Glentaise - Glen of Taisie
Travelling from the Giants Causeway direction Glentaisie is the first of the nine glens you encounter, it is part of a scenic loop drive which covers both Glenshesk/ Glentaisie and loops around Knocklayd mountain. The drive is best accessed from the seafront at Ballycastle where it is signposted off the main Causeway Coastal Route at the Margey Bridge just before you leave the town heading for Cushendall.
The glen is named after Taisie, who was the daughter of a Rathlin Chieftain. She married Congal, son of the King of Dariada. Congal received the glen and other lands along the coast as a wedding gift from her father, he would later succeed his father to become king. Taisie's father also built a fort for the couple in Glentaisie, the photo below is the mound or a drumlin known as 'The Fort' and reputed to be where they lived after their marriage.
Small hills and drumlins cover the length of this glacial formed glen as its sweeps down the western flank of Knocklayd to Ballycastle. It has many interesting features which includes the remains of two motte forts, a rath, several standing stones and remnants of the narrow gauge railway which ran from Ballymoney to Ballycastle.
The railway opened in 1880 and its small light green engines and dark brown coaches served the district until it closed in 1950s. The entire project was tendered for under £40,000 and includes many bridges and even a small tunnel near Capecastle. You can still find traces of the old railway line though the tracks have gone, in recent years there have been proposals put forward to reinstate part of it as a walk and cycle route.
It was at the foot of Glentaisie near Ramoan that the MacDonnells regrouped their army before facing the O'Neill's at the 'Battle of Glentaisie' on May 2nd,1565. James MacDonnell had arrived from Scotland with reinforcements to aid Sorley Boy MacDonnell in his struggle with the O'Neill's who had forced him to retreat to Ballycastle after being defeated in the Glens. The battle resulted in the defeat of the MacDonnells and the death of Sorley's brother Angus, his other brother James died a few days later from wounds inflicted on the battlefield.
If you want to travel through Glentaisie first, drive to the Hillhead on the main road out of Ballycastle to Coleraine. Next to the Hillhead Garage you will find a road leading off to the left down into Glentaisie. You can then follow this road through the glen to St. Patricks Church near Armoy. At St Patrick's you have a choice of either turning left for Glenshesk and Breen Wood or right for a short detour into Armoy and the Dark Hedges. If you go into Armoy then return this way for Glenshesk.
Breen Wood is a remnant of an ancient oak forest that would have once covered most of the glen, it is now a nature reserve, nice for a walk with lots of lichens and wildlife. Opposite Breen Wood entrance you can alternatively follow the high road back to Ballycastle along the eastern side of Knocklayd above the glen, this road has some panoramic views to Rathin Island or follow the designated scenic drive through Glenshesk, its worth seeing both routes. Both end up at the same junction in Ballycastle.
The road along the mountainside is narrower but will give you get great views and it also goes past a car park area where people park and set out to climb to the top of Knocklayd, if you do that make sure you have the right gear and footwear and allow several hours. Remember to lock your car and remove or hide all valuables from view as even here we have the odd moron looking for opportunities to steal.
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