The 9 Glens Of Antrim: What They’re All About + The Best Stops

9 glens of antrim
Photos by Ballygally View Images (Shutterstock)

The 9 Glens of Antrim are one of the most beautiful places to visit in Northern Ireland.

Known locally simply as ‘The Glens’, they make up an area of outstanding natural beauty that stretches along the northeastern coast of County Antrim.

Steeped in myth and history and boasting breathtaking scenery, The 9 Glens of Antrim are a must-see, especially if you’re driving the Causeway Coastal Route.

Below, you’ll get an overview of each of the Antrim Glens and you’ll find the best spots to visit if you fancy exploring them.

Some quick need-to-knows about the 9 Glens Of Antrim

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A visit to the Antrim Glens is straightforward, once you know what area they cover and what there is to do in each corner. Here are some handy need-to-knows:

1. Location

As the name suggests, you’ll find the 9 Glens of Antrim in, yes, County Antrim. The main towns to look out for if you want to explore the glens are; Ballycastle, Cushendall, Cushendun, Glenarm, Carnlough, and Waterfoot. Situated on the northeastern coast, each glen enjoys proximity to the sea.

2. 9 Glens

There are Nine Glens in total, each one with its own character and quirks. We’ll take a closer look at all of them below, but each is named after a characteristic or item associated with the Glen.

3. Home to a wealth of beauty

From castles and historic villages to waterfalls and ancient rock formations, the 9 Glens of Antrim are packed full of beautiful sights. Rolling hills, home to a rich array of wildlife, meet with gushing streams, and all roads lead to the ocean. It’s a magical place.

An overview of each of the 9 Glens of Antrim

Below, you’ll find an overview of each of the Antrim Glens along with the most popular natural attractions each one boasts.

Below, you’ll find everything from the magical Glenarm Castle and the breathtaking valleys to caves, rivers and waterfalls.

1. Glenarm

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Also known as ‘the valley of the army’, Glenarm is the southernmost of the 9 Glens of Antrim. As the valley meets the ocean, you’ll find the village of Glenarm, home to the majestic Glenarm Castle and Gardens.

The valley features woodlands in the shape of Glenarm Forest Park, which is home to a variety of walking trails – the wooded riverside walk is a top attraction and it’s just 5 minutes from the centre of the village.

A number of ancient sites can also be found in the glen, with evidence of habitation dating back to around 500 AD. There’s plenty of hotels in Ballymena, nearby, if you fancy staying.

2. Glencloy

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Known as ‘The Valley of the Sword’ or ‘The Valley of the Hedges’, Glencloy is one of the largest of the 9 Glens of Antrim. It’s also steeped in ancient history and enjoyed abundant resources.

As such, it was very likely a major site for flint weapon production. In more recent history, the limestone cliffs that surrounded the glen have been the source of a bustling mineral industry, giving birth to the village of Carnlough, which is located at the outflow of the valley.

There are some fantastic walks in this Glen, with trails taking in relics of the ancient and more recent past. In addition, nature lovers can enjoy Cranny Falls and Doonan Waterfall.

3. Glenariff

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Known as the arable valley or the valley of the ploughman, Glenariff is the largest of the 9 Antrim Glens. It’s among the most popular to visit and has earned the nickname, the ‘Queen of the Glens’, due to its stunning natural beauty.

Lying at the foot of the glen, the village of Waterfoot makes a superb base for exploring the many walking trails. Follow the river through forests and ravines and look out for stunning waterfalls such as the awe-inspiring ‘Mare’s Tail’ waterfall and the ‘Fall of the Hooves’.

Farmland runs up the valley slopes, while an array of things to see, including ancient graveyards, are dotted throughout the Glen.

4. Glencorp

causeway coastal route
The Causeway Coastal Route: By Chris Hill

Known as the valley of the body or the glen of the dead, Glencorp’s grizzly name shouldn’t put you off. It features sublime scenery, with mountains to one side and rumbling hillocks to the other.

The Causeway Coastal Route passes through the entire length of the Glen, so it’s an easy one to enjoy a nice scenic drive through.

Rolling farmlands bordered by dense woodland are characteristic of Glencorp, which eventually rolls into the ocean at Cushendall Bay. For some amazing views, take the mountain road known as the Ballybrack.

5. Glenballyemon

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Known as Eomon’s Valley, Glenballyemon offers up some spectacular views of Trostan Mountain, which makes a large part of the Glen. Stubborn farmland stretches up the mountainside before the soil turns to rock and the slope ascends sharply up.

The charming village of Cushendall is located at the mouth of the valley, and if you follow the river back into the valley you’ll come across a number of waterfalls.

At the top of the Glen, the derelict railway station of ‘Retreat’ slowly crumbles into the earth, a relic of the area’s mining industry.

6. Glanaan

 

Alternatively known as the valley of the colt’s foot or the valley of the burial chamber, Glanaan is steeped in mysticism. Ancient roots spread throughout the glen, touching the tip of Aghan Mountain and sweeping down to the ocean.

Glanaan’s most famous site is Ossian’s Grave, a neolithic court cairn believed to mark the burial site of Fionn mac Cumhaill’s son Oisin.

Rich in myth and legend, the cairn is easily reached from the Causeway Coastal Route. The valley is rich in ancient relics as well as more recent ruins, such as the abandoned stone cottages of Knockbann.

7. Glendun 

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The next of the Antrim Glens is known as the valley of the brown river or the glen of the river Dun, Glendun offers amazingly varied scenery.

The Glen sweeps down from the tundra-like slopes of Slieveanorra mountain, passing through lush forest, all the way to the village of Cushendun.

Steep mountains surround the valley, though a small but scenic road runs through the entire glen.

The road takes in the iconic Glendun Viaduct which towers above the glen road and river alike. Breathtaking scenery abounds and it’s well worth taking your time on the narrow Glen road.

8. Glenshesk

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Known alternatively as the barren glen or the valley of the rushes, Glenshesk is characterised by steep, mountainous slopes and amazing views.

A scenic high road takes you along the entire length of the valley, offering incredible views over Rathlin Island. The glen flows out at Ballycastle and is awash with historic sights as well as natural beauty.

Amid the woodlands and farmlands, you’ll come across the ruins of the 15th-century Friary of Bonamargie, ancient churches, and ruined stone cottages. A hotbed of battle throughout the centuries, an array of standing stones mark the graves of countless fallen warriors from the past.

9. Glentaisie

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Named after the fair Tasie, daughter of Rathlin’s King Dorm, Glentaisie is where Taisie and her newly wedded husband Congal, heir to the Kingdom of Ireland, were believed to have lived after the marriage.

The glen is filled with ancient monuments, including what is believed to be the remains of the very fort the legendary couple lived in.

Situated at the foot of Knocklayde Mountain, the glen enjoys numerous beautiful sites, including Breen Wood, an ancient oak forest that is great for walking in. at the other end of the glen, you’ll find the town of Ballycastle.

Things to do in the Antrim Glens

There’s plenty to see and do in the green Glens of Antrim, from waterfalls and walks to scenic drives, coastal villages and beaches.

Below, you’ll find everything from the mighty Slemish Mountain Walk to a couple of our favourite Glens of Antrim Walks.

1. Glenariff Forest Park

Beautiful waterfall and stream in the valley of Glenariff Forest Park in autumn colours, Count Antrim, Northern Ireland
Photo by Dawid K Photography on shutterstock.com

Situated in the Queen of the Glens, Glenariff Forest Park sprawls out over more than 1,000 hectares. Home to a diverse crowd of creatures and critters, including red squirrels and Irish hares, the forest is a great place to get close to nature.

There are several marked walking trails to explore, varying in length and difficulty and offering something for everyone.

Waterfalls and riverside grottos abound, and when you need refreshments, there’s even a tea house. Popular activities include horse riding, walking, and picnicking.

2. Slemish Mountain

slemish mountain walk
Photo left : By ShaunTurner. Photo right : By Ballygally View Images

Next up is one of our favourite Glens of Antrim walks! The legendary Slemish Mountain juts up from its gentle surroundings, inviting hikers to tackle its craggy slopes.

At 1,500 feet (437 metres) tall, the mountain is challenging but accessible. In Irish legend, St. Patrick was brought to Ireland as a slave and toiled on the slopes of Slemish for 6-years as a shepherd.

Here he discovered prayer and in a vision was encouraged to escape and return home, where he would become a priest. Nowadays, you can follow in his footsteps and make the climb yourself, taking a 1.5 km round-walk to the summit.

3. Carnfunnock Country park

Photo by Maciek Grabowicz (Shutterstock)

Offering fun for the entire family, Carnfunnock Country Park comprises mixed woodland, a stunning coastline, and various gardens to explore.

The iconic walled garden is a top attraction, with its carefully selected floral displays, stone sundials, and wooden sculptures, it provides a relaxing place to stroll around.

There are plenty of activities to enjoy as well, including crazy golf, a driving range, a kids’ playground, and a number of marked walking trails. Throughout the summer, there are countless additional attractions and things to do, including an exciting maze.

4. The Moyle Way

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The Moyle Way is a superb marked walking route that takes in 5 of the 9 Antrim Glens. Starting near Ballycastle, the route follows forest trails, remote moors, and mountain slopes.

This tough 2-day walk is immensely rewarding, boasting a spectacular chance to get up close and personal with the incredible scenery of the northernmost glens.

Expect waterfalls, wildlife, and incredible woodland ecosystems. Just be sure to wear a good pair of boots. The going can get tough and some of the paths are pretty boggy.

5. Ballycastle

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The seaside town of Ballycastle sits at the foot of Knocklayde Mountain. Both Glentaisie and Glenshesk spill into the ocean at Ballycastle, making it an ideal place to stay for a few days if you want to explore the local area.

There’s plenty of things to do in Ballycastle, with Kinbane Castle close by and a variety of pubs, cafes, and restaurants to check out.

Ballycastle Beach is also a superb place to relax on the sand, enjoy a nice stroll, or gaze out to sea to take in views of Rathlin Island and even parts of Scotland.

6. Glenarm Castle

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A focal point of Glenarm, the southernmost glen, Glenarm Castle is an exciting place to visit and a must-see if you’re in the area. Steeped in history, the castle is the ancestral home of the McDonnell family.

A guided tour of the castle takes in dining rooms, suites, drawing rooms, and the immense castle hall. Along the way, your guide – the castle’s butler – will recall stories and detail the history of the castle.

The castle grounds are just as impressive as the inside, with a spectacular walled garden and walking trails.

7. Carnlough

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The charming village of Carnlough is a top place to visit, and it’s located at the foothills of Glencloy. It’s famed for its beautiful harbour, from which small fishing vessels and pleasure boats set out to sea.

The harbour was also one of several Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland, and was used in several scenes in the show.

A fantastic base for exploring Glencloy, it’s worth spending a bit of time in the village too, soaking up the local culture.

8. Cranny Falls

Photo by Sara Winter (Shutterstock)

Cranny Falls are among the biggest waterfalls in Ireland and are definitely worth checking out. They’re easy to reach as well, with a well-signed walking trail starting from Carnlough Harbour.

The 2 km (1.2 miles) trail follows a disused limestone quarry railway track as it gently rises from sea level. Along the way, you’ll pass the abandoned Gortin Quarry, beautifully diverse woodlands, and gently flowing rivers. A series of viewpoints offer spectacular views over Carnlough and beyond.

9. Cushendall

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The beautiful seaside village of Cushendall is full of olde-worlde charm and it’s a great place to explore if you’ve been admiring the Glens.

It sits at the meeting point of 3 of the iconic Glens; Glenaan, Glenballyemon, and Glencorp, making it a fantastic base for exploration.

There are several attractions and things to see in and around the village, including the Curfew Tower, Oisin’s Grave, and Red Bay Castle.

10. Cushendun

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Sitting in the heart of the 9 Glens of Antrim, Cushendun is another seaside village that boasts a spectacular location and a wealth of things to see and do.

Located at the mouth of Glendun, the village is managed by the National Trust, which strives to preserve its unique charm and character.

The various buildings stand against a backdrop of rolling hills, craggy cliffs, and a slowly meandering river. Make sure to visit Cushendun Beach and the Cushendun Caves.

11. Glendun viaduct

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Known as the big bridge by locals, Glendun viaduct is a masterpiece of engineering. Three archways tower above the river dun and the small road that runs through the glen.

It was built between 1845 and 1849 and still stands strong to this day. It’s best seen from the glen road as you drive through Glendun, where you can slow down and admire it in all its beauty.

Set amid a backdrop of rolling hills and lush green woodlands, it’s a truly beautiful sight.

FAQs about the 9 Glens of Antrim

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what are the best 9 Glens of Antrim Walks to which Glens of Antrim waterfalls are most worth a visit.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are the 9 Glens of Antrim?

The 9 Antrim Glens are: Glentaisie, Glenshesk, Glendun, Glanaan, Glenballyemon, Glencorp, Glenariff, Glencloy and Glenarm.

What are the best things to see in the Antrim Glens?

Cranny Falls, Glenarm Castle, Carnfunnock Country park, Slemish Mountain and Glenariff Forest Park are our favourite attractions in the 9 Glens of Antrim.

Where do the Glens of Antrim start?

The main towns to look out for if you want to explore the Glens are; Ballycastle, Cushendall, Cushendun, Glenarm, Carnlough, and Waterfoot.

Andy was once on a glorious worldwide trip on his equally glorious motorcycle. After 4 years, he'd still only made it as far as Eastern Europe, before falling in love with his surroundings and deciding to settle down a while. Nowadays, he spends his time writing about traveling through the places he once explored, normally while sipping a pint.

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