Walk: Ballintoy and Portbraddan, County Antrim
Enjoy a seaside stroll between two of Northern Ireland’s prettiest – and smallest – fishing villages, past crumbling sea stacks, scores of islets and butterfly-filled dunes
Set in the midst of Antrim’s famous Causeway Coast, Ballintoy is a small village whose name translates as ‘town of the north’. The title is apt; Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre is visible on the Atlantic horizon.
The village jewel is its harbour, a time-honoured haven for fishing boats, constructed from limestone blocks and protected by a jumble of offshore stacks. So evocative is the location, it was chosen as the setting for the Iron Islands in HBO’s popular TV series Game of Thrones.
Exploring the Causeway Coast Way
Yet long before its small-screen fame, this coastline was celebrated by walkers and naturalists. The signed Causeway Coast Way stretches off in both directions, providing 33 miles of superlative coastal hiking.
Less than two miles east along the path lies the unique and thrilling Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The route west towards Portbraddan is even better, and an out-and-back hike in this direction is not to be missed.
One word of caution: both ends of White Park Bay are guarded by cliffs and boulders, which become impassable at high tide. Check the tide times before you set out and avoid the route at high water.
Ballintoy village is located along the B15, around five miles west of Ballycastle. Descend a steep, winding road to park beside Ballintoy Harbour. A lovely tearoom and picnic tables offer opportunities for refreshment.
Ballintoy to Portbraddan walk
5 miles/8km | 3–3.5 hours | moderate (return)
To begin the walk, join a signed path that heads west from the back of the harbour. Pass a series of stacks and islets, some cut by spectacular natural rock arches. Negotiate a couple of stiles, then hop over a cluster of boulders at the base of a chalk cliff to reach the sandy sweep of White Park Bay.
2. Bay bliss
More than 1.5 miles of enticing golden sand now stretch ahead. As you cross towards the western end of the beach, you pass beneath a green amphitheatre of dunes and grassland that has been a National Trust conservation site for almost 100 years. It’s wild and beautiful, and provides a protected habitat for a wide assortment of coastal birds, flowers and butterflies.
3. Family base
Nestled beneath the rock face at the far side of the bay is Portbraddan, an idyllic collection of houses fronted by a tiny harbour. You’ll have to cross more boulders to reach the hamlet itself. At the western end is Portbraddan Cottage; the National Trust-run property sleeps six and is the perfect base for a family holiday.
4. Rock arch
It’s worth continuing along the path for another few hundred metres, through a natural rock arch, to reach Gid Point. Then it’s simply a matter of turning around and retracing the route back to Ballintoy.
Ballintoy to Portbraddan map
Helen Fairbairn has worked as a professional outdoor writer for the past 20 years.