My three days in Ballintoy sped by, leaving no time to explore the beaches further along the coast. Just a sneak peek from the roadside…
I’d got drenched the evening before here, but I was back, a bit earlier. The place is mesmerising.
You can’t come here without wondering about Fionn mac Cumhaill at some point. For some he’s just a legend. For others he is legend, and is still around here somewhere, sleeping, waiting.
It was a short walk from the road, and not a long drive from Dunluce Castle, but the name of the place escapes me. The rocks were slippery and I was hobbling around in pain with a recent injury so didn’t venture further downstream where the more exciting views were to be had.
There was an Old Man of Dunluce, Who went out to sea on a goose: When he’d gone out a mile, He observ’d with a smile, “It is time to return to Dunluce.” Edward Lear, More Nonsense, Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, Etc. (1872), limerick 12
If I’d got to the Dark Hedges pre-dawn as intended, they might have appeared as dark as their name suggests. But the light-coloured beech trunks and even just a hint of morning sunshine made this tunnel of trees a fairly light and airy one, not spooky at all.
Spookier is the fact that the number of trees has practically halved since they were first planted in the late 18th century, some through storm damage, but also as the flux of visitors has intensified.
Early one morning looking out from Ballintoy towards Sheep Island, I wondered how the island got its name, since it has no sheep, and doesn’t look like a sheep, but apparently has a lot of cormorants and other seabirds. Mind you, as for everywhere else around here, a nice wool jumper would definitely come in handy if you were ever to go there (unlikely, since it’s uninhabited, and a Special Protection Area), even in summer.
The Seabird Centre at Rathlin West Lighthouse, whose light flickers in the distance, has plenty of birds too, including the tiny puffins that people love to photograph. But the puffins had all gone by August. The tourists and seagulls certainly hadn’t.
But back at the port it proved fairly easy to find a quiet place for a restorative cup of tea (or was it a late afternoon gin?) and an even quieter spot a short walk away to enjoy the peculiar mix of sunshine and ominous clouds to be had around these parts. Far too hot for a wool jumper on Rathlin Island that day, while we heard that it lashed buckets in Ballintoy all day.