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County Antrim
Ballycastle Harbour - - 468327.jpg
Ballycastle Harbour
Grid reference: D115407
Location: 55°12’18"N, 6°15’29"W
Population: 5,089  (2001)
Post town: Ballycastle
Postcode: BT54
Dialling code: 028207
Local Government
Council: Causeway Coast & Glens
North Antrim

Ballycastle is a pretty village or small town on the north coast of County Antrim. It is at a tip of the coast, at the northern mainland limit of the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Rathlin Island lies offshore here and the Mull of Kintyre in Argyll is clear away in the sea.

The Ould Lammas Fair is held each year on the last Monday and Tuesday of August. Ballycastle is the home of the Corrymeela Community. Ballycastle was named the best place to live in Northern Ireland in a list compiled by The Sunday Times in 2016.

Places of interest

Breakers on Antrim Coast, with cliffs of Fair Head
  • Fair Head, Ballycastle's headland rises 640 feet out of the bay. Goats roam the rocks beneath the cliff tops, where a walkway called 'The Gray Man's Path' winds around the coastline. From the road, a man-made Iron Age island or crannog can be seen in the middle of a large lake.[1]
  • Knocklayde, a heather-covered mountain with a height of 1,695 feet, is crowned by Carn na Truagh (the 'cairn of sorrow'), and has views over Ballycastle, Rathlin Island, Fair Head, Kintyre and the Hebrides.[2]
  • Glentaisie, the most northerly of the Nine Glens of Antrim, lies at the foot of Knocklayde mountain. It is named after the Princess Taisie, the daughter of King Dorm of Rathlin Island. According to legend, Taisie, renowned for her great beauty, was betrothed to Congal, heir to the Kingdom of Ireland. The king of Norway also sought her hand in marriage, and when he arrived to claim his bride, her wedding celebrations to Congal had begun. The king and his army tried to capture Taisie, but in the subsequent battle he was killed, and his army fled leaderless and empty-handed.
  • The Carey, Glenshesk and Tow Rivers flow down from the glens into the Margy River. It then flows into the Moyle Sea at the start of the Strand.[3]
  • The Strand's Ballycastle Beach is designated a Blue Flag beach.
  • Pans Rocks, which are the remains of an iron salt pan lying at the far end of Ballycastle Beach, jut out into the sea and are used as a location for fishing.
  • The Devils Churn, lying just beyond Pans Rocks, has steps carved into the stone leading to an underwater tunnel.
  • Clare Park on Clare Road, was an estate owned by the then-local landed gentry, the McGildownys. The 17th-century house has been pulled down but it was set in a site high up on the Antrim coast.
  • A cycling route runs from Ballycastle to Cushendun, by way of Torr Head, from which the North Channel can be seen. Also used for inshore sea fishing, Torr Head has a coastguard station, which was built on and out of the remains of Dunvarragh, the fort of Barach.
View from the Rathlin boat
  • The Corrymeela Community (a Christian organisation promoting peace and reconciliation, founded in 1965) is based at Corrymeela, just outside Ballycastle.
  • Overlooking the harbour, there is a monument to Guglielmo Marconi whose employees made the world's first commercial wireless telegraph transmission between Ballycastle and the East Lighthouse on Rathlin Island.


Ballycastle has numerous churches. The most prominent of them are:

  • Holy Trinity (Church of Ireland) standing in the Diamond and Grade 'A' listed. Completed in 1756, it was built and paid for by Colonel Hugh Boyd in Graeco-Italian style with an apse-shaped chancel, and an octagonal spire about 100 feet high. It was effectively a chapel for the Boyd family and its estate for many years. The remains of many Boyd descendants are in the vaults below - although it was always subject to Episcopal jurisdiction. It was given to the Church of Ireland in about 1950.
  • Ballycastle Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in Ireland) stands in Castle Street. It has a distinctive round tower.[4]

About the town

Rathlin Island Ferry, Ballycastle Harbour
  • Bonamargy Friary is off the Cushendall Road on the approach to Ballycastle and is a late Franciscan foundation established in 1485 by Rory MacQuillan. Locked vaults hold the remains of the celebrated chieftain, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and several of his descendants, the Earls of Antrim. The Friary's most famous resident is the 17th century prophet and recluse Julia MacQuillan: known as "The Black Nun", she wished to be buried at the entrance of the chapel so that she might be trodden under the feet of those who entered. A round holed cross marks her grave.
  • Kinbane Castle stands situated on a headland projecting into the sea, about 3 miles from Ballycastle on the road to Ballintoy. Originally a two storey building, it was built in 1547 by Colla MacDonnell, who died within its walls in 1558.

Transport links

A ferry, currently operated by the Rathlin Island Ferry Company, runs between the town and Rathlin Island as part of a lifeline service. The ferry service to the island was formerly operated by Caledonian MacBrayne.

Ferries formerly sailed between Ballycastle and Campbeltown in Argyllshire, but the service was suspended in June 2002. Today a passenger ferry service to Campbeltown has resumed, operated by Kintyre Express, sailing Friday to Monday during summer months and on Mondays and Fridays during winter months.[5]

Ballycastle railway station opened on 18 October 1880, but was closed on 3 July 1950. It was on the Ballycastle Railway, a narrow gauge railway which ran 17 miles connecting Ballycastle to Ballymoney station, on the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway (BNCR), later Northern Counties Committee (NCC) and now part of Northern Ireland Railways.

Parade disputes

In the past, there has been unrest during Orange Order parades in the town. In 2001, there was serious public disorder at the 12 July parade. As a result of this, the Silver Plains flute band from nearby Moyarget, was banned from marching in the town due to allegations of sectarian conduct and paramilitary trappings.[6] The North Antrim Orange Order held their annual parade in the town in 2006. Following discussions between residents, the Orange Order, business owners, and Sinn Féin the parade passed off without incident.


  • Bowls: Ballycastle Bowling Club, at the sea-front
  • Football: Ballycastle United F.C.
  • Gaelic Games: Ballycastle McQuillan GAC
  • Golf: Ballycastle Golf Club (an 18-hole championship course)[7] The course is one of the four courses played each June in the world-renowned Causeway Coast Golf Tournament.[8]
  • Tennis

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Ballycastle)