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My heart really does belong to the North Coast of Northern Ireland.
I was born in Antrim in Northern Ireland, then my family emigrated to Canada and I spent my childhood growing up in Toronto, until we moved back to NI to rural Kilrea when I was 14.
I spent most of my adult life in cities (Belfast, London, Edinburgh) for work reasons but always felt drawn to the Port and would come for days out or weekends here, whenever I could.
I (finally) listened to this “call of the heart” and moved to Portstewart in 2018 and it truly feels like home for myself and my son, who is 11.
I have so many happy childhood memories of heading to the Port for Sunday walks with my family – exploring the stunning beaches, rugged coastal landscapes, ancient castles and causeway stones. As a Sagittarius star sign, I am a natural explorer and love the fact that no matter how many times I have visited a location, there is always something new to see and more to learn about it.
I work as a Mindset Coach, Reiki Master Teacher and Holistic Therapist – supporting clients through challenging situations (such as serious illness, bereavement, divorce / relationship break ups and even trauma) to overcome these events and feel strong in themselves again, emotionally and mentally – so the coast is a perfect location for me to get out and about and decompress after work and clear my head.
As an amateur photographer, there is no better place (in my humble opinion) to walk, explore and take photos. One of my favourite things to photograph is a North Coast sunset and I am grateful that I do not have to go too far to catch one at a stunning location – whether it is a walk at our local Portstewart Strand beach, Downhill Beach & Mussenden Temple, Portrush, Whiterocks beach, Magheracross, or the famous Causeway Stones – to name a few.
I love that my son shares my sense of adventure and is growing up with a love of the outdoors and exploring in nature. We keep our welly boots in the car, so we can make the most of any opportunity to explore a new location or catch a sunset at one of our favourite places.
SHOP: Warm, comfortable, and organic. Hoodies by Trek NI.
The trek that I would like to share with you is The Port Path.
Part of the Causeway Coast Way and the Ulster Way, it takes you along the coastline and consists of paths, beaches and surfaced promenades, with some flights of steps along the way.
This walk is suitable for those with a reasonable level of fitness and starts at Portstewart and ends at Portrush. It is approximately 6.5 miles / 10 km (one way) and walking boots / shoes are recommended. Duration is about 2.5 – 3 hours and it is best for a dry, calm day (as the coastal winds can be very strong on windy days).
Be sure to take caution along the cliff areas and along the golf courses (to avoid the risk of stray golf balls).
Within Portstewart, follow signs for Portstewart Strand. The walk start point is along Strand Road, on the right-hand side, approximately 500 metres before the beach on an area of open rough grassland.
(Portstewart Strand – is one of Northern Ireland’s Blue Flag beaches and is itself a great area to visit, with a long sandy beach and a large dune system).
To begin this trek, walk onto the surfaced cliff path and follow the coastal path into the centre of Portstewart.
READ: Trassey Track to Lough Shannagh via the Pollaphuca Gap
There are several points of interest along this section:
1. St Patrick’s Well
This is at the very beginning of the path – a very narrow path veers off to the left and you will see the Well. Then, come back along that narrow path to rejoin the start of the main Port Path again.
St Patrick’s Well was thought to be the freshwater supply for the Stone Age inhabitants of the sand hills. It was used as a source of holy water by the inhabitants of Portstewart and locals sold the water to tourists until the 1940’s
The route also passes Portnahapple, a natural sea pool for outdoor bathing
2. Dominican College
Dominican Convent (now a College) is perched on the cliff’s edge and is a well-known local landmark. The school was established in 1917 in O’Hara’s Castle, which was built in 1834 by the Montagu family
Once you pass Dominican, proceed along the Portstewart promenade towards the harbour.
3. The Fishing Boat Sculpture
The Fishing Boat sculpture – look out for the bronze sculpture towards the northern end of the promenade commemorating the songwriter, Jimmy Kennedy. Although born in Omagh, he grew up in Portstewart and was inspired by one of the town’s sunsets when he wrote “Red Sails in the Sunset.” He wrote over 2,000 songs in his lifetime – including “South of the Border”, “Teddy Bear’s picnic” and “Cokey Cokey.”
Portstewart hosts a Red Sails Festival annually in July with free musical events, children’s entertainment and competitions, street theatre and dance and a fireworks display finale.
4. Harbour Hill Viewpoint
Having passed the harbour, ascend the steps on the left to Harbour Hill viewpoint.
From this vantage point follow the waymarked route towards Portrush along the coastline – taking extra care when passing Portstewart and Ballyreagh golf courses.
On reaching Portrush – follow the route along the promenade, past the harbour, around Ramore Head, past the Coastal Zone and the Arcadia, to finish at East Strand beach, Portrush.
The Arcadia is one of a few iconic buildings on the North Coast. Originally built in the 1920’s in Portrush as a cafe to serve the seaside visitors, it was then extended in the 50’s to include a ballroom and attracted many of the great show bands of the day. It now has a (seasonal) coffee shop and has regular Yoga, Pilates and Tai Qi classes, an outdoor play area and a dedicated gallery upstairs that showcases local artists.
I hope that you enjoy your own adventures on the North Coast and enjoy this walk if you do decide to try it out for yourself – either in full or in its component parts. Be sure to bring a camera or smart phone to capture and share your own adventures.
If you are spending some time on the North Coast, do check out National Trust membership, which gives good value for money entry into many of the local attractions as well as the National Trust sites throughout the UK for an annual subscription (with monthly payment option) – see their website below for further information.
Ingrid Darragh Photography – prints available – please contact Ingrid for more info / to order on Instagram, Facebook and via email.
Sources used for this article and useful further information: