Hares Gap, Mourne Walks, County Down, Newcastle

Hares Gap is one of the easier walks through the Mournes and like most its quite accessible too. From the road you would hardly know its there but park up at the Trassey Road car park and climb over the stile (or just open the gate) and follow the path into this part of the Mournes. 

hgap (2) hgap (3)

You can park your car either in the car park a little up the road from this sign or at the side of the road (fold your mirrors in its narrow passing here). The second picture is taken off an information board at the car park.

hgap (5) hgap (24) hgap (25)

After you climb over the stile (or open the gate) follow the road past some obvious deforesting that’s taking place. I’m not sure what this old wood looked like during its finer days, but Clonachullion is no more. Maybe there was some disease in there and he had to go. Anyway, marvel at the piles of timber as you pass by.

hgap (6)hgap (4) hgap (7) hgap (8)

As you turn the corner past the wood you’ll catch your first glimpse of the beautiful Mourne mountains ahead. The sign warns of weather preparations required at certain times of the year but today it was just wonderfully warm.

hgap (10) hgap (11) hgap (12)

I’m not sure what fate befell the young boy whos memorial is placed here, but 20yrs ago (this year) something bad happened during the trek ahead, pay your respects and enter through the gate and admire the view to your right as the wall fades off into the distance.

hgap (15) hgap (16) hgap (17)

Theres a crystal clear mountain stream here tumbling down the hills which I suspect is fine to drink, but even if its just to splash your face or dip your toes in (to cool down) its still appreciated. On the second picture you can see the Mourne wall on the horizon (the straight bit) which is the back side of the wall we walked up to on the Glen River walk (see elsewhere on the site for that) and you might just be able to pick out an old quarry up to the right as well where they mined granite in this area. On the third picture is an ominous warning to dog owners which I suspect has been placed by some irate farmer that’s had his sheep attacked. I haven’t heard of anyones dog being shot, but please keep your animals under control if you come up here. This is private land and you’re only a guest being allowed to walk here.

hgap (18) hgap (19) hgap (20) hgap (22)

The magnificent Hares Gap. You can clearly see how the glaciers cut their way through here around 60 million years ago. Since then, man has made his way along this route either to mine granite or to smuggle goods (Hare’s Gap marked the exit point for smuggled contraband including soap, leather, spices and coffee and was carried through the mountains on the backs of small ponies which descended via the Hare’s Gap to the valley of the Trassey River and on to Hilltown – a favourite distribution centre. Today though its just a wonderful location for a fantastic Northern Ireland walk.

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.

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. 😀

dunseverick grasslands (1)

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.

dunseverick grasslands (2)

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

dunseverick grasslands (3)

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

dunseverick grasslands (4)

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

dunseverick grasslands (5)

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.

dunseverick grasslands (7)

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

dunseverick grasslands (8)

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!!

Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim, February 21st 2015

Glenariff Forest Park covers over 1000 hectares and is within Glenariff, one of the nine Antrim glens. We stopped off from a cold (and actually a little bit dangerous) drive through fresh and falling snow on our way to Cushendall. The roads hadn’t been gritted, and a few times our car started to slide ever so slightly away from us. We thought it best to pull into the park in the hope the weather would improve. Which, given the slowly rising temperatures it eventually did. Sadly the park was closed that day, so we had to leave the car across the road and walk in (a few other local explorers had done the same). We then took the few pictures you see below, but chose not to go too far into the park as the weather was changing every 15 minutes from sunshine to snow. You can get a few more details on Glenariff here: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/glenariff-forest-park and (as ever), the fantastic WalksNi site gives details of walking routes around the park here:  http://www.walkni.com/walks/234/glenariff-forest-park-scenic-trail/

glenariff park (14) glenariff park (15)

Sadly the park was closed, but there’s no issues walking around inside if you can find a place to leave your car (space is limited as you shouldn’t block the access gate).

glenariff park (11)

I’m not actually sure what this building is. It sits down in a valley beside the river as you walk in, so I expect it was a mill in the distant past.

glenariff park (12) glenariff park (1)

On so many of our adventures we see no one, which we both kinda like. During the Summer, so many of these places would be a hive of activity, but out of season you can regularly find yourself feeling like you’re the last person on Earth haha. On the second picture here you can see the next wave of snow coming at the bottom of the valley…

glenariff park (2)

Now the sky is getting very dark….

glenariff park (4) glenariff park (3)

A little wooden cabin that was built in the 70s (with funding from a local childrens school). A good place to shelter given the ever-so-changable Northern Ireland weather!

glenariff park (6) glenariff park (5)

After the snow had stopped the Sun appeared again, not picnic weather just yet, but Glenariff looked amazing.

glenariff park (7) glenariff park (8)

I know Ive said it before, but the North of Ireland hides so much beauty, not often recognized given our past. But things are now changing for us in terms of visitor numbers, and sights like this will soon be a draw all year round (one hopes) for those people looking a holiday somewhere different. I know NI is seen as having quite limited access time (based on its weather), but I started this blog at the end of Summer 2014, and its never been an issue getting out and enjoying the countryside all through the Autumn and Winter.

glenariff park (10)

Just 40 minutes after the dark, snowy sky on the earlier pics above, this was the scene before us. I guess our weather changes just as quickly from bad to good then, as it does the other way around :-))

Dunseverick Castle, County Antrim.

Dunseverick Castle is situated in County Antrim, near the small village of Dunseverick and close to the Giant’s Causeway. From the small car park at the side of the road (where you initially view the remains of the castle), it actually doesn’t look like much until you climb over the wall (stile provided) and follow the path there to sea level (you can go down both sides of the wall).

Saint Patrick is recorded as having visited Dunseverick castle in the 5th century AD, where he baptized Olcán, a local man who later became a Bishop of Ireland. The original stone fort that occupied the position was attacked by Viking raiders in 870 AD.

In the later part of the 6th century AD, this was the seat of Fergus Mor MacEirc (Fergus the Great). Fergus was King of Dalriada and great-uncle of the High King of Ireland, Muirceartaigh (Murtagh) MacEirc. It is the AD 500 departure point from Ireland of the Lia Fail or coronation stone. Murtagh loaned it to Fergus for the latter’s coronation in western Scotland part of which Fergus had settled as his sea-kingdom expanded.

The O’Cahan family held it from circa 1000 AD to circa 1320 AD, then regained it in the mid 16th century. The castle was captured and destroyed by General Robert Munro in 1642 and his Cromwellian troops in the 1650s, and today only the ruins of the gatelodge remain. A small residential tower survived until 1978 when it eventually fell into the sea below.

It was a ‘key’ ancient site in Ireland. All photos were taken just a few days ago by me on Jan 27th 2015.

 

DUNSEVERICK CASTLE CO.ANTRIM N (1)

One of our lesser known castles, but Dunseverick hides some truly stunning coastline behind its prominence.

 

DUNSEVERIK CASTLE CO.ANTRIM N (2)

Like an ancient, ocean liner, encased in stone, the castle sits on top of a huge cliff.

 

DUNSEVERIK CASTLE CO.ANTRIM N (3)

From below (at sea level) it looks much more impressive.

 

DUNSEVERIK CASTLE CO.ANTRIM N (4)

All that remains is the ruins of the old gatehouse.

 

DUNSEVERIK CASTLE CO.ANTRIM N (5)

Just like Mussenden Temple, its the view behind the castle ruins that really impresses however.

 

DUNSEVERIK CASTLE CO.ANTRIM N (6)

Looking the opposite direction up the coast.

 

DUNSEVERIK CASTLE CO.ANTRIM N (7)

I want to live in that little cottage in the distance.

 

DUNSEVERIK CASTLE CO.ANTRIM N (8)

Dunseverick Castle January 2015. Its not hard to see why shows like Game of Thrones continually comes back to NI to film with scenery like this everywhere.