Walk­ing Week­end

An hour from Belfast, the gor­geous Glens of Antrim carve their way through peaty hills to the Cause­way Coast, where Cushen­dall is perched be­side the sea.

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: DAVE KIRK PA­TRICK

Cushen­dall in the Glens of Antrim.

The ‘Cap­i­tal of the Glens,’ Cushen­dall is a coastal vil­lage in the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty. Three of the nine ‘Glens of Antrim’ meet here (Gle­naan, Glen­corp and Glen­bal­lye­mon), where the ruins of Red Bay Cas­tle loom over the seafront. A short dis­tance away is Oisin’s Grave, a me­galithic court cairn be­lieved to be the burial place of a Celtic War­rior-Poet. Au­gust sees the Heart of the Glens Fes­ti­val, when run­ners race the 3 miles from Cushen­dall to the ta­ble top sum­mit of Lurigethan (1073ft). There are eas­ier ways to en­joy the Glens of Antrim and here are two.

Walk 1 Where to start: Set off for Trostan (the high­est point in County Antrim) from the en­trance to Gle­nar­iff For­est Park, where there’s space for sev­eral cars.

Along the way: The Moyle Way (a 42km trail from Bal­ly­cas­tle to Water­foot) leads to Es­satho­han Bridge – an old rail­way bridge – and shortly, you’ll reach the ma­jes­tic Es­satho­han Wa­ter­fall, mark­ing the en­trance to the for­est. Car­peted in moss and lichens, the an­cient wood­land re­sem­bles some­thing from Mid­dle Earth. It may be mag­i­cal, but the for­est is also very boggy in places. Yel­low rib­bons mark a safe trail through the trees. Even­tu­ally, the route opens onto wild moun­tain­side. A gentle climb across peat bog (char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Antrim Hills) fol­lows fences as nav­i­ga­tional aids, bring­ing you to the sum­mit of Trostan – 550m above sea level. On a good day, you can see the Isle of Man and the moun­tains of Scot­land. In a Nut­shell: A chal­leng­ing walk along an­cient tracks and moun­tain paths.

Walk 2 Where to start: The walk be­gins at the free Laragh Lodge car park near the bot­tom of the Gle­nar­iff.

Along the Way: Fol­low­ing board­walk be­side the Gle­nar­iff River, the route climbs slowly through a mag­nif­i­cent gorge, pass­ing im­pres­sive wa­ter­falls along the way. A set of zig-zag steps climbs out of the gorge and joins for­est tracks lead­ing to the Gle­nar­iff Na­ture Re­serve’s vis­i­tor cen­tre and four named trails. Fol­low­ing the Scenic Trail, the route crosses the In­ver River and climbs to reach the best view­point of the U-shaped val­ley carved out by a glacial ac­tion over 20 thou­sand years ago. Early tourists to this 2900-acre re­serve dubbed it a mini Switzer­land and it’s easy to see why. On a clear day, you can make out Scot­land’s Mull of Kin­tyre from loftier spots in this pho­tog­ra­pher’s par­adise. In a nut­shell: A fam­ily-friendly walk fea­tur­ing wa­ter­falls and stun­ning hill­side panora­mas, with a serv­ing of char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally Ir­ish folk­lore thrown in.

GLIMPSES OF THE GLENS Gle­nar­iff For­est Park (top left), the nearby vil­lage of Cushen­dun (top

right) and the wide, U-shaped val­ley of Gle­nar­iff (bot­tom).

DAVE KIRK­PATRICK is a Coun­try Walk­ing route writer who’s of­ten to be found roam­ing the hills and coast of North­ern Ire­land.

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