Fair Head Clifftop Walk – Ballycastle

Causeway Coastal Route

Fair Head, near Ballycastle, Causeway Coastal Route, BT54 6RD


Fast facts

  • There are a range of circular walks from the car park up to and along the cliff edge with lengths varying from 1.6 mile / 2.5 km to  3.7 mile/6km.
  • While not particularly steep, the route can be boggy so take good walking shoes / a change of socks.
  • The cliff car park has an honesty box with a charge of about £3 for parking your car.
  • There are no toilets or F&B facilities

A favourite walk – views,birds, sheep and a small man-made island

Fair Head Bridge over Gulley
Fair Head Bridge over Gulley

 

This is absolutely one of my favourite walks in Northern Ireland as you get dramatic views without having to put in the effort of climbing up a mountain. The farm car park (honesty box £3 or thereabouts) is located at the back of the cliffs so it is just a gentle walk up the tilted plateau or sill to the cliff edge where the thrill begins. There are several tracks you can follow which take you along the cliff edge and depending on the length of walk you want, you can simply head back to the farm car park to give yourself either the short 1.6 mile / 2.5 km Cas Na Lough Walk, the 2.6 mile/4.2km perimeter walk or another longer 3.7 mile/6km walk we seemed to find for ourselves the last time we were at Fair Head.

Hover to show arrows to move backwards and forwards through photos

Fair Head cliffs or Benmore (Irish – An Bhinn Mhór meaning The Great Cliff) are 650 feet/200m high which is slightly less than the Cliffs of Moher. As the cliffs soar up from the sea they provide drama to the views from Ballycastle and Rathlin Island. From the cliff top you can enjoy views down the Causeway Coast, over to Rathlin Island and beyond to Scotland. The Mull of Kintyre is just 12 miles/19km away. Besides the views, from the cliff top you get to see crashing seas, some small loughs, soaring birds, including falcons, and some interesting rock formations.

Also notice the crannog, a small man-made island, in the middle of Lough Na Cranagh which was either built in the Iron Age or in early Christian times; the experts can’t decide but either way the engineering is impressive.

Fair Head - Grey Mans Path Rock
Fair Head – Grey Man’s Path Rock

  • The cliffs are also a favourite amongst experienced climbers, described as the best in Ireland for climbing, with an annual climbing festival held in the summer most years.
  • For Game of Thrones fans, you will not be surprised to hear that these cliffs featured as a backdrop on several occasions in Game of Thrones, Series 7. You’ll find an explainer board at the car park which may help jog your memory.

Local legend

And of course there is a local legend. The cliffs are said to be named after a most beautiful Rathlin Island princess who had fair hair and was much admired for her beauty. So much so that two of her suitors, meeting at a feast on Rathlin Island, decided to fight to the death for her hand in marriage. They fought until the last of the men was dealt a fatal blow and as he lay dying he asked his servant to avenge him. The servant interpreted that as meaning that if his lord could not have the Princess, then no one could, so he danced with the Princess, spinning her around until he flung her to her death off a cliff on Rathlin Island. Ultimately her broken body washed ashore across the Rathlin Sound at the foot of the cliffs and they were then named their head in her honour.

 

“…you will not be surprised to hear that these cliffs featured as a backdrop on several occasions for Game of Thrones, Series 7.”

How to get there:

map of Fair Head walking paths
Click to view larger image

Use the postcode BT54 6RD in your Satnav to get you close, or, as you are traveling along the A2 between Cushendun/Cushendall and Ballycastle, take the Torr Head Road which runs to the left of the Hunters’ Bar in Ballyvoy. This is about 2 miles/3.2km outside of Ballycastle and is signposted Mourlough Bay / Fair Head with a note that the route is not suitable for coaches and caravans which is an accurate assessment. After half a mile keep left following signs for Fair Head carpark. After a further 1.3 miles/2km turn left and the car park is just down the road behind the farm building.

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Note that this area is privately owned farmland and it is Sean and Roisin McBride themselves who take responsibility for opening up the area for our pleasure. They do ask for a small contribution via a carpark fee, which you pay at the honesty box in the car park.
Download  Fair Head PDF flier created by Sean and Roisin
You can also get to Fair Head via the Torr Head Scenic Route which really is a nail-biter of a car ride! See here.

Author:  Katie McGregor


Walking Northern Ireland - bookWalking Northern Ireland

If you like walking / hiking  then this book is for you  – 36 unmissable hikes along the Causeway Coast, around Belfast, in the Mournes and in Fermanagh – including this one. The book includes maps, vertical profile images so you know how much puff you’ll need to put in, and descriptions of the hike together with little notes of interest.

The book is on my bookshelf and has been an inspiration getting us out and about in Northern Ireland so I can recommend it personally!

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