This small resort is located in the far northeast of the Irish mainland and at the most northerly point of the Antrim coast. Ballycastle’s main attraction is its wild and windswept beach, with lovely views along the coast to Fair Head. At one end is an area known as Pans Rock, the remains of an iron salt pan used by fishermen, and just beyond that is the Devil’s Churn, with steps leading down to an underwater tunnel. Ballycastle’s big event of the year is the Ould Lammas Fair, which originated in the 17th century, and which is the subject of a ballad by John Henry MacAuley, a sculptor by craft. The first line of the ballad tells how “At the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle long ago I met a pretty colleen who set me heart a-glow”. The Fair is held on the last Monday and Tuesday of August.
On the way in to Ballycastle by the road from Cushendall lie the ruins of Bonamargy Friary built by Rory MacQuillan in 1500. 88 years later the friary was seized by the rival MacDonnell clan. Many of the features, including a cloister, altar and burial vault, are still relatively unscathed, although the roof is missing. The friary is the last resting place of several Earls of Ulster and of Sorley Boy MacDonnell. The friary is easily accessible from the road, free to enter, and there are information boards for visitors, who can also enjoy the lovely surroundings, including a golf course.
Map of the area.
Pan's Rock, Ballycastle beach. Photo by Anne Burgess, via Wikimedia Commons