A 2017 Winters Morning. Portrush, White Rocks Co.Antrim

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.

Portmuck Islandmagee County Antrim

Islandmagee is a peninsula on the east coast of Co.Antrim and in many ways its often disregarded by many in Northern Ireland given that its off the beaten path. Its very much a rural community there although it does house Ballylumford power station which provides Northern Ireland with half its electricity, but hidden away at the north eastern tip of Islandmagee lies Portmuck which really is worth a visit.

Portmuck doesn’t get its name from its hygienic condition, but rather from the old Irish word for pig which was “muc” therefore the label actually means harbour of pigs. A long time ago the area had a roaring trade in cattle, horses, and pigs so it looks like the swine managed to give the place its name (though some say its because the island off shore here looks like a sleeping pig but its open to question). The island is known simply as The Isle of Muck (lol) which was once a hiding place for horses when they were being smuggled across from Scotland by those wishing to avoid excise or having them taken away.  It was also a retreat for a few scamps on the run from the law.

 

portmuck-2

Some information you will see on arriving at the car park in Portmuck. You can read some notes about the history of the place and there are toilets and useful picnic benches nearby.

 

dsc08937dsc08936

The little beach at Portmuck and a view taken from the right side hill looking down on the harbour. Really very tranquil and peaceful.

 

dsc08922

From the hill top overlooking Portmuck bay you can see The Isle of Muck (not to be confused with an island of the same name in Scotland) which today provides the third largest nature reserve for birds in Northern Ireland including kittiwake, guillemot, fulmar and razorbill with peregrine falcons commonly hunting over the island. You can catch sight of puffins, otters, common and grey seals and porpoises offshore too. The only way on to the island is by approaching from the land facing side (seen here).

 

portmuck-11

From the hill top you should see some wooden steps to take you down to the rocks below. I highly recommend you go down. Once there, walk right along the shore until you come to this beautiful white stoned beach. The water is stunningly clear as you look across to the island.

portmuck-10

Made up of mostly limestone pebbles (limestone is quite common along many shoreline parts of Co.Antrim) the beach here is hidden behind the headland at Portmuck and you wont see it unless you go look for it. Many of these stones will contain fossils and you can find them relatively easily if you know what to look for (just like Whitepark Bay https://niviews.com/2015/02/18/whitepark-bay-north-coast-county-antrim/ )

dsc08928

The limestone beach in bright sunlight really glows and the camera probably hasn’t done it justice here. You might be able to see a line in the water cutting across to the island which is actually a causeway that can be used to walk over at very low tide. I don’t know anyone who’s done it but the old picture here (not mine) clearly shows that its possible when the tide drops low enough: https://i.imgsafe.org/1452c6cf49.jpg its also said that livestock (many years ago) where brought to and from the island this way. I have to say however, I think it looks a lot more beautiful when the causeway is covered by the sea.

dsc08931

The edge of the causeway.

 

portmuck-14

Just beyond the beach lies some huge green cliffs which Ive read contains a two mouthed cave that may be accessible at low tide. Sadly this was as far as I could go today though.

dsc08941

At the left side of the beach there’s a small gate that allows you access to walking a path high above Portmuck Bay (marked by this sign).

 

dsc08961

Once at the top, the view was simply stunning…. 🙂 You can see the Portmuck island just behind the bay.

Portrush County Antrim

I posted (some time ago) a few pictures that I took at the furthest end of the East Strand at Portrush near a place called the White Rocks (named this way because of the colour of the limestone cliffs overlooking the bay) but I haven’t put up any pictures of the actual town area itself. Portrush is undoubtedly Northern Irelands premiere seaside resort with thousands visiting here in the Summer months taking advantage of its two long beaches, amusement rides, and some pretty decent dining too. We visited back in early June this year on a day during the school week, and as you can see the weather was absolutely stunning with very few people there at all – hard to believe, that just a few weeks later, the streets here would be mobbed with families and children. I have to say though, we like it much better when its quiet, particularly in Winter when it takes on a much more melancholy feel yet still retains a wild beauty with the waves crashing onto the shore. Its a great spot for an off season night away and the restaurants here (55 North, The Ramore Restaurant etc) are really excellent and always open.

 

portrush (1)    portrush (7)

The iconic old railway station clock in Portrush, constructed in mock Tudor style and standing here since the station was completed in the early 1890s. A grandfather clock which stood inside the old station is now on display in Barrys Amusements (the entrance seen in picture 2) which is the largest theme park in Northern Ireland and hits its 90th birthday this year having opened in 1926. Barrys remains a huge draw for all visitors to Portrush and many have fond memories of visiting there as a child (including me) 🙂

portrush (17)  portrush (3)

You might be forgiven for thinking the first picture here is some ocean going liner but it is in fact an area right in the centre of town created for sitting down and having a rest with huge fake masts giving the impression of a ship. If you get the angle just right with your camera the effect is pretty good. The second picture is of Portrushs other iconic landmark, The Arcadia, which is certainly the most photographed location in the town being built in the 1920s. It originally opened as a cafe (which it is today) but became a ballroom for dancing in 1953 and the large complex (now demolished) that once stood behind it played host to many concerts in the 70s and 80s seeing bands like The Stranglers, The Undertones, and Ian Dury play there. I remember the building itself even being a roller disco at one point but I guess I’m showing my age here. I have to say I find the Arcadia enthralling, there’s just something about it. If a building could speak it would have some stories to tell in its 90 years of life, and hopefully it has 90 more.

 

portrush (6)

There are 2 “strands” in Portrush (another name for its two long beaches at either side of the town) one being the West, and one being the East. The East Strand (seen above) regularly wins a blue flag for its water quality and amenities and its 2.5miles of gorgeous white sand and huge dunes (search “Portrush” on the site here to see pictures of those) really could compete with any of the beaches in Europe. Its a wonderful walk out here on a sunny day looking out to the off shore islands of The Skerries. Its not uncommon to see Basking sharks feeding along here too with their huge fins being visible from the beach (don’t be scared though, they’re harmless).

 

portrush (12) portrush (9)

The beach at the opposite side of town (the West Strand) which as you can see from the information sign here has enthralled visitors since the Victorian age. This little horse was out for a walk along the promenade the day we were there. Maybe hes a sea horse. 🙂

 

portrush (15) portrush (16)

Not a cloud in the sky…. A swathe of Portrush guesthouses overlooking the harbour. The second picture here showing the much lauded Portrush lifeboat which has been the saviour of many a poor soul finding themselves in difficulty in the waters around the town. If you look just to the left of the lifeboat you should be able to see the Ramore Restaurant complex which for many years has had a great reputation for good food when in the town – see here: http://www.ramorerestaurant.com/

 

portrush (18)

Portrush….. A great place to visit. Any time of the year.

Whitepark Bay, County Antrim, Panorama View

Ive been a little busy this past month or so as our landlord decided to sell the house we’ve been renting (privately for 5 years) so we had to find another home (arrgh!) Its been a bit of a stressful time house-hunting but we finally found somewhere new and now its just a matter of getting everything packed up to move on. I really wanted to get a few pictures on the site for the month of April however as its almost over and I didn’t want to miss this months entry, so the two pictures below are just a quick post to fill the gap. 🙂

The two photographs below were taken (as always with my trusty compact camera) from the roadside overlooking the beautiful Whitepark Bay in County Antrim. Ive already posted some pictures of Whitepark before (see here:  https://niviews.com/2015/02/18/whitepark-bay-north-coast-county-antrim/ ) but not from such a high vantage point as seen here. The pictures were taken back in June 2015 on a glorious summers day, and basically the first one is looking left from our stopping point on the road and the other is looking right. A truly stunning vista….

whitepark (6)

Looking left over Whitepark Bay, you can see the tiny village of Portbradden sitting just beyond the cliffs, and Fairhead is far off in the distance.

 

whitepark (5)

Looking right, down to the south end of the bay where you can hunt for one of the many prehistoric fossils strewn along the shore. Whitepark is a beautiful (and almost always tranquil) spot on the renowned County Antrim coast.

 

See you next month….. 🙂

Murlough Bay, County Antrim April 2015

Its not often, though its happened for a few years now, where we actually get great weather in April in NI. And given this was Easter week, all the schools were closed and many people had taken to their cars to head to the seaside. With that in mind, we set out pretty early from home and arrived at Murlough Bay around 9am. At this point I need to say that there are essentially two “Murlough Bay” in Northern Ireland, one in Co.Down and this one in Co.Antrim. Make sure you locate the correct one haha. The bay in Country Antrim is likely a little harder to find but in many ways that makes it all the more peaceful when you finally get there. There are 3 car parks at the site and my view is to totally ignore the first one (you come to) unless you want to stop there first and take a photo of the view below before you descend (the first picture here shows that view). Move on then to at least the second car park along the (pretty narrow) road and park up, or take the route of the brave, past the subsidence warning sign, to the last car park no.3 – which is the most perfect stop but many may not want to risk it. From here you will have no climbing to do back to your car however. Murlough Bay sits between Fair Head (posting that next) and Torr Head, near Ballycastle.

mb (1)

This is the view if you stop and walk a little down hill from the first car park. If you look towards the centre of the picture you should be able to see a white van, that is in no.2 car park. From there you can see the (tiny) road cutting diagonally away heading for the last car park. Be advised that all 3 are quite small so you should arrive early or you might have some reversing to do. You can see a small part of Rathlin Island in the distance to the left of the picture.

mb (3) mb (4)

Theres a road that extends beyond the third car park but dont drive any further. It leads to a private cottage so just walk along here instead. On your way you will pass an old lime kiln still in good condition. They put alternate layers of limestone (from the hills above) and coal in it to burn and produce quicklime used in cement etc (the quicklime was raked out of the arch at the bottom after burning).

mb (5) mb (6)

Look up here, about 200ft high above you are the limestone cliffs used in the kiln, hard to believe these were once under the sea. The little cottage is called a “Bothy” an old labourers cottage used either for kiln workers or fishermen I suspect. Sometimes these would be left open as a refuge, but this one is locked.

mb (7)  mb (9)

Over to your left are the remnants of some long lost building foundations, and part of a wall. Maybe a fishery or some ancient cottage. After that you will come to this private house. I reckon it must get a lot of photographs taken of it, as it adds a great focal point to the entire area. The bay and Torr Head lie before you.

mb (15) mb (11)

A place of natural beauty. Fair Head pointing towards the sky in the first picture. Torr Head in the second. You might just be able to see the shadow of Scotland on the horizon here.

mb (23)  mb (24)  mb (29)

Like a land that time forgot. Murlough Bay, County Antrim,  10th April 2015 🙂

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). 

balintoy (2)

Some information.

balintoy (13) balintoy (14)

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

balintoy (12) balintoy (15)

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.

balintoy (1)

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).

balintoy (5)

The view ahead.

balintoy (4)

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).

balintoy (9) balintoy (10)

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

balintoy (7)ballintoy church (1)

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 🙂

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.

cushendall (1)

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 £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.

cushendall - cushendun (2)

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.

cushendall - cushendun (1)

The Cushendall seashore.

cushendall - cushendun (3)

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

cushendall - cushendun (4)

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.

cushendall - cushendun (5)

Five miles along the coast, this is Cushendun.

cushendall - cushendun (6)

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

cushendall - cushendun (7)

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