Wednesday, 13 December 2017


Looking at the map of County Antrim to the north of Whitehead you will notice what looks like a lobster claw stretching northwards to just across the way from Larne and almost enclosing Larne Lough.  This is the peninsula known as Islandmagee, a strip of land characterised by quiet villages and beautiful coastline inhabited by seabirds such as Kittiwakes and Guillemots.

The eastern coast of Islandmagee is the most dramatic, since it faces onto the Irish Sea.  In 1902 a local civil engineer, Dean Berkeley Wise, opened The Gobbins Cliff Path, stretching for nearly 3 miles and following the line of the limestone Gobbin cliffs, over 200 feet high in places.  The path became an instant hit with tourists but fell into disrepair during World War II.  Now there is a Visitor Centre where supervised cliff walks can be booked, with safety helmets provided.  The walk, as well as being spectacular in itself, offers wonderful views across the sea to Scotland.  Would-be visitors reading this during this month of December should note that the path is now closed until April 2018.

At the northeastern end of the peninsula, near the village of Mullaghboy, is the delightfully named Portmuck, reached by a steep, twisting road.  Do not be put off by the name though, as this is a beautiful spot with a bijou little harbour sporting lovely views of the Antrim coast.  The National Trust, who manage this stretch of coast, have come up with a couple of walking trails for visitors to enjoy.  For further information follow this link.  A tombolo, or sandbar, links the peninsula to Muck Island, although access is forbidden due to it being a nature reserve.  Portmuck used to be the haunt of smugglers, and a reminder of this time is a 'horse cave' where smugglers used to hide their horses. At the northernmost tip of Islandmagee is Skernaghan Point, which can be approached via a walking trail.

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The Gobbins. Photo by Giorgio Galeotti, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 4 December 2017


Whitehead, on the north shore of Belfast Lough, is a small seaside town midway between Carrickfergus and Larne.  The town was originally called Chichester, and the ruins of Castle Chichester, built by Sir Moses Hill, are still on view in Chester Avenue.  The town became a railway town during Victorian times and its attractions include a Railway Museum which tells the history of trains in Ireland and which, judging from the comments on TripAdvisor, is a hit with visitors whether or not they are into trains.  The famous Portrush Flyer steam train is on view there.  The local Golf Club has a restaurant with fine views over the area.

There is a lovely walk leading from the Boat Club in Whitehead to Blackhead and its lighthouse, taking in habitats such as the woodland known locally as the ‘Magic Forest’, although walkers should be aware that some of the path around the lighthouse itself is reportedly closed for maintenance.  The lighthouse, perched on a cliff at the northern edge of Belfast Lough, was built in 1902 and was manned until 1975.  There is a wide variety of birdlife in the area, Belfast Lough being managed by the RSPB.

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Photo by Albert Bridge, via Wikimedia Commons