This post covers a continuation of my hike along the Causeway Coast Way walking trail, continuing from Ballintoy Harbor toward the Giant’s Causeway. It’s part of my eachtra aisling Éireannach (Irish dream adventure). This section was about 6½ mi long including striking rocks at the water’s edge, a stroll along a sandy beach, and breathtaking views of and from the coastal cliffs. On the GPS track and elevation profile this section was between roughly 3.5 and 10 miles from my initial starting point. In the downloadable WalkNI brochure about the Causeway Coast Way this is all of Section 5 and a portion of Section 4. During this section of the hike there was some intermittent rain.
From Ballintoy Harbor it is about 0.5 mile to the beginning of White Park Bay. In this short section the trail is very close to the shoreline and there is a small cave as well as interesting rocks at the edge of the water, and at least one arch. This particular interesting rock is called Elephant Rock.
In the UK the stile is a prevalent manner of allowing walkers and hikers to cross over a fence without letting grazing animals cross from one field or pasture to another. This example is a ladder type of stile.
After reaching the beach the trail continues un-waymarked, simply along the water’s edge, for about 1.5 miles. Both the beach and bay are quite beautiful. Here is a beautiful view of Bengore Head across White Park Bay. Bengore Head is a dramatic and distinctive headland at the east end of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site.
Brochures about the Causeway Coast Way recommend walking along the beach at low tide. Fortunately, on the day of my hike the tide schedule cooperated with my walking plan! There were several cows near the east end of the beach; I’m not sure what they were grazing on. A bit later, a man was walking two dogs and playing fetch, throwing sticks into the water; the dogs seemed to love it. The beach’s white sand is crossed by several streamlets that were pretty easy to hop across. There were also some interesting small rocks with possibly fossilized shells attached. This cylindrical hole was lined with shells.
At the west end of White Park Bay is the quaint hamlet of Portbraddan, which is, or has been, a fishing village.
In Portbraddan there is a tiny church, St Gobban Church, which is arguably the smallest church in Northern Ireland. It is something like 4 feet by 9 feet and has a capacity of 5 people.
Just past Portbraddan the trail is supposed to go around Gid Point but is marked closed due to landslips and unstable land. It had been suggested to me that it was actually safe to proceed, so I decided to give it a try. The gate with the “closed” sign was unlocked and I actually followed several other people onto the trail. The closed section turned out to be about 0.9 mile. I did get slightly off-trail toward the end and had to climb over a fence or two without a stile, but I made it!
The trail climbs up a bit and passes through an arch. On the way up the slight incline I noticed a quite unusual plant. Each leaf seems to be adorned with a white puff of something. I hope it was a normal part of the life cycle of this plant.
Shortly after the arch there was a small but pretty waterfall cascading down the side of the grass-covered cliff.
I also saw a Eurasian oystercatcher, with its distinctive broad red bill, walking around on some rocks. Then the trail climbed again and I seemed to startle a couple of sheep; I wondered if they were surprised to encounter a hiker.
Toward the end of the off-trail part I was able to see the “closed” sign that marked the other end, and I basically bushwhacked my way to the sign and got back on-trail. After the sign the trail briefly follows a road, then diverges again to pass through the Dunseverick Coastal Grasslands. There was a narrow place between some rock stacks at the water’s edge where several youngsters decked out in wet suits were taking turns diving or jumping into the water. I could barely hear them calling out to each other things like “jump now!”
The next 3 miles or so are along the dramatic coastal cliffs curving northwest past Geerach Point, Port Moon, and Contham Head and leading to Bengore Head. There were wildflowers such as heather, bluebells, and pink orchids here and there along the path. About 1 mile past the closed section, after rounding Geerach Point, there is a nice view along the coastline toward Contham Head. The building near water’s edge is a former salmon fishery. Port Moon is a cove within the larger (perhaps 2½ miles long) curve in the coastline.
Less than 0.25 miles farther the trail passes a small promontory where the ruins of Dunseverick Castle are located. According to history, St Patrick visited the castle in the 5th century AD. Also, one of the royal roads from Tara ended at the castle, making it a so-called key site in ancient Ireland.
Between Dunseverick Castle and the Giant’s Causeway the Causeway Coastal Way is also known as the North Antrim Cliff Path and is maintained by the National Trust. As the path goes along the cliffs the ocean views are balanced by inland views across green pastures.
About 0.6 mile past Dunseverick Castle there was a dramatic view of the coastline looking roughly east, the direction from which I had walked. It was amazing to me, even though I had just walked there, that there was a walking path not far from the water! The small cove in the foreground may be Portnagova.
Perhaps another 0.5 mile farther the path makes its closest approach to Contham Head and turns west. Looking back along the coastline again, there was another fantastic view. The large rock in the center of the picture is Benadanir, and the smaller pointed rock is Stac-na-cuil-dubh, which may mean sea stack with a dark corner (or top). The mountain in the background is Knocklayd, near Ballycastle. And I think the low grassy cylindrical-shaped cliff in the line of sight to Knocklayd is the small promontory where Dunseverick Castle is located.
The salmon fishery is more or less straight down from this location, out of sight because of the contour of the cliff’s edge. From here the path continues parallel to the water for about 0.6 mile before turning west near Bengore Head, where I saw the first formations that I associated with the Giant’s Causeway. This section of my hike was just 6½ miles but packed with interesting sights and dramatic views. The final section of my day’s hike was spectacular in different ways.