Glenariff Forest Park
98 Glenariff Road, Ballymena, BT44 OQX
The astounding beauty of Glenariff Forest Park provides visitors with an abundance panoramic landscapes, peaceful riverside walks and three spectacular waterfalls.
Situated among the world famous Glens of Antrim, Glenariff – Queen of the Glens – is considered to be the most beautiful of the nine Antrim Glens.
Within its tranquil surroundings there is the unique Waterfall Walkway, which opened 80 years ago and has been significantly upgraded along its three-mile length which passes through a National Nature Reserve.
A 2,928 acre forest, it is managed by the Northern Ireland Forest Service. As well as being a recreational resource, the forest is used for timber production centred around the clearfelling of coniferous plantation trees.
Three waterfalls can be found by following the marked trails and provide a rich backdrop for photographers, as do the other forest trails. There are four trails in total, the longest being approximately 5 miles.
The area around the forest has been combined forming a larger park that includes Parkmore Forest, as well as small lakes and recreational areas.
Bisecting the Park are two small but beautiful rivers; the Inver and the Glenariff, containing spectacular waterfalls, tranquil pools and stretches of fast flowing water tumbling through rocky steep-sided gorges.
Visitors to Glenariff Forest Park can avail of a visitor centre, exhibition, interactive display, shop, caravan/camping site (open Easter to October).
While touring the area you can rest your weary legs at the seasonal restaurant located within the heart of the forest. While there you will be sure to be greeted with a warm and friendly welcome, while enjoying a relaxing lunch or a few drinks.
Glenariff is one of three forests across Northern Ireland with an “in-touch” information kiosk. The kiosk contains lots of information on the forest and its surrounding area including useful tourist information. The kiosk is located at the top of the car park on the path to the café.
Life and Legend
In 1834, 28 miles of coastal road were blasted out of the chalky cliffs. Soon after, the road was open all the way to Ballycastle and all nine glens became accessible. The farmers could finally get to inland market. But the coast road also brought tourists, strangers who told the wonders of the glens to the outside world for the first time. One of the first visitors to use the coast road, William Makepeace Thackery called Glenariff, with its ladder farms and waterfalls, a Switzerland in miniature in his Irish Sketch Book in 1843.
He was right.
Although there are many magical places along the coast, Glenariff, the largest glen has a special magic all of its own. From the top of the glen, the massive U-shaped valley, carved out by a glacier 20 thousand years ago is textbook perfect. At the bottom of the cliffs on either side, the loose scree rocks still lie where they were abandoned by the ice, the grey skirt of this elegant-girl-of-a-valley that sweeps the edge of the floor. The most central place in the Glens, Glenariff Forest Park has nine special viewing points along its four circular walks. The paths form three circular routes which lead past the three little lakes, Loughnaweelan, Loughanroona and Evish Lough. Evish Lough has large expanses of cranberry around it, and all three lakes have mallard and tufted ducks, teal and redshank which use the lakes for nesting. These three small enchanted lakes are fed by two rivers, the Inver and the Glenariff that meander on either side of the park towards the gorge at the northeast. The water is brown from running through upland bog. The lakes are quiet and the water runs slowly. Some who have touched it say it feels like velvet.
A few steps into the trees and any visitor is lost in an enchanted world. It is easy to imagine the fairies and the little people of the place, peeping through the branches. The last and most famous walk preserves the magic like no other, a 3 mile rustic wooden path that travels from upland plain to the valley bottom. The waterfall walk is a core of all that is best about the Glens synthesised into sound, light and spectacle. A natural display of fireworks that runs all day and all night on every day of the year. The smooth brown water of the rivers moves calmly until it reaches the first precipice and then it begins its helter skelter journey to the sea. Freefalling fast, it suddenly crashes into the next pool where it breathes a while before taking its next dive towards the valley bottom. Over the rapids the water is whisked into foam like the head of a beer and then the bubbles settle out again across the pools and all around the ferns and mosses soften the shining silver of the rocks. Light is transformed on the falls. Where sunlight catches the spray, fleeting little rainbows appear and disappear as the light flickers through the swaying leaves above. A million colours in the gentle mists. And the sounds change all the time, echoing the names of the falls. Where the fall is short and bittersweet the waters are the tears of the mountain
Later, the tallest fall is Altnagowna, the Grey Mare’s Tail. As if the sound of charging horses was all that could be imagined when the first man wandered here
Or is the story of its creation the true one?
That Conan was hotly pursued by his enemies when a beautiful horse appeared. She told him to cut off her tail and throw it down the glen and when he did, each strand of hair transformed before his eyes to water. Which grew and grew until the roaring torrent washed his enemies away, and at the very bottom, as the water stills after its final last drop, it is Ess na laragh, the waterfall near to home. There is an inn here, to rest and drink and mull over the magic of the mountain. Its tumbling waters that show all its moods, its turmoil and peace, its gentleness and awesome power.
Video produced by Ambient Light Productions