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Ballycastle, County Antrim facts for kids

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  • Scots: Ballykessel,
    Bellykessel or Bellycaissle
  • Irish: Baile an Chaistil
Ballycastle Harbour - - 468327.jpg
Ballycastle harbour
Ballycastle is located in Northern Ireland
Population 5,237 (2011 Census)
Irish grid reference D115407
• Belfast 55 miles (89 km)
  • Causeway Coast and Glens
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BT54
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament
  • North Antrim
NI Assembly
  • North Antrim
List of places
Northern Ireland
55°12′18″N 6°15′29″W / 55.205°N 6.258°W / 55.205; -6.258
Ballycastle Northern Ireland
View from the Rathlin boat

Ballycastle (from Irish: Baile an Chaistil, meaning "town of the castle") is a small seaside town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is on the north-easternmost coastal tip of Ireland, in the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The harbour hosts the ferry to Rathlin Island, which can be seen from the coast. The Ould Lammas Fair is held each year in Ballycastle on the last Monday and Tuesday of August. Ballycastle is the home of the Corrymeela Community.

Ballycastle had a population of 5,237 at the 2011 census. It was the seat and main settlement of the old Moyle District Council.


At the time of the 2011 Census the population of Ballycastle was 5,237. Of these:

  • 20.2% were aged under 16 years and 17.5% were aged 65 and over
  • 47.5% of the population were male and 52.5% were female
  • 77.1% were from a Catholic and 19.0% were from a Protestant or other Christian background
  • 7.1% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed

Places of interest

Antrim Coast near Ballycastle
Breakers on Antrim Coast near Ballycastle, Ireland, with cliffs of Fair Head. Scotland appears in the distance on clear days.
  • Fair Head, Ballycastle's headland rises 196 metres (643 ft) out of the bay. Goats can be seen roaming among the rocks beneath the cliff tops, where a walkway called 'The Gray Man's Path' winds around the rugged coastline. From the road, a man-made Iron Age island or crannog can be seen in the middle of a large lake.
  • Knocklayde, a heather-covered mountain with a height of 1,695 feet, is crowned by Carn na Truagh (the cairn of sorrow), and provides extensive views over Ballycastle, Rathlin Island, Fair Head, and Scotland.
  • Glentaisie, the most northerly of the Nine Glens of Antrim, lies at the foot of Knocklayde mountain. It is named after the Princess Taisie, the daughter of King Dorm of Rathlin Island. According to legend, Taisie, renowned for her great beauty, was betrothed to Congal, heir to the Kingdom of Ireland. The king of Norway also sought her hand in marriage, and when he arrived to claim his bride, her wedding celebrations to Congal had begun. The king and his army tried to capture Taisie, but in the subsequent battle he was killed, and his army fled leaderless and empty-handed.
  • The Carey, Glenshesk and Tow Rivers flow down from the glens into the Margy River. It then flows into the Moyle Sea at the start of the Strand.
  • The Strand's Ballycastle Beach is designated a Blue Flag beach.
  • Pans Rocks, which are the remains of an iron salt pan lying at the far end of Ballycastle Beach, jut out into the sea providing a popular location for fishing.
Marconi memorial Ballycastle County Antrim
The Marconi memorial
  • The Devils Churn, lying just beyond Pans Rocks, has steps carved into the stone leading to an underwater tunnel.
  • Clare Park on Clare Road, was an estate owned by the then-local landed gentry, the McGildownys. The 17th-century house has been pulled down but it was set in a site high up on the Antrim coast.
  • A cycling route runs from Ballycastle to Cushendun, by way of Torr Head, offering spectacular views and scenery. From the road above Torr Head, the whole of Moyle (the North Channel) can be seen. A popular spot for inshore sea fishing, Torr Head also boasts a coastguard station, which is notable in that it was built on and out of the remains of Dunvarragh, the fort of Barach.
  • The Corrymeela Community (a Christian organisation promoting peace and reconciliation, founded in 1965) is based at Corrymeela, just outside Ballycastle.
  • Overlooking the harbour, there is a monument to Guglielmo Marconi whose employees made the world's first commercial wireless telegraph transmission between Ballycastle and the East Lighthouse on Rathlin Island.

Buildings of note

  • Holy Trinity, Church of Ireland, is situated in the Diamond, i.e., the main square. Like the rest of the Diamond, the church is grade 'A' listed. Built by Colonel Hugh Boyd, who bore the total cost, the church was completed in 1756. It was built in Graeco-Italian style with an apse-shaped chancel, and an octagonal spire about 100 feet high. It was effectively a chapel for the Boyd family and its estate for many years. The remains of many Boyd descendants are in the vaults below - although it was always subject to Episcopal jurisdiction. It was given to the Church of Ireland in about 1950. The church is open every day from 9am-5pm.
  • Bonamargy Friary is off the Cushendall Road on the approach to Ballycastle and is a late Franciscan foundation established in 1485 by Rory MacQuillan. Locked vaults hold the remains of the celebrated chieftain, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and several of the earls of Antrim. The Friary's most famous resident is the 17th century prophet and recluse Julia MacQuillan. Known as "The Black Nun", she wished to be buried at the entrance of the chapel so that she might be trodden under the feet of those who entered. A round holed cross marks her grave.
  • Kinbane Castle is situated on a headland projecting into the sea, about 3 miles (5 km) from Ballycastle on the road to Ballintoy. Originally a two story building, it was built in 1547 by Colla MacDonnell, who died within its walls in 1558.
  • There are several churches in Ballycastle. Ballycastle's Presbyterian Church (in Castle Street) has a distinctive round tower.


Rathlin Iland ferry at Ballycastle
Rathlin Island Ferry, Ballycastle Harbour

Bus services in Ballycastle are operated by Translink.

A ferry, currently operated by the Rathlin Island Ferry Company, runs between the town and Rathlin Island as part of a lifeline service. The ferry service to the island was formerly operated by Caledonian MacBrayne. Ferries formerly sailed between Ballycastle and Campbeltown in Scotland, but the service was suspended in June 2002. A passenger ferry service to Campbeltown, and Port Ellen on Islay, operated by Kintyre Express, now runs seven days during summer months and on Mondays and Fridays during winter months.

Ballycastle railway station opened on 18 October 1880, but was closed on 3 July 1950. It was on the Ballycastle Railway, a narrow gauge railway which ran 17 miles (27 km) connecting Ballycastle to Ballymoney station, on the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway (BNCR), later Northern Counties Committee (NCC) and now part of Northern Ireland Railways.

Parade disputes

In the past, there has been unrest during Orange Order parades in the town. In 2001, there was serious public disorder at the 12 July parade. As a result of this, the Silver Plains flute band from nearby Moyarget, was banned from marching in the town due to allegations of sectarian conduct and paramilitary trappings. The North Antrim Orange Order held their annual parade in the town in 2006. Following discussions between residents, the Orange Order, business owners, and Sinn Féin the parade passed off without incident.


As with the rest of the British Isles, Ballycastle experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. The nearest official Met Office weather station for which online records are available is at Ballypatrick Forest, about 4 miles East-southeast of Ballypatrick.

Climate data for Ballypatrick Forest 155m asl 1971–2000, Sunshine 1971–1990, Rainfall 1989–2000 (Weather station 4 miles (6 km) ESE of Ballycastle)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.5
Average low °C (°F) 1.5
Precipitation mm (inches) 119.16
Sunshine hours 42.2 67.0 92.8 158.5 194.7 166.0 145.4 138.5 109.2 86.0 54.4 31.1 1,285.8
Source: MetOffice


Sports of local interest include tennis, bowling (Mary Street), hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, (Whitehall/Leyland Road), soccer, golf, quidditch and skateboarding.There is additionally a local pool league between the various pubs in the town.


Ballycastle Golf Club offers an 18-hole championship course open year-round to both members and non-members. The course is one of the four courses played each June in the world-renowned Causeway Coast Golf Tournament.


During the Summer, the town hosts two tennis tournaments, one of which is run by the Moyle District Council.

Association Football

Ballycastle United Football Club combined with Moyle FC in 2011, and the team now competes in the Coleraine and District morning league.


Ballycastle Bowling Club has a scenic outdoors setting that is a feature of the town's sea-front.

Notable people


  • Sorley Boy MacDonnell (c.1505-1590) – Scottish-Irish prince, born at Dunanynie Castle near Ballycastle
  • Gillaspick MacDonnell (c.1550-1571) – nephew of Sorley Boy MacDonnell, killed accidentally in 1571 at Ballycastle.


  • The 1st Viscount Longford and 17th Baron Slane (1669-1726) – politician. Lord Longford, known for much of his life as Lord Slane, is buried in the MacDonnell family vault in Bonamargy Friary, Ballycastle, the burial place of the Earls of Antrim.


  • Hugh Boyd (1746-1794) – writer
  • John Surman Carden (1771-1858) – officer of the British Royal Navy, died in Ballycastle
  • Hugh M'Neile (1795-1879) – controversial anti-Roman Catholic preacher


Sir Roger Casement (6188264610)
Sir Roger Casement
  • John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-1875) – clergyman and hymnwriter
  • Thomas Witherow (1824–1890) – Presbyterian minister and historian.
  • Sir Roger Casement (1864-1916) – writer and Irish Republican revolutionary who was born and raised in Dublin to a father from Ballycastle.
  • Dame Louise McIlroy (1874-1968) – medical doctor, born near Ballymena, father was a general practitioner in Ballycastle
  • Robert Quigg 1885–1955) – soldier and recipient of the Victoria Cross


  • Helen Megaw (1907-2002) – crystallographer
  • Donal Lamont (1911 – 2003) – Bishop of Mutare, Zimbabwe, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978
  • Michael Dallat (1925 – 2000) – Titular Bishop of Thala, Tunisia and Auxiliary Bishop of Diocese of Down and Connor
  • Keith Cardinal O'Brien (1938-2018) – he served as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, 1985–2013. Cardinal O'Brien was effectively the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland from the death of Thomas Cardinal Winning, Archbishop of Glasgow, in June 2001 until his own resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February 2013. He was created a Cardinal in October 2003.
  • David McWilliams (1945-2002) – folksinger and musician
  • Conleth Hill (b. 1964) – actor

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