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.
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.