Local knowledge: Co Antrim Glens and Coast
Where should you go? We ask the locals
NORA BROWNE, retired farmer and keen baker from Tonduff, close to the Giant’s Causeway
Have tourists always been drawn to your area and where do they stay?The area has always attracted tourists. I live in a wee hamlet, which had about eight or nine houses when I came here 55 years ago. There are a few cottages and holiday homes with one room still left from those days. The local tourist board runs them now and one is called Hunter’s Cottage, which is a lovely self-catering house with great views. We’re about a mile-and-a-half in each direction from the beach. There’s a very good bus service that passes here every hour or so, and there’s also a coastal and rambler bus. So, if you don’t have a car you can go from here to anywhere.
Where do you go for a stroll?I was out along the Tramway this morning, which is an old railway line at the Giant’s Causeway. I used to walk a lot on the roads but not as much lately as, to be honest, it is not that safe, so I wouldn’t recommend it. I’d prefer to take a bus to Ballintoy and take a stroll along the harbour there between the causeway and Ballycastle.
What is it about the Giant’s Causeway that attracts you to it?I still go walking down there. I think for me the beauty is in its simplicity. It is all about nature and it wasn’t destroyed. The National Trust has done a good job. You’ll see no wee houses here, there and everywhere. I know you have to pay to go into the centre, but that is just progress and it is not near the actual causeway. You can walk around the causeway and it will only cost the price of the bus.
Where do you suggest for food or drink?The nearest place to our area for a decent bite is the Giant’s Causeway. For a drink, I guess Bushmills, which is only about 3.5 miles away. Ballintoy is the same distance.
What about a swim?In Dunseverick, there is a little pool there and it is very well attended on a good day. It is a hole in the rock really, as we call it, and it is where I, and many more, learned to swim. People still swim there in big numbers.
You are a keen baker I’m told – so where can visitors sample your produce?It’s too late for this year, but I attend a vintage rally every year and I do it for the church. I never make any money out of it. The rally is on at the beginning of June. There are regular car-boot sales at Dunseverick every month and it is a big thing with lots attending. I sometimes help out at that and sell my baking.
Soda bread and pancakes are my speciality and I like to make them the old way. Thankfully, I have a few daughters now so I’m glad to hand it on.Where to go, see and stay
WHERE TO VISIT
The Dark Hedges are a section of trees in Armoy, south of Ballycastle, where you can capture natural beauty at its finest. International photographer Jim Zuckerman described the beech tree avenue as one of the most beautiful roads he has ever seen. It is worth visiting at any time, but locals advise that just before dark is particularly atmospheric.
Ballymoneyis home to two open farms at Finvoy and Leslie Hill, where children can meet the animals and have a fun day out. Finvoy is just outside Ballymoney, and only open on Saturdays for July and August. It includes an indoor play area, duck pond, water slide, straw barn and pedal carts. Entry for an adult and child costs £10, while pony rides will set you back £2 a go. See finvoyfunfarm.co.uk.
Not too far away, also in Ballymoney, is Leslie Hill,which includes a good example of an 18th-century garden and house, as well as horse rides and a decent cafe and picnic areas. It opens Monday-Friday, 11am-5.30pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 1pm-5.30pm. lesliehillopenfarm.co.uk
WHAT TO EXPERIENCE
For those keen to try their hand at pottery, mosaic or printingwhile on holiday, local teacher Susan Francesca Hunter provides bespoke half-day and evening courses in her design studio, again just outside Ballymoney. 00-44-775-1175096, susanfrancescahunter.com
John Bustard, part-time lecturer, sports instructor
If it is raining, where is a good place to take the kids?Locally, we would go to the library in Portrush as there is a great book section for kids and they are very welcoming there. If we had a few bob, we’d take a wander up to the little play area indoors in Portrush also.
Which is your favourite beach?Even if it is raining, we’ll just put on the wellies and go for a walk along Runkerry strand. It is so wild and is a bit quieter than other tourist spots.
All our beaches, from Ballycastle to Portballintrae, are quiet.
We often go to Whitepark Bay. It is stunning. There’s a youth hostel at the top, and you get a lot of colourful people staying there.
In terms of active outdoors sports, what’s available locally?I instruct for surfsupni.comand we were the first paddle boarding school in Northern Ireland. We offer instruction for beginners and are guaranteed to get everyone to stand up after the first lesson. Paddle boarding is a new sport but where you get the same exhilaration of surfing but as a more relaxed experience.
You can get in and around the shore on the boards and it’s great for all ages.
There are so many water sports up here. A new initiative is the Portrush pass, and this basically gets you a host of active experiences at a discount.
It also includes things like free coffee and ice cream, and can be picked up online or at surf shops.
What about the Glens area? I’m helping Glenarm village with a tourist trial at the moment. It is a stunning village. It’s very picturesque and right at the gateway to the Glens, if you’re coming from the Belfast side. It is a lovely first stop-off and after that there are so many places.
My other favourite is Torr Head and in and around that peninsula. These are wild and open places with views over to Scotland.Social media recommends
Best place for food is the Bushmills Inn. It’s also near the Causeway/Rope Bridge so you could be a bit of tourist beforehand!
You have to go to Glenariff National Park. Absolutely beautiful and cute restaurant in the forest at the end of the walk.
Ballintoy is just beautiful and there is a little harbour-side coffee shop that does lovely light lunches. The Ulster American Folk Museum is superb to visit, as is the Bushmills Distillery and obviously the Giant’s Causeway.
Check out the #brighterbushmills project. It has transformed the Moyle village and is an inspiration for others.
Bushmills Hotel is good for food. Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge are worth a visit and the drive from Cushendall to the coast is nice, too.
Next week We will be looking at Co Wexford, focusing on the coastal area. If you have recommendations, drop us a line before Friday. Twitter: @oconnellbrian Email: brianoconnell@ irishtimes.com