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Web: www.walkni.com/Walk.aspx?ID=22680

Start Point:

D175426

Finish Point:

D175426

Route:

Please be aware that sections of these walks are situated near a cliff edge and due care must be taken particularly during windy conditions and in poor visibility.  Weather conditions along the coast can change very quickly - so be prepared.  Although the walks are waymarked it is advised that you equip yourself with a map.  The walking routes pass through areas of open land and working farmland. Livestock may be present and ground conditions are often uneven, wet and mucky underfoot and as such walking boots are strongly recommended.  

The iconic cliffs of Fairhead or Benmore tower above the famous Sea of Moyle where mythology states the Children of Lir, were put under an evil spell transforming them into swans to spend 900 years in exile from humanity. The great cliffs of Fairhead are composed of a rock called dolerite. This igneous rock was born out of volcanic activity some 60 million years ago. The upper half of the cliff is formed of gigantic columns which are up to 12 metres in diameter, some of which are separated from the rest of the cliff but still stand, despite their precarious nature.

All walks begin at the farm car park (£2 per car) clearly signposted off the Fairhead Rd. The trailhead panel in the car park will offer you a number of route choices with loops from 1.5 – 3.4 miles.  Whichever walk you choose to do, be sure to take time to read the hidden interpretation information at each waymarker pointing out important sites of historic and geological interest along the way.

This route description focuses on the Lough Dubh Walk (red loop), a 1.5 mile circular walk taking in stunning clifftop views ending with a pleasant stroll past picturesque loughs and returning via farm tracks.

From the carpark walk along the tarmacked road where you will come across the first point of interest to your left – Doonmore, a grassy summit rising 65 feet above the surrounding farmland where an interpretation panel will inform you of the history and geology of the site. Continuing along the tarmac path you will soon come to a stile with waymarkers on your right.  Cross the stile into open field, which can be very mucky in places and follow the waymarker posts cross country. After a gradual climb it won’t be long until the views of Ballycastle below open up to your left. Taking care following the waymarkers along the cliff edge, the ground undulating below, Rathlin Island will soon become clearly visible to the North. You are now at the closest part of Northern Ireland to the unique island with almost a bird’s eye view of the lighthouses and rocky shores. Not far from Rathlin, the Hebridean Islands of Islay, Jura, as well as the Mull of Kintyre on Scottish mainland echo of the ancient Kingdoms of Dál Riata (Dalriada) and the Ríthe Innse Gall (The Lords of The Isles). These Gaelic kings controlled this sea kingdom for 100’s of years, later becoming Lords of the North Coast and Glens of Antrim. This dynasty was known as Clann Domhnaill or The Mac Donnell Clan.

After crossing the stile on the edge of Loch Dubh (Loughdoo) also known as The Black Lake you will leave the other routes following the red waymarkers east around the edge of the Loch to eventually meet the purple trail (Casan an Loch Walk).  Following quad and farm tracks you will make your way south into the farmyard which you must pass through to return back to the car park.  Please be aware that this is a working farmyard and machinery may be in operation.

Other routes available include:

Casan an Loch Walk (Purple Route) 2.2 miles – Includes stunning cliff top views returning via farm tracks through fields used for grazing.  

An Belach Runda Walk (Green Route) 3.1 miles - Includes stunning cliff top views, returning via open and uneven grassland (map advised) before passing the hamlet of Coolanlough and following minor roads keeping right at the junction to return to Fairhead Car Park.

Loch na Crannoige Walk (Blue Route) 3.3 miles - Includes stunning cliff top views as well as beautiful vistas overlooking Murlough Bay.  The route returns via farm tracks and open land before reaching the hamlet of Coolanlough.  A National Trust Carpark is situated at the hamlet or ‘Clachan’ of Coolanlough along the blue/green route should you wish to use this (see map for details). From here follow minor roads keeping right at the junction to return to Fairhead Car Park and the start of the walk.

Murlough View Walk (Yellow Route) - The most strenuous of the walks with some very steep sections walkers are rewarded with stunning cliff top views including beautiful vistas overlooking Murlough Bay.  Once you reach the large ‘A’ frame stile at the end of the walk there is the option to continue along the public right of way to the picnic area and carpark on Murlough Rd (total route distance 2.9 miles).  Please note this section is not waymarked.  Alternatively you can retrace your steps to rejoin the blue loop (total route distance 4.2 miles) and follow this via farm tracks and open land passing the hamlet of Coolanlough back to your starting point.

Please note sections of all walks listed above pass through stretches of rocky and heather clad ground.

Distance:

1.5 - 3.4 miles

Terrain:

Uneven grasses, bog, farm track

Point of interest:

Views over Murlough Bay and towards Rathlin

Getting to the start by car:

From Ballycastle, follow the A2, turning left at the junction onto Torr Rd, turn left again onto Fairhead Rd. The sign for Fairhead Car Park is clearly signed along this road on the left directing you to the access road to the farm where the car park is situated. Parking is £2.

Facilities:

Numerous toilet facilities, cafés and shops are situated in Ballycastle 5 miles away.

Publication:

None

Nearest town:

Ballycastle

OS map:

Sheet 5

Fairhead

Ballycastle

Enjoy breath-taking views from the cliff edge of Fairhead on this ruggedly beautiful, wild and remote walk.  Expect stunning coastal views towards Ballycastle and Rathlin Island and look down on the picturesque Murlough Bay.  You’ll also pass historic loughs and open green farmland on one of the many walk options which are guaranteed to invigorate the senses.

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