Ballycastle, Glenarm and Lamlash

After leaving Craighouse on Jura we had intended stopping off at Port Ellen on Islay for the night but a look at the weather over the next couple of days persuaded us to miss the island out and make straight for Ballycastle.

Friday 14th and Saturday 15th July, Ballycastle

Ballycastle is a wonderful wee town, a proper sea-side town with a great beach, a play park,  ice-cream parlours, a wonderful chip-shop, a couple of pubs, a supermarket and a variety of wee gift shops. The marina is small but there always seems to be room and the Harbour Master really helpful. And that’s just the part of the town near the sea, there’s more to be found about a kilometre inland.

It was a long day and at times it was a wee bit wet and rough at times on the crossing from Jura. We had decided to pass Rathlin Island on the east side and as a result we needed to be quite far east to miss the Macdonnell’s race and the tidal eddies. It was coming up to spring tides and we were concerned about the tidal stream between Rathlin and the mainland. On reflection, we probably should have gone round the west of Rathlin.

We had phoned ahead and the Harbour Master informed us that the marina was really busy and we would have to raft. It was approaching five when we finally made it to the marina and the HB was waiting for us and pointed out where we were to raft. It turned out we were next to another Moody “Ace of Rhu” skippered by Bill Faerestrand who I have met on a couple of occasions at Moody events. It was a bit of a wild evening but after a couple of repositioning of fenders we were secure.

I think lots of other boats had decided to seek shelter for a couple of days as there was little movement the following day. We had decided to stay a couple of nights before heading down the coast to Glenarm. This allowed us to head up into the other part of the town and seek out one of our favourite bars – The Boyd Inn.

We spent a wonderful afternoon chatting with the locals and sampling some fine Irish Whiskey. 

Sunday 16th July, Glenarm

At first glance, there’s really not a lot to Glenarm, the marina, two pubs and a wee shop that doesn’t sell much of anything, but it does have bread, milk and biscuits!  However, just a short walk away is Glenarm Castle, gardens, shop and tea-room. I have visited this in the past and walked round the gardens, which are beautiful. 

After we arrived we checked the following day’s tides for our trip back across the North Channel and they were not really in our favour. Staying two nights instead of one and heading straight for Lamlash instead of Campbeltown would mean we could leave an hour later. Still, we would have to be up and on our way before 0500 if we weren’t to be battling the tide and being swept up the channel. This allowed us to spend the evening in The Bridge End Tavern or “Stevey’s” as it is better known.

I took this just before we went in and before I had put the phone in by pocket, Stevey was out the door shouting “That’ll be a pound!”. 

As well as having some of the most beautiful coastline anywhere, Northern Ireland has some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I have come across. Which is probably why we return year after year. We had a wonderful evening in “Stevey’s” – it’s his bar and that’s how he spells it!

Wednesday 19th July, Lamlash

We were literally up at the crack of dawn – dawn was 0501 to be precise and we were already on our way. We had done as much as we could the night before to make a quick getaway and we were early enough to watch the sun rise over Ayrshire.

It’s a long haul from Glenarm to Lamlash, some 55 NM, which I would normally allow 10 hours to make. It was still round about spring tides and the stream at the Antrim Coast was running at five knots. Our early start had us pushed up towards Kintyre where we hoped to pick up the tidal stream when it turned to take us south of Sanda Island and then east towards Pladda Island and finally north to Lamlash Bay.

Both tidal streams and wind were very much in our favour and we made the crossing, sailing, in just eight hours, averaging close to seven knots. Outstanding for Jess. We dropped the sails at the southern end of Holy Isle and motored into the bay to find a mooring. 

It was fairly quiet when we arrived but as the afternoon wore on it became increasingly busy. There are 25 visitor moorings and by early evening they were all taken. It was a bit like an International Sailing Convention in the bay with boats registered from many other countries. We had come across quite a number of Dutch and French registered boats on our trip and tonight in the bay there were Dutch, French, Belgian, German, Maltese, Swedish, Danish, Swiss and even one boat from Canada. It is great to see so many visitors enjoying our wee country. Many of these were heading round The Mull to go north and by morning most had left to catch the tide.

We spent a lovely evening sitting in the cockpit watching the comings and goings, sipping some fine whisky!

Thursday 20th July, Largs

The final part of our trip was the short hop of just 17 NM from Arran across The Clyde to Largs. It was a bright morning but with little wind forecast it was a gentle motor up the coast of Arran towards Little Cumbrae. There wasn’t a lot going on but we did pass a couple of ferries including “Alfred” on loan from Pentland Ferries. She does a number of routes, today she was heading for Brodick from Ardrossan. We also saw “Waverley” in the distance as she left Keppel Pier on Cumbrae to make her way west – probably to Tarbert or round The Kyles of Bute.

After a fantastic three weeks of sailing, I’m back in Largs now and Alan is making his way home. Astonishingly, we covered over 500 NM, visited 15 different places, met up with an old friend and loads of great folks, oh and came across fifteen different CalMac Ferries, multiple times! The weather wasn’t brilliant but neither was it awful, and it stayed dry for the majority of the three weeks. Jess behaved impeccably and never let us down. I reckon that of the 500 miles well over half was sailing, and the rest a combination of motor-sailing and motoring, which is way better than I expect. The best sails were crossing from Portree to Plockton and yesterday’s trip across the North Channel from Glenarm. I’m looking forward to next year.

I’ll spend a few days tidying up, an oil change on the engine and a few repairs before I head off again for a day or so with my nephew, his wife and daughter and a trip with a couple of other Moody 31 owners to Tighnabruaich, Tarbert and Lochranza.