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Glenariff forest park in the Glens of Antrim.

Glens of Antrim

Nine Worlds of Magic

Glenariff waterfallFrom the County Antrim town of Larne, rugged cliffs stretch north for 80 miles, broken only by 9 deep green glens, each with its own unique character.   First stop, Ballygally, where, no surprise in a land steeped in legend, the hotel is reputed to have a (friendly) ghost.

Winding on past spectacular scenery, solve the mystery of the beech maze at Carnfunnock Country Park. Splash down at the beaches of Ballygally, Glenarm, Carnlough, Cushendall or Cushendun. The Glenarm Estate is certainly worth viewing on its open days. Not far inland is Slemish Mountain, where St. Patrick tended sheep as a young slave.

The coast road becomes even more tortuous, but the views of Scotland are worth it.  Glenariff, Queen of the Glens, is fairest of them all with the wild beauty of its waterfalls and trail skirting a sheer plunging gorge. (Glenariff Forest Park)

Cushendall, capital of the Glens, is a lively centre of music, dance and craic. Next stop is Cushendun, a National Trust Preserved village, famed for its Cornish cottages.

Dare you venture further? Whichever route you take, thrills await.  White-knuckle cliff road skirting remote Fair Head, or inland to Ballycastle across the mysterious 'vanishing lake'; watery grave to coach and horses way back when.

The Glens are equally famous for their festivals, exemplified by the Heart of the Glens festival at Cushendall in August, where everyone sings and dances from morning to night, and vice-versa.  Not to be outdone, Glenarm, Carnlough and Cushendun have festival weeks in July. 

The Glens Translated

The names of the Glens evoke their history and features.

  • Glenarm - glen of the army
  • Glencloy - glen of the dykes
  • Glenariff - glen of the plough
  • Glenballyemon - Edwardstown Glen
  • Glanaan - glen of the little fords
  • Glencorp - glen of the dead
  • Glendun - brown glen
  • Glenshesk - glen of the sedges (reeds)
  • Glentaisie - after Taisie, princess of Rathlin Island. 

A Guide to the Glens of AntrimDownload A Guide to the Glens of Antrim PDF (4.1Mb)

Glens of Antrim Cycle Route

The route begins at Ballycastle with the roads rising into steep glen country before becoming gentler once the top of the Antrim plateau is reached. Cycling east from Ballycastle into Ballypatrick Forest is a relatively demanding ride but the roads are quiet and the scenery marvellously forested.

Look out for the Vanishing Lake which is signposted and close by the roadside. The descent into Cushendun provides miles of downhill freewheeling - check your brakes!

The twin villages of Cushendun and Cushendall nestle into the hilly coastline and provide good provisioning stops before you climb back into the heart of the Antrim Glens from Cushendall to Armoy. Look out for fairy mounds and hills - ancient neolithic burial grounds, sometimes topped with a perfectly round copse of trees.

Torr Head route: Only seasoned cyclists should attempt the scenic route from Ballycastle to Cushendun via Torr Head. This is possibly the most dramatic coastline in Ireland. Roadside fuchsia hedges towering ten feet high, dry stone walls, isolated hill farms and cliffs which tumble down to the Irish Sea where it meets the Atlantic make for a very satisfying cycle. Road very winding and steep in places. First gear is definitely required. Very little traffic.

You can take your bike on the ferry from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island, a great cycling location as there are hardly any cars. Advance booking is advisable and return ticket for a cyclist and bike is £10.40. Tel: (028) 2076 9299. Alternatively bike hire is available on the island from Soerneog View Hostel Tel: (028) 2076 3954.
To visit the RSPB seabird viewing facility on the west end of the island ring in advance Tel: (028) 2076 3948.

46 miles OSNI 1: 50 000, sheet 5 <P>
Terrain Rating 5
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