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The outstanding natural beauty of the North Coast of Northern Ireland has been show-cased at its best to a worldwide audience most recently at The Open golf championship 2019. Parts of the coast and inland areas have also been used as filming locations for the worldwide HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’ which has added a tremendous boost to tourist numbers.
Many millions of visitors are already well acquainted with the key attractions of The Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills Distillery, Belfast, the Titanic Quarter, etc. As a qualified tour guide for NI with a passion for promoting tourism, I have the pleasure of introducing them to these sites and recounting the lesser-known tales that lie behind them.
However, as a native of Ballycastle, a picturesque seaside town lying on the northern point of the coastal route, and a passionate advocate of the beauties of this area, the magic and mystery of this part of the North Coast never cease to amaze me. So, I will draw your attention to just a few of the incredible sites that lie in and around this region that are not only beautiful to behold but have a wealth of interesting history behind them. And for those prepared to put on their walking boots, their efforts will be rewarded.
1. Fair Head
This impressive headland lies around 3km from Ballycastle town and dominates the scenery as you approach the town. Although its splendour can be enjoyed from the seafront, I highly recommend a closer inspection. A car park is available on the headland from which to trek over the terrain where the “Game of Thrones” dragons landed and took flight! Look out for the man-made Iron Age island in the middle of lake Lough Na Cranagh.
2. Kinbane Castle
Situated 5km outside Ballycastle heading in the direction of the Giant’s Causeway, this castle will be clearly sign-posted. For those keen to take a closer look, there is quite a hike down steps- not for the faint-hearted. The name Kinbane means White head and refers to the limestone on which the castle stands. Built in 1547, Kinbane has a rich history of sieges and battles involving the clan of MacDonnell.
3. Murlough Bay
Leaving Ballycastle, take the Cushendall Road to Ballyvoy. Murlough Bay is sign-posted on the route. This is the beginning of the Torr Road so caution advised.
Apart from its natural beauty, the historical importance of this area is that, Sir Roger Casement, a significant character in Irish and world history was executed by the British for seeking support from Germany to aid the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.
You can walk down to the bay where you will find a beautiful secluded beach before you attempt the long hike up. The cove is also accessible by car but caution advised on the steep and winding descent.
Leaving Ballycastle eastwards on the coastal route , this spectacular headland is well sign-posted. The road is very narrow and should be used with extreme caution. A car park is available. Trekkers can continue on foot to the top to view the closest point of Ireland to Scotland. There you will find a ruin of an old coastguard station enclosed by a circular wall. A hundred years ago, the coastguards passed news to London about the safe passage of transatlantic ships. Before this time, here stood, at Celtic Cashel on the rock called Dunworry, the citadel of Barrach the Great.
5. Cranny Falls
Travelling further eastwards around the coast through the Glens of Antrim takes you to the quaint town of Carnlough. Behind the town, the waterfalls of Glenariff are well-known and widely visited. Fewer are aware of a gentle trek further along an old limestone railway track to the Cranny Falls and the old Gortin Quarry. Several viewpoints along the route afford spectacular views over Carnlough.
A trek back down to the town should be rewarded with a visit to The Londonderry Arms, one of the longest family-run hotels on the island of Ireland which was once inherited by Sir Winston Churchill.
To conclude, these are a few of my hidden gems of the North Coast and to get a more up close and personal experience of these areas, you can contact me from my details below.
If you have your own transport I can accompany you, or I can be your guide on a bus. I have a few suppliers who can supply transport from buses to a more upmarket mode of transport.
These are areas of outstanding natural beauty – please enjoy, and take your time to explore.