A walk from Marconi's Cottage near Ballycastle along a great stretch of coastline, including along the base of magnificent Fair Head, ascending by the Grey Man's Path and following the cliff tops before descending back to the coast.This is a classic walk I have completed on several occasions, each time bringing exhileration, trepidation and ultimately a great sense of achievement.
There is ample parking at Marconi's Cottage and a farily good path along the coast. It is great fun to walk along the rocky shore below the path when possible. The views from the outset are stunning - across to Rathlin Island and towards the sharp profile of Fair Head jutting out into the sea.
The track can be a little tricky at times and in full summer the vegetation can be an issue as it attempts to reclaim it. An access issue has arisen at 164 426, where a stream drops down into the sea at a beautiful waterfall. there is now a 'Private Land - No Trespassing' sign. I took note of this and continued, sticking to the shoreline (telling myself this was not the farmers land).
Fair Head looms ever larger and the journey around the base begins. The key is to stick like glue to the coastline and not venture inland unless absolutley neccessary and only as far as needed. The rocks and boulders at the coast are free from vegetation whilst those further inland are covered and are a nightmare to negotiate. On a previous occasion I was literally stuck on these boulders and was crying in fustration at my decision and how difficult and painstakingly slow travel was.
It is a breathtaking ride, where hands and bum are used nearly as much as feet. There are stretches of grass and a track of sorts - created i think by the herd of impressive wild goast that live here and I have seen on occasion. Mostly it is moving from boulder to boulder. There is evidence of landslips and sharply broken rock, where boulders have been moving. Taking time and care is essential.
All the while the sight of Rathlin Island impresses as does views to Scotland. The towering cliffs of Fair Head come into view and disappear and the word 'wow' is one to keep handy. Fishing boats checking their lobster pots were the only company on this stretch, though I have seen pods of dolphins more than once here.
I was keeping an eye out for the crack in the cliff line that is the Grey Man's Path and it seemed like a lifetime before it appeared. This is such an impressive fault in the rock , made even more so by a stone plinth capping the exit from the gully. It was a hard battle up from the coastline with no path to follow and plently of brambles and other vegetation. Higher up a track did appear and made for fairly easy, though steep travel up through the gully.
If the travel along the base of the cliffs was impressive the journey back along the cliff tops turns it up a notch. There is a way marked path along the top and you can get as close to the edge as you dare for breathtaking views to the jumbled rock landscape below. The views over to Rathlin gain a new perspective with height and also across to Scotland.
As the waymarked path turns inland there is another 'No Trespassing' sign, also warning of a bull. I crossed the fence and stuck to the cliff edge for a short section through a field and descended on a rough farm track to the coast. This section back to the waterfall mentioned earlier is marked as private land.
A family of seals were basking on rocks to catch what little heat there was in the sun. Late evening light painted a fantastic picture of Fair Head and much time was spent looking back as i headed back to Marconi's Cottage.