The Dark Hedges and Something Unpleasant Underfoot

It seemed that we were staying ahead of the weather forecast which had predicted storms and heavy rain and after completing a strenuous walk at the Giant’s Causeway we returned to the unofficial and much cheaper car park and set of back along the Causeway Coast

First stop was the ruins of Dunseverick Castle which Kim and Margaret declared not worth getting out of the car for and then swiftly on to Whitepark Bay Beach where we stopped for barely five minutes because the girls were of the opinion that it was rapidly approaching coffee and cake time so we continued on to Ballintoy.

Here there was a charming harbour and an old limestone quarry and information boards that told us that the crushed limestone was shipped to England to pave the roads of Manchester and Liverpool.  Another told us that inevitably this was a location setting used in the TV programme “Game of Thrones”.

Ballintoy in September was rather sedate but it seems that it can get rather overcrowded in the Summer.  I read a newspaper report that on one day in July the local council dealt with so much illegal and dangerous parking that they ran out of car parking violation tickets.

Except for a rather nasty smell in the harbour it was all rather lovely but it really was time for coffee and cake now so we made our way from the harbour to the village and stopped off at a suitable establishment.  I rarely join in this mid morning coffee break because I resent paying £3 for a cup of coffee or £2.50 for a mug of tea when down the road in a pub I can get a pint of Guinness for £4.  It simply makes no economic sense.

From Ballintoy we drove south to the Dark Hedges.

The dark hedges is an avenue of beech trees that were planted in the 1750s in the grounds of Gracehill House a Georgian mansion built by the Stuart family, descendants of a cousin of King James who had been granted the land but who had died in a shipwreck. They wanted to create a compelling landscape to impress visitors who approached the entrance to the mansion.  The Manor House is still there but a private residence and the Stuart legacy is this fascinating avenue of spooky interlinking tree boughs.

I say spooky because of course, such an ancient stretch of road is bound to have horror stories linked to it and visitors are warned to watch out for the ‘Grey Lady’. Local legend has it that she haunts the thin ribbon of road that winds beneath the ancient gnarled beech trees. She is said to glide silently along the roadside, and vanish as she reaches the last tree.  I couldn’t help thinking that I wished some of the tourists might disappear so that I might get a decent picture, but I suppose this stubborn couple do help provide a sense of perspective.

It was a fascinating place and maybe we were lucky to see it because Beech trees reach maturity at no more than two hundred years and those making up the Dark Hedges are well past that.  The Dark Hedges came under threat a few years ago when highway authorities proposed to fell many trees for safety reasons but the avenue was taken over by the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust – and is now the subject of a Heritage Lottery Fund project to protect the popular landmark but I suspect that there is only so long that they can remain on an environmental life support machine.

From the Dark Hedges we returned to the coast at Ballycastle where we walked on the beach and had a pleasant hour or so until I had an unfortunate incident with a pile of dog poo which required fifteen minutes or so of boot cleaning.  I might have mentioned this before but I completely detest dogs and their inconsiderate owners and I am in complete agreement with Bill Bryson on his matter…

“It wouldn’t bother me in the least…if all the dogs in the world were placed in a sack and taken to some distant island… where they could romp around and sniff each other’s anuses to their hearts’ content and never bother or terrorise me again.”  –  Bill Bryson

The weather was deteriorating now and the promised rain was beginning to threaten so we called an end to the day of beaches and beeches and headed back to Bushmills where we arrived back in pouring rain.

Tonight’s dining was no more successful than the previous.  We booked a table at a nearby hotel but when we got there the prices were way beyond our skinflint budget so we declined to order and went instead to a Chinese takeaway, took it back to the guest house and sat and enjoyed a well prepared meal and a glass of two of red wine.  Very satisfying.

28 responses to “The Dark Hedges and Something Unpleasant Underfoot

  1. Yes, I detest inconsiderate dog owners too, Dog faeces are dangerous too. One of my younger brother’s friends went blind in at least one eye because of toxicara canis, carried in dog droppings. Every year, I have read, 200-300 children suffer the same fate for the same reason.

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  2. i visited the dark hedges a few years back and what an amazing feeling to stand there, looking down the road

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  3. Haha! I’m with you on the subject of dogs, but you’ll lose half your readership now, and probably be the subject of Dark Threats. I’d not heard of the Dark Hedges. Marvellous!

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  4. Great photos and a lovely reminder of our trip there with you a few years ago.

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  5. Comparing the price of a coffee unfavourably with that of a pint of Guinness does add perspective

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  6. I’m with you and Margaret about dogs and will add that owners never seem to realise how annoying their barking is! I think a photo of the Dark Hedges won an award some years ago, and also for the countryfile calendar.
    https://m.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/photo-of-northern-irelands-dark-hedges-at-stranocum-wins-landscape-photographer-of-the-year-award-29675888.html

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  7. I agree with you about dogs. I was bitten in the face by one when I was twelve and I panic when I hear a dog growl or snap. There are too many dogs in this country and the mess they leave behind them is horrible.
    Lovely photos as always, Andrew especially that first one of the dark hedges.

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  8. I couldn’t stop laughing over your decisions to buy a pint of Guinness instead of tea and cake, Andrew, so I read it to Peggy, who also laughed. On occasion I will come on an archway of trees. Always appreciate them and stop to take a photo, patiently waiting until any tourists get out of the way. There is a great one on the California coast where Marconi got his start broadcasting to ships at sea. As for stepping in dog poop, few things are worse. But have you ever stepped in a large, fresh pile of cow poop hidden in the grass? 🙂

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  9. We have never owned a dog. We have never had house guests who brought a dog with them. We did however receive a letter from Canterbury City Council threatening us with Court action because – and I quote – we “allow our dog to disturb the peace by barking all day”. You can imagine my calm, measured response….

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  10. Andrew, I loved this post as The Dark Hedges have been in my dreams ever since I came across a beautiful photo of the locale some time ago. My fear is if I ever get the chance to visit, the reality will not equal what I have idealized so long in my imagination.. Is there ever a time to visit where there are no visitors underfoot with cameras? Perhaps a plan would be to visit off season and rise before dawn before the barrage of tourists descend. And to enhance my visit, perhaps the grey lady will appear and join me as I enjoy the beauty and solitude of her long time home. I love that idea.

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  11. I’ve recently read that South Africa has the 3rd cheapest beer in the world … our motto, when you want to drink coffee/tea, do it at home.

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  12. A busload depositing tourists at The Dark Hedges must be the most awful. I would love showing up in the weak light of morning, with mist moving through… maybe I would see the ghost. How wonderful to find so many people agree with you on your feelings about dogs. The Brill Bryson quote was perfect. And Margaret’s comment that the owners think they are “just being friendly.” HA! And your comment that most owners don’t comprehend that some people simply do not like dogs. In Italy, I was delighted to find very cheap espresso everywhere we went.

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