Grey Man’s Path, Fair Head, Ballycastle, Co Antrim

Fair Head is one of the great headlands of Ireland, magnificent when seen from any view…from Ballycastle or Rathlin Island or any of the other headlands on the North Coast. The massive basaltic cliff falls sheer for nearly 180 metres and some of the columns are 15m wide and hundreds of metres high.

Its base and face are so inaccessible that a pair of golden eagles was reputedly able to nest here and rear two young in 1953. After that, their nesting was intermittent and ceased in 1960.

Benmore (the great headland) on Fair Head looks across to Rathlin Island and Kintyre in Scotland.On the clifftop there are dark loughs and a crannog, a cairn, a megalithic chamber and the remains of a motte and bailey Norman fort.

The whole area is steeped in myth and legend, including The Grey Man’s Path, the Grey Man being a spectre that is supposed to be seen when the mist rolls in from the sea and he takes human form up this gully.

Evidence of human life and industry from a more recent age is dotted all along the coastal path from Ballycastle to Fair Head and further round the coast at Murlough Bay.
There were Porcellanite mines in this area in the stone age – but the tennis courts at Ballycastle are on the site of a harbour that was opened here in 1743, to export coal that was mined just outside the town. Coal mining was big business – beginning back in the 1600’s, production peaked around 1750, when 5-8000 tons a year were being produced.

The coal also powered other industries –a glass works between the tennis courts at the sea at the mouth of the Margy river – there were salt pans, a tannery, candles and soap production, a brewery and others. The last mine closed in the middle of last century.

Nearest Harbour: Ballycastle (5 km from Fair Head)