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As a family we have been meaning to climb Knocklayd Mountain for many, many years now. My husband’s parents’ home is nestled in the beautiful, lush green countryside at the foot of the mountain and at the beginning of each summer for as long as I can remember we have merrily announced our intention to climb its boggy slopes in order to enjoy the vistas around the Causeway Coast. We’d heard the reports from family members of the glorious and far-reaching views from the Trigpoint at the summit and desperately wanted to see for ourselves what all the fuss was about and if you could really see all the way to Scotland!
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We finally set a date, loaded up the rucksacks and headed for Ballycastle on the Causeway Coast, excited that at last the day had arrived for us to climb Knocklayd for ourselves – it was a bright, clear day too! We stopped off with our relatives for a quick hello and toilet stop before venturing on to the carpark located at Ballycastle Forest – the starting point for the trek.
From here, the 5 of us followed the road up through the trees, before turning left onto a narrower trail, a right turn, then eventually over the gate and onto the grassy slopes of the hill itself.
Knocklayd may only stand at 514 metres tall, but what it lacks in height it certainly makes up for in its steep sides! We puffed and panted our way upwards, stopping often as the view unrolled spectacularly all around us.
Looking out across the panorama about halfway up and by now in fairly boggy ground (waterproof hiking boots recommended!) we marvelled at the view out across the jagged treetops, the Irish sea sweeping around the coastline and on towards Rathlin Island.
Following the fence-line upwards we hopped across the stile; the babble of the stream and chirp of birds the only sounds floating on the gentle breeze. The 3 boys ran on ahead as usual, reminding us that they are way fitter than us and reached the Trigpoint well before us, waving and calling to us to hurry up as they held onto their hats!
We made our way across to them and by now the wind had whipped-up well enough to blow off our hats, an impromptu game of chase the hats ensuing, and we had to yell in order to be heard!
It didn’t matter though, because standing there on the mountaintop, just the 5 of us and not another soul in sight, we were rewarded for our efforts up the challenging incline. The 360-views were simply jaw-droppingly beautiful – The Sperrins, The Causeway Coast spread out far below, the golden beaches, glistening sea and rolling waves all visible. Rathlin Island sat perfectly in the sea like an emerald, the undulating Glens of Antrim spread out to our right, thousands of fields in every shade of green you can imagine and in the far distance, the rolling hills of Scotland just visible in the hazy sunshine.
We stood there pointing out and naming all the places we recognised and couldn’t believe we had waited so long to tick this hill off our list; especially when we had gazed up at it so often from my Mother and Father-in-law’s kitchen window! It felt so good to finally be there and experience for ourselves the super climb and the stunning views – it certainly lived up to the hype!
We returned to the carpark via the same route we had taken to the summit, the afternoon sun beating down on us as we leisurely made our way back to the carpark where we rewarded our efforts with hot chocolate and biscuits at one of the picnic tables nestled among the trees – it was the perfect way to end a blissful afternoon of hiking and we vowed to return again soon for another trip up the wonderful Knocklayd Mountain – only next time we won’t wait 16 years!
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