Ireland - Ballycastle - The Glens of Antrim
Jul 8, 2004
|Hiking, or "rambling" as it's called in Ireland, is an excellent way to see the local countryside. With this in mind, I travelled to Ballycastle, further east from Bushmills, for a ramble through the Glens of Antrim.
Now, I think my "directionally-challenged" friends are going to enjoy this story. You know, the ones who get on the wrong bus heading in the wrong direction, or the ones who say something like "turn left" and then "no, the other left" when giving directions in a car.
The Glens of Antrim stretch around the northeast tip of Ireland for around 30-40 miles. They're basically hills dissected by a series of scenic glacier-gouged valleys. Within this area there are 7 glens, each with varying scenery like forests, waterfalls, etc. and unusual little nicknames like Glenaan (or "Glen of the colt's foot"), and Glencorp (or "Glen of the slaughtered").
I had only planned on staying in Ballycastle one night. Knowing that I couldn't cover the whole area by foot in a day, I decided to catch the local bus to Waterfoot, a little village around 17 miles from Ballycastle. My intention was to walk back along the same road the bus had taken and hop back on another bus once I got tired.
Now, I want everyone to know right now that I didn't get lost. I was in fact heading in the right direction back towards Ballycastle. I just ended up on the wrong road, that's all!
A few miles from Waterfoot the road branched off, one direction leading to a motorway, the other to a coastal road, both heading to Ballycastle. I remembered seeing the coast while on the bus, so that's the road I took.
The scenery was stunning. Up I climbed over hill, down I went into valley. By the time I realized I was in fact on the "scenic road" or the "wrong road", I had gone too far to turn back. Surely I'd soon come across another road taking me back to the motorway, not?
So I kept walking. Soon the farms became fewer and farther between, the landscape opening up to barren grazing land. For long stretches of time there was just me and the sheep and the cows. At one point I started to wonder if there were any dangerous wild animals in Ireland like bears or wolves. I mean, who knows what's out there when you're all alone with not a farmyard in sight! To be on the safe side, I kept scanning the area and figured if I saw anything dangerous I'd strategically place a sheep between me and the wild beast!
At this point I suspected that not only was I on the wrong road, I had in fact somehow rambled completely off the bloody map! Thankfully I had been smart enough to throw sufficient clothing, food and water in my backpack. I just wasn't sure I had sufficient willpower or energy in my body. After all, I hadn't really planned on hiking all that far today.
After a few more hours I started to wonder why they couldn't just make the damn road straight and flat. Why oh why did there have to be this continual pattern of twisting and turning up one hill, then twisting and turning down the other side, only to start over again? Why oh why did I ever want to ramble through the Glens of Antrim anyway?!
Eventually, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I came across a farm and a friendly farmer, one who had passed me on the road shortly after I had started walking ... around 4 hours ago. He thought I was making good time - oh aye! He didn't know exactly how much farther it was to Ballycastle, "but still a long way, oh aye". And with just a tractor, he couldn't give me a lift anywhere.
So I kept walking. I mentally psyched myself up that surely Ballycastle couldn't be much more than 5 miles further now, not?
When I reached the next road sign, Ballycastle was still 7 miles away. I felt like crying. I probably did! I would have flagged down a car and begged a lift, but I only ran into civilization and vehicles again with about one mile to go, and by then I was determined to make it on my own foot power.
So, 7 hours later, I arrived back in Ballycastle. The "scenic road" between Waterfoot and Ballycastle turned out to be a 20 mile ramble (yes, I mean 20 miles, not kilometers). I missed most of the waterfalls and sights that I had intended to see along the way, but I had also communed with nature and seen some amazing coastal scenery that I would have otherwise missed. So I'm not complaining.
My feet and legs did, however, but not me!