If visiting Ireland for the first time you have the usual famous sites, The Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, Bushmills Distillery, The Dark Hedges, Titanic Quarter in Belfast and Carrickfergus Castle and a tour of the ‘Causeway Coastal route’ but if you are here for a few days you might want to take a closer look around ‘home’ and enjoy the local sites and friendly community…….
A visit to the village of Cushendall would not be complete without a trip to ‘McCollam’s Pub to enjoy a pint of their Guinness and have the opportunity of hearing some Irish Traditional music (usually a Friday or Sunday evening). There is always a bit of ‘craic’ at all times and with its unique traditional setting and friendly characters it is worth a visit. Above the pub is Upstairs@Joes, as well as providing excellent food it also offers cookery schools over the winter. A good ‘alternative night’ out and guaranteed to be great craic. Also across the road is ‘Harry’s’ which also offers a superb menu at reasonable prices, either Bar food downstairs or book a table in the restaurant upstairs. The Golf Club’s chef, Dermot in ‘The Lir Restaurant‘ has the best view in Cushendall providing both Bar Snacks and restaurant meals. Visitors are always welcome. Check Opening hours and booking is advisable. The local men (or women) are known to order a carry-out in ‘Ken’s Chinese‘, the ‘Peppermill‘ or ‘Frankies’ which usually takes 15 mins, this gives them time to ‘juke’ out for a quick pint while the cooking takes place! The Peppermill also provides an excellent sit-in facility with BYOB (bring your own bottle) ideal for families, ‘girls night out’ or a ‘don’t feel like cooking’ night! If you have children you can enjoy a dander across the beach to the park, or continue on to the Cottage Wood where there are picnic tables and two play parks. You might even be lucky enough to see some red squirrels which are unique to the Glens area.
There are many beautiful walks in and around Cushendall but one which is a ‘must’ is the Cliff Path. This outstanding leisurely walk is roughly a three mile return trip. It starts at the beach, up the lane behind play park. Turn right at the corner and continue along the cliff edge, enjoying the stunning views towards Scotland and over the Bay to Glenariff and Cushendall. This beautiful walk along this path leads you to ‘Layde Church’. A tranquil setting where you can enjoy the peace and quiet and visit the ruins of Layd Church, one of the oldest and most historical sites in the Glens – often known as a Franciscan Monastery. You could then continue on over Layde to Cushendun or take a left at the fork on the road and follow the road up over ‘Ballybrack’, take a left and this brings you down High Street back inbto the village. If you are a keen walker – ‘Walks the Glens‘ run their annual weekend festival at the start of June each year with a range of walks to suit all abilities.
Another lovely walk is along the bottom of Dalriada, through the caravan park straight across the main Coast Roads and turn left at the junction at the top, continue along this road and straight down the lane towards Waterfoot, which brings you on to the main Coast Road again you can then decide if you wish to continue on to Waterfoot and take a dander across their beautiful beach or turn left at bottom of lane and back to Cushendall.
Glenariff Forest Park, situated about 5 miles from Cushendall, can be entered at the main entrance on the Glenariff – Ballymena Road where there is a large car park, cafe and range of beautiful walks which take you through the forest and down to the waterfalls. The Forest Park is a designated National Nature Reserve which offers a selection of impressive waterfalls and also is the habitat for red squirrels. There is a picnic area at the main top area and caravan park. The Laragh Lodge at the bottom end is a licensed restaurant where you can enjoy a meal, light snack or coffee/beer. Why not take a few hours, park your car and walk from one to the other and enjoy a ‘comfort break’ before making your way back again to the car park. Small children, babies or less able? …My advice if you want to see the waterfalls, park at Laragh Lodge and take a dander behind it, a large waterfall is situated close by for you and the family to enjoy and take photos.
Cushendun is the next village to Cushendall (6 miles) – owned by the National Trust. It is a quaint little village with a lovely beach, car park and picnic area close to the river. Park your car, enjoy a dander along Cushendun beach (either along the sand or the grass area). The National Trust have their own coffee shop where you can enjoy a coffee or lunch. Opposite is ‘McBrides Pub’ which is another traditional pub with the ‘Little Black Door‘ Seafood restaurant. Of course a visit to Cushendun wouldn’t be complete without a photo with the local goat, both the sculpture and the ‘real thing’ against the river background. You can also visit the Cushendun Caves which have now become famous by the ‘Game of Thrones’. While leaving Cushendall to visit the Giant’s Causeway, take the turn-off for Cushendun, and if you are brave enough you can take the coastal scenic route over ‘Torr Road’ to Ballycastle.
Carnlough (about 10 miles) has a beautiful picturesque harbour. Take a drive around the coast and stop to enjoy an ice-cream or fish & chips while taking in the activities around the harbour. Visit the ‘Londonderry Arms Hotel’ or ‘The Glencloy’ for a drink, a relaxing coffee, bite of lunch or dinner.
Glenarm (3 miles further round the coast) enjoy the Glenarm Castle Gardens and Glenarm Castle Coffee Shop. There are lovely walks around the Castle and through the forest or ‘people watch’ at the small marina at the seafront.
Alternatively head towards to Broughshane which is famous for its flowers and stop off at the Halfway House for a bite of lunch.
There are plenty of options to choose from and one is as nice as the other – just personal choice.