To witness the drama of Ireland’s Causeway Coast and Glens is to walk with the ancient spirits of its deep glens and experience a unique blend of majesty and sheer beauty. You won’t just walk or drive through this land: you will take a journey of the spirit.
And when you have wondered at the unsurpassed natural dramas of the Causeway Coast and Glens, from the golden sands to the purple-browed hills, you’ll find they are matched by the man made glories. Heritage, culture and visitor attractions abound. Ancient castles brood, their stones remembering long gone nights of feasting and days of treachery and slaughter. Crumbling church ruins testify to the births, the marriages, the deaths of generations forgotten, their joys, their struggles. Romance is in that pure air.
If you’re looking for contrasts, the attractions of the past are well matched by sporting, leisure and fun activities, by fabulous unspoilt beaches stretching endlessly, traditional family resorts, bustling and sophisticated towns with shops and restaurants for all tastes and pockets.
The Causeway Coastal Route is a kaleidoscope journey of natural wonders, peppered with villages and towns which have retained character and charm over the generations. Each have their own stories to tell of myth and history.
Travel to the busy commercial centre and ferry-port of Larne which is regarded by many as the gateway to the Causeway Coast and Glens. Then turn towards Glenarm, a pretty village at the mouth of the first of the Glens, which bears the same name. You are now entering an area where fairies and folklore are not to be dismissed: they still have mastery of the Glens!
Famed in legend and a million songs, each of the nine glens has its own distinct character and charm. Their very names conjure up ancient mysteries. Glenarm – the glen of the army (Glenarm Castle is the seat of the Earls of Antrim, one of the ancient feudal landowning families), Glencloy - glen of the dykes, Glenariff - glen of the plough, Glenballyemon – Edwardstown Glen, Glenaan - glen of the little fords, Glencorp - glen of the dead, Glendun - the brown glen, Glenshesk -glen of the reeds and Glentaisie - after Taisie, princess of Rathlin Island. (Try challenging locals how many they can name and translate: you may win or lose the bet, but your audacity will almost certainly engage you in some great conversations!).
Magnificent Glenariff, with its stern high cliffs and tumbling waterfalls is known as the ‘Queen of the Glens’. Its upper reaches also embrace one of Ireland’s great forest parks with a network of scenic walks by tumbling rivers and panoramic viewpoints.
Take the opportunity to divert inland through the flower filled village of Broughshane, and clamber up Slemish Mountain, where St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, is said to have tended livestock as a slave boy in the 5th Century.
The town of Cushendall, the ‘capital of the Glens’, with its unique town-centre tower house is well worth a meander, before moving on to Cushendun, a relaxing ‘time-capsule’ village of pretty Cornish-style cottages owned by the National Trust.
The narrow road from Cushendun to Torr Head is a switchback that scenically is one of the finest sections of coastal road in Ireland. Torr Head itself is worth a brief diversion for its great seascape views before heading on, by lonely and lovely Murlough Bay and behind the massive ramparts of Fair Head, to Ballycastle.
If you have the nerve for it, take your courage in your hands and cross the amazing Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge as it swings over an 80 foot chasm. Ballintoy Harbour, reached by a steep windy road is a painter’s paradise and the start of the 15-mile Causeway Coast Path, (one of Europe’s great cliff-top and wild beach walks).
Then on to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Giant’s Causeway, an iconic symbol of the region and one of Ireland’s major visitor attractions. A wonderful honeycomb of almost 40,000 mainly hexagonal columns packed together from the cliffs right down and into the sea, this is a sight not to be missed and never to be forgotten. The natural grandeur of the rock formations set against the sea creates stunning views, while the story of the giant Finn McCool who allegedly made the Causeway as a road to meet a Scottish enemy is sure to delight.
From Bushmills, the home of Ireland’s oldest whiskey distillery, established in 1608, the road runs by the magnificent cliff-top castle of Dunluce and then to the traditional resort towns of Portrush and Portstewart, with their magnificent Blue Flag beaches, hotels, amusements and stimulating night life, the fun venues for generations of people from across the North of Ireland and well beyond.
Returning on to the Causeway Coastal Route, head towards Limavady, via Castlerock. Look out for the glorious Mussenden Temple, the clifftop folly said to have been inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Rome. Drive down to Downhill, Benone or Magilligan, leave the car for a while and just walk. These are wonderful windswept and dramatic beaches, great stretches of unspoilt coastline, so long that you will often find yourself quite alone - and at one - with nature.
For more information visit: http://www.causewaycoastandglens.com
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is exactly what it says it is: a precious landscape with a distinctive character and natural beauty so outstanding that it is in everyone’s interest to safeguard it. Special legislation in the UK ensures that these areas are protected for the enjoyment of future generations. Designation seeks to protect and enhance natural beauty whilst recognising the needs of the local community and economy. This includes the protection of flora, fauna and geological as well as landscape features. The conservation of archaeological, architectural and vernacular features in the landscape is also important. There are 47 AONBs in the UK and 3 of these sit within the Causeway Coast and Glens region, making this area and the Causeway Coastal Route, one of the World’s Great Road Journeys:
Antrim Coast and Glens AONB: The area is dominated by a high undulating plateau cut by deep glens which open north and eastwards to the sea. www.antrimcoastandglensaonb.ccght.org;
Binevenagh AONB: It includes dramatic cliffs and headlands which have given the AONB its name and some of the finest beach and sand dunes in Ireland. www.binevenaghaonb.ccght.org;
Causeway Coast AONB: 18 miles of spectacular coastal scenery of dramatic cliffs and headlands broken by the wide sweep of fresh sandy beaches backed by dunes, including the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site. www.causewaycoastaonb.ccght.org.
The Causeway Coast and Glens region has been awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas under the EUROPARC Federation. The Charter will aim to improve the sustainable development and management of tourism within the Causeway Coast and Glens region.