While in Northern Ireland to visit James’s parents we took some time out to explore a little of the nearby coast. Glenarm Castle has quite a traumatic history. The McDonnells came to Glenarm from Scotland in the late 14th Century when John Mor MacDonnell married Marjory Bisset, who was heiress to the Glens of Antrim. They first built Dunluce Castle and then Glenarm. The first castle was situated where Glenarm village is now. The one on the present site was built in 1636 by Randal MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim in 1636. Six years later it was burned by a Scots Covenanter army who were attacking the Royalist McDonnells. It remained ruined for 90 years. The Antrim estate covered 330,000 acres of the county and the family built a wing onto the ruin to live in when they were visiting. In 1756 it was rebuilt along with the lime tree avenue and the gardens. In 1813 other changes were made including a Barbican gatehouse. In 1929 a fire devastated the main block and the following reconstruction was not thought to be very good, having lost some of the original features. The 13th Earl of Antrim married a professional sculptor in 1939 and she added sculptures and decorations. Another fire in 1967 destroyed a wing but the old kitchen survived as the only room in continuous use since the 18th century. The garden opened to the public in 2005 after restoration. The castle remains private and hidden by trees from the garden. As it was coffee time we stopped for one at the tea room which is in what was the old mushroom house. On our exploration of the gardens, we first passed the Potting Shed which is a cafe with outdoor seating and a stage.
The first part of the garden was the vegetable garden which had a wall covered with fig trees.
We then wandered around the 4 acre walled garden which was built in the 1820s.
There are several sculptures including this one
and a woodland walk behind.
Closer to the entrance are several shops and a mini Landrover riding field for children. Current businesses on site are an organic salmon farm, organic shorthorn beef herd, farming and hydroelectric enterprises. On leaving Glenarm we headed down to the coast road where there are views over the bay and harbour.
We then continued northwards through Carnlough and stopped for lunch on the Garron Road.
The coast road was constructed to provide relief work during the Great Famine of 1845-1848. Many abandoned cottages are left after the mass emigration. After the plantation: tenant farming families had very small portions of land, barely enough to sustain them and the famine finally finished their time here. At Cushendall we had a wander along the beach
and the harbour
where Mallard ducks were sleeping
before an ice cream at the Corner House Inn. We noticed that many of the hedges in the area are made of fuchsia, a South American plant. It provides shelter for livestock and some insects including the Elephant Hawk Moth feed on it. Heading towards Torr Head, we stopped at Coolranny which overlooks Loughan Bay.
The woodland gorges and hills are owned by the National Trust and there are views over to Kintyre 12 miles away; Sanda Island and Ailsa Craig. We will be in Kintyre and closer to the islands in September on our next van trip. Torr Head has a Coast Guard station built in 1822 which was a signal station for shipping.
In addition to some street art
you can climb to the top of the building for views all around.
The large, ruined building on the road side was accommodation for off-duty coast guards. The station was burnt down by the IRA in 1922 who thought the British forces might use it as a base and was then abandoned.