Go Walk: Glenariff, Co. Antrim
Glenariff, Co. Antrim
Start point: From the Ballymena bypass take the scenic A43 Ballymena to Waterfoot road. You reach Glenariff Forest Park (entrance on the right) after about 12 miles.
Once, when I casually questioned what year Jedward won that X Factor thing, a stony silence filled my living room. Later, inquiring casually which one was Jed and which one Ward sent the room temperature immediately to zero. So I cared little for these animated, psychedelic twins until, by chance, I discovered they have been sentenced to write for a newspaper.
Now when I’m struggling to meet a deadline after most sane people have long departed for the pub, I empathetically imagine two fellow prisoners, hair limply deflated while valiantly battling to force obstinate words do their bidding. This makes me feel better as does knowing that – unlike the extrovert, singing duo – I enjoy some great outdoor experiences before I write, like when recently I headed north to embrace a queen.
Lured by the promise of Ireland’s finest family of waterfalls, I departed the tearooms carpark on a beautiful May morning and into the arms of Glenariff, the queen of the Antrim Glens. At first, the trail took me down towards the Glenariff river gorge and then upstream through pleasant woodlands soothed by the musical accompaniment of hurrying water. Crossing the park entrance road I ascended steeply on an obliging woodland trail with sublime views unfolding to the dramatic escarpments for which Glenariff is justifiably famous and that moved the writer Thackeray to dub the area “Little Switzerland”.
The path now undulated upwards above the Inver river with vistas to the great sweep of the Antrim plateau and beyond to the ancient Sea of Moyle where the Children of Lir reputedly spent 300 years having been transformed into swans by – yes, you’re right – a wicked stepmother.
The waterfalls were rather disappointing, however, and nothing special in terms of either height or volume.
On reaching open moorland, a footbridge carried me over the head waters of the Inver with plenty of evidence remaining from the glen’s mining past along with more waterfalls that the essayist, Dr Johnson, might describe as “worth seeing but not worth walking an hour to see”.
Now, footing it upwards to the walk’s highpoint, I paused to savour the dreamy views to Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre before descending slowly on a long switchback track that proved the least interesting part of the walk.
Eventually, re-crossing the Inver by a footbridge, I swung right and descended to traverse yet another bridge just above where the Inver and Glenariff rivers coalesce.
Here, the well-appointed Laragh Lodge restaurant proved too much temptation and I stopped by for a coffee before continuing upstream along the banks of the Glenariff. Amid a startling intensity of colour, the pleasant realisation now dawned that I had kept the best wine till last in the form of a sublime river gorge accessed by a stout wooden walkway.
Understanding now why Glenariff is justifiably famous for its cascades, I passed a couple of tumultuous waterfalls before reaching the finest of the lot, the great double dip of the Ess-na-Larach or Mare’s Tail Falls.
Here I re-crossed the Glenariff and continued upstream on the wooden walkway past more waterfalls before traversing another footbridge. After a short loop through broad-leaved woods, a final bridge crossing deposited me back on the left bank from where a short pleasant walk returned me easily to the tearooms carpark.