The Islandmagee scenic drive (signposted Brown's Bay) loops off the Causeway Coastal Route close to Whitehead. The name translated is said to mean 'MacAodha's island', another explanation is the it is named after the Magee family who owned the lands here in the past. After the last ice-age and before the land rose this would have indeed been an island.
There are lots of medieval church sites around Islandmagee, at Ballykeel, Ballypriormore, Portmuck, Kilcoan and Ballydun. Also lots of evidence of early settlement from the Neolithic period, excavations for example in the townland of Ballyharry, close to St. John's Parish Church uncovered neolithic houses and artefacts including, pottery, flint workings, javelin head and fragments of polished axe heads.
The church of St. Johns is recorded in the Cromwellian Inquisition of 1657 as being in repair. During its life it fell in and out of repair and useage, the present building is believed to date to 1827.
Another interesting site believed to have been the church site prior to St John's is Ballypriormore. What is intriguing here is the references to Danes (Vikings) being the first people buried here and that soil was brought by ship from their homeland for the burials. The Vikings certainly had established a base on Islandmagee. The sheltered lough was once named after a Viking king, so this story of burials may not be too far away from the truth. Ballypriormore is also listed in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas in 1306.
The ‘classic’ Ballylumford dolmen stands in the front garden of a private house about 1km before you get to the power station. Known locally as the Druid’s Altar, these unique structures were burial chambers for important people in the social hierarchy of the time and date to the Neolithic period.
Interestingly the Romans called Larne ‘Portus Saxa’ or 'Port of the Standing Stones' after the numerous artefacts on the landscape. It is widely believed that a well structured society lived here and traded across to Scotland, it would have been one of the earliest settlement areas in Ireland after the last ice-age.
It is hard not to miss Ballylumford Power Station with its three 120 metre high chimneys, the plant is gas fired and the largest in Northern Ireland producing half of the province’s electricity. The first plant here was coal fired and built in 1943, it stopped operating in 1974 after the B station was completed. During the Ulster Worker’s Strike (1974) worker’s joined the strike and the electricity supply to Belfast and the country was stopped, the strike led to the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement.
The station was sold to Premier Power Ltd in 1992, a subsidiary of British Gas, the sale was on condition that it was changed from oil to gas. To facilitate this a 41km pipeline was laid under the North Channel to Scotland, the plant began running on gas from 1996. Further improvements have seen the plant upgraded to gas and steam turbines.
Page 1 of 2