Having been a resident of Ballycastle for some 18 years and a frequent visitor ever since, two distinctive sights remind me that I’m home: Knocklayde Mountain – that hulking, brooding giant that stands watch over the town – and Fair Head, the distinctive cliff which beautifully frames the Ballycastle beach to the east. Like locals and tourists alike, I have often admired Fairhead from shore-level. At the weekend, I took a drive to the top of the cliff, parked in the little National Trust car park.
Lough na Cranagh
The most striking and unexpected feature at the top of Fairhead is Lough na Cranagh, a clifftop lake. I spotted the lake as I was driving across, and noticed a little island in the middle. The sign in the little car park confirmed that the island was a crannog. A crannog is a small, man-made island constructed mainly of timber and stones (and sometimes whatever else was lying around). Crannogs are a defensive dwelling where people would often flee if their homes on the land were under attack. From the safety of the crannog, they could defend themselves and stay there until danger passed. The crannog at Lough na Cranagh is said to be roughly 1,000 years old. I’d read about crannogs recently, so was surprised to discover this one (my first!) in such good order! The island is almost a perfect circle and is ringed by a neat stone wall. As with many crannogs, trees now occupy much of the island, but it is a beautiful sight to behold. A good walk around the shore gives many different perspectives of the crannog, and there is a small hill on the west side of the lake which provides a great vantage point.
Getting To Fair Head
Drive out of Ballycastle on the Cushendall road and continue until you come to a small town called Ballyvoy. As you approach Hunter’s Pub, take the turn-off on the left before the pub and continue out the country road. Further out the road, you should pass a terrace of deteriorating bungalows – just past these you should see a sign pointing off to the left toward Fair Head Car Park. Follow the narrow road to the very end, where you should see a cluster of old rural cottages. There is a small car park at the back of this.