Ballycastle, County Antrim

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Scots: Ballykessel,[1]
Bellykessel[2] or Bellycaissle[3]
Irish: Baile an Chaistil
Ballycastle harbour
Ballycastle is located in Northern Ireland
 Ballycastle shown within Northern Ireland
Population 5,089 (2001 Census)
Irish grid reference D115407
   – Belfast  55 miles (89 km) 
District Causeway Coast and Glens
County County Antrim
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BT54
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament North Antrim
NI Assembly North Antrim
List of places
Northern Ireland

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File:Ballycastle Northern Ireland.jpg
View from the Rathlin boat

Ballycastle (from Irish: Baile an Chaistil, meaning "town of the castle")[4] is a small town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The town is located on the northeasternmost coastal tip of Ireland at the northern mainland limit of the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland can be viewed from the coastline. The Ould Lammas Fair is held each year on the last Monday and Tuesday of August. Ballycastle is the home of the Corrymeela Community. It was the seat and main settlement of the old Moyle District Council and forms part of the North Antrim constituency. Its elected MP is Ian Paisley Jr.


Ballycastle is classified as a small town by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.[5] On 29 April 2001 2001 Census the population of Ballycastle was 5,089, of these:

  • 25.3% were aged under 16 years and 18.7% were aged 60 and over
  • 46.8% of the population were male and 53.2% were female
  • 77.7% were from a Catholic background and 20.5% were from a Protestant background
  • 6.5% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed

Places of interest

File:Antrim Coast near Ballycastle.JPG
Breakers on Antrim Coast near Ballycastle, Ireland, with cliffs of Fair Head. Scotland appears in the distance on clear days.
  • Fair Head, Ballycastle's headland rises 196 metres (643 ft) out of the bay. Goats can be seen roaming among the rocks beneath the cliff tops, where a walkway called 'The Gray Man's Path' winds around the rugged coastline. From the road, a man-made Iron Age island or crannog can be seen in the middle of a large lake.[6]
  • Knocklayde, a heather-covered mountain with a height of 1,695 feet, is crowned by Carn na Truagh (the cairn of sorrow), and provides extensive views over Ballycastle, Rathlin Island, Fair Head, and Scotland.[7]
  • Glentaisie, the most northerly of the Nine Glens of Antrim, lies at the foot of Knocklayde mountain. It is named after the Princess Taisie, the daughter of King Dorm of Rathlin Island. According to legend, Taisie, renowned for her great beauty, was betrothed to Congal, heir to the Kingdom of Ireland. The king of Norway also sought her hand in marriage, and when he arrived to claim his bride, her wedding celebrations to Congal had begun. The king and his army tried to capture Taisie, but in the subsequent battle he was killed, and his army fled leaderless and empty-handed.
  • The Carey, Glenshesk and Tow Rivers flow down from the glens into the Margy River. It then flows into the Moyle Sea at the start of the Strand.[8]
  • The Strand's Ballycastle Beach is designated a Blue Flag beach.
  • Pans Rocks, which are the remains of an iron salt pan lying at the far end of Ballycastle Beach, jut out into the sea providing a popular location for fishing.
  • The Devils Churn, lying just beyond Pans Rocks, has steps carved into the stone leading to an underwater tunnel.
  • Clare Park on Clare Road, was an estate owned by the then-local landed gentry, the McGildownys. The 17th-century house has been pulled down but it was set in a site high up on the Antrim coast.
  • A cycling route runs from Ballycastle to Cushendun, by way of Torr Head, offering spectacular views and scenery. From the road above Torr Head, the whole of Moyle (the North Channel) can be seen. A popular spot for inshore sea fishing, Torr Head also boasts a coastguard station, which is notable in that it was built on and out of the remains of Dunvarragh, the fort of Barach.
  • The Corrymeela Community (a Christian organisation promoting peace and reconciliation, founded in 1965) is based at Corrymeela, just outside Ballycastle.
  • Overlooking the harbour, there is a monument to Guglielmo Marconi whose employees made the world's first commercial wireless telegraph transmission between Ballycastle and the East Lighthouse on Rathlin Island.

Buildings of note

File:Rathlin Iland ferry at Ballycastle.jpg
Rathlin Island Ferry, Ballycastle Harbour
  • Holy Trinity, Church of Ireland, is situated in the Diamond, i.e., the main square. Like the rest of the Diamond, the church is grade 'A' listed. Built by Colonel Hugh Boyd, who bore the total cost, the church was completed in 1756. It was built in Graeco-Italian style with an apse-shaped chancel, and an octagonal spire about 100 feet high. It was effectively a chapel for the Boyd family and its estate for many years. The remains of many Boyd descendants are in the vaults below - although it was always subject to Episcopal jurisdiction. It was given to the Church of Ireland in about 1950. The church is open every day from 9am-5pm.
  • Bonamargy Friary is off the Cushendall Road on the approach to Ballycastle and is a late Franciscan foundation established in 1485 by Rory MacQuillan. Locked vaults hold the remains of the celebrated chieftain, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and several of the earls of Antrim. The Friary's most famous resident is the 17th century prophet and recluse Julia MacQuillan. Known as "The Black Nun", she wished to be buried at the entrance of the chapel so that she might be trodden under the feet of those who entered.[citation needed] A round holed cross marks her grave.
  • Kinbane Castle is situated on a headland projecting into the sea, about 3 miles (5 km) from Ballycastle on the road to Ballintoy. Originally a two story building, it was built in 1547 by Colla MacDonnell, who died within its walls in 1558.
  • There are several churches in Ballycastle. Ballycastle's Presbyterian Church (in Castle Street) has a distinctive round tower.[9]

Notable people


Bus services in Ballycastle are operated by Translink.

A ferry, currently operated by the Rathlin Island Ferry Company, runs between the town and Rathlin Island as part of a lifeline service. The ferry service to the island was formerly operated by Caledonian MacBrayne. Ferries formerly sailed between Ballycastle and Campbeltown in Scotland, but the service was suspended in June 2002. A passenger ferry service to Campbeltown, operated by Kintyre Express, now runs Friday to Monday during summer months and on Mondays and Fridays during winter months.[11]

Ballycastle railway station opened on 18 October 1880, but was closed on 3 July 1950. It was on the Ballycastle Railway, a narrow gauge railway which ran 17 miles connecting Ballycastle to Ballymoney station, on the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway (BNCR), later Northern Counties Committee (NCC) and now part of Northern Ireland Railways.

The Troubles in Ballycastle

There have been four incidents of what has come to be known as the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Loyalist paramilitaries left a car bomb outside the Roman Catholic church (St. Patrick's & St. Brigid's) in the town on 26 August 1973. It was timed to explode as massgoers left the church. But the service ran late, and the bomb detonated when the congregation were still inside the church, avoiding large-scale loss of life. 50 people were injured, 3 of them seriously.[12]

On 19 June 1979 the Irish Republican Army bombed five hotels in different seaside towns in Northern Ireland, including Ballycastle's Marine Hotel. William Whitten, a 65-year-old Protestant hotel guest, was seriously injured in the blast; he died three weeks later.[13][14]

Spence McGarry (46), a Protestant, off duty member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), was killed when a Provisional Irish Republican Army booby trap bomb attached to his car exploded in Castle Street car park, Ballycastle on 6 April 1991.[15] Gerard Butler was convicted in 1993 for the attack, and sentenced to 22 years in prison.[16]

In 2001, there was an attempt at mass murder by the Ulster Volunteer Force when a car bomb was left in Castle Street during the annual Lammas Fair.[17]

Parade disputes

In the past, there has been unrest during Orange Order parades in the town. In 2001, there was serious public disorder at the 12 July parade. As a result of this, the Silver Plains flute band from nearby Moyarget, was banned from marching in the town due to allegations of sectarian conduct and paramilitary trappings.[18] The North Antrim Orange Order held their annual parade in the town in 2006. Following discussions between residents, the Orange Order, business owners, and Sinn Féin the parade passed off without incident.[citation needed]


As with the rest of the British Isles, Ballycastle experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. The nearest official Met Office weather station for which online records are available is at Ballypatrick Forest,[19] about 4 miles East-southeast of Ballypatrick.

Climate data for Ballypatrick Forest 155m asl 1971–2000, Sunshine 1971–1990, Rainfall 1989–2000 (Weather station 4 miles (6 km) ESE of Ballycastle)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.5
Average low °C (°F) 1.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 119.16
Mean monthly sunshine hours 42.2 67.0 92.8 158.5 194.7 166.0 145.4 138.5 109.2 86.0 54.4 31.1 1,285.8
Source: MetOffice[20]


Sports of local interest include tennis, bowling (Mary Street), hurling, gaelic football (Whitehall/Leyland Road), and skateboarding.[citation needed]

Gaelic Games

The McQuillan GAC Ballycastle club has won 17 Antrim Senior Hurling Championships, the second-most of any club[citation needed]. The club has won 6 Ulster Senior Club Hurling Championships and were finalists in the 1980 All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship final.[citation needed] The club has a range of teams from U8 to Senior in both Hurling and Gaelic Football.

The town is also the location of Páirc Mac Uílín, the current Antrim Hurling County ground as Casement Park is unavailable.


Ballycastle Golf Club offers an 18-hole championship course open year round to both members and non-members.[21] The course is one of the four courses played each June in the world-renowned Causeway Coast Golf Tournament.[22]


During the Summer, the town hosts two tennis tournaments, one of which is run by the Moyle District Council.[23]

Association Football

Ballycastle United Football Club combined with Moyle FC in 2011, and the team now competes in the Coleraine and District morning league.[24]


Ballycastle Bowling Club is located outdoors at the sea-front.

See also


  1. North-South Ministerial Council: 2002 Annual Report in Ulster Scots
  2. Bonamargy Friary guide – Department of the Environment
  3. Guide to Dunluce Castle in Ulster-Scots DOE.
  4. Placenames Database of Ireland
  5. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency website
  9. Ballycastle Presbyterian Church
  10. Robert Pigott (3 March 2013). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien sorry for sexual misconduct". BBC. Retrieved 3 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Kintyre Express - ferry services and private charters". Retrieved 3 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Patrick Carville (27 August 1973). "50 hurt in bomb blast in Ulster". Chicago Tribune.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. [1]
  14. Ken Wharton (August 2014). Wasted Years, Wasted Lives. 2. Helion & Company. p. 210. ISBN 9781909982178.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "'Unheard Voices' - six stories from the Troubles". Ballymoney Times. 6 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Republicans". Daily Telegraph. 27 July 2000.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "UVF members linked to bomb". BBC News. 1 September 2001.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. The Guardian
  19. "Station Locations". MetOffice.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Ballypatrick Long Term Data". Met Office. Retrieved 21 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Bally Castle Golf Club". Retrieved 10 February 2015. External link in |website= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Causeway Coast". Retrieved 9 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Moyle Council
  24. |"Ballycastle UFC". Retrieved 9 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links