free if you’re walking/cycling , but if you’re driving and you want to park near by, you really do pay for the privilege …

Now, there are ways of visiting the Giant’s Causeway for free , and you’ll find them below, but if you drive up with 3 adults in the car you could end up forking out £45 …

Below, you’ll find info on the Giant’s Causeway tickets to the different walks in the area and the parking options.

Some quick need-to-knows about visiting the Giant’s Causeway

Giants Causeway

Photos via Shutterstock

Although a visit to the Giant’s Causeway is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

The Giant’s Causeway is situated on the Antrim Coastal Route , a 5-minute drive from the Old Bushmills Distillery , a 10-minute drive from Dunluce Castle  and a 15-minute drive from Carrick-a-rede .

You’ll need to pay for the Giant’s Causeway tickets if you want to park at and visit the visitor centre. There are peak and off peak prices . I’ll put the peak prices in brackets:

  • Adult : £13.50 (£15.00)
  • Kids : £6.75 (£7.50)
  • Family : £33.75 (£37.50)

The Giant’s Causeway parking is what you’re paying for with the ticket prices above. Although the visitor centre has an interactive exhibition, most people only head into it to use the toilets and restaurant. There are other Giant’s Causeway parking options, which we’ve plotted on the map below.

4. Opening hours

The opening hours change slightly , depending on time of the year, however, the visitor centre is generally open from around 09:00 to 17:00 while parking is open all day.

5. How to see it for free

You can visit the Giant’s Causeway for free if you walk from either Dunserverick Castle or Portballintrae . These are long and scenic coastal walks. If you/someone you’re travelling with has limited mobility, you are best off parking at the visitor centre. More info below.

6. The shuttle bus

If you don’t want to walk from the visitor centre to the Causeway, there’s a shuttle bus that runs at 15-minute intervals . It costs £1 per person.

7. Weather plays a big part

If you arrive at the Giant’s Causeway on a day when the rain is pummelling down, you’re in for a tough time . The Giant’s Causeway is completely exposed – even if you take the shuttle bus, you’ll be soaked when you reach the basalt columns, so ensure to 1, pack rain gear and 2, pack a change of clothes.

The main Giant’s Causeway parking options

giant's causeway parking

Click to enlarge map

There are four main Giant’s Causeway parking options that are within a reasonable walking distance of the entrance point.

Each of these are paid parking – if you want to visit the Giant’s Causeway for free, scroll to the next section.

1. The ‘main’ car park

The main spot for parking at the Giant’s Causeway is the visitor centre car park ( here on maps). 

They use a system similar to the Cliffs of Moher where they justify the ridiculous cost by pushing the fact that you also get access to the visitor centre.

The advantage of parking here is that it’s right next to the Giant’s Causeway, so it’ll be handy for visitors with limited mobility.

2. Causeway Coast Way Car Park

The second Giant’s Causeway Car Park, known as the ‘Causeway Coast Way Car Park’, is a 7-minute walk away and it’s also a rip-off ( here on maps).

You’ll pay £10 to park here and this doesn’t include access to the visitor centre. Now, they’ll justify this by saying ‘But sure you have all-day parking’, when realistically you’ll be here for 2 hours max.

3. Parking at The Nook

The Nook ( here on maps) is right next to the visitor centre and, if you buy food here, you can also use their car park.

This is a handy option, if you can get a spot, as at least you’ll get a feed on top of your parking!

4. Parking at the Causeway Hotel

The car park at the Causeway Hotel ( here on maps) charges you £10 upon entry, but with that you’re given a £10 voucher to spend in the hotel restaurant.

Decent value when you compare it to the 2nd car park above where you’ll only get access to the toilets for your £10er.

How to visit the Giant’s Causeway for free

visit the Giant's Causeway for free

The only way to visit the Giant’s Causeway for free if you have a car is to park at either Portballintrae or Dunseverick and then walk from there.

Of course, if you have a bike and can cycle there from where you’re staying, that’d give you access to the Giant’s Causeway for free, too! Here’s an overview of both options:

1. Walk from Portballintrae (1.5 – 2 hour loop)

Park your car for free at Salmon Rock Beach and take the 1.5 to 2-hour coastal loop from Portballintrae.

This is a gorgeous coastal walk that treats you to stunning views throughout. Good walking shoes are needed as the trail can get muddy in places.

2. Walk from Dunseverick Castle (1.5 hours each way)

If you fancy a decent ramble, you can always park at Dunseverick Castle and take the 4.8 mile (one way) trail to the Causeway. The scenery is incredible and the trail, for the most part, is well maintained.

The walk from the castle to the Causeway takes roughly 1.5 hours each way. If you don’t fancy walking back to the car, you can get the Translink Service 172 from near The Nook just down from the visitor centre back to Dunseverick.

About the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

Right, now that we have info on the Giant’s Causeway parking out of the way, it’s time to dive into some Giant’s Causeway facts.

1. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site

The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is considered by many to be among Europe’s greatest natural wonders.

It made the list thanks to the ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ that it offers visitors .

2. It’s old. Really old

It’s believed that the Giant’s Causeway is between a whopping 50 and 60 million years old (more info on how it formed below) and geologists have been studying the Causeway for nearly 300 years.

3. It’s made up of 40,000+ basalt columns 

One of the most popular Giant’s Causeway facts is the number of huge, black basalt columns that it comprises of – there are 40,000 of them jutting proudly out of the sea.

4. There’s a ‘giant’ tale linked to the Causeway

According to Irish folklore, the Giant’s Causeway was formed after an Irish giant was challenged to a fight by a fierce Scottish Giant (more info below).

The story goes that the Causeway is in fact stepping stones that the Irish giant used to get to Scotland.

How was the Giant’s Causeway Formed? The facts and the folklore!

Giant's Causeway legend

Now, you tend to hear two different stories about how the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland formed. The first story is the sciencey one. It involves volcanic activity and that kind of thing.

The second is a tale that many people that grew up in Ireland were told at bedtime. I’m talking, of course, about the legend of Fionn MacCumhaill and his fight with a Scottish giant.

Story 1: Volcanos and eruptions

Roughly 60 million years ago, the area around what is now known as the Giant’s Causeway was a hotbed of volcanic activity.

This era is referred to as the Paleocene Epoch, a time when the earth looked very different from how we see it today When molten basalt leaked through chalk beds to make a large lava plateau, the lava cooled and then contracted.

Horizontal contraction fractured and the cracks propagated down as things cooled, hence the pillarlike structures we see today.

In most situations, the horizontal fracture brought about a convex bottom end whilst the upper was concave. The size of the columns was determined by how quickly the lava cooled. 

Story 2: The legend of Fionn MacCumhaill

Although story 1 is the official, scientific explanation of how the Causeway formed, there remain those who err on the side of ancient legend to explain how the Giant’s Causeway was formed.

According to Irish mythology , the causeway was formed when a giant named Fionn Mac Cumhaill built it to get to Scotland for a duel with another giant.

Whilst certainly more entertaining than the official version of events, this explanation is today mostly reserved for children! Read the full story in our guide to the legend of the Giant’s Causeway .

The best Giant’s Causeway tours

giants causeway tours

We receive a constant stream of emails and direct messages from tourists asking for advice on the best Giant’s Causeway tour, so we’ve rounded up several with great reviews.

Note: if you book a tour through one of the links below we may make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.

Giant’s Causeway Tours from Dublin

When it comes to visiting the Giant’s Causeway from Dublin, it is key to remember that it’ll take just over three hours to get there by car/tour bus, so factor that into your planning. Here are two with excellent reviews:

  • Giants Causeway, Dark Hedges, and Belfast Tour from Dublin
  • Giant’s Causeway and Game of Thrones Tour from Dublin

Giant’s Causeway Tours from Belfast

If you’re looking to visit the Giant’s Causeway from Belfast, you’ve plenty of choice. Here are two tours with top-notch reviews:

  • Giants Causeway & Game of Thrones Locations Tour from Belfast
  • Giant’s Causeway Fully Guided Day Trip from Belfast

Things to do near the Giant’s Causeway

One of the beauties of the Giant’s Causeway is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter some of the best places to visit in Antrim .

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Causeway (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Old Bushmills Distillery (5-minute drive)

Bushmills Distillery

Photos courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland

One of the most popular things to do near the Giant’s Causeway (especially when it’s raining!) is to do the Old Bushmills Distillery tour. It’s popular among whiskey lovers and non-whiskey drinkers alike. You can also visit The Dark Hedges when you’re done. 

2. Castles galore (10 to 20-minute drive)

Dunluce Castle

One of the more unique things to do near the Giant’s Causeway is to visit one of the  many  medieval ruins that can be found nearby. Dunluce Castle is a 10-minute drive away, Dunseverick Castle is a 5-minute drive and Kinbane Castle is a 20-minute drive.

3. Heaps more attractions (10 to 25-minute drive)

Causeway Coastal Route Drive

If you’re looking for more things to do near the Giant’s Causeway, you’ve plenty to choose from, with many of the most popular Causeway Coastal Route attractions a short spin away. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Portrush Beach (20-minute drive)
  • Torr Head Scenic Route (20-minute drive)
  • Whitepark Bay (10-minute drive)

FAQs about Giant’s Causeway facts and tours

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How was the Giant’s Causeway formed? ‘To where to park for the Giant’s Causeway?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Where is the best parking near the Giant’s Causeway?

If you don’t want to get stung with the hefty Giant’s Causeway parking charges at the visitor centre, park at the Causeway Coast Way Car Park (10 minute walk) for £10.

How can you visit the Giant’s Causeway for free?

If you want to visit the Giant’s Causeway for free, park at Dunseverick Castle or Salmon Rock Beach (info on the walks above).

What are the best things to do near the Giant’s Causeway?

There are plenty of things to do near the Giant’s Causeway, from Dunluce Castle and the Bushmills Distillery to The Dark Hedges and more (see above).

giant's causeway tour

Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 35 years and has spent most of the last 10 creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries . Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.

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Joan Mulvey

Thursday 14th of July 2022

Are you able to take dogs on the causeway?

Saturday 7th of January 2023

The Causeway Coast Way Car Park is now £10

Monday 3rd of October 2022

@Keith O'Hara, Thanks for this Keith. Very helpful.

Keith O'Hara

Saturday 16th of July 2022

Hi Joan - according to this article it's fully dog friendly: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway/news/we-are-now-fully-dog-friendly

Wednesday 27th of April 2022

Great guide however due to the long summer evenings, just arrive after 6pm when the visitor center is closed, there are no crowds and park at the centre for free, you can even watch the sunset from the Causeway. This is what I did 👍

Giant's Causeway Tour from Dublin

  • Giant's Causeway Tour from Dublin
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Why choose this tour?

See all of Northern Ireland's highlights in one day

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Pick-up Points

  • 07:00am - Molly Malone Statue, Suffolk Street
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Depart Dublin

Dark hedges, causeway coast, giant's causeway, dunluce castle (house of greyjoy), belfast (rest & recuperation), return to dublin, prefer the intimacy of a small group, alternative routes.

If this popular route is sold out you may wish to consider one of these...

(Small Group) Giant's Causeway Tour from Dublin

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What's included?

  • Eerie Dark Hedges (Game of Thrones)
  • Causeway Coast Road Trip
  • Coastal Views of Scotland
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  • Dunluce Castle (photos)
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  • Food and drinks

Additional Info

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Guest reviews.

- TripAdvisor Giants Causeway Our trip to Giants Causeway was great. Desmond was the best tour guide ever. Make sure to do the black taxi tour in Belfast.
- TripAdvisor Bailey for president! Also, Giants Causeway trip is a must! I recently visited Dublin and did the Paddywagon Day Tour to Giant's Causeway. The scenery was breathtaking and the places we visited were truly exquisite. The tour itself strategically planned to gain the best possible experience from just 1 day of adventuring. However, one highlight to this trip was…

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2 day tour - northern ireland - belfast and giant's causeway, cancellation policy, free cancellation.

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