It is a lovely walk for just over 1km between Ballintoy Harbour and Whitepark Bay. Below the cliffs there are several limestone and basalt rocks. Some of the rocks you can climb for a nice view and a few are formed like arches. One of the arches is called Elephant Rock. Crossing the grassland I passed sheep and wild rabbits outside their home. And big waves were rolling in over the cliffs from the sea.
I walked here on the afternoon when I arrived to Ballintoy, but also the next day when I returned by foot from Giant’s Causeway.
The small rocky island off the coast in Ballintoy is named Sheep Island because sheep used to be taken there by boat to graze during the summer. The relatively flat top is grass covered but the surrounding cliffs are steep.
Since 1969 the island has been owned by the National Trust and it is a Special Protection Area with a rich bird life. There is a colony of breeding cormorants and also puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes and many more species.
From the main road a narrow road leads down, past the church, to Ballintoy Harbour. It is a picturesque place below the limestone cliffs. On the seaward side the harbour is protected by big basalt rocks. And in the distance you can see Rathlin Island and beyond that the Scottish coast.
In the small stone house in the harbour you will find Roark’s Kitchen a restaurant/tearoom only open during high season. In May and September it is open only during weekends, but in June, July and August it is open every day between 11 - 19. Unfortunately it was not open when I visited.
Above an old lime kiln there is a picnic area with tables and benches.
Not much remains of Dunseverick Castle. The small ruins are from a castle built in the 16th century, which was destroyed by General Munro in 1642. A tower survived for many years, but it finally collapsed into the sea in 1972.
Dunseverick was for long an important site. Already in 1525BC a fort was built here by one of the Kings of Ireland, Sobairce. In the 5th century Saint Patrick visited the castle several times and in 870 the castle was attacked by Vikings.
The ruins are situated on a rock surrounded by the sea on three sides. Even if the ruins are not impressive the surroundings are beautiful and the history interesting. I passed the site when I walked along the Causeway Walk between Giant’s Causeway and Ballintoy, but at Dunseverick the main road is running very close to the sea so you can see the ruins even from the car or bus.
A couple of kilometres west of Ballintoy is Whitepark Bay. Below the limestone cliffs is an arch shaped long golden beach. It is a Natural Trust beach. Lots of birds and other animals can be seen around it and several traces of Neolitic settlers have been found. It is not good for swimming though as there are rip currents and sand shelves. But it is a beautiful place to walk in. In the north western corner of the beach is the small village of Portbradden where you can see the smallest church on Ireland and above the cliffs there is a hostel. If you walk beyond the headland in the north eastern corner of the beach you will come to Ballintoy Harbour. If it is high tide this way will be blocked.
My first intention had been to walk from Ballintoy to Giant’s Causeway, but someone I talked to, who visits the area frequently, told me it is better to walk the opposite way as you then will have the best views in front of you and not in your back. I decided to do so and it also gave me time to first visit Dunluce Castle.
After breakfast I took the bus from Ballintoy to Portballintrae. The bus ride took 20 minutes an and from Portballintrae it was another 20-25 minutes walk to Dunluce Castle. It was not difficult to find the way, I just walked west towards Portrush. There is no path along the coast so I followed the road.
Leaving Dunluce Castle I walked the same way back to Portballintrae. In Portballintrae I continued to the long beach Bushfoot Strand and followed it to the end where there was a path over the sand dunes and on to Giant’s Causway Visitor Centre (which was not there as it was being rebuilt). The walk from Dunluce Castle to Causeway Hotel took 1 hour and 5-10 minutes and had been very pleasant.
I had coffee and scones at the Causeway Hotel before visiting Giant’s Causeway. Many people advice you to take the cliff-top path to Giant’s Causeway, but as I was leaving that way I took the road leading downhill. After visiting I walked up the Shepard’s Steps to the cliff-top to see the views over Giant’s Causeway. Then I started my walk along the coast.
Until Dunseverick castle the path is following the cliff-top and the scenery is wonderful. As there is no fence and drops can be steep you should not leave the path. I found a nice spot where there was some shelter from the wind where I ate my sandwich and fruit before continuing. At Dunseverick Castle you are close to the road so if you don’t want to continue walking you can take a bus from here, but remember they are not frequent.
From Dunseverick Castle on to Whitepark Bay the path is going past several rocky coves and before Whitepark Bay you walk through a tunnel in the rock. The first part in the bay is rocky with boulders, but then you walk along the 2km long sandy beach. I was a bit worried before coming here that it would be high tide, because at high tide the way is blocked and you have to walk up to the road. But it was fine. From the end of the beach there is another kilometre to walk until you reach Ballintoy Harbour. From the harbour I walked up to Ballintoy village and the hostel, but if you are continuing to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (which I had visited the previous day) you follow the road up to the church and then take the path left of the church.
From the top of Giant’s Causeway back to the hostel it took four hours. I was lucky with the weather, even though it was a bit windy, and it had been a lovely walk.
The walk between Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is 16.5km.
You can find tide timetables here:
A church was founded on this site by the Stewart family who settled in the area in the 16th century. The church was rebuilt in the 17th century and the present church was completed in 1813. There used to be a tall spire, but it was destroyed in a hurricane 1894.
I walked round the church and churchyard, but unfortunately the church was not open to the public when I visited.
From Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge it is possible to walk along the coast for 16.5km to Giant’s Causeway. It is a very scenic walk. But this first afternoon in Ballintoy I only walked from Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge to Ballintoy Harbour, and a little further.
From Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge to the car park it is about one km. Here I had coffee and scones at the Tea Room before walking on. The path starts in the end of the car park, on the cliff top above the old quarry at Larrybane. It continues inland for about a kilometre until you come to Ballintoy church. By the church you go right and follow the road down to the harbour for another kilometre.
It was a lovely walk, the sun was shining and the views are beautiful. From the harbour I walked towards Whitepark Bay, but turned around before reaching the beach.
From Ballintoy Harbour it took half an hour to walk back to the village and the hostel.
Next to the car park is Larrybane Head with white limestone cliffs. There was a quarry hear until the beginning of the 1970s. On the headland archaeologists have found traces of an Iron Age fort from around AD800.The Gaelic name Laragh Bán means Ancient white site.
The Causeway Coastal Path begins here and you can walk along the coast for almost 20km to Giants Causeway.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a 20 metre long rope bridge, 30 metres above the sea, which spans from the mainland to the Carrick Island. The name Carrick-a-Rede comes from the Scottish Gaelic Carraig-a-Rede which means The rock in the road. It refers to the way the migrant salmons take along the coast. To get access to the best place to catch the salmons fishermen have put up a rope bridge here for over 350 years.
I got a bit disappointed when I saw the bridge as I had imagined it to be longer, but the weather was nice and it is a beautiful place, so I was happy anyway.
If weather permits the bridge is open daily:
1 Jan - 27 Feb between 10.30 - 15.30
28 Feb - 26 May between 10 - 18
27 May 31 Aug between 10 - 19
1 Sep - 31 Oct between 10 - 18
1 Nov - 31 Dec between 10.30 - 15.30
Final access to the rope bridge is 45 minutes before closing time. And if there are many visitors there might be a timed ticket system (occasionally) as there is a limited number of people who can cross the bridge at the same time.
Admission was £5.60 (March 2011). Tickets are bought at a reception near the car park. From there there is a 1km walk along the coast to the rope bridge. By the car park there is also a Tea Room and toilets.