Posted by: brendanodornan | August 19, 2012

Last Big Outing Before Lap The Lough, Part 1 of 2

Saturday 18 Aug 2012. Eight days to go. Last chance to do a big distance before Lap The Lough 2012.

I rose early, breakfasted on porridge, toast with marmalade and coffee. I hoisted the bike onto the roof of the car and set off for Larne. My first obstacle was the barrier at the entrance to the Park and Ride car park at Millbrook. The height was marked as eight feet and three inches. I had no idea if I was under that or not, I crawled the car forward and then got out to check, I just cleared it with about an inch to spare.

I got my jersey stocked for the morning with granola bars, a water bottle on the bike and put on my raincoat. Even though it was already warm at 17 deg C there were very dark and angry looking clouds over Agnew’s Hill, where I was headed.

I left Millbrook and headed north west up Drumahoe Rd and turned left onto Deerpark Rd. My muscles were feeling stiff after last weekend’s exertions (cycling) and there was a dull, throbbing ache from….down below. I was well off the pace that we set last weekend.

I passed a couple of houses on the right with a plaque mounted on the wall commemorating the Countess Balzani. This lady’s father was Squire Agnew for whom Kilwaughter Castle had been built in 1803. The castle is now a ruin. His daughter went off to Italy and married an Italian Count and returned to Ireland as Countess Balzani. The countess started a school in the area which has now been converted into two private residences and are marked with the plaque shown below.

Access to Kilwaughter Castle is not possible as it stands on private property, however you can still see it from the road and it must have been an impressive building in its prime. Soldiers occupied Kilwaughter Castle in the 1940’s including, from Jan until May ’44, members of the American 644th T.D. (Tank Destroyer) Battalion preparing for D-day.

I turned right on to Castle Hill Rd, and at the T junction turned right again onto Starbog Rd., to climb up (a category 4 climb) and skirt around the base of Agnew’s Hill. This is an area where as boys we would help our father cut and dry turf. Still visible are some banks where turf was cut although I didn’t see any evidence of recent cutting. I doubt if many people do this anymore as its heavy, monotonous work and often plagued with midge flies…which bite. These are not to be confused with midgets, as some people erroneously write, and as far as I know we have no issues with biting midgets in County Antrim.

In the picture below you can see the view from Starbog Rd across towards Glenarm with some turf banks in the middle foreground, if you look closely, with a magnifying glass.

I carried on and could soon see Slemish Mountain on my left. At the end of Starbog Rd., I continued onto Deerpark Rd., if I’d turned left here I would have strayed within a whiff of Fartown.

Deerpark road had a fast descent into a bend and then a tough climb up past the old Deerpark Creamery. It looked quite derelict so I’m not sure if it’s still operational.

At the end of the road I turned right in the direction of Glenarm on Lisles Hill Rd., and at the junction turned left onto Munie Rd. This road climbs up and through some scrub and moorland and passes the old house where my father was born. Dad lived here until he married and moved to Larne in the sixties. I’ve seen very similar buildings at Cultra Folk Museum – although those are in better condition.

This town-land region is known as Antynanum and is also home to Ireland’s longest megalithic court tomb at 70m in length. These structures date from about 10,000 years ago and were built by farming communities.

I continued on and the rain started to come down in torrents, I was glad to have brought my raincoat. I turned left onto the main road in the direction of Ballymena and soon passed Carnalbanagh Sheddings. This place is certainly no longer in operation, there used to be a farm supplies store and a public house however both are no longer in operation.

My next turn was to the right onto Longmore Rd. This was a category 5 climb and offered spectacular views of Slemish Mountain from the north. Slemish is a volcanic plug and is also famous for its links with St Patrick, who spent many happy nights here with his sheep.

My other interest in Longmore Rd is that in the historical archives there is a record of an O’Dornan renting land in this area in 1640. Farming at this time was a subsistence existence based on growing what oats and potatoes you needed to feed your family. A lot of the land up in this area is very bleak and it would have been a very tough life.

While contemplating this harsh, austere, inhospitable, hand to mouth existence, I stopped briefly, unwrapped and masticated on a chewy granola bar, savouring the chewy, nutty, sweetness and  then continued to the junction with Glens Brae Rd and turned right.

This road included a very fast descent into a right hand bend and steep ascent. I built up as much speed as I dared going downhill, round the bend and this momentum helped carry me at least half way up the far side. I got to the summit and stopped to get my breath back and removed my raincoat. The sun was now shining brightly and I was soaked with sweat under my raincoat.

Look me up later in the week for Part 2 to hear about Waterfoot, Carnlough, Glenarm and Baggyalley.

To make a donation visit my site at….

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/brendanodornan

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