Ballycastle, County Antrim

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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: 028
Local Government
Council: Moyle DC
North Antrim

Ballycastle is a small town on the north coast of County Antrim. The town has a beach, and views across to Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre in Argyll. The town is at the northern mainland limit of the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Ballycastle is famous for its Ould Lammas Fair, which is held every year on the last Monday and Tuesday of August. Ballycastle is the home of the Corrymeela Community.

A ferry runs from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island. Until 2002 a ferry ran between Ballycastle and Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula of Argyll. The service has never been resumed, in spite of expressions of political intent.

Places of interest

  • Fair Head is Ballycastle's most outstanding landmark rising 643 feet out of the bay. Goats can be seen roaming among the rocks beneath the clifftops, where a walkway called 'The Gray Man's Path' winds around the rugged coastline. From the road, a manmade Iron Age island or crannog can be seen in the middle of a large lake.
  • Knocklayde, a massive heather covered mountain (1,695 ft) crowned by Carn na Truagh (the cairn of sorrow). Easily climbed, just off the Moyle Way footpath. Gives extensive views over Ballycastle, Rathlin Island, Fair Head and Scotland.
  • Glentaise, the most northernly of the Nine Glens of Antrim, lies at the foot of Knocklayde mountain. It was 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 were underway. The King of Norway and his army tried to capture Taisie but in the subsequent battle he was killed and his army fled leaderless and empty handed.
  • Carey, Glenshesk & Tow Rivers flow down from the glens then eventually join together into one river. This is known as the Margy River which flows into the Moyle Sea at the start of The Strand...
  • The Strand (Ballycastle Beach) continues to hold a European Blue Flag. The award is given on the basis of cleanliness, environmental awareness, management and service to name a few of the 28 criteria.
  • Pans Rocks (the remains of an iron salt pan) is at the far end of the beach which, jut out to the sea and are a popular location for fishing. They are easily accessible by a footbridge. Look out for the face carved in the rock! Some say its the face of a man carved by a woman who was forbidden to marry her true love. Others say its the face of a priest who drowned in the Devils Churn.
  • The Devils Churn is just beyond Pans Rocks. Steps have been carved into the stone to an under water tunnel. The sea floods and empties the tunnel hypnotically making a thunderous eerie noise.
  • Clare Park on Clare Road, was an estate owned by the then local landed gentry, the McGildownys. Sadly the 17th Century house has been pulled down but it was set in a spectacular site high-up on the Antrim coast. Worth a visit to see the views.
  • A popular cycling route runs from Ballycastle to Cushendun, by way of Torr Head, offering spectacular views and scenery. From the road above Torr Head, the whole of the North Channel) can be seen. A popular spot for inshore sea fishing, Torr Head has a coastguard station, which is notable in that it was built on and out of the remains of Dunvarragh, the fort of Barach.
  • The Corrymeela Community (a Christian organisation promoting peace and reconciliation, founded in 1965) is based at Corrymeela, just outside Ballycastle.
  • The Cellar Restaurant - "Ballycastle's best kept secret". A restaurant tucked away below street level in Ballycastle's Diamond. Well renowned for its seafood menu.


  • Church of Ireland:
    • Holy Trinity: situated in the Diamond and, like the rest of the Diamond, grade 'A' listed. The church was completed in 1756, being built by Colonel Hugh Boyd, who bore the total cost. It was built 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 & 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. This church is open every day from 9am-5pm.[1]
  • Elim Pentecostal Church
  • Presbyterian Church in Ireland: Castle Street, which church has a distinctive round tower.[2]
  • Roman Catholic: St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s [3]

Buildings of note

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 the earls of Antrim. The Friary's most famous resident is the 17th century prophet and recluse Julia MacQuillan. Known as "The Black Nun", it is said that 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 is situated on a headland projecting into the sea, about 3 miles from Ballycastle on the road to Ballintoy. Originally a two story building, it was built in 1547 by Colla MacDonnell, who died within its walls in 1558.


Bus services in Ballycastle are operated by Translink.

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 Argyll, but the service was suspended in June 2002 until further notice.

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.


  • Golf: Ballycastle Golf Club has a full 18-hole, part links, part parkland, championship course. It is one of the four courses played each June in the world renowned Causeway Coast Golf Tournament.
  • Football:
    • Ballycastle United FC compete in the Michelin-sponsored Ballymena and Provincial Intermediate League with a reserve team competing in the Michelin sponsored Ballymena and Provincial Junior League. Moyle FC recently merged with the team.
  • Bowls: Ballycastle Bowling Club (outdoors) is based at the sea-front.
  • Tennis: During the Summer the town hosts two tennis tournaments[1]
  • Gaelic sports:
    • Hurling
    • Gaelic football (Whitehall/Leyland Road)


Outside links