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Britain > N.Ireland > Co.Antrim > Ballycastle

A fishing village, market town and seaside resort all at once


Fair Head
Ballycastle Bay
Ould Lammas Fair
The number one reason why people come to this small town is for the views. From this single spot on the Ballycastle seafront, you can see everything the Antrim Coast is famous for.

Admiring the Antrim Coast at Ballycastle.
Photo f_shields
Most noticeable of all is Fair Head, a 200-metre tall cliff 3 miles to the east. If you decide to go in for a closer look, you can join the wandering mountain goats on the "Grey Man's Path", just next to the sea. More ambitious types can attempt to scale the cliff face. This is probably the best place for rock climbing in both Ireland and Britain.

Fair Head from Ballycastle Beach.
Photo Steve Cadman

Climbing Fair Head.
Photo Maniago
According to legend, the name "Fair Head" came from a beautiful light-haired girl, who danced with her man at the top of the cliff. They were so entranced with each other that they didn't notice the edge of the rock, and toppled down to their deaths. As you admire the ocean scenery laid out before you, try not to suffer the same fate.
Another major part of the Ballycastle view is Rathlin Island, the only inhabited place off the Northern Irish coast. Ferries from the harbour make the 6-mile journey in half an hour.

Rathlin Island Ferry
Photo Johnlp
Most other boats dock at Ballycastle Marina. Formerly used for transporting coal, it has more recently become home to pleasure craft, from yachts to fishing vessels.

Ballycastle Marina.
Photo ggjsmith
Just east of here is the Strand, also known as Ballycastle Beach. The spectacular sandy beach forms a white arc between two headlands on the North Antrim coast. In this secluded location, even on a busy day there is plenty of room for quiet relaxation. The beach is backed by ancient dunes that provide a range of rich habitats for bird and animal life. Curious explorers of the shoreline might discover the Devil's Churn, a hole in the rock that connects to the sea. As the underwater tunnel is filled and emptied by the power of the ocean, it spits and growls with menace.

The beach at Ballycastle Bay.
Photo otfrom
Luckily, the rest of town is a bit more friendly. It's a seaside resort, so its streets are full of restaurants, quaint little shops and locally-run B&Bs. The most famous pub is the House of McDonnell, so named because its owners are true descendants of the famous McDonnell clan, a group of fearsome warriors that fought many battles in ancient Northern Ireland.

Ballycastle Golf Club

Ballycastle Golf Club offers a full 18 hole, part links, part parkland, championship course open to both members and non-members all year round. Tel: 028 207 62536
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Another McDonnell legacy is the Ould Lammas Fair, which began in the 17th century as one of their family celebrations. It occurs on the last Monday and Tuesday of August, transforming Ballycastle's usually peaceful streets into a carnival of people and noise. Hundreds of stalls tout their wares to thousands of visitors. The traditional products are "dulse", an edible form of seaweed, and "yellow man", a hard, honeycomb-flavoured toffee.

Ould Lammas Fair.
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Broad
More information on the local foods and crafts is displayed at Ballycastle Museum. The building itself began life in the 18th century, as a courthouse. It sprung up during the town's industrial revolution, when it developed from a tiny fishing port into a hub for manufacture and trade. The museum looks at this change, and the subsequent development in Ballycastle's art and architecture. It's strange that this town, which once changed so quickly in a modernising world, now remains resolutely old-fashioned in the 21st century.
Visitor Information
Ballycastle Tourist Information Centre, Sheskburn House, 7 Mary Street, Ballycastle, BT54 6QH. Tel: 028 2076 2024
Rathlin Island Ferry operates a daily timetable, subject to weather conditions. Return Tickets cost around £10 per adult, £5 children. Ballycastle Ferry Terminal, 18 Bayview Road, Ballycastle, County Antrim, BT54 6BT. Tel: 028 2076 9299

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