Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Walk of the Week: Portmuck Coastal Walk

A peninsula on the East Antrim coast steeped in history with cottages, rolling fields, quiet villages and spectacular coastline, Islandmagee is a microcosm of the Northern Irish countryside.

The name ‘Islandmagee' hails from the Gaelic ‘Oileán MhicAodha', meaning ‘MacAodha's island', the clan who once made their home at Portmuck.

This walk is a hidden gem, offering spectacular views out over Muck Island and across the Atlantic Ocean towards Scotland. There are two routes to choose from — a short clifftop walk to the north of the harbour and a shoreside trail to the south.

Directions

Take M2, M5 and then A2 from Belfast in the direction of Larne. At Whitehead turn right onto the B90. Then go straight onto the B150. Follow signs to Portmuck. Park in the harbour car park. Portmuck is situated approximately 24 miles from Belfast.

For the northern trail route, leave the harbour car park across the picnic areas and go through the wooden swing gate. Follow the grassy path up the slope to the cliff top. Continue across the edge of the open fields and over two stiles until you reach the National Trust boundary. Beyond this is private land, so return by the same route.

For the southern route from the harbour (only advisable when the tide is out), climb the steps, follow the path and down some wooden steps until you reach the rocky shore. Turn right and continue until you reach the point with the tombola over to Muck Island. Follow the trail up the slope to the right.

When the main grassy path is reached, you can either turn left and walk about a half mile to the end of the path and then return or turn right and take the next trail on the left. Follow this trail until you reach the road. Then turn right and walk along the minor road until you return to the harbour car park.

The Backdrop

Portmuck itself is a beautiful harbour located on the northwest coastline and steeped in history, ranging from its status as the site of an ancient monastery and castle to the days of smuggling, lime production and fishing.

Portmuck was named after Muck Island nearby whose name was derived from the Irish ‘muc’, meaning ‘pig’, as the island is supposed to resemble a sleeping pig.

Now it is a centre of leisure for the community and beyond, with a picnic area and clifftop walks offering views across the Irish Sea.

Acquired by The National Trust in 2003, this strip of coast is a designated Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) hosting a variety of wildlife. The nearby Muck Island, a nature reserve looked after by the Ulster Wildlife Trust, has one of Northern Ireland’s largest colonies of cliff-nesting seabirds.

Kittiwakes, guillemots, fulmars and razorbills all breed here and peregrine falcons commonly hunt over the island. You can see puffins, otters, grey and common seal or cetaceans offshore.

Further to the northeast, you'll find Brown's Bay — with its sandy beach, it is an ideal starting point for walking to Skernaghan Point with its spectacular views of the famous Antrim coast.

To the south lie The Gobbins. The name has its origins in the Gaelic ‘An Gobain' and translates as ‘the points of rock'.

Now an ASSI, the Gobbins cliffs afford stunning panoramic views. They were the site of the now derelict Gobbins cliff path, cut into the rock and comprising suspended walkways and bridges, a feat of engineering once more popular than the Giant's Causeway.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.

Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) in|association with Belfast Telegraph has provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Walk name: Portmuck Coastal Walk.

Area: Antrim Coast & Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Nearest big town to start point: Whitehead.

Distance: 1-3 miles.

Suitability: This walk includes some steps and sections of rocky foreshore and so is not suitable for those with limited mobility.

Terrain: Coastal grassland and rocky shoreline.

Access Restrictions: The circular southern route is only advisable when the tide is out and walkers should not attempt to cross the tombola onto Muck Island.

Refreshments: There is a local café a short distance from Portmuck.

Walk Developed By: The National Trust.

Map: Sheet 9 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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