Island Magee - N. Ireland's Forgotten Pensinsula
Island Magee (or Islandmagee) is a serene spot on the Antrim Coast just north of Belfast. Locals refer to it as “the island” but it is actually a peninsula about 8 miles (12 km) long and between two and three miles wide. It is connected by a narrow passage to the mainland just off Whitehead and then continues parallel to the coast all the way to Larne, forming Larne Lough. The peninsula has a long tradition of sea fearing having produced more famous mariners than any similarly sized piece of real estate in Ireland.
The people from Belfast, Larne and the surrounding towns know the area mostly for the lovely beach of Brown’s Bay. Situated on the north-west end of the peninsula it is a popular weekend destination. With its ample parking space, good facilities and wide sandy beach it makes for a great outing on one of those lovely warm and sunny days. If a beach is what you are after but you want something quieter, just drive around the northern side of the peninsula and there are several small ones nestled between the rugged rocky promontories. Portmuck is a good option. On the southern side the coastline is gentler but the waters of Larne Lough aren’t ideal for swimming.
A First Class Sailing School
If lying on a beach and enjoying the sunshine is not enough to satisfy your desire for escape, try the Island Magee Sailing School. It offers a number of courses to suit your needs to the point of making you a Yacht Master! Now, that will impress your friends!
The Gobbins Cliff Path
In the late 19th century, when tourism was in bloom, Victorian entrepreneurs decided to explore the tourism potential of Island Magee. Dean Berkeley Wise, one of Northern Ireland's magnates, constructed the Gobbins Cliff Path. Opened in 1902, and nearly 3 miles long, it run parallel to the coastline hugging the Gobbin cliffs that reach all the way to the sea forming part of the peninsula's rugged northern coastline. The path became an instant tourist attraction, one of Northern Ireland’s foremost. With the coming of World War II it fell into disuse and disrepair and is largely forgotten apart from a few locals.Part of the remains can still be seen. Sometimes the path cut through the rock; other times small bridges, no longer standing, carried people over steep falls; yet other times the path follows the natural flow of the rocks. If you decide to visit, remember that the path has fallen into disrepair and parts are not safe. A fall on the steep and sharp rocks can result is serious injury. Accessing the path is also not easy. It you want to see its remains, your safest bet is to ask a local to direct you, which they will be happy to do.
Beaches and paths among the rocks aside, Island Magee must be one of the quietest coastal areas of Northern Ireland. Scattered farms dot the landscape and small country lanes connect them. Many of the houses serve as holiday cottages or B&Bs and if you want a quiet escape for a weekend or longer Island Magee is one of the most accessible options. We had the opportunity to spend one long summer day in a farmhouse with friends and absolutely enjoyed the walks along the fields and coast as well as the friendliness of the locals.
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