We picked up the Antrim coast road at Larne a busy port for Ferries and gateway to the causeway coast and Glens of Antrim. The spectacular Antrim coast starts at Larne (A2 North) all the way to Ballycastle. The road is well signed and on its route you will be treated to amazing views of the blue Atlantic, pass through scenic villages, dense woods and sometimes-serpentine lane width roads rimming cliff tops that plunge into an incredibly deep blue sea.
We had visited the Giants Causeway the day before and our destination on this leg of the coast was Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge. The start of the famous nine Glens of Antrim begins at the 12th-century village of Glenarm. Each of the nine glens were named in ancient times, Glenarm means Glen of the army its castle is the ancestral home of the Mac Donnells who retreated here from Carrickfergus, the 15th earl of Antrim still resides here and its 800 acre park is open to the public, but being out of season we carried on along the coast way past Carnlough (where Winston Churchill once owned an inn) to Glenariff. Glenariff dubbed Queen Of The Glens is known for its waterfalls, forests, and drop-dead scenery.
We stopped in the tiny village of waterfoot and bought provisions for a picnic its beautiful crescent shaped beach edged with Dunes was a perfect spot. The soft sandy beach was almost deserted apart from two people digging for bait worms. This is definitely an area of outstanding beauty and is well supplied with picnic tables; toilets and four signed walking trails through Glenariff Forest (1-9k lengths). The village itself is more than pretty the wide streets and pastel painted buildings appear as if they belong on a movie set. Many tourists visit the Queen Of The Glens Forest Park we didn’t visit the forest but I bought postcards and on them its waterfalls appear to be impressive.
Continuing this coast drive, the seas on one side and towering cliffs on the other we certainly felt we were traveling in paradise and the next village of Cushendun clinched that image. Cushendun is just a short detour off the A2. Clough Williams-Ellis designed the fantasy village in Portmerion in Wales older readers might remember the 1967-8 cult TV series “The Prisoner” featuring Patrick Mc Goohan. Williams designed Portmerion on the scale of a tiny Italianate Mediterranean village.
After moving to Cushendum Williams Cornish wife became homesick and so he set about creating architecture more to her tastes. The rugged whitewashed cottages were built around 1912 and remain in good shape mainly because the village is now owned by the National trust. Williams also designed Lord Cushenduns house, however, that building is now a nursing home and not open to the public. We drove through the village and past the cottages the dull gray skies threatened rain and so we didn’t linger.
Our route from Cushendun to Torr head was hardly wider than a country lane and a switchback, however, it was one of the most scenically stunning drives we have ever taken in Ireland. Torr head was once a strategic signaling and lookout station for transatlantic shipping. Now the old signaling station (first century Fort site) is a shelter for sheep and a wild sea continues to rage around its headlands. From its summit you have splendid views over the Scottish coast and offshore to the east you can see Rathin Island and over to the Mull Of Kintyre. There are also a few passage tombs that once again were well hidden; these megaliths were first erected in Ulster 4.000-6.000 years ago despite their presence on the information board at Torr head we could not find one. The coastguard houses beside the parking lot were abandoned in 1920 but this is still a popular salmon fishery. During late spring the nets are stretched across the bay to catch the spawning fish they can be seen clearly from the coastguard station. This is a do not miss spot for scenery.
We continued along the road past lovely Murlough Bay to Ballycastle and Carrick a Rede. (See entry Rope Bridge.) We finished our lovely day with a short walk around Ballintoy’s picturesque harbour.