By Claire Smith
WHY not take a trip to North Antrim and the Glens – and uncover some hidden treasures?
Ballycastle town, situated on the North east coast of Ireland hemmed between Kenbane Head to the west and Fair head to the east has a population of around 14500 happy souls and is at the heart of the district of Moyle.
A small sleepy seaside holiday resort it is surrounded by the breathtaking Nine Glens of Antrim renowned for their beautiful scenery and outstanding views.
Just a short six mile ferry trip from its shoreline lies Rathlin the only inhabited island off the north coast.
The name Ballycastle derives from two Gaelic words, ‘baile’ meaning town or village, and ‘caisleain’ which means a castle.
The castle from which the town got its name stood alongside the Holy Trinity church in the Diamond.
The town is also famous for one of Irelands oldest traditional fairs the “Ould Lammas Fair” which always takes place on the last Monday and Tuesday of August.
Thousands of visitors come from far and wide to sample the Dulse and Yellow Man which has been a tradition for around three hundred years or so.
With a new harbour and marina being developed recently it is now a safe haven for visiting mariners and in the summer months has ferry crossings twice daily to Rathlin Island.
o Watertop Open Farm – Opposite Ballypatrick forest…… Pony trekking, fishing, caravan and camping, picnic and barbecue sites.
o Ballypatrick Forest on the main Ballycastle/ Cushendall road is a 5 mile drive with beautiful views of Rathlin. Vistors can abandon their car and take a nice walk to enjoy the lovely views, there’s also a caravan site, picnic areas, Forest trails and much more.
o Murlough Bay – One of Ireland’s ancient and untouched landscapes, a beautifully wooded inlet which is now National Trust property is just off the Ballycastle/Cushendall road and is one of the most beautiful and peaceful bays in the north with breathtaking views of around the coastline.
The bay contains the ruins of an old church, (church of St. Mologe). This Church measured 28ft by 11ft and the walls were around 3ft thick.
o Torr Head, Torr road, Ballycastle – why not have a nice walk or drive along the cliff with its spectacular views of the coast of Scotland.
o Kinbane Castle on the road from Ballycastle to Ballintoy, this old ruins was built around 1546 on a long narrow limestone promontory leading out to the sea (Kenbane Head). There are also beautiful views of Rathlin and Scotland. A steep stepped decent leads down to the old ruins and nearby an unused fisherman’s house.
o Loughareema – More often called “The Vanishing Lake” on the Ballycastle/ Cushendall road is a mysterious moorland lake which can be full of water which can disappears suddenly as if someone pulled a plug.
o The Moyle Way is a 17 mile walk from Ballycastle town centre to Glenariff Glen through the Ballycastle and Breen Forests.
o The Ulster Way is a pathway which starts at Murlough Bay and continues along the coastline for 40 miles to Portrush Strand.
o Ballycastle Museum, situated in the town’s 18th century old Courthouse in Castle Street the museum explores the folk and social history of the Nine Glens of Antrim.
o Marconi’s Cottage, Carrickmore road, Ballycastle is named after the inventor of the first radio signal sent to Rathlin
o The Grey Mans Path, also known as the goats path is a popular walk around Fairhead cliffs with scenic views and much used by hikers.
o Port Bradden, where you can visit the world’s smallest church just a few miles from Ballycastle.
o Whitepark Bay, Whitepark road Ballintoy, just a few miles from the town this long golden sandy beach is flanked by grassy dunes and tall cliffs.
o Fairhead Lakes Torr road Ballycastle, Scattered lakes on top of Fairhead…great for a day’s fishing.
o Bunamargy – The ruin of a Franciscan friary founded by Rory MacQuillan about 1500 and used until the mid 17th century. The vault contains the coffins of several McDonnell Chiefs. There is an elaborate memorial in the Chapel to John Macnaghten.
o A small round holed cross at the west end marks the grave of Julia MacQuillan ‘the famous black nun’ who was a recluse here in the mid 17th century. A special plot contains a large cross and the graves of a number of sailors who lost their lives during two World Wars.
The Tourist Information Centre is located near the seafront at Sheskburn House and can provide a wealth of information on the North Antrim coast and Scotland including booking of accommodation and the latest ferry information. Contact the Tourist Information Centre at:
Sheskburn House, 7 Mary Street, Ballycastle, Co.Antrim,,Northern Ireland BT54 6QH. Tel: +44 028207 62024.
Other places to visit:
Ballintoy is a small village about 6 miles from Ballycastle and is well known for its picturesque harbour which is one of the most scenic on the North Antrim coast, and is surrounded by white rocks and a beautiful small sandy beech.
Fresh fish can be bought from the friendly local fishermen and visitors can arrange small boat trips around the coast to nearby Sheep Island and beyond.
In the village a couple of pubs and restaurants, gift shops, hostel accommodation, guest houses and camping.
Local home baked bread, teas, coffee and ice cream all can be savored from the small teahouse at the harbour also.
Nearby is the glorious coastal walk along the headland at Larrybane which culminates in a trip across the famous Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge linking the mainland to a small island beyond.
Just a few miles up the road leads to Whitepark Bay a delightful sandy and rocky half moon beech and is one of the many fine sandy beeches that can be found on the North Coast.
This stretch of golden beech is strewn with shells, fossils and flints showing it was once a Neolithic settlement.
It is bounded by high dunes and cliffs and with its rolling waves even on the best summer days is never overcrowded.
Ballintoy Church – The all new ‘Camping Barn’ is a first of its kind for Northern Ireland and is the latest addition to accommodation on the North coast.
This is camping without the hassle of erecting a tent in the cold and rain, it has a large sleeping area and also the luxury of ladies and gents shower and toilet facilities plus camping stove cooking facilities.
Interested?? Tel: 028207/69391 and ask for Seamus!
Also try the “Sheep Island View ” independent holiday hostel with its free pickup service from Giants Causeway, Ballycastle, and Bushmills Tel: 012657/69391.
Ballymoney just 12 miles inland is a busy market town with good shopping. Enjoy a swim or sauna at the Riada Centre or visit the Indoor Bowling Stadium.
Drumaheglis Marina is a popular venue for water sports on the River Bann. Game fishing is excellent here. A camping and caravan park overlooks the river.
Visitors can travel by horse-and-trap through the park at Leslie Hill Heritage Farm a mile west of Ballymoney.
Visit Ballymoney Riverside Park with its 30 acres of parkland with riverside walks, trim trail, boating lake, children’s play area, toilets and facilities for canoeing, picnicking and plenty of car park space.
The most up to date indoor Bowling Stadium in the Province at the Ballybrakes Business Park plus a snooker room, lounge, restaurant and bar.
For caravan owners head to the Drumaheglis Marina and Caravan Park situated on the beautiful stretch of the river Bann 5 miles from Ballymoney, hard -stand sites with electric hookups, slipways, barbeque areas, showers , laundry, toilets, picnic sites and children’s play areas. Tel: 028276 66466.
Check out Ballymoney Borough Council Website!
Armoy a very small picturesque village is on the fringes of the Glens of Antrim and is around six miles inland from Ballycastle.
The very well known and much loved Irish motorbike rider the late Joey Dunlop M.B.E. originated from around this area and had been known to be seen quite a few years back practicing on his then home built bikes up and down the roads near Armoy.
Since then he has won more races than ever thought possible and is a household name in Ireland.
In addition to winning five Formula One World Championships he has made sporting history by setting a new world record of 26 wins in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Races.
The whole community were stunned and saddened by Joey’s tragic death in Tallinn, Estonia on 2nd July 2000.
Visit the historic ‘Round Tower’ on the edge of the village and enjoy a picnic on the banks of the River Bush.
The scenic drive from Armoy to Ballycastle via Glenshesk is an experience not to be missed. Image Of Armoy Church
Cushendall, with its population of around 2400 happy souls is a beautiful picturesque village and conservation area since 1975.
Well known as the ‘Capital of the Glens’ it is located just 50 miles north of Belfast and only a mere 15 miles from the coast of Scotland.
It takes it’s name from the River Dall which flows through the village, and it is an ideal starting place for visits to cliffs, coast and countryside.
Mr. Francis Turnley originally from Downpatrick in Co. Down bought the village of Cushendall in 1801 and in 1817 cut a road round the ruins of Red Bay Castle to avoid a very difficult road over the Crookanavick hill to the village.
Turnley’s Curfew Tower, built in 1809 as a prison, was his pride and joy and is the focal point of Cushendall, whilst above soars Lurigethan, a mysterious mountain with a table top and precipitous sides.
Secluded caravan and camp sites, Golf course, Boating club, Boat and fishing trips, and is a highly scenic area. Tourist Information Centre is also headquarters of the Glens of Antrim Historical Society.
Ruins of a Franciscan Friary (Layde Graveyard) and several important MacDonnell’s gravestones including that of Dr. James MacDonnell, the founder of the Belfast Medical School.
The exact origins of this Church are unknown but it probably began life as a holy place in the Iron Age or before.
Ossian’s Grave – Just off the main Cushendall/ Ballymoney road on the outskirts of the village is a megalithic court cairn. Dating back to the Stone Age it is believed to be the burial place of Ossian the Celtic Warrior Poet.
Walking is a very popular activity in the village area due to the unique landscape, open moorlands, deep valleys and beautiful coastal scenery of Scotland and Red Bay via the cliff paths.
Traditional music, dance and the revival of the Irish language features strongly in the glens people’s cultural heritage.
Every August the streets are filled by the “Heart of the Glens” festival, the climax of which is mass participation by residents and visitors in the traditional dance the “Waves of Tory”, where the streets are lined with people the length of Cushendall – fun for all the family so come along and join in the crack!
Local Facilities include Nine Hole Golf Course. Outdoor Pursuits Centre. Sailing and Boat Club. Traditional Music Sessions. Heart Of The Glens Festival. Vibrant Community And Clubs.
Cushendall Tourist Office Tel: 028 2177 1180. N. I. Tourist Board Tel: 028 9024 6609. Email: [email protected], www.nacn.org/cushendall, www.antrim.net/cushendall
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