THE CASTLE OF KINBANE
* Rotate phone for best view. Click on any pic to enlarge
Portrush, Dunluce Castle, Bushmills, Ballintoy, Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge - as more and more tourists flock here each year, I guess this would be the 'big five' list of places to tick off on the way along our magical north coast.
However, continue on along the coast and you'll come across another (near) hidden gem. Halfway between Carrick-a-rede and Ballycastle, an easily-missable sign with the small print 'unsuitable for coaches' sends you on a narrow road past curious sheep and eventually to a small car park overlooking the North Sea. This is Kinbane Head. Kinbane, meaning 'white head', for the rugged white limestone cliffs that surround the headland.
A couple of recommendations at this point.
If you think it might rain, it's going to rain. Bring a bag with extra layers and something waterproof. Unless it's the summer time - then just bring the something waterproof.
You'll need to have a basic level of fitness for this little adventure. The walk down can be steep in parts and the way back up it feels twice as bad. Down at sea level the damp grass can be slippy, and when exploring the rocky parts, keep an eye on any overeager person or pet - plenty of steep drops to practice their gliding ability.
Safety warnings aside, this place is flipping awesome from the moment you begin the descent down. You'll take a pic, then 10 seconds later realise you can now see more of the sea cliffs and take a better pic. And the views of Rathlin are something else. Expect this to continue for the next hour or so - you'll need time to properly appreciate this place!
Definitely bring picnic supplies or at least a snack + drink to sit and chill for a while - with coaches unable to get down the narrow road to the car park, this place is kept nicely serene.
Once at the bottom of the steps, don't go straight up to the castle. Instead, take the path round to the right hand side and explore that cliff face first. The ruins of an old cottage and pier - once used by local salmon fishermen - add even more character to the place.
Keep your eyes on the water long enough and you might be as lucky to spot some of the local wildlife (click the pic below, you should see the bobbing head of a seal that watched us for a good fifteen minutes).
Head back to the main path again and on up to the castle ruins. More great views again as you make your way further out to the headland. Make sure you've grip on your shoes as the pathway gets narrow with a steep drop down to the sea either side.
IT GETS EVEN BETTER
Spot anything in the 2nd picture above there? Right hand side. Another dark little spot in the water. Dolphin! As we made our way up to the tip of the headland, we spotted a lot of choppy water in the distance - eventually realising that it was getting closer and being caused by a pod of about 20-30 dolphins casually making their way along the coast.
No background music, no filter, lots of wind and 'holy moly' type noises...
Ok, enough reading for now. I'll round off with some pics taken as you look back from the headland - in the first photo you can see the pathway zig-zagging up the steep hill, eventually leading to the car park again over to the top left.
Nearly forgot these two beauties. I'm not a horse-lover (not a horse-hater for that matter), but these guys could be on a horse catwalk they're that perfect. Spotted them on the drive back down the road south of Ballycastle.
Oh and these lads too...