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There are hundreds of stunning places in Northern Ireland and abroad that I’ve had the privilege to explore. But one place that caught me by surprise is a very little town called Portmuck. This is truly a hidden gem of Northern Ireland – the saying “blink and you’ll miss it” would describe Portmuck. The stunning little harbour town is situated on the Antrim Coast on Islandmagee. The National Trust manage either side of the harbour’s coastline, and the trails at both ends boast stunning views that on a good day will not disappoint.
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The drive to Islandmagee is straightforward enough – just follow signs to The Gobbins visitor centre, then follow a long road called Low Road until you get to Browns Bay Road, which then will bring you to Portmuck Road. The drive is all signposted, so you can’t really go wrong. Or if you’re tech-savvy, just follow your satnav. The road itself down to Portmuck harbour can be a tricky one as it’s tight with some sharp bends, with just enough room for two cars. It can be quite steep, but there are lay-bys where you can stop and enjoy the scenery at a height.
Further down the road you get to a car park that overlooks the harbour. To the left are big fields for camping with picnic tables. In front of the car park there is a small beach that’s joined to the concrete pier of the harbour. To the left of the beach are sheer cliffs with a walkway on top – I’m yet to explore that path, which is why I will be back to Portmuck! To the right, just behind the harbour, there are wooden steps that to be honest don’t look the safest, but tackling them’s worth it as the view at the end is incredible.
The wooden steps lead you above the harbour itself, which is a lovely photo opportunity taking in the harbour, the sea and the surrounding cliff edges. Once you have enjoyed the dizzy heights there is a steep descent on some more wooden steps (some were missing so be careful!), but once at the bottom, you will be right next to the sea.
You can then continue to negotiate through rock pools full of life with small fish and crabs and a couple of small caves, to another small beach where people have made a few stone towers. This beach is nice to stop and look around at the surrounding beauty and take a few snaps. You can go further round the pathway, but at this time I had to turn back the way I came as the rain set in and I was drenched in seconds. The walk had surprised at every turn – there was lots on offer and there are parts I’ve yet to explore.
What I enjoyed most about the walk was the stunning beauty of the tiny harbour that was surrounded by cliffs. There were plenty of walks to lose yourself on and lots to take photos of. The view over the harbour and out to sea is just as stunning as anywhere else on the north Antrim coast. I like that it had its challenges that made you work to see its natural beauty. I also enjoyed the fact that I haven’t fully explored all of Portmuck, and I look forward to returning for round two.
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You don’t have to be a seasoned walker to enjoy this walk – it had its challenges with the dilapidated wooden stairway but was easily doable. I would say this walk is for all, and if you don’t fancy the route itself there are plenty of other things to do around the small harbour. The beach is great, and there’s a large field to have a kick-about or fly drones. Even on a bad day Portmuck is still beautiful, but maybe try a good day if you can!
The walk doesn’t take long, maybe 20 minutes. I would suggested bringing warm clothes and a coat just in case, but I didn’t take anything out of the ordinary with me – just my camera.
The final piece of advice I could give you is to stop every so often and just take in the amazing scenery Portmuck has to offer. I was pleasantly surprised, and I think you will be too. Also, as always, if you do camp and have a picnic, please keep the place tidy – small hidden gems like Portmuck are precious and should be kept that way.
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