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You can go off the rails to beat around the Bush

By Linda McKee

The Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Railway is a narrow gauge heritage railway operating between the Giant's Causeway and Bushmills.

The 3 ft (914 mm) gauge line is two miles (3.2 km) long and follows the line of the former Giant's Causeway Tramway that operated as an electric narrow gauge railway between Portrush and the Giant's Causeway during the years 1883-1949. It was reputedly the first hydro-electric tramway in the world, powered by water from the neighbouring River Bush in Bushmills.

The new railway uses equipment originally assembled by Lord O'Neill for a tourist line at Shane’s Castle, Co Antrim, which closed in 1994.

This short circular walk, close to Bushfoot Golf Club, Portballintrae, takes in stunning coastal scenery against the backdrop of the River Bush, Runkerry Strand and the Giant’s Causeway & Bushmills Heritage Railway. The walk can easily be extended to provide coastal off-road access to the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland's only World Heritage Site.


This walk is situated in the coastal village of Portballintrae, approx. 4.5 miles east of Portrush and 1.5 miles south west of the Giant's Causeway. The start/finish point for the walk is Coleraine Borough Council's small car park adjacent to Bushfoot Golf Club's car park at the end of Bushfoot Road.

Leave the car park and head south east along the laneway towards the heritage railway line and adjacent shared use pathway (take note the pathway is also part of National Cycle Network Route 93). On reaching the railway line, cross with care and turn left and proceed along the pathway towards the River Bush with the Giant's Causeway in the background.

Having crossed the River Bush via the footbridge, continue for a further 100m and then branch off left, leaving the formal pathway and entering the sandy grassland with a backdrop of sand dunes (at this point walkers have the option of continuing along the pathway towards the Giant's Causeway — a further mile or so — and then a number of options around Runkerry Point and Runkerry Strand for the return journey).

Follow the worn track until reaching the fenced boardwalk along the bank of the Bush. Follow the boardwalk and the track until reaching the wooden footbridge, known locally as ‘the threequarter footbridge’. Cross the bridge and follow the path until reaching a signposted public footpath on the left. Follow this public footpath past the clubhouse and return to the starting point.

The Backdrop

Portballintrae developed from a small fishing village centred on the horseshoe-shaped bay, and today is a popular destination for many tourists and visitors.

The town of Bushmills developed around a series of mills that harnessed the water power of the River Bush and has become a gateway to the Giant’s Causeway. Today it is best known for its world-renowned Old Bushmills Distillery, one of the leading tourist attractions on the North Coast.

The Giant's Causeway is undoubtedly one of the Province's leading tourist attractions. The Causeway lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim plateau. It is made up of some 40,000 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea, the result of volcanic activity many thousands of years ago.

The Runkerry area includes one of the top surfing and bodyboarding beaches in the UK — Bushfoot Strand (known locally as Blackrock Strand). The waves vary between a low 2ft in summer and a thunderous 12ft during stormy weather.

Having its source in the Antrim Hills, and passing through the villages of Armoy and Bushmills, the River Bush enters the Atlantic Ocean at Bushfoot Strand. The Bush has traditionally been a salmon-fishing river and its water is used for distilling Bushmills whiskey.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network at 028 9030 3930 or . Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Walk Name: Heritage Railway Walk, Portballintrae.

Area: Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Nearest big town to start point: Portballintrae and Bushmills.

Distance: 1.5 miles / 2km.

Terrain: Coastal walk on dust paths and sand.

Access Restrictions: Take note that the heritage railway pathway is shared by cyclists as part of National Cycle Network Route 93.

Refreshments: Available in the neighbouring villages of Portballintrae and Bushmills.


Walk Developed By: Coleraine Borough Council and Moyle District Council.

Map: Sheet 4 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series (1:50,000), available from Land & Property Services Map Shop, Lincoln Buildings 27 - 45 Great Victoria Street Belfast BT2 7SL ( )

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