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Magnificent, at times sinister, Dark Hedges are a haunting sight

Make a date with the supernatural at dusk on the anniversary of the demise of the Grey Lady

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 02/06/2015

The otherworldly beauty of the Dark Hedges has us under a spell
The otherworldly beauty of the Dark Hedges has us under a spell

I couldn't have chosen a worse day to go ghost-hunting down among the Dark Hedges at Stranocum.

The Dark Hedges have grown over the past 300 years on either side of the lane, with the beech trees having reached up and across to each other, becoming heavily intertwined to create a natural arched tunnel where shadow and light plays through entwined branches.

The Bregagh Road which houses this spectacular avenue of beech trees, had been overtaken by a flotilla of vintage cars whose drivers were ignoring warning signs and parking underneath the spreading branches.

The noise of revving engines was enough to scare away the Grey Lady who is said to haunt this beauty spot.

Aristocrat James Stuart planted the lines of beech way back in 1775 on the narrow road which led to his mansion, Gracehill House - named after his wife, Grace Lynd.

He planned the rows of trees as a compelling landscape feature to impress visitors to his Georgian home as they arrived in their horse-drawn coaches.

Now, centuries later, the trees remain a magnificent, sometimes sinister, sight, and have become one of the most photographed locations in Northern Ireland.

In fact, the trees have been used as a filming location in HBO's epic series, Game of Thrones, representing the King's Road.

Gracehill House used to be surrounded by a large estate which has been developed into a golf course, and the former entrance housing the trees is now a public road. It is claimed that the Grey Lady haunts the thin ribbon of road that winds beneath the ancient beech trees.

She is said to silently glide along the roadside and vanish as she passes the last beech. Some say the spectre is the ghost of a maid from the nearby house who died in mysterious circumstances centuries ago. Others claim she is the restless spirit of a woman who was cheated in love and died of a broken heart.

Or, has the Grey Lady risen from the abandoned graveyard that lies hidden in the fields nearby?

On the anniversary of her death, believed to be June 12, the forgotten graves are said to open and the Grey Lady is joined among the trees by the souls of those who were buried beside her.

A good date for a visit if you're a ghostbuster, especially as dusk falls.

Remembering the legacy of Jack Wilson, Ulster's forgotten author

Jack Wilson is Northern Ireland's forgotten author. He died in 1997 aged 60 - an age when he was about to mature as a writer.

Jack, who in his youth was an amateur boxer, left a legacy of four novels. The Wild Summer (1963), Adam Grey (1964), The Tomorrow Country (1997) and Dark Eden (1969) were quite widely read although Jack was neglected and disregarded by the critics during his lifetime.

Wilson, who had a romantic streak and a captivating eye, was also capable of brutal realism.

He and I were good friends and I encouraged him to write when his days in the ring came to an end.

The Wild Summer was reprinted several years ago and he was described by the Lagan Press as a significant and challenging author.

What he might have achieved if he hadn't passed away prematurely is anybody's guess. I remember him as a character who was determined to put his thoughts down on paper for all of us to ponder over.

At the time of his death Jack was planning another book based on boxing. I wonder if he ever finished it?

Belfast Telegraph

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