A cliff top path from the Causeway Visitor Centre can be walked around as far as Ballintoy. The visible lower mid cliff path is closed from Port Reostan due to slope failures (rockfalls) which has destroyed the path at several locations. The red layers of soil (Laterite) exposed on the headlands either side of Port na Spaniagh extends on into Port Reostan - it is this layer, sandwiched between two harder basaltic layers which is prone to weathering and in turn leads to slope failure.
Portcoon (Narrow Harbour) is famous for its sea cave which extends some two hundred yards and is accessible from the landward side - with tales of smuggling and ghostly pipers it was a popular spot for Victorian visitors who would hire local boatmen to take them round from the Brenther in Portnaboe or Black Rock boat slip below Runkerry House. Special guests would be in for a treat, prior to their arrival at the mouth of the cave a guide would have been dropped off at the cave with a gun, as the guests arrived around by boat he would fire a shot which would send all the sea birds flying out of the cavernous cave.
In Portnaboe (Port of the Cow) you will find remains of low stone walls. Several theories exist as to their purpose and perhaps to a degree, all three are correct - one theory is that they were built to pen sheep or cattle - another that they were used to dry seaweed harvested from the shore, the third and most intriguing, is that they were built by the Vikings for wintering at the causeway. It is known that Vikings used their boats when wintering over - they would build a low stone wall in the shape of the hull, the boat would then be turned upside down and secured down with ropes, providing an excellent waterproof shelter.
The Vikings are well documented in the history of Ulster, they first came here in small 'hit and run' raiding parties, then later with fleets and eventually they made land bases in attempts to conquer the country. In Portnaboe there are also two intrusive volcanic dykes running out to sea, one of them is aptly named the 'Camel's Back'. The foreshore around the causeway has claimed many ships, in 1890 the schooner 'William & Mary' foundered on rocks between Portnaboe and Portcoon, en route from Maryport, Cumbria to Letterkenny, Donegal.
Port Ganny sweeps round from the Great Stookan to the Causeway, if you had visited here forty years or so ago, you would have encountered many local characters with their crafts and gifts set out before them on the pathway leading to the Stones. They sold a whole range of handmade and collected items including soapstone carvings (metamorphic rock with a soapy feel and the characteristic mineral of Talc) and refreshments. Local people would also offer a guided tour of the Causeway Stones with a bit of blarney.
At one time there was a ban punishable by a fine for selling alcohol without a license, the old ladies of the causeway found a way around this law, they sold water in a glass and then poured in the spirit for free. Looking back to the Great Stookan, there is a rock whose silhouette, especially as twilight falls, clearly resembles one of these old ladies walking up the steep incline - known locally as the 'Granny's Rock'.
The causeway itself is a fascinating array of stones and amongst them you will find many interesting places including 'Wishing Chair' which has been sat on by many famous people. The causeway stones also featured on the cover of the Led Zeppelin album 'Houses of the Holy' one of the classic rock albums and the Flock of Seagull shot their video for their hit single ' More You Live'. Port Noffer is entered through the 'Giant's Gate', a narrow man made cut which now forms a pathway between tall vertical basalt columns and the towering Aird Snout which is lined with exposed tilted columns. On the foreshore is the distinct shape of the 'Giants Boot', a huge basalt rock which is weathered brown and shaped like a boot.
Port Noffer is also the site where the Spokesman foundered on 22nd November 1847, the ship was driven ashore during the night, she was en route from Liverpool to Derry with a cargo of coal. At daylight she was lying partly broken up in the bay, accounts reported that there was no-one on board the ship and no bodies found in the bay, the log book had no records for several days before she was lost, the crew were assumed drowned.
Other ships that have foundered in this area include 'Abraham & Ann' 1824, and the 'Diligence' in 1839. Looking across to the far side of Port Noffer and accessible by the lower cliff path is the impressive 'Giant's Organ' - tall hexagonal basalt columns set into the steep grassy slope - the Shepherd's path connects from here to the upper cliff walk. You cannot follow the lower cliff path into Port Reostan but you can still view the wonderful Amphitheatre from the corner, a sheer wall of tall vertical columns line the cliff face.
Lacada Point is where the Spanish Galleass the 'Girona' sank in 1588 with the loss of over 1200 Spanish sailors and soldiers from the ill fated Armada. The bodies were washed into Port na Spaniagh and written accounts of Port na Spaniagh tell of a pile of white bones that once existed in the bay just above the shoreline which were known as 'The Bones of the Spaniards' . All of these bays were working environments, men, women and children laboured here on a daily basis for a living and also several tragically died in the process.
Like young Mary Macauley from nearby Tonduff. She had been down in Port na Spaniagh with her brother Daniel and John Purdy, burning kelp since the morning. They set out for home around 7 pm, to get home they had to climb up a narrow path out of the bay which they proceeded to do, like they had done many times before. About 100 feet up the path near the 'long step', Mary slipped, lost her balance and tumbled back down and disappeared. The two boys climbed back down and found her lying unconscious at the bottom. They managed to get her up the path and round to the Causeway where she was taken to her father's house at Tonduff, she died never having regained conciousness.
Runkerry house was once part of the estate of the Macnaghtens of Dunderave. it was built in the early 1860's by Sir Edward Macnaghten, the fourth Baronet. In 1951 Sir Malcolm Macnaghten donated Runkerry House to the Northern Ireland government for pubic use. It was used for many years as a retirement home, later as a Residential Activity Centre and a Rehabilitation Unit. It closed in 1996 and without any consultation with the community about other possible uses it was sold at Public Auction to Seaport Investments Limited. The sale caused controversy regarding the moral 'right of sale' of a charitably donated property.
Shortly after its purchase the Talon Group Inc (website now down but registered in Scottsdale, Arizona) announced the future development of Runkerry House as follows, quote: Runkerry Hotel and Golf Club, Bushmills, Northern Ireland 'Talon is a partner in the development of a meeting, spa and golf resort in Northern Ireland. This facility will offer 5 star accommodation and a world class golf course' - unquote.
The Hotel and Golf Club never materialized but Runkerry House underwent enlargement with landscaping and development in keeping with the old building. Another issue was raised after the sale of Runkerry and after over 150 years of use, this related to a 'permissive' right of way through part of the property. The right of way issue eventually became the focus of a court case between local walkers and Seaport Investments Limited - who won the case. A track is believed to have existed to the Black Rock salmon station and recorded as being used by local boatmen before the turn of the century to take visitors around to view the Giant's Causeway and Portcoon Cave.
There are echoes here of another famous 'right of way' court case which involved access to the Causeway Stones, after first losing the case, the High Court in London overturned the ruling when evidence was produced proving that the maintenance for the right of way had been contracted out from Dervock to the Causeway Stones by Antrim Borough Council. Runkerry House reached the news in 1999 when the N I E announced on its website, Quote - 'A new local Northern Ireland property record was set in March 1999 when New York banker, David Hamilton-Brown bought a 2,500 sq ft apartment in Runkerry House, County Antrim for £400,000.' - unquote.
The Ulster Way goes past Portcoon around Runkerry headland and Runkerry House and onto Bushfoot Strand.