The ruins of Kinbane Castle sit on a narrow limestone headland jutting into the North Channel just outside Ballycastle on our stunning Causeway Coastal Route.
Built around 1547 by Colla MacDonnell, and last occupied in the 18th century the ghost of it's two story keep, courtyard and outbuildings can still be seen. The small stony bay between the castle and the cliffs is known as Lag na Sassenach meaning Hollow of the English, named so due to an incident in the 16th century in which English troops surrounded the castle, but a fire lit on the headland signalled for help and the nearby clans responded, arriving to the top of the cliffs and trapping the English between them and the sea. The invading English were massacred on the rocks and the Hollow named for them since. The area can feel very foreboding, especially after sundown. I grew up spending sick days and school holidays about five minutes away where hardened glens-men would whisper me ghost stories of the bay, how if I listened closely as the wind roared and waves crashed I could hear the battle rage on even now, of pirates hiding treasure in the sea cave beneath the castle or the one below the cliffs, of whirlpools springing up in an instant to swallow ships whole and of mermaids or monsters beneath the waves. Today it's simply a great place to watch the local seals sunbathe or swim or for a beautiful walk, but maybe you'll get a glimpse of the lore if you look hard enough...
To access the castle and headland take the Whitepark Road from Ballycastle, west towards Ballintoy. Kinbane Head is well signposted with the brown Tourist Site signs. Take the signposted road to the right (it's essentially a lane, so drive slowly and be prepared to manoeuvre to allow for oncoming traffic). There is a carpark which offers stunning views back towards Ballycastle, Fairhead, Rathlin Island and the outer Isles of Scotland in the distance. The public toilets are open during the Summer months but are closed in Winter, so bear this in mind and use the conveniences in Ballycastle if visiting the site outside the typical tourist season. To reach the castle you must make your way down steep steps which wind along the cliffs to the castle and bay below. depending on your fitness levels it can be tough going both up and down, but the steps are wide and there are railings, and with such stunning views you have a good excuse to pause often along the way. The headland, however has no such railings, or steps beyond the castle, the path over to the furtherest point is very narrow with huge drops to the sea below on both sides so be exceptionally careful and keep children close if you choose to climb beyond the castle. Similarly there are no railings around the bothy and cliffs, so again caution is advisable. However, if you're sure of foot and have a head for heights the views North towards Rathlin and the Scottish isles, West towards Ballintoy, East towards Fairhead and back towards the castle and cliffs are stunning.
The ruins of a fisherman's Bothy are also nestled at the base of the cliffs below the steps, and offer a glimpse of a forgotten way of life along our coasts.
I rarely meet anyone when I wandered here but now the Castle seems to be firmly on the tourist trail and as much as I love having it to myself I can understand why. Aim for a low wind day and enjoy. Xx