Mourne Mountains Walk – Slieve Binnian (from Carrick Little car park) County Down, Annalong

There are so many amazing walks through the Mourne mountain range in County Down, and sometimes its just hard to fathom how such a vast area even exists in Northern Ireland given the country is so small. When you’re in middle of any of these walks you can see for miles (sometimes without a person, or particularly any sign of civilization, in sight). Which is a fantastic feeling when you just want to get away from it all.

For this route, make your way to the Carrick Little car park which is at the junction of the Head Road and Oldtown Road near Annalong. The Mourne Rambler bus departs from Newcastle Bus station on a regular basis during the summer months for here.

 

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From the Carrick Little car park, follow a clear, stony track that rises gently between the fields. Note the boulder walls alongside. You’ll soon see this old cottage in the middle of a field to your left. I wonder who lived here?

 

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At this point leave the wide trail here and go over to your left following the stone wall that takes you upward to Slieve Binnian (thats it ahead in the picture).

 

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We were lucky with the weather as the Mournes can be unpredictable (bring some suitable gear anytime you visit outside the Summer months). Its not long before you’re treated to a stunning view like this. Thats Slieve Donard in the distance here (just right of center of the picture) the highest peak not only of the Mournes but in the whole of Northern Ireland.

 

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About half way up the climb we veered right (following the wall cutting diagonally right across the second photo above here) as we hadn’t been up this way before, there was a still a reasonable climb (as you can see from the height of the pics) but it wasn’t as exhausting as the climb to the very top of Binnian. We followed the direction of the old stone wall (to the top of THIS climb) and looked across the valley below…

 

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Climbing down from here you’ll come to a massive boulder ahead (dropped by the glacial ice retreat thousands of years ago). And on one edge of a rock you might see this……I shall name him….. Dragonstone haha 🙂

 

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Just below you (beyond the big rock above) you should be able to see this small lake. We descended down to it and admired its peaceful tranquility…

 

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A final look across the landscape of this part of the Mourne Mountains. You could easily spend a week hiking through here. For more information on walking this area see here:   http://www.walkni.com/walks/67/slieve-binnian/

 

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Whitepark Bay, North Coast, County Antrim

White Park Bay (also spelled Whitepark Bay) is a bay and three-mile long beach located near Ballycastle, County Antrim on the north coast along the Giant’s Causeway Coastal Route.

Whitepark Bay hosts a great display of Ireland’s geological past with many fossils scattered at the Southern end of the beach which can be found pretty easily. On the day we were there, we found 7 rocks within 15 minutes containing fossilized remains. The cliffs on both West and East sides of the bay are composed of Upper Cretaceous (Santonian- lower Maastrichtian) chalk. The chalk itself is a form of limestone composed almost entirely of Calcium Carbonate. This chalk formed late during the Cretaceous period, a time when many marine transgressions took place, and much of the continents were under water- as was Ireland. The cliffs at White Park Bay are rich in fragments of the belemnite, a form of early squid. You can spend hours here combing the white beach and examining the little white rocks (the fossils only seem to be in those). The sound is amazing as they roll in and out with the waves.

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The first sign we saw after parking our car in the car park.

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Across the meadow to your left is Portbradden in the distance.

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As you saw on the sign above, this used to be an 18th Century “Hedge School” for young gentlemen. Based on the sign on the building now though, it seems some non-gentlemen damaged it in the past. I’m not really sure however what the sign is referring to (to be honest) as the building looks as if its been a ruin for a very long time. Anyway, you’ll pass it on your way down to the beach.

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More information on this special beach on the North coast

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Reflections of the dramatic Winter sky on the wet sand at Whitepark Bay. Portbradden (again) in the distance.

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The pictures here probably don’t do the place justice, but when the sun comes out, the beach just glows white. And any one of those stones you see here could contain a real fossil.

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This is a picture of a few we took home. Maybe not the greatest fossils ever, but we found these while hardly even looking. And that shell at the back is actually completely fossilized, its solid stone, (even though it looks just like a normal shell). Amazing stuff!

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Youll see this sign as you leave Whitepark. I expect it only means you cant take the sand or fine gravel away (not one of the millions of rocks) as the tourist info for the Bay encourages hunting for them. We cant wait to go back.