With the ‘outbreak of peace’, walkers are now able to discover the reality for themselves. In fact, this north-eastern corner of Ireland is a magical place of scenic beauty and varied landscapes which are best discovered on foot, and a warm welcome awaits one and all. The nine Glens of Antrim are amongst Ulster’s finest features and are rich in history and tradition. It is less than a century since the Irish language was widely spoken in this area and it is also the stronghold of Ulster Scots, a broad dialect of English which has much in common with Scottish dialects. From Slemish, where St. Patrick herded sheep as a young slave, up to the imposing cliffs of Fair Head, the glens offer some magnificent walking routes through a landscape unspoilt by tourism. It is here that Ireland and Scotland are closest to each other, just 12 miles across the North Channel (also known more poetically as the Sea of Moyle) between Fair Head and the Mull of Kintyre. Bright days bring inspiring views of Ailsa Craig (‘Paddy’s Milestone’) in the Firth of Clyde and the Hebridean islands of Islay and Jura.
A visit to Rathlin Island is a must to experience its flora and fauna, especially its wealth of seabirds in the spring and early summer. The unspoilt environment of Rathlin is a reminder of what much of Ireland was like before the advent of intensive mechanised farming. It is the largest island in Northern Ireland and is a model of co-operation and integration between the Catholic and Protestant communities. Rathlin’s historical links are not only with the Irish mainland, but also with Scotland. The sea was a highway rather than a barrier. Bruce’s Cave, where Robert the Bruce is said to have been inspired by the tenacity and persistence of a spider climbing a wall, is near the East Lighthouse. This made him determined to return to Scotland and to ‘try, try and try again’ until he succeeded in gaining the crown.
The Causeway Coast is best known for the bizarre formations of the Giant’s Causeway, consisting of thousands of hexagonal basalt columns. However, there are so many other places of interest and natural beauty along this coast, such as the cliffs of Torr Head, Fair Head and Benbane Head, the vanishing lake of Loughareema and the fishermen’s rope-bridge across to Carrickarede Island. These are just a few of the gems waiting to be discovered by the traveller in this tranquil, unspoilt corner of Ireland.
The Moyle Way: The Moyle Way is a waymarked route that winds its way between Glenariff and Ballycastle. It takes you through many of the scenic valleys and mountains that lie within the Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Antrim Coast. As well as beautiful scenery the area is full of fascinating geology, wildlife, history and folklore. On its way the route passes through five of the nine famous glens; Glentaise, Glenshesk, Glendun, Glenballyemon and Glenariff.
The Causeway Coast Way: This waymarked trail follows one of the most dramatic coastlines in the world, passing rugged and windswept cliffs, spectacular scenery and fabulous unspoilt beaches.
Day 1: You begin your holiday on the first evening by meeting Linda McKay, owner of a B&B in the picturesque village of Broughshane where you will be staying for the first 2 nights.
Day 2: Orra Beg to Glenariff Forest Park. Distance: 7 miles; average walking time: 4 hours. After a hearty breakfast you are driven by coach to Orra Beg, an intersection on the Moyle Way to begin your walking tour. Today you are heading south to Glenariff Forest Park passing Slieveanorra Nature Reserve, which has spectacular views over the glens and plays host to a great variety of birds. From Slieveanorra you carry on over open moorland for Trostan Mountain and on to Glenariff Nature Reserve and Forest Park with its visitor centre, nature trails and famous waterfalls. From here you will be collected and returned to your evening accommodation in Broughshane.
Day 3: Orra Beg to Ballycastle. Distance: 11 miles; average walking time: 5 hours. Today you return to Orra Beg and head north for Ballycastle. Continuing on the Moyle Way, the route is divided into three sections. The first part of the walk takes you along a forest track then follows the banks of the Glenshesk River, ending up back on a forest track as it leads you through the Breen Oakwood Nature Reserve and Wood. The next section follows the country road along Glenshesk offering views of the Glenshesk River, Knocklayd Mountain and Coolaveely Wood. The final part of today’s walk takes you into Ballycastle Forest where you descend along a good forest path into Ballycastle. There are magnificent panoramic views of Rathlin Island and the forest is also home to an abundance of birds and other wildlife. Overnight at Ballycastle.
Day 4: Ballycastle to the Giants Causeway via the Rope Bridge. Distance: 21 miles; average walking time: 9 hours. For Today’s walk you will be taken by taxi to Larrybane with its visitor centre and the world famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The bridge spans an 80 foot deep chasm that renders Carrick-a-Rede island, a must do for every visitor and gives a fitting dramatic climax to an exhilarating day’s walk. From here it is only a short distance by the coastal path to the little village of Ballintoy. The little harbour at the foot of the cliffs is well worth a visit. “Before you lies one of the finest walks that an ordinary pedestrian can experience anywhere in the wide world” An extract from Ulster Rambles by Peter Wright. The best coastal walk in Ireland – bar none! Varied geology, views across to Scotland, cliff and beach walks, the Giant’s Causeway and Ireland’s smallest church are all to be found on today’s route. From Ballintoy harbour you very soon come to the beautiful strand of White Park Bay, then on to Portbraddan, with Ireland’s tiniest church measuring only 12 ft by 6.5 ft. Continuing on you come to the ruins of Dunseverick Castle and then along the cliff-top path round Benbane Head and on to the Giant’s Causeway. From here you can stay on the path which leads to Portballintrae and your evening accommodation. Alternatively there is a shorter route along a pleasant path and through golflinks to end this most splendid of walks. Overnight at Portballintrae/Bushmillls.
Day 5: After a final breakfast and farewell at Bushmills you commence your homeward journey.
Single Room Supplement: €150
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Europe Ireland Outdoor: Land Rambler Walking Tours