For family reasons we have been spending time in Northern Ireland recently. Sadly this time has seen the recent death of my Mother in Law, Sadie, who was a lovely lady of 85 years. Sadie always had great love for the Antrim Coast as it had very special memories for her, especially the area around Drains Bay and The Black Arch.
We will all miss her a great deal, and so this blog is dedicated to Sadie, a very special lady indeed.
These places are special to us too and I hope this blog will encourage you to visit, or if you know the area to enjoy once again the wonderful scenery that is found there.
The Giants Causeway is world heritage site and a route has been carefully signposted to it from Belfast. This striking rock formation is a magnificent sight , and with the new visitor centre a good place to visit in Northern Ireland
If you start in Belfast the Causeway Coastal route is well signposted and over a day, or two, if you have the time this route takes you along some of Northern Ireland’s fine scenery and one or the World’s great coastal drives.
This series of paintings, some of which go back a few years picks out just few spots on the Coastal journey.
As a starting point Belfast is a fine city but these days one of it’s not to be missed highlights is the new Titanic centre, located in the area once occupied by the huge Harland and Wolff shipyard.
A few hours spent there will be rewarding with its visions of Belfast of old and the history of the ill fated Titanic.
On leaving Belfast via the Causeway Coastal Route the road hugs Belfast Lough and the first major town you will arrive at is Carrickfergus.
Carrickfergus has one of the best preserved Norman castles in the British Isles. It is located next to the harbour. Built by Robert De Courcy in the 12th century it dominates the town.
After leaving Carrickfergus the roads turns inland but soon arrives near Whitehead. Turn off into Whithead and enjoy it painted seafront houses and hotels.
At the northern end of the town there is good coastal path that leads towards Whitehead lighthouse located on the cliff top.
after leaving Whitehead the roads lads towards Larne,today cross channel port to Scotland. ferries have been going from here for many years.
Follow the Causeway Coastal route signs and the road soon rejoins the sea, and before arriving in Drains Bay you pass through the natural archway across the road known as The Black Arch. Just one of many aptly named landmarks on the coast.
The Black Arch, near Drains Bay
From Drains Bay the road hugs the coast and eventually brings you into Ballygally. The old castle is nowadays a good hotel and if you park at it and look back at the hill that you have just passed you will see the distinctive features of face profile that the shape of the hill makes. (Zoom into the painting below to see it). This area of the coast has been inhabited for Neolithic times apparently. You are certainly treading in the steps of history!
Sunset at Ballygally
From Ballygally the road continues to be close to the sea, passing through very nice small towns of Carnlough, Glenarm, Glenarriff and on to Cushendall. If time permits turn off at Glenarriff and turn into the beautiful glacial valley you will see there. Back at the coast you will see that sailing around this whole coast is favourite pastime, almost anywhere you will find yachts off the shore.
As you now head on take the diversion that passes Cushendun and Tor head, stop off whenever you can to admire the cliffs, views and scenery. It is really good at many places. Further along the cost the cliffs are at their highest at Fair Head. If you can go there and walk along the cliffs. If not then from Ballycastle Fair Head can be seen well. Its prominent shape is shown in these paintings
The beach at Ballycastle
Ballycastle has great beach and golf course too. From Ballycastle the road rises over the hills, but divert off it to Ballintoy and do stop at the headland at Whitepark Bay where the view is really spectacular. If you feel brave stop to at the Carrick a Rede rope bridge, and there walk across to and island above the pounding sea!
Tor Head and Whitepark Bay
From there you will shortly arrive at the Giants Causeway. The new visitor centre is well organised and you can even get a bus to the actual stone formations by the sea. These hexagonal rocks, formed millions of years ago are quite extraordinary. It is rarely calm there so the pounding sea adds to the drama of the place.
Here are two paintings of the Causeway.
The Giant’s Causeway
Sunset at the Giant’s causeway
The causeway coastal route continue further on to Portrush and beyond, but before setting off further do visit the nice little town of Bushmills. Here are good restaurants and cafes and most importantly the famous Bushmills Distillery. This, the earliest Distillery in the British Isles to be licenced is the home of Bushmills Irish Whiskey. It has a different taste and aroma to Scottish whisky so a tour of the Distillery is a must and a sample at the end of the tour will encourage you to take a bottle or two home!
Before heading to Portrush turn off to Portballintrae. A small seaside resort with a nice harbour. After leaving Portballintrae the road will take you past Dunluce Castle. This ruined castle is perched on the cliff edge and is interesing to explore, but it can be seen well from parking area just past the castle on the Causeway Route, that view is shown below.
At Portrush you will find golden sandy beaches, dunes and a very famous golf course, Royal Portrush, a terrific challenge for any golfer. This seaside resort used to be the summer destination of Belfast folk, although much quieter now it is still a holiday destination. Nearby is Portstewart where you can drive on to the beach and not far inland is the bustling town of Coleraine . There you can cruise on the River Bann which flows from Lough Neagh, the largest inland lake in the British Isles.
This blog is only a little snapshot of this great coastal drive. If, like us, you are attracted to areas where mountains meet the sea you will really enjoy travelling there. For me there is the benefit of scenes to paint too!
Enjoy your travels