Ireland Day 4 – It’s a long way to Balleycastle
It’s another sunny day in Ireland – or at least right now it is. We are supposed to see storms this afternoon. So with a quick breakfast of oatmeal and toast – even though our host Ian felt we needed a full Irish breakfast of 2 eggs, side bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, mushrooms, soda bread, granary bread and oh yea – white and black pudding (which is white pudding with blood added in to give it color). This along with coffee or tea would be considered what breakfast should be.
Chung and Monica had arrived the evening before to start the same walking vacation we had. They are a father and daughter who have 7 days to hike so have cut out the Rathlin Island trip. Very nice people from Washington DC, with Korean and Irish backgrounds. We had some good talks last evening about hiking different places, and things we like to do – as well as what we would do if we could run our countries – ha ha that was interesting.
We had our bags already packed and Ian had them loaded in the boot (trunk) of the car already, so once we were done, we grabbed our packs, tied our boots and headed out. Chung and Monica started where we did yesterday, and we went a little further down the road to start at a location called Orra Beg, which is within the Sleiveanorra Forest. Our walk today is 21 kms long.
We are still travelling on the Moyle/Ulster Waymarked Trail, and we climbed over the stile and headed north on the forest road towards Breen Forest. This is a nice packed road that follows the contour well for about 2 kms
and then we walk alongside the forest in a semi-swampy area heading downhill towards Crocknasskista Burn River which is a deep gorge between the two hills.
Had some confusion at this point as it appeared the trail went across the creek (was a marker further on) but also one on the road. So we decided to follow the road one and in a short while found another so we were on the right track. Couldn’t go wrong anyway as we had to keep the river on our left side and follow it all the way to the next corner – which was another 3 kms. Along the way we passed old dwellings made of rocks that has some partial walls standing, with one having a grave piled high with rocks behind the building.
These date back quite a few years. At one point there is a sign marking “McQuillon’s Grave which was where he fell after being defeated at the bloody battle of Orra in 1559.” Not much to see here other than a flat stone sticking out of the ground beside the creek.
After passing this spot we came to a rather large dwelling beside a large maple tree.
This brought us to a gate and a bridge over the Glenshesk river. This was where the hike got interesting.
The Way now went uphill across the contour lines and you know what that means. Hill – or should I say HILL. On our map contour lines are every 10 metres – we have 14 of them between the bridge and the next trail – do the math – that’s 140 metres (or for the old schoolers 455 feet of elevation) up in 1 km (and no I didn’t pass that bit of info on to Connie). This was a straight up walk between two rows of planted trees. Dry for the most part, but that didn’t ease the strain on the various leg muscles. Thank God there were lots of viewpoints (ie rest stops) on the way, and especially at the top (always have to ask yourself as you climb whether the view will be worth the climb).
Got lots of good pictures and as the day was still clear we could see all the way down the valley to the ocean and Rathlin Island. Real pretty, with lots of farms separated by hedgerows (rock piles with trees and shrubs growing in them) and sheep pretty much scattered through all the fields. So for me the view was definitely worth the climb. Connie can give her view later.
We were now joined up with the Breen Forest Trail, and decided it was a good time for lunch. The sun was out and it was warm so we unzipped the bottoms of our pants and were in shorts for the first time in Ireland. That felt good. Sat down and ate our sandwiches, fruit, cheese and juice then headed out again.
We are not quite done half of our walk and still have just under 2 kms to go yet (to the halfway point). The forest road within Breen Forest is an active logging road. We passed a few logging areas and they were an absolute mess (to me at least) with ruts everywhere and lots of material left in the cutovers.
I guess when you don’t have a lot of trees, and don’t log much, there is little chance to get people to do it the right way. We continued walking along the road, which twisted back and forth down the hill – remember the hill we climbed up? – well we had to go all the way back down to the bottom on the other side. Just before the corner we veered off the road to a “standing stone” which was a large rock standing in a field.
These are dotted all over the landscape and we are not sure if they were significant areas, or markers for early settlers to follow. We arrived at the end of part 1 of today’s walk (8.7 kms or 5.4 miles) by meeting up with the main highway B15. In total time we had walked about 4 hours so far.
We were still wearing our shorts, and the wind was really picking up. We decided the prudent thing to do was to suit up with our rain gear as the storm we were promised looked like it was coming in full force. We didn’t even have time to pick up our packs after getting our gear on before it started to rain – actually it was more like ice pellets – and rain it did. Good thing for good gear and Gortex boots. There ain’t no water on us.
This part of the trail follows a paved road that does eventually get to Ballycastle, but we will only follow it for 4.5 kms or 2.8 miles before turning into the Balleycastle Forest.
While it is a paved road, the walking is not a walk in the park – it is a rolling road that follows the terrain up and down along the hill. This is dotted with many small farms, stone houses and barns, newer buildings, lots of sheep, some cows and even a pig in one yard. No dogs to bother you anywhere (we only saw one and it was a border collie that was just sitting in the driveway watching us walk by).
At the junction to Ballycastle forest we stopped at a picnic table to orient ourselves with the map,
and to look at the next leg of our trip – this one being 4.8 kms or 3 miles – and according to our information packet “at the junction where the track turns right and left, keep to the right and continue to the summit” – you know what that means – another hill to climb. This one while a gradual climb in some areas is continuously climbing and we go up another 50m or 162 feet of elevation. At the top is an area cleared of trees so the view shows Rathlin Island (bigger than our last view) and the Mull of Kintyre ( a large cliff that is actually in Scotland).
From the summit the Moyle Way now goes downhill – and I mean downhill – it is pretty much straight down for the balance of the walk.
This is a hill where your calves are complaining and your toes are jammed into the front of your boots. Not bad for a while, but a little tedious after an hour. Not much to see on this stretch as there are trees and shrubs on both sides. Near the bottom the trail winds around some farms and ends after we pass under a stone arch/bridge with a gate. Maybe there is a toll to get out? We turn left on the other side of the bridge onto Fair Hill Road (narrow road with row houses). We follow this up to the top of the hill into the Diamond (town center square) turn right onto Ann and stop in a few stores looking for lithium batteries (don’t have any). As we step into the first store it starts to pour outside. After a few stops we finally find some batteries and head on down Ann Road to Quay (read Key) Road to our home for the next 2 nights – Fragrens B&B in Ballycastle.
Feels good to be done the long days hike. Arrived just after 5 pm so have been walking for about 7 hours straight. Some sore muscles, feet and glutes (those are butt muscles). Valerie Green is our host and she shows us to our room – #1 – we’re number 1, we’re number 1 – OK it has been a long day.
Got some advice on where we could have supper, so we changed and walked – yes walked again – to a restaurant called Cellar Restaurant which was back at the square. http://www.thecellarrestaurant.co.uk/
The meal was fabulous and likely the best we have had so far in Ireland. Very nice atmosphere, friendly staff and the food arrives well presented on the plate, hot and delicious. We declined coffee and dessert.
On our way back to the B&B, we decided to head down to the waterfront so we could see where we needed to go in the morning to catch the ferry to Rathlin island (Ok – I thought we should go, but needed to do some persuading as you can imagine). Walking after a long walk is good to keep your muscles loose right? Had a nice walk down, and on the way back it started to rain and we saw a full rainbow right over the harbor. One end was actually touching the water – but guess what? – no camera!!!! Went back to our B&B and grabbed the camera but the rainbow had moved over the island and we couldn’t see the bottom anymore – so we missed the pot of gold this time.
And from Connie
This was our first really long hike – 18 kms. We started out on a forest road through the bush which was really nice and easy walking. The smells this morning were wonderful. So clean and fresh. We then went into the bush where the path was a little harder to see but still not too bad. Then out into the hills where the battle of Orra was fought in 1559. There is a lot of history here. Walking here was awesome. Seeing all the old settlements here made me imagine what life would have been like back then.
Obviously the builders knew what they were doing because some walls are left standing straight as when they were built (and no building codes or inspectors!).We saw an unmarked grave and the grave site of a guy named Macuillan. He died in the battle of Orra. We then crossed over a wooden bridge and went up a hill, a really, really, big hill. A foot doesn’t seem like much until you put 450 of them together! The only good thing I can say about this is when you get up this high the scenery is lovely.:)
We had our lunch at the top of the hill. That’s how Barry kept me going ha ha. Bribed me with food at the top. We continued on a forest road which was a very easy walk. There were a few more hills along the way. Walking along a road and then through a forest again. By the last 2 kms my legs were screaming at me to stop but we plodded along until we got the Balleycastle. The B&B we stayed in here was really nice. Having never stayed in them before I would highly recommend them. We ate at a restaurant called The Cellars and I had the best food since we’ve been in Ireland. It was amazing.
Off to bed to give my body a much needed and deserved rest