People locally here know that there is Free Entry to the Giants Causeway, whereas most tourists think that it is exclusively a paid tourist attraction, hence we see it as a bit of a tourist trap. However, the so-called admission charge isn’t for access to the actual coastline and the picturesque basalt columns, but the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Experience, and the visitor centre car park. And this can be bypassed without paying a penny. But parking can be hard to find otherwise, meaning many visitors will just pay the entrance fee to the Giants Causeway Visitor Centre, and there will always be a risk of parking fines in the nearby roads. However there are a handful of alternative parking options nearby, using local cafes and businesses, where free parking is found at the Nook Cafe, the Causeway Hotel, and, maybe Finn McCool’s Hostel and B&B. Alternatively, there’s also a car park at the Giant’s Causeway Station (£6.00 per car) and many visitors will bundle their visit to the Giants Causeway with the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway, a tourist attraction in itself, which leaves from nearby Bushmills (Adult Tickets: £5.00). Anyway, here’s a quick Google map showing the various businesses and car park options for Free Entry to the Giants Causeway.
Giants Causeway Entrance Fee?
So there is free Entry to the Giants Causeway, whereas there’s a charge of around £11.50 to the Giants Causeway Visitor Experience, which is charged for use of the visitor centre car park. And it’s pretty much impossible to sneak the car into the car park without paying. And while I do normally support the National Trust (who own the visitor centre), and their efforts in maintaining and managing old estates and stately homes and whatnot. I’m not fussed when they occupy public coastlines and then charge the locals to access them. They want us to pay to see our own coastline. However the annual National Trust membership will near pay for itself on a tour of Northern Ireland, as the Causeway Coast attractions alone will include the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede Ropebridge, the Portstewart Strand and Mussenden Temple. Not to mention all the other tourist attractions in Northern Ireland. So the annual membership may be a better option instead of paying for each of the individual attractions (the Scottish NT membership loophole here). Then there are of course worthwhile reasons to access the Visitor Centre (other than the convenience of parking) where the fee includes access to the centre’s info and exhibits, as well the free audio guide that leads you along the coastal route.
I should point out that we have mistakenly paid through the visitor centre before, where we knew no better at the time, and going by time stamps on the photos we were in-and-out of the visitor centre in roughly 2 minutes. We just walked through, grabbed the audio guide at the far doors, and were straight back out again. And I don’t really remember using the audio guide. So it wasn’t money well spent, for us at least, and this is why we have little purpose to pay again. Anyway, we had plans to eat on this visit anyway, so we did the ‘Free Parking for Patrons’ at the Nook Cafe. And while cars are not checked in the car park, we called in for coffee and scones anyway, and these cost around £7 each (it’s a bit expensive – but kind of tasty). So we really didn’t find huge savings either, but that’s our own fault, as we could easily have parked for free at Nook Cafe, or the Causeway hotel, and cars were literally parked/abandoned along the roads nearby. From the Nook Cafe, we then crossed the car park, to followed through a small tunnel, which opens out on the opposite side of the visitor centre. It’s ridiculously easy.
Giants Causeway Opening Hours?
This issue can also be a bit misleading, simply because of the visitor centre, and how it dominates search results on the Giants Causeway. As many people expect the Giants Causeway to open and close at the same time as the visitor centre. But it does not. However, to be fair, the National Trust do list the times for both the visitor centre, which opens from 09:00AM to 17:00AM, and the coastline, which is open from ‘dawn to dusk’. Meaning with earlier and later daylight hour’s, it should be possible to see the Giants Causeway at sunrise and sunset on any given day. And I would hazard a guess that the Giants Causeway is pretty much open to the public indefinitely, through the night, although I can see little reason to be there in the darker nighttime hours. Also, the shuttle bus service (£1 each way) may not operate outside of the visitor centre hours (tbc), which means walking to-and-from the main tourist stretch by foot, which is only a short walk anyway. So, during our visit, we stayed for sunset, and we did hear a whistle which may have been the signal for the last bus or something, and National Trust members were watching from the main path. But there was otherwise no urgency or sign for anyone to leave.