The towns by the sea attract visitors far and wide, as they did in the Earl Bishop’s day.
The towns by the sea
Portrush and Portstewart
Following the trail, you will discover the picturesque resorts of Portrush and Portstewart, along with some of the most beautiful beaches along the North Coast. Situated between Dunluce Castle and Downhill, these harbour towns offer everything you need for a fantastic short break away, including coastal sightseeing, a world class golf course and a host of activites and amenities for all the family.
Three miles (5km) west of Dunluce Castle along the A2 coast road is the seaside town of Portrush, and three miles further west still is the slightly smaller but no less busy town of Portstewart. Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart form what locals call ‘the Triangle,’ because of their layout, and because a favourite weekend pastime is to cruise between the three towns by car… ‘around the triangle!’
In the Earl Bishop`s day, there were no roads, only cobbled or mostly muddy country lanes. Portrush was a small but busy harbour, whilst Portstewart was little more than a cluster of very poor fishermen`s cottages. This was a wild and isolated part of the world, where a handful of families lived hand-to-mouth from a bit of subsistence farming and whatever they could catch from the sea. Frederick travelled frequently along this coastline on his journeys to and from the Giant`s Causeway, no doubt stopping in peasant houses to shelter from the rain or to enjoy a meal… much as the modern visitor can, if they take a notion for ice cream or delicious fish and chips!
Portrush and Portstewart did not grow into proper towns until long after Frederick`s death, when the new railway, which was built in the 1840s, brought workers eager for clean sea air, from the new urban industrial cities of Belfast and Derry / Londonderry. The Victorian character of both towns can still be seen, even after decades of inconsistent urban planning. There are many architectural gems to be admired in Portrush in particular, for example the terrace of coastguard housing down by the harbour and a handsome red-brick town hall.
Both towns have fine churches and for those whose personal religion revolves around a well-driven ball, they offer some of the finest golf courses in the world. But their true blessings are their beaches; East and West Strands at Portrush and Portstewart`s synonymous strand, which is almost 2 miles (km) long, and runs as far as the River Bann, to almost below Frederick`s magnificent Mussenden Temple. The Bann cannot be crossed at this point, by the way, except by boat! To stay on terra firma, you have to travel into Coleraine, the lowest point in the Triangle, but also a good shopping town that grew up around Northern Ireland`s longest river.
Portrush grew more quickly than Portstewart, because the landed family that owned the latter in the 1800s did not want to let the railway in, fearing an invasion of drunken tourists! But Portrush also had an earlier significance; Dunluce Castle, which was the local centre of power until the early 1600s, is located on top of a cliff, as was the ‘lost’ town that surrounded it. As maritime trade became more important, so the opportunities afforded by large, natural harbours like the one at Portrush also became more important, and remote seats of power – like Dunluce – became outdated. Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine are restful stopping-points for anyone following the Earl Bishop Trail – bastions of civilisation amidst the wild, open spaces that lie in every other direction!
Interesting Places Nearby
Whilst these locations are not specifically linked to the Earl Bishop, they are close to Portrush & Portstewart, and you might also find them interesting.
THE DARK HEDGES, ARMOY
The Dark Hedges are not hedges at all – they are two rows of old beech trees that lean dramatically over a section of the Bregagh Road, just outside the village of Armoy.
The hedges recently became famous when used as a location in the wildly popular HBO television series, ‘Game of Thrones,’ so you`ll always find fantasy fans with cloaks and cameras in the vicinity! However, the hedges had long been a popular subject for photographers, due to the twisting tunnel created by the trees and the way the light penetrates the branches at different times of day.
The easiest way to reach Armoy from the Giant`s Causeway is to travel east along the A2 Causeway Coastal Route to Ballycastle then take the A44 due south, however there is a more direct route to the hedges by cutting across the countryside along the Ballinlea Road, which leaves the A2 just before Ballintoy. Distance from the Causeway: approximately 18 miles or 29 km.
CARRICK-A-REDE ROPE BRIDGE
A popular destination for thrill-seekers, or for ordinary people who want to frighten themselves out of their wits, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge will take you from the mainland onto a small island that was once used as a salmon fishery. Because the bridge is 100 feet (30 metres) above the sea and sways when you walk on it, it is always amusing to watch people crossing and always a challenge to cross for the first time yourself!
However, like the Causeway, the bridge is run by The National Trust and is perfectly safe; the current bridge replaces an older one that was much more of a challenge, to say the least!
Carrick-a-Rede is approximately 8 miles or 12 km due east of the Causeway, along the A2 Causeway Coastal Route.
With just over 1,000 inhabitants, Bushmills is the closest village to the Giant`s Causeway, which is just over 2 miles or less than 4 km away.
It has a convenient park-and-ride facility for anyone who wants to avoid vehicle queues up at the Causeway itself, but there is another reason to dump the car; Bushmills Distillery, which with a founding date of 1608, claims to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world.
Bushmills whiskey is also famous world-wide and rightly so, because it is superb stuff, and a visit to the distillery, with its traditional techniques and pure source of water, will show you exactly how they get it tasting so good!