Ballintoy, County Antrim. Game of Thrones, Pyke Harbour

So not long now until the premiere of Season 5 of Game of Thrones (12th April 2015) so I thought Id mark that with a little mention of Ballintoy which substituted as Pyke Harbour in Season 2 of the series. A permanent plaque stands there now for visiting fans to read and it looks as if Northern Ireland will be home to the show for a while longer as Season 6 will also be filmed here. Ballintoy is a quiet little village with an attractive small harbour, but walk left around the headland and it has some amazing scenery. There are also some caves you can enter (though you may need wellingtons).Β 

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Some information.

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Do you remember this place? Its probably pretty recognizable as Pyke harbour even without the special effects.

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On the left is Roarks Kitchen, which is a little cottage style cafe that’s been serving lovely food here for 35yrs. And on the right is another view of the harbour used in Game of Thrones.

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Now follow the path left, walking away from the harbour and past this little house (there’s a cave before you get there you could maybe walk into, though it might have some shallow water in it).

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The view ahead.

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You can climb up some of the huge grass covered rocks (be careful) which have trails left by local sheep. Once at the top of this one, the view back to the harbour is quite amazing (you should be able to see it in the distance here).

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A huge eroded arch just off the shore, and a bit further out…….. arrrgh….. a shark!! πŸ™‚

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Its easy to see here how vast the immediate landscape is, with all its greenery, yet having a look like some strange alien planet. And in this first picture you might just be able to see a little church on top of the hill. This is Ballintoy church, built in 1813 and seen closer in the second picture. Ballintoy is definitely worth stopping off at if you’re visiting the north coast, even if you’re not a fan of Game of Thrones πŸ™‚

Cushendall & Cushendun, County Antrim.

Less than 5mls apart and on the much travelled A2 (the Antrim Coast road) Cushendall and Cushendun are pretty sleepy little villages that sit below the imposing Glens of Antrim and the table-top Lurigethan Mountain. Cushendun is likely the quieter of the two, but it boasts a long stretch of sandy beach and on a clear day you can see The Mull of Kintyre in Scotland as its only 15 or 16mls away. Both towns sit in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty (sometimes seen as AONB on maps) and there are many splendid walks and drives around the locale. Five miles inland from Cushendall is Glenariff Forest Park which Ive posted a few pictures of already, but intend to return to soon. The entire area really is beautiful.

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So what do you think of this little tower in Cushendall High Street? Its called the Curfew Tower and was built to confine riotous prisoners in 1817. Dan McBride, an army pensioner, was given the job of permanent garrison here and was armed with one musket, a bayonet, a brace of pistols and a thirteen-feet-long pike. But that’s not the end of its interesting tale. Today the Curfew Tower is owned by none other than Bill Drummond, and if you know your UK music scene of the 80s and 90s you’ll know he was co-founder of The KLF who had worldwide hits with songs such as 3am Eternal, Justified & Ancient, What Time Is Love, and (my favourite) Last train To Transcentral. They also (infamously) set fire to Β£1million in 1994 on the island of Jura in Scotland and filmed the whole thing (I dont know why but I actually find that incredibly funny). Anyway, the tower is used now for various artists and their work (on loan from Mr Drummond). Quite a strange history for the building then.

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Cushendall seafront…. and if you’re anything like me you’ll be thinking of a certain movie from the 1970s by Mr Spielberg right now. Yes, you could easily see a giant spaceship land up there as per Close Encounters of the Third Kind haha. This is Lurigethan Mountain which is pretty impressive on first sighting. Its actually the end of a long piece of plateau but from the right angle looks like a stand alone peak. We really hope to return to this area again very soon as the weather in Winter was extremely cold and very changeable.

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The Cushendall seashore.

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It probably looks like a balmy Summers day here but this was instead a pretty cold February one!

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Theres a cliff path from the Western side of the shore (behind the little kids playpark) that gives a great view over the entire bay. This picture was taken from the top.

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Five miles along the coast, this is Cushendun.

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It has a long sweeping beach and I suppose it would be pretty busy on a warm day, but today it was quite quiet.

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Lying at the mouth of the River Dun, this is Cushendun Bridge. Most of the town was designated a conservation area in the 1980s.

Portrush, County Antrim (right now).

This is the first post I’ve made via the WordPress app so I hope it looks ok when I get home. This is a pic I took just now (with my mobile phone) of the sun setting over Portrush Northern Ireland (from the railway station) and the reflection the sky made on the front of the train windshield. πŸ™‚

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A really lovely evening up here.

Dunseverick Grasslands, Causeway Coast, County Antrim

Having already posted Dunseverick Castle a little while ago, Im going to post a few pictures of what lies beyond there and Dunseverick Harbour. And I have to say, I can barely put into words how outstanding this part of the Causeway Coast Walk is, it really is mind blowing. And on a day like the one we had there, I doubt you’ll find anywhere on the entire island of Ireland that looks so awesome for its pure natural beauty.

As ever, all pictures are pretty high definition so they might take a little while to open on a mobile phone (you might have to wait for them to focus). All were still taken with nothing but a compact camera however. Something I always intend to do on this site as an encouragement to those believing you need a huge camera to take a decent picture . Not true. πŸ˜€

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Less than 3.5mls from the Giants Causeway, lies the ruins of Dunseverick Castle. Ive already given details of it (and some pictures) on an earlier post, so I wont go into it again. But once you arrive at the small roadside car park (overlooking the remnants of the building), climb the right hand side wooden stile over the wall there, and continue going right around the headland. This is the beginning of whats known as the Dunseverick grasslands, and I guess the picture above speaks for itself.

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Looking ahead as we walked on towards Dunseverick harbour from the castle.

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The expanse of gorgeous rugged coastline before you really is dumbfounding.

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It doesn’t get any more dramatic than this in Northern Ireland.

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It kinda felt like the opening scenes from the movie Prometheus at this point, so primordial, so raw and pure, a world free from anything at all but water and plant life.

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Those ridges are the scars of some long past human habitation.

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I wish I could convey the sound and the vibrations we felt watching this sight. A whirling pool of awesome ocean power, like the planets largest washing machine churning its way through rocks and sand. The waves sounded like huge bass bin explosions going off, and if you ever wondered just how a bit of swirling water could cause the kind of erosion you were told about in school geography lessons, a few minutes standing here would easy confirm it all. Amazing!!

Bonamargy Friary, Ballycastle, County Antrim

Theres always a great atmosphere coming across a place like this as the Sun is starting to set. Creepy, yet hauntingly beautiful, we saw the old ruins from the road as we approached Ballycastle and had to loop back for a visit.

Bonamargy Friary in Ballycastle is a late Franciscan foundation established in 1485 by Rory MacQuillan. It is said that the first battle between the warring MacDonnell and MacQuillan clans was fought on nearby land. At the main entrance to the friary is a small, two storey gatehouse which opens into a store and workroom. Well worn steps lead directly to the dormitory above. Traces of an altar can still be found in the adjoining church, and the locked vaults hold the remains of the celebrated chieftain, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and several of the earls of Antrim.

Perhaps the Friary’s most famous resident was the 17th century prophet and recluse Julie MacQuillen. Known as β€˜The Black Nun’, MacQuillen wished to be buried at the entrance of the chapel so that she might be trodden under the feet of those who entered. A worn celtic cross (rounded with a hole in the centre) marks her grave at the west end of the main church.

Around 1822 four manuscripts were found in an old oaken chest in the ruins of Bonamargy Friary. One of these manuscripts is described as “Saint Bonaventures Life of Christ” and/or “A History of the Blessed Scriptures” Another manuscript contained a large portion of one of the principal theological works of Saint Thomas Aquinas, written on vellum, in very contracted Latin and extending to about 600 quarto pages. The earliest date appearing on it is 1338 and the latest 1380. It originally belonged to the Monastery of Saint Anthony, of Amiens in France.

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The entrance to Bonamargy

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Very atmospheric in the fading light of a February evening.

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The old surrounding graveyard and buildings

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One of the tombstones

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The circular stone disc at the bottom of the picture is said to be the marker for the grave of the “Black Nun”

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Quite a bit remains of the 16th century friary …

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The scene of many battles, death, and bloodshed, Bonamargy must have some tales to tell.

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As the Sun set, we left the friary to this fantastic view.