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Bradshaw’s Guide


A seaport, town in the county of Antrim, situated on a bay called Belfast Lough, or Carrickfergus Bay, Its name signifies the Rock of Fergus, from an Irish chieftain Fergus, who was drowned here. A castle built by the De Courceys, on the site of this fort, still exists, with its two towers, and walls nine feet thick; it commands the harbour below, in which King William landed in 1689, on his Irish campaign. Parts of the town walls are left.

The town was once the principal seaport of the north of Ireland, but its trade has been for the most part transferred to Belfast; the fishery in the bay employs a great portion of its inhabitants, and many others are occupied in spinning and weaving. It is a principal depot for military purposes. Bishop Tennison was a native. Close at hand are Thornfield, P. Kirk, Esq.; Glynn Park, Captain Skinner.

Coast Route to the Giant’s Causeway

To those who have time, a most picturesque tour along the coast from Carrickfergus, about 64½ miles, is recommended. The route is thus divided: Carrickfergus to Larne by road, 12 miles, but 14½ by rail, which is now open; Glenarm, 12; Cushendall, 13; to Ballycastle, 14½; to Giant’s Causeway (near Bushmills), 13 miles; inclusive of walking: round Benmore and Bengore Heads, where the grandest scenery presents itself.

From Carrickfergus to Larne, you leave Glenoe valley on one side, and Larne Lough and Island Magee (belonging to the Donegal family) on the other. The cliffs and caves of the island are frequently basaltic, especially at the Gobbins. The new road begins at Larne, at a ledge, cut or blasted out of the cliffs side, a few feet above the sea, while the old road is 600 or 700 feet higher, and commands a view of the Scottish coast. Off Ballygally Head are the Maiden Rocks and Lights. Cairncastle, up the hills to the left, which are 1,000 to 1,200 feet high. Glenarm, the seat of the Earl of Antrim, head of the M’Donnels, on a beautiful bay at the mouth of a fine glen and a stream from Slemish Mountain (1,451 feet high), and which commands one of the most extensive views of open sea in the United Kingdom. Much lime and stone are sent to Scotland. Then come Straidkelly, Carn Lough (Collin Top to the left, 1,420 feet), Ringfadrock. Drumnasole, (seat of A. Turnley, Esq., the owner,) is here. Naehore Mountain, 1,180 feet, Drumnaul Castle, on Garron Point, whence a noble sea view across to Scotland. Here the road turns to Glenariff, the finest of many picturesque glens opening into Red Bay, so called because of the colour of the sandstone cliffs. Past Clogh-i-Stookan Rock (curiously shaped), the Tunnel Rock and Caves, near Red Bay Castle, to Cushendall and its basalt pillars. Near this are Layde Church, where Ossian, they say, is buried, Court Martinrath, Lurg Eidem, and other haunts of Ossian’s hero, Fin M’Coul, and Trosten Mountain, 1,800 feet high; then Castle Carey and Cushendem House and Bay. Proceeding over the desolate hills by the coast you come to Tor Point, near Cairnlea Mountain (1,250 feet) and Murlogh Bay, where the strata of the Ballycastle coal-field may be noticed, — a mixture of coal, with clay, slate, shale, sandstone, lime, and green basalt or whinstone. Coal is worked here. Here the road turns off to Ballycastle, leaving Fair Head or Benmore Head to the right, a visit to which must on no account be omitted, as the basalt pillars exceed in beauty those of the Causeway. Boats may be obtained by going round Fair Head, if weather permit; but it may be examined, though not so well, by land. The vast basaltic mass is seen resting on an irregular base 300 feet thick, composed of the coal strata, above which it rises 336 feet higher, straight and solid as a wall, though found when examined to consist of jointed pillars packed closely together, some 20 to 30 feet across, and are, as geologists tell us, the “work of internal fires.” Enormous blocks are heaped up round the base of the cliffs. A narrow chasm, called Gray Man’s Path, cuts right through, and makes a rough sloping walk from the landward side down to the beach, with a glimpse of the sea; a broken pillar, like the shaft of a ruined temple, lies across it. Opposite Fair Head, three or four miles distant, is Kathlin Island, with Bruce’s Castle (where he found refuge), hanging over basaltic rocks resembling those on the main land. After Fair Head comes Salt Pans; then Ballycastle, an old seat of the M’Donnels, the Antrim family (the resemblance of the late lamented Earl to Charles the First was proverbially striking), whose burial-place is here, with the Abbey of Bonamargy, founded by them; and Kenbaan Castle, on a singular rock composed of chalk and basalt. The next thing is the famous Carrick-a-rede rock, which stands out 60 feet from the shore, to which it is joined only by a slender rope bridge across the chasm, 80 feet from the water. A fine view from the heights above it. Sheep Island, Ballintry, and Dunseverick Castle follow next, where the peculiar scenery round Bengore Head to Giant’s Causeway begins; but the best, plan is to go on to the Causeway Inn, at the other end of it, a few miles further on, where guides and boats may be hired. Guide, 2s. 6d. a day. It is usual to walk from here along the beach to Dunseverick, and then take the boat back, to obtain the full advantage of the effects. For four miles the coast is a series of little, caves, rugged bays or ports, and picturesque rocks, most fancifully shaped, among which you walk, with a sort of undercliff on one side, several hundred feet high, composed of piles of basalt, mixed with other rocks. Beginning at Port-na-baw, you pass Weirs Snoot, and the Great and Little Stoocans, two heap- like rocks, and turn into Port Gannixy. Then follow Aird’s Snoot, and the Giant’s Causeway, properly so called, — consisting of a low promontory or rocky pier sloping into the sea for 800 or 900 feet, and made up of about 40,000 dark basalt pillars, tolerably upright and regular, mostly five or six sided, whilst some have only three, and others as many as nine sides. They are all jointed, and stand 30 feet, above the beach in the highest part, with an uneven surface 300 feel wide. Here they show Lord Antrim’s parlour, the giant’s gate, parlour, loom, theatre, &c.; then Port Noffer and Sea Gull rock, with the organ in the face of the cliffs, exactly like the pipes of an organ, the Dyke in Port Reostax; the Chimney Tops (three or four solitary pillars over a corner of the cliff), leading into Port-na-Spania, where a ship of the Spanish Armada came ashore, and then another giant’s organ in the cliffs. Then the Horse’s Back and Port-na-Collian, which contains several strange rocks as the Priest and his Flock, the Nursing Child, the King and his Nobles, &c Port-rea-Tobber and a second Sea-Gull island, then follow; the cliff above being called Lover’s Leap. The next and grandest bay and fall is Port-na-Plaiskin, which should be seen from Hamilton’s Seat, 400 feet above, so called from Dr. Hamilton, whose interesting letters from the Northern Coast made the locality known to the world. The succession of pillars and stratifications of the rocks along this remarkable coast are now fully visible. Horse Shoe Harbour, Lion’s Head (a red rock), Benbane Head, the Twins, Giant’s Ball Alley, and Pulpit, follow next; then Bengore Head; the Giant’s Granary and Four Sisters, in Port Fad; Contham Head leading round to Port Moon, which has a waterfall and a cave inside, Stack Rock, the Hen and Chickens, and other rocks, and at length. Dunseverick Castle, built in the 12th century.

Westward of the Causeway, you may visit Port Coon Cave (100 yards long, into which boats can be rowed), the White Pocks, Priests’ Hole Cave, and the remains of Dunluce Castle (formerly the M’Donnel’s seat, on a wild rock cut off from the main land).

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Places nearby

  • County Antrim : Belfast

    This is the great seat of the Irish linen trade, and the capital of Ulster, in Antrim county, at the mouth of the Lagan.