Standing on a hill in Armagh City, the twin spires of St Patricks Cathedral dominate the skyline and can be seen from quite a distance away. It was built in phases between 1840 and 1904 to serve as the Catholic cathedral for the Archdiocese of Armagh.
Much needed work took place in 1982 where some of the granite floors were lain with carpet and a huge cross was removed (to be replaced with an installation called “The Tree of Life”) which almost everyone hated. Further work took place in 2003 that met with a bit more acceptance but with a bill that reached £6,000,000 (yes thats 6 million) I think I could suggest much better things to be spending that kind of money on (but as we all know, Northern Ireland really loves its old relics of religious fervour). I reckon it would make a really nice natural history museum myself 🙂
Its not until recently that we actually discovered theres something of a hidden beach at Balintoy. We normally just drove down the hill into the car park and walked left along the shore, but it turns out theres a beautiful little cove halfway down the hill which you will find by taking a path that looks as if it belongs to someones house (its doesnt, but there is a house there).
I took these pictures very early one morning, having left Belfast about 430am. I visited the Dark Hedges first (the only way to get a photograph without people in it) and watched a stunning sunrise, all by myself. Brilliant.
You can see the sand is really quite red here, not something Ive seen very often on the beaches of NI.
Certainly worth getting up early for!
The second picture here was actually taken on a different day (and is of a sunset at Ballintoy and not a sunrise like these others). But such a great little spot it is.
Sitting comfortably as one of my all time favourite places in Northern Ireland, Downhill Demesne has such a wonderful atmosphere of lost elegance and abandonment. Maybe thats just because I tend to visit here in the depths of Winter (or at the very least late Autumn) but theres definitely something magical about the place for me. I jumped on the first train from Belfast yesterday morning arriving at Castlerock Station at 750am (the Sun hadnt yet risen) and I walked along the empty streets of Castlerock town (waves crashing on the beach in a dark blue oncoming dawn) making my way across the Black Glen and up into Downhill.
By now the Sun had just poked its head above the horizon illuminating the temple with a warm orange glow.
Looking up towards the ominous shadow of Downhill House lurking at the end of the path from Mussenden Temple.
Dawn breaks above one of the faux fortified “castle” walls of Downhill House.
Upon entering the gate into what is left of the house I got a brilliant light show of sunbeams and shadows.
Most only venture up here to photograph the Temple but Ive always found the house just as photogenic. It has a monolithic presence on the skyline.
Behind the house sits the “mausoleum” not actually a tomb, just a rememberance monument. The winter morning sky gave it much more reverence.
One last shot of the Temple (taken from a less common angle) sitting as a coastal sentinel as it has done for 233 years.
Cloughmore Stone, known locally as “The Big Stone” is a huge granite boulder that sits about 1000ft up on the side of Slieve Martin overlooking Carlingford Lough and the Cooley peninsula in County Louth and above the village of Rostrevor County Down.
The name comes from the Irish “an Chloch Mhór” which means “the big stone” and its believed to weigh around 50 tonnes having been transported via glacial retreat from Scotland (from an island in Strathclyde bay) and deposited here over 10,000yrs ago during the last Ice Age.
Local legend has it that the stone was thrown from the Cooley Mountains on the other side of Carlingford Lough, by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) who gets accused of a lot of things here in Northern Ireland haha (Lough Neagh, The Giants Causeway etc).
The stone has many names and dates carved into it which go back centuries remembering those from history who have visited there. The Cloughmore Stone is a venue at Easter where the residents of Rostrevor would go up and roll their Easter eggs down the hill. A sort of a tradition for the Rostrevor residents.
Quite impressive even on a rainy day like this one and there are some great views from the surrounding area.
Theres a really nice walk up here through Rostrevor forest but it does get steep at times. Bring a lunch and rest at the top.
Ive created a little slideshow video here of several pictures Ive taken around the North Antrim coastline. Its my first attempt at this so forgive its amateurish limitations. Locations seen include Castlerock, Binevenagh, Portrush, Portstewart, Dunseverick, Port Moon, Gortmore, White Rocks, and a glimpse of Dunluce Castle.
Even in Winter, on the windswept North Antrim coast (which gets a never ending battering from the Atlantic ocean), you can find peace and solitude away from the tourist draws of Belfast. No murals here, no big buildings with sunken ships, no relics of mans past, just a natural sight that hasnt changed for millenia.
Shortly after sunrise on a cold, but beautiful February morning in 2017. White Rocks, near Portrush.
Stretching far off into the distance you would be looking towards the Giants Causeway and Fair Head here.
Slightly further up the coast from the White Rocks theres a small car park that has a stunning view. In one direction you can look back towards the rocks (and Portrush can be clearly seen) and in the other…. Dunluce Castle sits perched on its cliff top where its seen thousands of sunrises just like this one (click for large pictures).
A final view from above the White Rocks where the second biggest sand dune in Ireland towers above the beach as early walkers come out to take advantage of the sunshine.