Whitepark Bay has a 3 mile long beach sitting on the North Antrim coast. It is a site of special scientific interest (SSI) and has been under the care of the National Trust since 1938. We have visited it on many occasions when we have been in Northern Ireland visiting James’s parents but this was our first winter visit. The car park was unusually quiet.
A path and some steps lead down to the beach.
Walking down we saw lots of rabbit holes and several rabbits. Sheep and cattle can be grazed on the grass behind the dunes in the bay but there were none there on our visit. A notice on the gate said that the Northern Colletes, a coastal solitary bee; can be found here. At this time of year the only flower I saw was a primrose in bud so a bee sighting would be unlikely. It can be possible to see seal pups at this time of year but we did not see any.
The ruined white building is the old youth hostel, the current one sits higher up near the carpark.
The other ruins are the remains of an old ‘hedge school’. This 18th Century ‘school for young gentlemen’ is said to have included on its roll call Lord Castlereagh, for his early education years.
Portbradden sits on one side of the bay and the harbour contains an ancient salmon fishing station. The village is said to have had the smallest church in Ireland. The building in question was constructed in the 1950s as a cow byre but used as St Gobbans Church. It measured 11 feet 4 inches (3.45 m) long, 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) wide. The owner Rev Con Auld was an academic and held services in it but the church was demolished it in 2017 by the new owner after he had retired and sold it.
At the other end of the bay is Ballintoy Harbour which we visited last August. The tide was ebbing and there is a notice warning that it is unsafe for swimming due to dangerous rip tides.
There was a solitary paddle boarder in the water.
The cliffs on both West and East sides of the bay are composed of Upper Cretaceous chalk. The chalk itself is a form of limestone composed almost entirely of Calcium Carbonate. It was formed Late during the Cretaceous period, a time when much of the continents were under water including Ireland. There are several rocks on the beach among the pebbles.
The cliffs at White Park Bay are rich in fragments of the belemnite a relation of the ammonite. I have found a few stones with belemnite fossils over the years and they sit on my mantelpiece at home. My beach combing did not reveal any shells or sea glass.