North Coast Dreams (video) Slideshow of the Causeway Coast County Antrim.

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.

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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).

 

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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.

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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/ )

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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.

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The edge of the causeway.

 

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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.

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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).

 

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

Silent Valley Reservoir County Down

Its maybe hard to believe, but Northern Ireland was once short of water so someone decided to build a big storage place to gather all the rain that keeps falling on our heads for 364 days of the year (it seems) and they called it Silent Valley.

Silent Valley now supplies water for most of County Down and Belfast and it was built between 1923 & 1933 using a workforce of over 1000 men – 8 of whom died in the process. Its situated near Kilkeel and the water supply to fill the dam included diverting a river from Annalong which meant they had to tunnel a 3.62km hole through one of the Mourne mountains (Slieve Binnian) which was an amazing feat lit by using just candlelight.

Today, Silent Valley gets 50,000 visitors a year with most coming to experience the stunning views and make use of the many trails and walks around the area. The park has an information centre, a conference centre, and an education centre, all set inside some old bungalows (see below) and there’s a cafe there too. The famous Mourne Wall also cuts through the park which was constructed to mark out the catchment area for the Silent Valley dam. Its maybe not as good as the one in China but its still pretty impressive when you see it fade off into the distance.

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After parking your car (its £4.50 entrance fee for a car full of people at time of posting) you walk along the path before arriving at the information centre above. Nothing too impressive yet.

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Some information on the dam. Apparently the valley used to be called Happy Valley but its not certain why the name was changed (one idea about this is on the sign above). It really is incredibly quiet up there though. Spot the 2 crane flies. 🙂

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Your first view of the dam. The water was below the overflow level on the day I visited which drains excess water off via the circular construction thing you can see on the right of the picture. I’m not sure where the water goes when it disappears down the hole (maybe its how the devil gets his shower water) but if you want to see it in action there’s a small video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxUEfQd4mk4

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The first picture is looking up the reservoir from the walkway embankment. Even on an overcast day like this its still pretty impressive. The second picture is looking across from the left hand side of the water.

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A little bit of back story about the men who built the dam. They even had their own workers village called “Watertown” and you can still see some of the old foundations of Watertown next to this sign.

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There are 5 walking routes around Silent Valley with one to suit every ability. I did the “Mountain Trail” (3.4km) route which is considered moderately difficult but it really wasn’t that bad. It gives good views over the reservoir from the left hand side of the water (as you come in). This picture was taken from near the top of the mountain trail.

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As you descend from the Silent Valley mountain trail you’ll reach the Mourne Wall which usually becomes a feature of many of the Mourne mountain range walks given its meandering 22 miles of length. Its always stunning to see it disappear off into the distance.

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And finally, a little plaque in memory of the 8 men who died in construction of the dam (and one at Ben Crom dam too).

Roe Valley Country Park, Limavady, County Derry

If you venture just a little further beyond the wonderful Causeway Coastal route, heading in the direction of Londonderry, you’ll come to the tranquil Roe Valley Park. The Country Park stands on the outskirts of Limavady, running three miles along the banks of the River Roe. The river plunges through spectacular gorges with banks shrouded in a mixture of woodland. We arrived early in the morning as the winter sun broke through the mist…

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A beautiful winters morning indeed.

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You can walk along one side of the river, crossing over a bridge, then coming back again which is a total of 3 miles. Its all on a flat path so its suitable for everyone.

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The river Roe here is a magnet for salmon and trout fishing.

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Reflections on the water, silhouettes in the mist.

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Such a calm and peaceful place to walk. Theres also a large tearoom near the park entrance to get some refreshments after youve returned.

Helens Bay, Co.Down 10th January 2016

I haven’t posted anything in a while with a few personal things going on, but new year brings new intentions to get things going again, and as ever, the idea is to show just what Northern Ireland has to offer beyond its troubles of the past and its big ship that sunk in the night. There’s much more to our tiny country than those black taxis around tainted murals, or even the wonderful Giants Causeway. Have a look and see what has lay hidden for decades from most travellers eyes, and where most sights are never more than 120mins apart.

All photos were taken with only my Sony compact camera, so my pictures actually are of what you will see (no hyper-realistic SLR pix here as I prefer to show reality). Heres to a great new year of 2016 and I hope it brings each and every one of you much happiness 😀

 

 

HELENS BAY – SEAHILL Coastal path, on the evening of January 10th 2016

 

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The weather in the north of Ireland (in fact all of the UK and Ireland) has been the wettest ever on record this winter, so we’ve barely seen the sun in weeks. Last night however there was a little glimmer of gold as the day began to fade so we went out for a walk along the shores of Belfast Lough and grabbed a few pics.

 

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You cant really see it here, but this is looking across the lough towards Carrickfergus from Helens Bay

 

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A rocky beach between Helens Bay and Seahill

 

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You might just be able to see a little bench to sit on to the left here, but we decided not to given it was very, very cold!

 

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After all that rain, much of the path was muddy and puddled, but it made a nice feature in this picture.

 

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Daylight almost gone now, the last embers of light fading into a January night.

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Kinbane Castle, Ballycastle, County Antrim

Kinbane Castle isnt really a place many seem to know about here, even though it lies between Ballintoy and Ballycastle and is quite well signposted from the main road. We had never stopped here before ourselves and we really didn’t expect much as we pulled into the car park but all I can say is… wow!….. once you discover what this place looks like I reckon you’ll be back. The area is stunning and we were kinda ashamed that some American and German tourists were already here (when we arrived) given we had never even seen the place. Not too much is known about Kinbane, but it didnt last very long after being constructed it seems. The castle was built by Colla of the MacDonnell clan, the clan who also built many other castles and buildings in the area including Dunluce and Dunseverick. The English laid siege to it within a few years of its completion in 1551 as they were getting a bit concerned about the strength of the ruling MacDonnell Clan (and their friendly connections with Scotland just across the water), but the castle prevailed at this point. Another attack took place in 1555 however where the castle was partly destroyed by cannon fire but it was rebuilt afterwards.  The hollow below the castle is known as Lag na Sassenach (Hollow of the English) and it was allegedly during the 16th century that a garrison of English soldiers laying siege to the castle were surrounded and massacred. Fires lit on the headland as calls for assistance were answered by clansmen who came from all directions and surrounded the garrison rolling rocks onto the English below crushing their advances. Game of Thrones for real eh?

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Hopefully you can read the information on the 1st picture here (click for large high def) and this second photo is your 1st glimpse of the castle.

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When you arrive at the castle car park you’re pretty high up, and the surrounding area and views are just amazing. Just look at those cliffs (and the beautiful June weather). Thats Fair Head in the distance btw.

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The view of the castle taken from about halfway down the descent to sea level, and when you reach the bottom you’ll come to another sign with more information and a further sign warning of your possible doom haha (erm, and I wouldn’t take it lightly either, if you’re going out to the end of the headland be very careful!)

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A stunning location for a castle though it was placed here (of course) for strategic reasons. The second picture was taken from inside the tower looking out, and the third picture is of one of the remaining “gun loops” – ie. where they placed the huge cannons (you can see some of the steps down to the castle in the last picture).

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Just below the castle are the ruins of what looks like some old fishery, Im not sure of the history of this, but I expect its a few hundred years old rather than several (like the castle). It provides a nice backdrop to the area however.

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The first two of these pictures were taken from the cliff top behind the castle and in the first one (if you look closely towards the right) you might be able to see some people standing beside the old fishery shown in the pictures above. This will give you a sense of the scale of the place and the heights involved. The people in the second picture are sitting right at the very tip/end of the precipice shown on the third pic. Honestly, this is only for the brave and likely very dangerous in Winter!

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Kinbane Castle, still projecting its dominance 500yrs later. You really should visit here.