Destination of the Day: Glens of Antrim

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Glenariff Waterfall is at Glenariff forest park in the Glens of Antrim.

Glenariff Waterfall is at Glenariff forest park in the Glens of Antrim.

Each of the nine legendary Glens of Antrim has its own personality. The haunts of champion hurlers and carefree sheep, they spring to life when the sun is low, gashing inland from the north eastern headlands, all sheer limestone, granite and basalt rising from the splashy surf.

The empty and beautiful Glendun is the most splendid of them all. Turn back inland from picture postcard Cushendun and drive under the railway viaduct on a little leafy, round the bend and mind-the-sheep road, red-pasture and rivulet-runny stunning.

Glenariff Waterfall is at Glenariff forest park in the Glens of Antrim.

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The landscape changes suddenly, foxglove hedges and honeysuckle giving way to green valleys. giving way in turn to black brown moors and views to the hills beyond, shadowy and purple.

Each of the nine is worth a small journey cross crossing the hills: Glentassie has a beautiful drive from Ballycastle to Armoy of the Round Tower, Glenshesk is the sedgy Glen, Glencorp, Glenaan of the rush lights, Glenballyeamonn, Glerariff and Glencoy.

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Glenariff Waterfall is at Glenariff forest park in the Glens of Antrim.

Adrian Morrow brings me around the garden centre in the greenest of the nine, Glenarm, the Glen of the waterfalls with its neat village of narrow streets, and famous forest and gardens.

People pay a fiver to see it, the leading horticultural garden in the north, with a famous 300-year-old hedge and the most famous home grown figs in Ireland.

Dunluce touristsIt even bred its own potato, the Dunluce spud. It was thought to be extinct but a couple of years ago they found a French enthusiast who had preserved the strain. The Frenchman very kindly allowed them to take some seedlings back to Glenarm and, a few months later, they gathered expectantly to tuck into the fruit of Antrim ingenuity all those generations ago.

It tasted like soap. “We thanked the Frenchman very nicely for his kindness,” says Adrian.

“And then we forgot about it.”

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Dunluce Castle 001Linzi Simpson hosted us on a tour of the classical Mussendun temple of the Downhill estate, built by Frederick Hervey the famously amorous Bishop of Derry.

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The coastal view under wide skies over Downhill beach and Cúil Dabhcha strand over to Inishowen was breathtaking, all along a blustery the walk with the ruined great house in the distance to the graceful circular temple perched on a headland. It looks like a fort when view from the sea.

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Dunluce Castle

The wind gets high here. You were able to run a coach and four around the temple in former years, nowadays the coast has crept back to its graceful walls and the foundations have had to be reinforced to guarantee another few decades.

In one storm the statue of the bishop’s brother’s head got blown away and was never found.

Glenariff forest park in the Glens of Antrim.

Glenariff forest park.

The day ends with fabulous Guinness onion soup, peppered fillet and sticky toffee pudding at the Bushmills Inn, washed down by Montes Val de Casablanc, which of course was a prelude for the climax of the evening, the dram of Bushmills.

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If you are thinking of a kitchen floor” Tour guide in Dunluce Castle, Hazel Porter, says, “use basalt flags. They last about 400 years.”

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The McDonnell family once owned 350,000 acres stretching from Larne to Donegal. They moved to Glenarm after the disastrous cliff collapse in Dunluce Castle when their lunch disappeared in to the surf one Sunday.

We are indeed standing on amazingly hard wearing stuff, the bit of the kitchen that didn’t fall into the sink. Great views, great location, pity about the disappearing dinner.

“Was it apple crumble” asks one of the party.

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