Armoy is situated on the Glenshesk/Glentaisie Scenic Drive which loops around Knocklayd mountain from Ballycastle. The picturesque village has many unique connections to discover and places of interests to visit close by. Just outside the village you will find St Patrick's Church, a very important site for early Christianity and the Kingdom of Dalriada. Patricius (Saint Patrick) on his returned to Ireland established a monastic settlement here in the 5th century. Recently excavated recently as part of planning requirements for a graveyard extension uncovered artefacts which date the location to the 6th century. The actual centre of the monastic settlement has not been determined yet though many scholars believe it may be higher up the slope behind this graveyard on unexcavated ground. The monastic settlement was built on land given to Patrick by Fergus Mor MacEarca who would succeed his father to become the first Christian king in Ireland, it is said he gave the land to Patrick after being baptised. Saint Olcan was another follower of Patrick also came from the area, the local primary school still carries his name, Olcan was baptised at Dunseverick by Patrick and later became Bishop of Armoy.
It is a unique village, as the lyrics of the song 'Lovely Armoy' expresses, the song is a lament of someone leaving this rural village surrounded by glacial drumlins on the river Bush. Although the author who penned the song is unknown, his sentiments can be seen in the setting and layout of the village, the landscape, the fairytale bridge and the 'time has stood still' atmosphere beside the river Bush. Knocklayde mountain is visible from the village, along the scenic drive you will find ancient Breen Wood with access points for walkers to the famous Moyle Way. Close by is Gracehill Golf Course set in the grounds of a Georgian House on the Ballinlea Road near the junction with Bregagh Road, home to the Dark Hedges. A country lane where the silver grey branches of mature beech trees entwine in their canopies to form a natural archway, memorable and inspiring to see. These trees were planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century to provide a landscaped avenue feature for their house. In the past, the village centre piece was a building beside the river known as 'Tilly Molloy's', for decades it was a focal point for village dances, social evenings, drama and a cinema but fell into dereliction in the mid 1970's and abandoned. In 1996 the local community group bought the building and transformed it back into a centrepiece complete with retail units, offices and spacious holiday apartments overlooking the River Bush.
The road through the old part of the village follows the curve of the river over a wonderful hump back bridge and past the Presbyterian Church. The hump back bridge is a classical example of its type and it is well worth taking a walk into Riverside Park where you can get the best view of its unique construction. The village was once served by the Ballymoney to Ballycastle narrow gauge railway which opened in 1880 and closed in 1950. The old station house still stands in a farmyard a short distance along the Carrowreagh Road, at the Dark Hedges another halt was built to served the big house at the bottom of the tree lined avenue.
There is another interesting and famous railway link to Armoy:- Samuel Fordyce was born here in 1735, he emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1775 and established the Fordyce family there. His grandson Samuel Wesley Fordyce (1840 -1919) became a leading financier and industrialist in the United States who was a major player in the development of the American railroad. It is estimated he was involved in building and financing over twenty four thousand miles of track including the Kansas City Southern Railway, the Little Rock Railway, Hot Springs & Western Railroad, St. Louis Valley Railroad, St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, Missouri, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad, to name but a few. He declined many opportunities to become involved in politics though he did act on occasions as advisor to President's Hayes, Harrison and Grant - he was also a close friend and confidant of President McKinley whose ancestral home is at nearby Conagher, Dervock. Samuel Wesley died in 1919, aged 79.
At Limepark just outside the village on the Ballymena Road, you will find a cairn erected to commemorate the 7th World Ploughing Contest held here on October 8/9th,1959. The cairn contains individually engraved stones from all the countries that took part in the contest and is crowned by a replica of the trophy itself. Countries represented where - Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Finland, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, United States, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Australia and Austria. The winner of the 1959 contest was Lawrence McMillen from Northern Ireland and the runner up, Charles Bonney from Canada.
Another notable local figure who carried the village name in his own was the journalist and author John Armoy Knox. He was born in Armoy in 1850 and emigrated to Texas when he was 22 years of age. In collaboration with Alexander Sweet, he co-founded the 'Texas Siftings' in 1881, which became one of the most popular illustrated publications in America with a weekly circulation in 1891 of 150,000 - the publication also had a London edition published in 1887, they sold the paper in 1895. John Knox also wrote several books including All About the Klondike Gold Mines (1897) and A Devil of a Trip (1888) and with Sweet wrote Sketches from Texas "Siftings" (1882), 'On a Mexican Mustang through Texas' (1883), and Three Dozen Good Stories from Texas Siftings (1887). He died in New York in 1906.
In St Patrick's Church you can find the grave of the Reverend Ralph Wilde (1798-1882), he was the uncle of Oscar Wilde and ward of Oscar's two half sisters Emily and Mary, illegitimate daughters of his brother William Wilde (Oscar's father). While rector of Drumsnat Church of Ireland (Co. Monaghan) he allowed the two girls to go to a party at Drumaconnor House where they suffered severe burns in a fire and died aged 24 and 22, they were buried at Drumsnat. Reverend Ralph Wilde transferred to St. Patrick's Armoy after this tragedy.
The most remembered local man was Five Times World Motorcycle Champion Joey Dunlop MBE OBE who as a young man honed his skills and tested his bikes on the country lanes around Armoy. Another aspect of Joey which earned him an OBE was his compassion and care for people less fortunate than himself. He set out many times in his own van and at his own expense, loaded with clothing, food, bedding and medicines which he distributed to people in Romania, Bosnia and Albania.
Joey was one of four talented local motorbike racer's known as the Armoy Armada - Frank Kennedy, Mervyn Robinson, Jim and Joey Dunlop. They were the folk heroes of North Antrim and the racing legends on which road racing is built. Joey sadly, died at the Estonia TT in 2000 doing what he loved most. It is true to say that Joey was a legend in his own lifetime, yet always remained a humble, kind and down to earth man who had time for everyone.
If you enjoy heritage or will visit some of our coastal castles like Dunluce, Dunseverick and Kenbane then a visit to Sheans Horse Farm and Heritage Centre should be planned. Here, not only can you trek on horseback, walk and cut turf but you can also learn about the history surrounding the Battle of Orra in 1583. A battle between the McDonnells on one side and the McQuillans and O’Neills on the other. You can walk or trek on horseback up to the top of the mountain and take in the view and learn about this unique event in Irish history. To get there, go to St Patrick's Church and Round Tower, just past there take a turn to the right for Loughguile and follow this for about two miles, you will see the sign for Sheans Heritage Farm on the left. If you wish to stay local I would recommend self catering at Limepark, their renovated cottages are very comfortable, creative and unique, set in what was once was a large Georgian farm complete with a cobbled laneway.