A memorable trip indeed with the Milton Mountaineers. The walking was as much about the tranquil and unspoilt beauty of the Nine Glens of Antrim, as the Causeway itself, impressive, wild and extraordinary though it is. Coastal walking with cliffs, beaches, waterfalls, coves, rocky headlands, ancient history, friendly pubs, this place delivers!
I stayed in B and B’s in the lovely coastal villageof Cushendall, on the north east coast of Ireland, complete with old prison tower, river, beach and cliffs. We walked about 50 miles in all, about 10 miles a day, and here are some highlights.
Day one, Fallowvee, Galboly robbers village, then a wild moorland lake, a deep gorge with a 60ft waterfall. Introduction to the largest peat bog in Northern Ireland – say no more, I’m just glad we went the dry side of the lake.
Day two, Lurigethan, forest walking and a long, long ridge overlooking the Queen of the Glens, Glen Arrif. Lunch on the Bronze Age fort mounds. Skylarks and sheep. And careful route finding through the bright yellow, very prickly, coconut smelling gorse. We listen to ‘The Green Glens of Antrim’.
Day three, Sallagh Braes, striding out accross the clifftops and moorland, wide open grassy paths, occasionally engulfed by the vast blanket of cold sea mist. More lovely skylarks. A friendly village pub in Glenarm to finish.
Day four. Carrick a Rede rope bridge, wild, wet and windy. Coastal walking to the Giants Causeway, deciding against the 164 step descent from the cliff in torrential rain, the legend of Finn McCool (I have work to do on the Scottish and Irish accents…I know) and the striking volcanic rockscape. A bank of wild orchids.
Ray finds the guitar in Joe’s bar and the songbooks come out.
Day 5, my favorite walk Murloch bay and Fair Head, the Grey Man’s path, lunch the ruined miners cottages, beach, waterfalls, wild garlic. Much more sunshine than showers. More singing at Joe’s. American tourists are thrilled?bemused?appalled? at our rendition of America! Terry gives us hilarious and memorable poems, Spot of the Antartic and Titanic. Any news of the iceberg?
Day 6, some visit Bushmills whiskey distillery, and some wander around the waterfalls of Glen Ariff. A final evening tackling the towering mountains of delicious food at Harry’s. Then homeward bound.
And finally, my thoughts on leading a group of visually impaired people. Yes, they are definitely VIPs. I wondered if I might have to allow extra time to cover the ground. Not at all, they walked at a great pace. Would they be able to negotiate the barbed wire fences I had been warned about? Easy. What surprised me? The totally positive attitude from all. The thoughtfulness and friendliness and generosity of the sighted guides. I learned to describe what I could see along the way, and that ‘over there…’ is pretty useless, ‘100 meters away on your right’ is better. I noticed lots of detail on the walks I might otherwise have missed, particularly birdsong and smells. I looked out for stuff with an interesting texture or story.
My week with the Milton Mountaineers may not have been to the most dramatic location when compared with other trips I lead, but it rates for me among my favourite leads to date, and I do hope the plans come together for a trip to the Lakeland ridges next year. Thanks all, it was a joy.