Northeast by Down East

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If you want a taste of Maine’s Down East coast abroad, loop around the Antrim Coast, which wraps around the northeast of Northern Island. That’s where I am now, which is also why I’ve been rather silent of late. Like Newfoundland and way Down East Maine, this coastline is raw and undeveloped, scalloped with lofty headlands and craggy cliffs. Few places so speak to the soul (to my soul, at least).

And like Maine’s coast, it’s key to get off the usual tourist routes. In Northern Ireland, that means getting off the main roads and detouring down the one-lane byways, roads that hairpin and corkscrew, edge cliffs, and mosey through farmlands. The countryside is a crazy quilt of greens, stitched together by stonewalls and hedge rows. And round many a bend are glimpses of the sea.

We’ve spent the last two nights at Dieskirt Farm B&B, James and Ann McHenry’s working sheep farm, snugged in Glenariff, the Queen of the Glens of Antrim. The farm has more than 800 sheep, as well as cattle, a horse, a donkey (for the Amerian tourists), and six working dogs. This B&B isn’t for those who need to be in action central, or even within a half hour of it. Nightlife is the animals; live entertainment is the forlorn cries of young lambs seeking their mums. But the peace, the friendship, the walks, and the breakfasts make it all quite grand.

According to James, Glenariff is the queen not only for its forest headlands and spectacular views, but because it is a rare, U-shaped glacial glen, a valley from the mountains to the sea. It’s calling cards are the waterfalls, which trickle and flow, stumble and gurgle through the forestlands at the glen’s head. From the B&B, it’s about a 10 minute walk into the national parkland and a restaurant, where we’ve dined twice listening to water music. Good food, fair prices, priceless location. Just like Down East Maine.