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Fair Head 

This, the North East corner of County Antrim , is dominated by the soaring arrogance of the basalt cliffs of FAIR HEAD. Falling 600ft/200m to the shore, with a base so inaccessible that, in the past, GOLDEN EAGLES have chosen to raise their young here, the cliff is unsurpassed by any other in Northern Ireland - it is as wild and rugged as MURLOUGH BAY to the South East, is calm. The POLYGONAL columns are similar to those at the world famous GIANT'S CAUSEWAY except that here, they are some 50ft in girth and serve as a landmark from both sea and air.

The top of FAIR HEAD is an eerie tableland all rocks and heather, populated by the Chough with it's red bill and legs, where Ravens and Buzzards abound and the serene Peregrine Falcon endlessly patrols the formidable landscape. There are three small lakes on the top of FAIR HEAD - Doo, Fadden and Lough-na-Cranagh - so called because of the CRANNOGH in the middle of it. This artificial lake dwelling is oval in shape and is faced with a Dry Built Revetment rising 6ft above the water level in the lake. Dwellings of this type are widely accepted to have been fortified shelters for community use in times of danger and have had their origins in the BRONZE AGE.

Vegetation between here and the cliff top proper is a montage of mauve Lousewort, Bog Orchid and the small delicate pink spotted flower of the Heath Spotted Orchid. The unique mixture of sea shore and cliffs, heath land and woodland, lakes and bogs and grassland, on nutrient deficient soil, all combine to support and explain the unrivalled variety of plant and animal life found in this small, but nonetheless, important area. By securing 1000 acres of this landscape, the NATIONAL TRUST has ensured the preservation of this area of coastline which is of national significance for wildlife.

Access to the foot of FAIR HEAD is by way of a formidable scramble known as 'Grey Man's Path'. Tradition would have it called after a colony of hermits who inhabited the caves or perhaps a holy man who came here everyday for prayer and meditation. This path spanned as it is by a toppled column of basalt and carpeted with yellow Welsh poppies, is the only way down to the remains of what were rich and vibrant coal-workings. The mines here made up part of a series stretching some 2 miles East and West of Fair Head and formed an important link in the industrial chain that supported the area. At the peak of production in the 1750's, one hundred miners where annually extracting between 5 and 8000 tons from these mines.

The easiest place from where to explore this windswept headland is the Trust's small car park at COOLNALOUGH. The small group of cottages here are known as a CLACHAN - part of system of land management and division, popular at one time in Ireland . Under the system each family would have cultivated their share of the nearby-unfenced land, strip divided and called the 'in-field'. As you might expect, land beyond this was called the 'out-field' providing animal grazing and very occasionally, crops.

Bear in mind that the walk to the cliffs is dangerous and taxing and is by way of a 'right of access' negotiated by the Trust with a local landowner. We all owe him much gratitude indeed. Please pay attention to the safety advice of the area, wear sensible clothing and footwear at all times and your reward will be unrivalled views of RATHLIN ISLAND with the MULL of KINTYRE in the background.