Wildlife Journey of Northern Ireland
12th to 17th July 2021
We journey through the wildlife and scenery of this part of Northern Ireland together, with our Guest Speaker Andy Lester, Head of Conservation for the wildlife Charity A Rocha UK. Andy has substantial tour guiding experience and has run nature and walking trips in South Africa, Finland, Switzerland, and the Highlands of Scotland. In addition to his day job Andy is also local chair of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight wildlife trust and is newspaper columnist for two UK and one overseas papers. Andy is married to his South African wife and lives with their four boys near Southampton. We shall enjoy six days together enjoying wonderful scenery and wildlife in the land of Saint Patrick, staying with the wonderful Corrymeela Community. As well as a full programme of day visits, we shall enjoy a full evening programme with talks from Andy, which will make these few days together very different and most enjoyable.
Walks and Excursions
During our time at Corrymeela we shall take the ferry six miles across the Sea of Moyle to Rathlin Island. The island is only six miles long and one-mile wide, Northern Island's northern most point. Rathlin is one of 43 Special areas of conservation in Northern Island and is home to thousands of seabirds including common guillemots, kittiwakes, puffins and razorbills - about thirty bird families in total. We shall visit the RSPB Bird Reserve and walk along the cliff paths to see many of these birds in their natural habitat. We might also spot the odd seal from the cliff paths. Both the harbour seal and the grey seal inhabit the coast here. Rathlin is also known to be the world's first commercial wireless telegraphy link developed by Marconi in 1898.
On another day we shall depart for Glenariff, which is called the Queen of the Glens. The forest park covers over 1000 hectares, with planted woodlands, lakes and conservation areas. We shall see the rocky gorges of the river which support a wide range of mosses, liverworts and ferns. The timber walkways that wind through the glen and alongside the river gorge are over 100 years old and have been carefully reconstructed to provide us with a spectacular walk. We shall visit one of the trails, which will be able to give us spectacular views and glimpses of wildlife, notably the red squirrel, hen harrier and Irish hare. We shall also visit the beautiful waterfalls and make a visit to the Glenarm Forest to walk the Red Squirrel Trail, we might also spot an Otter family at the river edge. All in all, a day to remember.
We shall visit the City of Downpatrick, which has been an important site since ancient times. Saint Patrick was reputedly buried here in 461 AD on Cathedral Hill, together with Saint Brigit and Saint Columba. Down Cathedral which we shall visit was constructed on this site. His grave is still a great place of pilgrimage especially on the 17th March (St Patrick's Day). We shall also visit the St Patrick Centre, which is the only permanent exhibition in the world dedicated to the patron Saint of Ireland and remains one of the top tourist destinations in the whole of Ireland. We shall visit nearby Inch Abbey (which was featured in the Game of Thrones) a large ruined monastic site which features early Gothic architecture and was built as a Cistercian House in 1177. the abbey features lovely grounds and views of the nearby river. Down Cathedral can be seen in the distance.
An early start today as we drive to Northern Island's only UNESCO World Heritage site, the world-famous Giants Causeway. Immersed in myth and legend this special place has so many must see sights and has an award-winning Visitor Centre. We shall walk some of the Giants Causeway cliff top path, this remarkable cliff landscape and coastal farmland is home to creatures big and small. We shall share the unrivalled views with cattle and sheep that inhabit the surrounding fields, chomping down on the wild grasses, while many types of insects thrive below.
This afternoon spend some relaxing free time at our base the Corrymeela Community or take the short cliff top walk to nearby Ballycastle, which has a rich heritage of over 50 listed buildings within its 18th C Conservation area. According to the Historic Buildings Council for Northern Island 'Ballycastle has the largest collection of traditional shop frontages in the entire island of Ireland'. Ballycastle Strand is just under a mile in length and a great place to stop awhile and have a well-earned ice cream.
Our walks will be generally short no more the five miles in length, with moderate terrain, but do expect some rocky and steep paths along the way. Good grip walking shoes/boots are essential as well as waterproofs 'just in case', please do not forget your camera and/or binoculars.
We shall be staying with the Corrymeela Community near Ballycastle for five nights Bed/Breakfast and Evening Meals (Diets catered for). We shall have packed lunches each day. All single en-suite accommodation. Corrymeela was founded in 1965 as an organisation seeking to aid individuals and communities, which suffered through the violence and polarisation of The Troubles. We shall have the use of our own meeting room. A perfect place for our few days together in beautiful Northern Ireland.
Corrymeela is 60 miles north of Belfast. There are two airports to fly into Belfast Int and Belfast City, regular flights from most UK airports. From Belfast Airport take the airport bus to the bus station then take the local buses Ulster bus/Translink to Ballycastle via Coleraine (one change). OR take a train from Belfast to Coleraine then by bus. By ferry a direct link from Liverpool to Belfast operates twice a day with Stena Line.
The centre is two miles from Ballycastle, it is within walking distance if you have little luggage or get a local taxi. Please aim to arrive with the Community by 1600 on Monday 12th July.