A Dog Friendly road trip along the Causeway Coastal Route.July 13, 2019
If there is one part of Northern Ireland that embraces a Dog Friendly welcome, then it’s the Causeway Coastal Route which stretches from Belfast to Londonderry, hugging the Atlantic Coast with some of the World’s best scenic viewing points.
Taking a ‘Staycation’ with my dog Georgie in Northern Ireland has been superb – yes we were blessed with a fantastic spell of good weather, with only a mere ‘mizzle’ of a few raindrops to cool the air. Taking time out to recharge the batteries, without having to take my passport was an easy decision. I love spending time with my dog, and I love Northern Ireland, plus I love a good road trip with everything but the kitchen sink in the car! While the call of the Lake District and Scotland did beckon, I opted for the North Coast to refresh my knowledge and revisit some harbours and villages that I have not seen for many years. With so much publicity surrounding Game of Thrones and The Open Golf, visitors and tourists are travelling thousands of miles to see the sights they see on Television. If the rest of the World wants to come and see, then it must be worth it. Perhaps some of these golfing visitors will return with their dog for a doggie holiday?
Travelling from Belfast, staying with the Brown signs which signpost the Causeway Coastal Route, it’s worth stopping off in Carrickfergus to walk around the harbour, view the castle and take a bite to eat in Ownie’s Bar and Bistro. A dog friendly indoor area with a bar menu, and friendly staff, make for a great first stop on your trip. Whether you are day tripping or booking yourself into dog friendly accommodation, there are plenty of options to choose from. The Dog Friendly NI website lists all the registered venues that welcome you and your dog inside their premises. In typical Northern Ireland fashion, the weather is unpredictable, so it’s important to have indoor catering to meet the needs of dog owners, who funnily enough don’t want to eat their food outside in the rain!
The options for accommodation along the Causeway Coastal Route start in Carnlough with Largy Coastal Apartments which now have a fabulous hot tub overlooking the bay (no pooches in the tub!). Gladys and her husband are great hosts and look forward to having you and your furry family member stay with them. Staying in Carnlough provides you with access to several beautiful walks close by including the beautiful Cranny Falls.
As you head up some of the most scenic drives of the coastal route, you approach Ballycastle where you can enjoy an overnight stay at the dog friendly Marine Hotel which faces the beach. A dog welcome basket on arrival makes for a great doggy welcome.
Next up, is the Game of Thrones favourite – The Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy. Having recently undergone a refurbishment, the new dog friendly bedroom accommodation delivers on everything you could need during your stay. The bar/bistro is also dog friendly, and with a superb food menu, you will be able to enjoy your meals with your pooch by your side. The Iron Throne from the Game of Thrones series is a welcome seat and photo opportunity for many a pooch, and being located across the road from Ballintoy Harbour (aka the Iron Islands) you will find breathtaking views and superb walking trails along the Causeway coastal path.
The Fullerton Arms ‘Iron Throne’ – Photo courtesy of Winterfell Tours
A new addition to the Dog Friendly NI listings, is the very cosy Ramblers Rest in Dunseverick. A quiet self catering space just off the main road, and beside Whitepark Bay, where you can often see the cows lying on the beach. It has some of the most spectacular scenery along the route. There is a stategically placed view point just past the road sign for Whitepark Bay, where you can see the beautiful coastline. For walk information click here. There is usually an ice-cream van in the car park, and after a walk a ‘wee poke’ is a welcome treat!
For those travelling with their caravan, then the fantastic 5 star Ballyness Caravan Park is situated in well manicured grounds in Bushmills. Superb facilities along with an 8km on site walk, make for a very dog friendly stay. Of course, no trip to Bushmills is complete without a trip to the Distillery (not dog friendly) and the Giants Causeway. For a local tasty treat – I highly recommend you drop into the ladies of Mini Maegden, located in a field beside the Causeway. Their grilled cheese is taken to a whole new level of scrummy, using only the best locally sourced ingredients. My favourite is the young buck and chorizo grilled cheese. It’s just out of this world! They have some seating and love to see the dogs arriving!
Moving on around the Coast, with 10 dog friendly guest rooms, the Inn on the Coast is an extremely popular destination for many a dog owner. Now serving the healthy and nutritious Barkin Bistro dog food and Taggarts Liver Cake dog treat, guests can again enjoy drinks and food in the bar area. A ‘Pooch Pack’ to welcome your dog is a lovely treat on arrival, and with so many walks on your doorstep, you will have a great choice of post walk venues for drinks and food in Portrush with Koko Portrush overlooking West Strand, Tilly’s over at East Strand, both adjacent to the beach. There is also a self-catering option in Portrush at the Port Holiday Home
Heading towards the end of the Causeway Coastal route, via Limavady, you can stop off for coffee or a light bite at Cafe Piazza, in the centre of the town. Londonderry/Derry city is only a few miles away and there are several car parks or ‘on street’ parking spaces near the Peace Bridge. Take a walk across the bridge over to the new Ebrington development, and keep your dog on a tight lead – its a suspension bridge, so some dogs can feel uncomfortable. Venture back across and enjoy a walk around the Derry Walls and discover the fascinating history associated with the City -link here . If you fancy a coffee check out Warehouse No.1 or if you’re staying for a night or two then the Beech Hill Country House Hotel is a 4 star country house located just on the outskirts of Derry/Londonderry in mature grounds. The hotel is developing their dog services and facilities, so guests are now welcome into the dog friendly sitting room where food and drink can be ordered.
In just a few days, you can cover a lot of ground on the North Coast and enjoy fabulous hospitality. So, there you have it, a whistle stop tour of the Dog Friendly NI, places along the Causeway Coastal Route.
If you visit any of the venues, do tag #DogFriendlyNI on Instagram showing pictures of your dog enjoying their adventures.