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Thread: Northern Ireland

  1. #11
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    Grey Point, on the county Down coast To burst upon the rollers of the open sea, take the little road from Grey Abbey where terns swoop over Strangford's quiet waters, and drive due east. In a few minutes it's barely three miles to Ballywalter beach - you have crossed to another world.

    The two roads that run the length of the Ards on its opposite shores could hardly be more different. The sheltered road is the loughside one.

    The breezy coast road from the resort town of Bangor runs south via Donaghadee, passing close to the windmill at Ballycopeland, on to Portavogie harbour where seals bob against the prawn boats as the catch is landed. On it goes, past pretty Kearney village right to the end of the peninsula where the ancient Irish marked their graves with a ring of standing stones and built a fort into the wind on the hill at Tara.

    Ballycopeland windmill

    The reefs off this coast have claimed many ships in the past. Only Donaghadee offered a safe refuge. In 1818 John Keats took the short crossing from Portpatrick in Scotland, landing at Donaghadee, and walked to Belfast and back. The Lakeland poet Wordsworth, and Franz Liszt (with a piano in his baggage) ended their grand Irish tours here. At low tide the dulse gatherers go down by the lighthouse to collect the edible seaweed growing on the rocks.

    The small rounded hills called 'drumlins' that cover north Down extend into Strangford Lough. Dozens of drowned drumlins pop up here and there, mostly near the shore. These islands give the lough the appearance of a freshwater lake, at least at the sheltered northern end, about 18 miles from the narrow entrance at Portaferry. Four hundred million tons of water rush through the gap twice a day, and the Vikings named it 'violent fjord' (Strangford) after the fierce currents in these tidal narrows.

    The lough is a great bird sanctuary and wildlife reserve. Thousands of Brent geese spend the winter here and greylag and whitefronted geese visit from the Downpatrick marshes. Oyster catchers, curlews and other wading birds love the mudflats. A hundred different species of fish live in the lough, and sea hares, sun stars and curled octopus sometimes appear on the shore. With so much food readily available, it's not surprising that buzzards, sparrowhawks and short-eared owls make occasional visits. The lough's rich marine life is on display at the Portaferry aquarium.

    Round the shores are many interesting and historic places. Take the car ferry from Portaferry across to Castle Ward, built by the first Lord Bangor in 1765. He favoured the classical style but Lady Bangor preferred Strawberry Hill Gothic. As you will see, they both got their way. Another great loughside demesne open to the public is Mount Stewart, the childhood home of Lord Castlereagh, foreign secretary of England during the Napoleonic wars. The estate has delightful gardens, and dodos and dinosaurs on the terraces.

    Strangford was a desirable address many centuries before the Anglo-Irish built their great houses. Of the four Cistercian monasteries in medieval county Down, three were built round the lough - Inch Abbey, Grey Abbey and Comber. The fourth was at Newry, the town that guarded the strategically important Gap of the North.

    Only Inch Abbey and Grey Abbey have substantial remains. Founded in 1193 by Affreca, wife of John de Courcy, Grey Abbey had a big stone fishery and the monks built fish traps out of wattles.

  2. #12
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    The marine drive north from Larne, and then west past the Giant's Causeway to the resort of Portrush, follows 60 miles of the most beautiful coast you could imagine.

    The first 28 miles were blasted out from the chalky cliffs in 1834. Soon after, when the road was opened right round to Ballycastle, all nine glens suddenly became accessible and the farmers could get to market. The road passes by the foot of each of the glens. If you resist the temptation to turn inland, and stay instead with the road and the sea breezes, a splendid marine drive lies ahead.
    Each of the coastal villages has a distinctive character. The castle at Glenarm is the home of the Earls of Antrim, and Carnlough has a famous inn which was once owned by Winston Churchill. The red curfew tower in the middle of Cushendall was built in 1809 as 'a place of confinement for idlers and rioters', and the National Trust village of Cushendun has pretty Cornish cottages and a beautiful beach. The road runs under bridges and arches, passing bays, sandy beaches, harbours and strange rock formations. As you turn Ulster's top right-hand corner, the green crescent of Murlough Bay comes into sight before the climb to the eerie tableland of Fair Head, and a bird's eye view of Rathlin Island.
    From one of these harbours, it's said, sorrowful Deirdre and the sons of Uisneach embarked for Scotland to escape the wrath of King Conor.

    Oul' Lammas Fair, Ballycastle: fire-eater at work

    The biggest annual event is the Oul' Lammas Fair in Ballycastle. In the old days it lasted a week when there was plenty of match-making as well as horse-trading. Today the fun is packed into two hectic days at the end of August.

  3. #13
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    The lunar landscape of the Giant's Causeway, lurking below the gaunt sea wall where the land ends, must have struck wonder into the hearts of the ancient Irish.



    • 'When the world was moulded and fashioned out of formless chaos, this must have been the bit over - a remnant of chaos.' - Thackeray
    Like the early people of North Antrim, Thackeray was very impressed by the strangeness of this place. Like other sophisticated visitors he had read that the Causeway is a geological freak, caused by volcanic eruptions, and cooling lava.

    The ancients knew differently: clearly this was giants' work and, more particularly, the work of the giant Finn McCool, the Ulster warrior and commander of the king of Ireland's armies.

    Finn could pick thorns out of his heels while running and was capable of amazing feats of strength. Once, during a fight with a Scottish giant, he scooped up a huge clod of earth and flung it at his fleeing rival. The clod fell into the sea and turned into the Isle of Man. The hole it left filled up with water and became Lough Neagh.

    Finn was said to inhabit a draughty Antrim headland:



    • 'He lived most happy and content, Obeyed no law and paid no rent.'
    When he fell in love with a lady giant on Staffa, an island in the Hebrides, he built this wide commodious highway to bring her across to Ulster.

    The first historical accounts of the Causeway started appearing in the late 17th century. The Bishop of Derry made one of the first recorded visits in 1692 and the Chevalier De La Tocnaye, who had the good sense to take his umbrella, galloped up to the cliff edge in 1797 when both he and his horse were enraptured by the view.

    Before the famous coast road was built in the 1830s visitors complained about the ruggedness of the trip. But there was one shining compensation on the journey: the town where tourists made their last stop before the final push to the Causeway was Bushmills. Ever since 1608 saddle-sore travellers had been revived with magnums of the King's whiskey at the world's oldest (legal) distillery, which is still in business.



    The Causeway proper is a mass of basalt columns packed tightly together. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Altogether there are 40,000 of these stone columns, mostly hexagonal but some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 40 feet high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 90 feet thick in places.

    A fine circular walk will take you down to the Grand Causeway, past amphitheatres of stone columns and formations with fanciful names like the Honeycomb, the Wishing Well, the Giant's Granny and the King and his Nobles, past Port na Spaniagh where the Spanish Armada ship Girona foundered, past wooden staircase to Benbane Head and back along the cliff top.

    Further down the coast, the stunning Carrick-a-rede rope bridge spans a gaping chasm between the coast and a small island used by fishermen. The terrifying eighty foot drop can be crossed via the swinging bridge - not for the faint hearted!

  4. #14
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    Each of these nine green valleys has a character of its own. Together they form a beautiful realm of rivers, waterfalls, wild flowers and birds.
    But 150 years ago, the remoteness of the Glens was daunting. Rushing rivers bisected the land from west to east and the inland track from Cushendun to Ballycastle crossed Loughareerma, 'the vanishing lake'. One day it was empty, the next day it was full of water! It was not unknown for coach horses to gallop into this watery grave, taking the passengers with them.
    Physical isolation and intimacy with elemental beauty have left the Glens with a great store of Irish myth and legend.
    For the most part, the people are the descendants of both the ancient Irish and their cousins the Hebridean Scots across the narrow Sea of Moyle, and the Glens were one of the last places in Northern Ireland where Gaelic was spoken. The names of the glens, from south to north, are: Glenarm, Glencloy, Glenariff, Glenballyeamon, Glenaan, Glencorp, Glendun, Glenshesk and Glentaisie.
    Their meanings are not known for certain but the popular translations are: glen of the army, glen of the hedges, ploughman's glen, Edwardstown glen, glen of the rush lights, glen of the slaughter, brown glen, sedgy glen, and Taisie's glen. In legend Taisie was a princess of Rathlin Island.



    • 'Up the airy mountain
      Down the rushy glen,
      We daren't go a-hunting
      For fear of little men'

      • - William Allingham


    Glens folk are great storytellers. They will tell you that the main haunts of the 'wee folk' - the 'gentle' (supernatural) places - are Lurigethan mountain and Tiveragh Hill. Mischievous creatures at the best of times, the fairies are said to take devastating revenge on anyone rash enough to cut down a fairy thorn.

  5. #15
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    The reopening of the old Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal has revitalized a facility and a hinterland rich in natural beauty. Linking the renown Shannon and the Erne, the waterway weaves together the streams, rivers and lakes which are picturesquely scattered between Leitrim Village Ireland and the Erne. Passing under 34 stone bridges it is checked by 16 locks on it's scenic course through wild, unspoiled countryside. Each lock takes about 15 minutes to negotiate and cruising time for the 62.5 kilometers of navigation is approximately 13 hours. During the 18th century and first half of the 19th century, a web of waterways was established in Ireland including the Newry Canal, the first watershed canal to built in Ireland or Britain.

    Although some work to make the Woodford River navigable began in the last decade of the 18th century, it wasn't until 1846 that excavations commenced in earnest on the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal. The linking of the rivers and lakes with sections of still water was undertaken by the engineer, John McMahon. By the time his project staggered towards completion some 14 years later, the needs of drainage had triumphed over the navigational imperatives and cost cutting had resulted in leakages and collapsing banks. Only eight boats haltingly negotiated the navigation in its short nine-year history. Finally, in 1869 the canal was abandoned as the age of the steam train came into its own.

    When the restoration project was undertaken a few years ago, 120 years of neglect had reduced the waterway to a sad, weed-choked channel of broken bridges and missing locks. Using the original sites and stonework, the bridges are now restored, the waterway is navigable for modern pleasure cruisers and the new locks are operated by a push-button electro-hydraulic system.

    The still water canal section negotiates a series of 8 locks which provides a stairway from the Shannon to Lough Scur, a natural lake of great beauty. The dominant height in the area is the cairn-topped Sheemore, from which point there is a panorama embracing over 30 lakes. Sheemore, together with its sister hill, Sheebeg, provided O'Carolan, the 17th century blind harper with the title for a haunting Irish air which you are likely to hear in one of the music pubs as you travel.

    The descent to Lough Erne is checked by another 8 locks and the waterway visits the angling towns of Ballinamore and Ballyconnell, towns which gave their names to the original canal. A barge Marina marks the final lock as the Woodford River noses its way east to join Lough Erne.

    No large cities or major industries mar the landscape along the canal's pleasant course. Reed banks thrive in the lakes and hedgerows parcel the pleasant fields, providing refuge for a great variety of wildlife. Wild flora decorates the banks and moors, delighting the senses.

    Long before recorded history, early man marked the landscape with mysterious monuments in stone. These, together with early Christian establishments, punctuate the landscape.

  6. #16
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    Threaded by streams and small roads, the Sperrins are bounded by the towns of Strabane, Dungiven, Magherafelt and Newtownstewart. A section of the gently contoured range spills south towards Omagh over the beautiful Owenkillew river.


    • 'All year round the whin
      Can show a blossom or two.'

    Seamus Heaney, who writes incomparably about the mossy places of Ulster, grew up on the edge of the Sperrins. And it's true that in a mild winter the whin, or gorse, is in perpetual flower. The blossoms smell like sweet coconut. Boiling eggs in whin to dye them yellow is an Easter custom. Some farmers pound the prickles to feed to their horses - it's said to keep the coat glossy. Pigs like whin too. A good root in a whin bush is a pig's delight.


    When the Four Citizens of London visited Ulster in 1609 their guide was under strict orders from the Lord Deputy of Ireland not to let them see the Sperrins. Officials feared that the mere sight of these inhospitable peaty hills would put them off. The Citizens were agents of the London companies who were cautiously exploring investment prospects in the area. The policy of settling large numbers of Scots and English loyal to the crown - called the 'plantation' of Ulster - needed money to succeed. Getting it out of the London companies required a certain amount of subterfuge.

    The hills may be bare but there are fertile valleys lower down. The huge oaks and elms of the primeval forest of Glenconkeyne north-west of Lough Neagh delighted the new settlers. They chopped them all down and floated the logs down the Bann to build Coleraine and Limavady.

    Until 1603 when Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, submitted to the English at Mellifont, all the forested land west of Lough Neagh was Tyrone Country where O'Neill was a hunted outlaw. To avoid being murdered by his uncle which is what happened to his father - O'Neill had been sent to Sussex to be educated by Sir Henry Sydney. There he met Sir John Harington, who introduced the water closet to England, and also the Italian poet Ariosto. But this exposure to polite society did not deter O'Neill from fighting the English quite soon afterwards.

    There are reminders of the green gaiety of the ancient wood around Springhill, a 17th-century fortified house near Moneymore. A thicket of old yews has survived and the lrish oak stairway came from local forests. Moneymore itself is a typical plantation town, with a market house, dispensary,and other fine buildings in the wide main street. Built by the Drapers Company, it was the first town in Ulster to have piped water.

    If you are interested in the history of Ulster's linen industry, the private museum at Upperlands near Draperstown preserves original machinery. West of Moneymore at Wellbrook a beetling mill has been restored by the National Trust.

  7. #17
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    Northern Ireland's two main motorways strike out west from Belfast, skirting Lough Neagh 'that noble sheet of water' to the north and the south. To the north the M2 heads towards the Sperrins, while the M1 will bring you to the windswept moors of county Tyrone. Apart from Omagh, the county town, Cookstown (famous for its sausages) and Dungannon the landscape is almost empty of men but rich in prehistoric and Celtic remains. About one thousand standing stones are a testament to the Stone Age people who passed this way.

    Well known neolithic sites here include the Beaghmore stone circles near Cookstown which were uncovered only 40 years ago, and the chambered cairn of Knockmany at the top of a steep wooded hill north of Clogher. If you are interested in this period, the Ulster History Park near Gortin Glen Forest Park is well worth a detour.

    From the seventh to the 12th century, crosses and High Crosses went up all over Christian Ireland and there is a superb example of this peculiarly Irish art, 18-l/2 feet high, at Ardboe. Another, not quite so tall, stands at the top of the main street in Donaghmore village.

    The chief crowning place of the Tyrone O'Neills was Tullaghoge hill where there is a fine view of the old kingdom of Tyrone from the top. The crowning took place, it's said, 'amid the clang of bucklers and a hundred harps'.

  8. #18
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    The scenic beauty and the variety of the landscape make Northern Ireland a great place to explore on foot. The wide scatter of villages and small towns across the country means that forest trails, clifftop paths, mountain hikes and pleasant strolls in country parks are literally on everybody's doorstep. The best known trail-certainly the longest at 560 miles! - is the Ulster Way. This famous circular path, now largely waymarked, runs all round Northern Ireland and has other trails coming in to join it, notably from Donegal and Cavan, as well as loops and extensions of its own. There are many other country waymarked walks, just as pleasant but more local and less strenuous, such as the North Down Coastal Path, and also numerous very popular self-guided town trails. Ask at tourist information centres for details of walks in the area. Be prepared for sudden changes in the weather. Carry spare clothing. Boots are best. If you walk alone leave word of your route and expected time of return. Few walkers can spare a month to walk the whole of the Ulster Way but there are many people who very much like the idea of walking sections of it. All the routes described here, long and short, include a specially attractive section of the Wayl Most are convenient 'circular' walks, though a few are liner sections chosen so that the start and finish can be linked by public transport or the cunning use of private transport.

    Fourteen Great Walks On The Ulster Way

    The map sketches provide only a general indication of the route. Outline descriptions are based on routes published in full in Ulster Rambles. With few exceptions you will need an Ordnance Survey (OSNI) map. The relevant sheet number in the OSNI Discoverer series, scale 1: 50 000 (2cm: 1 km) - about 1- l/4 inches to one mile - is indicated. Grid references are given for the start of each walk and a rough estimate of duration, excluding stops and side trips. As a general guide allow an hour for every 2-1/2 miles (4km) plus 30 minutes for 1,000 ft (300m) climbed.


    1. CAVE HILL, BELFAST

    Distance 2-1/2 miles (4km)
    Minimum time 2 hours
    OS ref 325811 sheet 15


    Park at the zoo (see the animals afterwards).
    Steps, leafy path, laurel, larch, hazels, blackberries.
    Wood thins to grassland. Neolithic men lived in the caves. Panorama from McArt's Fort extends to Mournes and Slieve Gullion. Take care descending from summit.


    2. LAGAN VALLEY TOWPATH

    Belfast To Lisburn

    Distance 9 miles (14km)
    Minimum time 4 hours
    OS ref 338716 sheets 15 & 20
    Public transport: Lambeg, Lisburn


    Route soon joins Ulster Way (UW) as it emerges from suburbs of south-east Belfast but deviates slightly from UW at the M I . The walk is nearly all on the towpath of the canal and canalized river which opened in 1763. Plants to note: Himalayan balsam, purple loosestrife, horsetails, comfrey and butterbur (like giant rhubarb). Late summer duckweed on the water surface looks like a bright green carpet. Waterside birds include moorhens, coots, dabchicks, mallards. Listen for the magpie's rattle and the occasional shrill pipe of kingfishers. Cross to the north bank at Shaw's Bridge. Look out for squirrels in the splendid trees opposite. Recommended side visits: Edenderry village (and up to the Giant's Ring through the field gate), Drumbeg church, Dixon Park.

  9. #19
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    3. A MOURNE MOUNTAIN WALK

    Distance 12 miles
    Minimum time 6 hours
    OS ref 373304 sheet 29


    A popular approach to the Mournes. Note the clear unpeaty water of the Glen river, striking rock strata, fine trees. The wood fades away and a granite gravel path runs almost to the great Mourne Wall, built 1904-22 to enclose the catchment area of the Silent Valley which was dammed in the 1920s. Look back down the glen to the elegant sweep of the bay. From here the wall provides a perfect if steep guide to summit of Slieve Donard, Ulster's highest peak - not to be missed if the weather is good. Brandy Pad is an old smugglers' trail. Passing below The Castles (rock towers) look South where isolated granite towers (tors) stand here and there on the ridges. They seem almost manmade. You might be side tracked up 400 ft (120 m) to inspect the Diamond Rocks. Beyond the Hare's Gap it's a long tramp along Trassey river. Examine the sheep pens, where strays were probably kept after the hill had been gathered and the sheep sorted out according to their fleece-marks. Now you pass gorse banks, then UW signs and stiles, hazel coppice, young fir plantation and a fully grown wood of big Douglas firs. Just before Parnell's Bridge UlsterWay goes South but you stay with the river bank. Do not cross the bridge but go straight down to the small lake.

    4. TOLLYMORE FOREST PARK

    Distance 9 miles (14km)
    Minimum time 4 hours
    OS ref 345327 sheet 29


    The Long Haul Trail
    Entrance is through the Fantasy Barbican Gate. The Long Haul Trail starts from the carpark and is marked by red arrows. Have a look at the map display to orient yourself. A pleasant amble along the lovely Shimna river and over Parnell's Bridge where you meet up with the UW. The next 3-1/2 miles (6 km) are on the UW, up and down, a delight of a walk. As you drop down from Curraghard, the final viewpoint, with splendid views of Newcastle and Dundrum Bay, watch for the UW heading down right towards the town, but you continue along the LHT. Recommended: allow time to see the weird and wonderful bridges, gateways, pillars and other stone follies. The gothic church is in fact a barn which now contains a cafe and visitor information.


    5. A WALK IN ST PATRICK'S COUNTRY

    Distance 7 miles (11km)
    9 miles (14 km) including Struell Wells
    minimum time 4-5 hours
    OS ref 512464 sheet 21


    Walk starts near Saul village pub. Climb up Slieve Patrick, small hill with a huge statue on top, for panorama. In Raholp, past pub no. 2, your route is lane on L, cross the A25, 1/4 mile (0.4 km), L down 'no through road' between high hedges of blackthorn, elder, ash, tied with ivy and brambles, over stile, to muddy Slaney river (redshank, mallard) where Patrick is believed to have landed in 432 AD. Follow in his footsteps, note brown signs 'St Patrick's Way'. At waterworks gate, follow yellow arrow to Ballystokes (note direct path back to Saul if bad weather) and on to holy wells (good for sore feet!) in beautiful wild valley at Struell. Return via Ballyalton. Recommended side visits: Saul church (local history displays worth seeing before walk), Loughmoney Dolmen, historic Raholp church ruins.

    6. ROSTREVOR FOREST

    Distance 5 miles (8km)
    Minimum time 3 hours
    OS ref 187183 sheet 29


    A fine forest walk with superb views over Carlingford Lough. Follow blue arrows and UW sign at first, then up and up. After R hairpin and bridge with crocodile-back parapets, pause to admire views of Slieve Gullion. Newry and the South. Next a steady tramp along to the top of scenic drive (picnic site/toilets). The view from Slievemartin is worth effort of steep climb. Clogh More 'big stone' is 40-ton glacial 'erratic'. Return down hillside and through pleasant oakwood (nature reserve).

    7. SHANE'S HILL TO GLENARM

    distance 13 miles (21km)
    Minimum time 6 hours
    OS ref 315990 sheet 9
    Public transport: Bus from Larne is possible or, using 2 cars, arrange 2 parties -one walking north, the other south.


    A good moorland tramp, sometimes boggy, along seaward crest of the Antrim plateau, on the UW throughout, though waymarks sometimes signify a direction rather than a path, so be sure to take OS sheet 9. Features: grouse, meadow pipits (Agnew's Hill), Blackface sheep and catle on the open hills, splendid scarp of Sallagh Braes. Rough stony ground, bracken and whins of Crockandoo ('black hillock') is good nesting territory. Good view from Black Hill of the long rough-walled pastures running down to Glenarm, one of the loveliest of the Antrim glens. Turrets of Glenarm Castle (private) are visible as you descend.

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    8. CARNLOUGH TO WATERFOOT

    Distance 8 miles
    Minimum time 4 hours
    OS ref 287178 sheet 9
    Public transport: (bus) or taxi between the two villages, both on A2.


    From Carnlough village take the 'waterfall' road marked private. From the defile between Big Trosk and Little Trosk there are fine southerly views. The walk is a designated UW stretch, but with variations on the higher ground to avoid bog underfoot after rain. You cross some remarkably wild country, heathery hills studded with sheep and a great expanse of moor covered in low hummocks before Lough Natullig comes in sight. You may hear larksong. Follow pretty Altmore Burn steeply down beside a narrow gorge, descending to scrubby thorn, oak and rowan woodland among the boulders. Look out for buzzards, kestrels, foxes. Look too for the remains of the old mineral line that once carried iron ore from mines SW of here.

    9. FAIR HEAD

    Distance 2 miles (3km)
    Minimum time 1 hour
    OS ref 191418 sheet 5


    The whole walk is on National Trust land. Use the carpark above Murlough Bay and follow the yellow squares marked on rocks as far as Coolanlough hamlet, then follow yellow circles. On L below is Lough na Cranagh with superb crannog (ancient dwelling on artificial island), its defensive stone wall clearly visible. Small bright flowers embroider the sour peaty soil. Exercise great caution approaching the edge of the headland. Views of Rathlin, Mull of Kintyre and far beyond. Now return to yellow circled trail. Wild goats live on Fair Head. Look out for ravens, buzzards, choughs - and rock doves, staple diet of the peregrine falcon.

    10. A WALK ALONG THE CAUSEWAY COAST

    Distance 11 miles (18km)
    Minimum time 6 hours
    OS ref 929425 sheet 5


    Portballintrae To Ballintoy

    There's no more splendid walk anywhere in Ireland for the ordinary pedestrian and it is waymarked almost all the way. Beach road soon gives way to a pleasant path past golflinks and a bridge over the Bush, a fine salmon river. Rocky islet opposite Runkerry House is a salmon netting station, one of many on this coast. Follow cliff-top path to Giant's Causeway Centre, then take the low road to the Grand Causeway and on past strange rock formations and secret bays, including Port na Spaniagh where the Armada treasure ship Girona sank in 1588. Then up Benbane Head via the wooden staircase (a chance here to return along the cliff top). Stride on westwards, losing height gradually, to ruined Dunseverick Castle -capital of the fabulous kingdom of Dalriada - and a potentially useful bus stop if you have walked enough. On now to Portbraddan, with Ireland's tiniest church (12ft x 6-1/2 ft), and blond Whitepark Bay backed by dazzling limestone cliffs. At the E end the track passes between islets of Carricknaford and the old shoreline of a raised beach. Stone Age flints have been found in the sea caves. Ahead lies Ballintoy, with its boat-bobbing harbour and little white church and, after Larrybane visitor centre, an exhilarating walk along the cliffs to the swinging rope bridge that connects Carrick-a-rede island to the mainland.

    11. BINEVENAGH

    Distance 3 miles (5km)
    Minimum time 2 hours
    OS ref 704317 sheet 4


    Easiest approach to Binevenagh is up a lane off the road built by an eccentric 18th-century Bishop of Derry. Shortly after entering the forest there is an obvious entrance just over a bridge, and room to park a car. Beyond the gate go uphill, bearing L always, to emerge on to a hard road and head for the summit of Binevenagh for one of Ulster's finest, widest vistas along the ridge - of Magilligan Strand, Lough Foyle and the hills of Inishowen. Scientists come looking for unusual fossils in the hill streams further round the hill. There is a small artificial lake up here. Pass it on the west side. Then the UW descends NW along the edge of the scarp. Once back in the woods, the path is clear.

    12. GORTIN GLEN FOREST PARK

    Distance 2-1/2 miles (4km)
    Minimum time 2 hours
    OS ref 485220 sheet 13


    Lady's View Walk

    The forest drapes itself over the western flank of Mullaghcarn, an outlier of the Sperrins. Several waymarked walks radiate from the main carpark. Join the UW along lovely Pollan Burn, bright with dragonflies, through the forest, which has some huge Sitka spruce well mixed with other species, and come up out on to the bare hill covered with purple bell heather (flowering in July), ling heather (August) and pink-blossomed cross-leaved heath in boggy parts. Look out for Sika deer. When alarmed they utter a sharp terrier-like bark and bound away, flaring a bright white 'petticoat'. After Lady's View forest paths bring you back to the carpark.

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