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Inspiration lies just around the Coast!

Posted on August 23, 2011 @ 12:21 PM in Walking

The dramatic cliffs of the Giant’s Causeway Coast, stretching along the northern counties of Londonderry and Antrim, blend a unique mix of magnificent scenery with myth, legend and tangible heritage. Sadly however, visitors to this area of outstanding natural beauty rarely venture beyond the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site itself. As such, there is a whole coastline of spectacular walking just waiting to be revealed.

Giant's Causeway Coast

With this sense of discovery in mind I decided to spend a long spring weekend exploring some of the lesser known walking opportunities along Northern Ireland’s famous Causeway Coast.

Each year our club organises a weekend trip to the Mourne Mountains staying in holiday homes in Dundrum, County Down. We also generally do a separate Sunday of hiking in the Silent Valley area however this was the first time I had ever walked along the Causeway Coast.

From chatting with other club members, I had been told of the natural beauty of North Antrim with attractions such as the Giant’s Causeway & Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge all on the check list. However, I was also aware that few people take advantage of the fantastic walking opportunities all along this spectacular coastline and personally I never really considered it as a walking destination before so I was really looking forward to the chance to explore a place that I had always wanted to visit but somehow had never gotten around to.

Dunluce Castle

With the local knowledge and expertise of Walk Talk Ireland guide, Sean Mullan, I set off from Portbraddan and walked along the 10km cliff top path west towards the Giant’s Causeway. This grassy path follows the headlands of Benbane and Bengore with its highest point ‘Hamilton’s Seat’ at 100m offering superb views out as far as the Mull of Kintyre.

The Causeway itself is certainly a must-do for anyone visiting the area however the stunning scenery of dramatic headlands and cliffs around Dunseverick Castle along the cliff top path should simply not be missed. I had read that there were some amazing coastal views along this cliff top path and they certainly weren’t joking.

After resting overnight in the Bayview Hotel in the village of Portballintrae, I boarded a passenger ferry departing Ballycastle to explore another gem along this coastline – Rathlin Island. The ferry journey to Rathlin itself was stunning. The Irish Sea was as still as a pond with seals popping up and down, set with a backdrop out to Scotland and back to the cliffs of Fairhead.

Ferry to Rathlin

After docking at Church Bay I set off on a 7km walk out to the West Lighthouse past Knockans RSPB Reserve to Kebble National Nature Reserve. Here the breathtaking cliffs and stacks support the largest seabird breeding colony in Northern Ireland. Imelda from the Seabird Centre was very informative and it was a delight to use the telescopes to get a closer look at the incredible variety of seabirds gathering with their mates on the cliffs – this was truly a memorable experience.

I was visiting the Causeway Coast with the view of perhaps organising future club walking trips here and I was completely taken back with what I found. Our club would often go to the west coast or Cork but from my own trip I found the Causeway Coast to be a wonderful option for a future club weekend and I am positive that it would be thoroughly enjoyed by all.

From Celbrdige (22km west of Dublin) it took me 3.5 hours to get up to the Causeway Coast. As one last piece of advice I would urge other walkers visiting this area to bring a pair of binoculars to get a closer look at the wildlife and make sure you have plenty of memory and batteries for your camera – you are going to need it!

This year, WalkNI.com have teamed up with walker-friendly accommodation providers throughout Northern Ireland to offer walkers the chance to avail of 10% off any accommodation bookings made in 2011. Visit WalkNI.com to Download a free Walker’s Guide to the North Coast and Glens of Antrim or contact Aideen Exley on +44(0)28 9030 3930 for more information on planning your next walking trip to Northern Ireland.

Ian Kelly
Ian Kelly  Chairman of Glenwalk Hillwalking Club

Ian lives in Celbridge (22km west of Dublin) and is the current Chairman of Glenwalk Hillwalking Club.

This large sociable club, which was established in 2002, has a wide range of membership ranging from young adults to walkers in thier 50's and is always welcoming new members. Visit www.glenwalk.com for more information.

1 comment has been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Delicious Cherry on March 21, 2016 @ 1:46 PM

Interesting tips and site. Label the pictures cos those of us who don't know ireland don't know where they are

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