CHASING WATERFALLS AT GLENARIFF
Hey fellow NI adventurers!
My name is Alex and much like yourself, I’m an avid explorer of this island.
I write a wee blog called The Full Shilling where I share my own adventures here in Ireland (and abroad when I get the chance!). Through my writing and photography I try to show off this patch of land as best I can. Andrew, my forever travel partner, is usually there with me…but mostly behind the lens as he’s a bit shy himself!
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Recently, Andrew and I booked an impromptu overnight stay up on the Antrim coast.
Now, weather in NI can be unpredictable at the best of times, but in early November it can be even harder to judge if a weekend will allow for a good adventure.
Last Friday night was no exception, as gales battered the car while we determinedly drove up north towards Ballygally Castle; our cosy shelter for the night.
We had planned to hike the Waterfall trail at Glenariff Forest Park the next day - about 30 minutes’ drive away deep in the Antrim Glens.
However, as we sprinted from the car to the hotel to avoid being completely drenched, it was safe to say our expectations were fairly low!
Ballygally Castle may only be a half hour drive from Belfast but with so much history in its walls, it feels like it’s a world away. Built in 1625, parts of the original castle are still intact - it even has its very own ghost room at the top of the old tower!
For the very brave you can stay in one of the tower suites right below the famous ghost room all of which are named after one of the seven Antrim glens. These rooms are proudly named as the oldest in Northern Ireland so we were lucky enough to stay in the Glencoy room with views over the beach and a little window snug - perfect for curling up with a good book.
The hotel gave us everything we needed for the night; a big comfy bed, delicious food and the sound of crashing waves to lull us to sleep.
When we woke the next day (a little later than usual thanks to the bottle of scrumptious Merlot), we discovered a completely different world to the one we fell asleep in.
Blue skies and screeching seagulls welcomed us outside but not before wolfing down a hearty breakfast before our waterfall hike.
Breakfast is hosted in the beautiful Garden rooms…
…which you enter through a door that looks like something out of a story book…
Or a TV show…
The much-coveted Game of Thrones door, one of only 10 in existence, was made from two of the ancient ‘Dark Hedges’ trees (after they fell during a violent storm in 2016).
This door depicts the even more violent battle between House Stark and House Bolton in season six of the series, a scene that really makes you ready for your breakfast, right?!
ON THE ROAD
The drive from Ballygally is truly breathtaking, with windy coastal roads taking you through pretty villages like Glenarm and Carnlough. These are great spots for a stretch of the legs and a wee peak at Scotland in the distance.
The next town, Waterfoot, is where you swing a left inland and start the climb to what feels like Jurassic Park. Ancient ferns curl out almost brushing the car, and at this time of the year you’ll see waterfalls flowing right out onto the road in front.
Look back you and you’ll get a glimpse of the whole glen rolling down to the Irish Sea (obviously don’t do this if you’re driving though, OK?!)
The forest park will be on your left where you can park the car for £5. If you don’t fancy shelling out for parking (or like us on the day, forgetting to bring cash) you can park out on the main road and walk the few hundred metres to the start of the Waterfall Trail.
TO THE WATERFALLS
The trail is easily marked; the red-arrowed signs will keep you right.
At just under 3km it’s super-easy to dander along, although there are some steep steps that can get a wee bit slippery from the mist of the waterfalls.
Definitely bring footwear with a decent grip!
As you begin the climb down, you will start to hear the roar of the first (and tallest) of the waterfalls. Lichen and moss adorn the forest walls and floor and the mist begins to pick up.
A bridge carries you right in front and while it might not be quite the size of Niagara, it is certainly beautiful.
This time of year is perfect, especially after a period of heavy rain when the river is high and the sound even more ferocious!
We followed the golden-leafed path alongside the river on to the next waterfalls that were just as beautiful and completely devoid of other people.
We stood watching the river pour itself out on to the rocks for minutes, completely hypnotised by the sound.
Once you get to the final waterfall you have a few options.
You can follow the path alongside the river that will take you up towards the manor house and then on to the carpark. Or, for the truly adventurous, take a left over the bridge to the scenic trail. This is for those who crave a little bit more of those glen views and at just over 9km you better be sure you’ve the energy for them!
Today though, our hooves were a little tired, so we followed the river up the hill towards the forest and into the pine trees.
As we were under the forest canopy and making our way back, I noticed Andrew starting to stall a little…which I didn’t really think much of at first.
He then asked me to hold the camera for him - I just assumed that maybe he was ready to be in front of it for once!
After almost reaching the top of hill and feeling a little breathless, he let out this nervous laugh and told me he had a question to ask me.
Turning round I saw him getting down on one knee and…
Yes folks, Andrew asked me to marry him!
Of course I said yes as quickly as I could get the words out, not bothering to look at the ring at all (forgive a girl, she was in shock). It was stunning of course and we were overjoyed as we dandered back to the car, leaving a memory of a lifetime behind among the sound of crashing waterfalls and falling leaves.
Thanks for reading!
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