OMG Brad Pitt is in the Ballintoy Church!

Wait…he’s not here now, he’ll be here later…his body double is here, not Brad…Brad’s not in the movie, he’s producing it…they’re wrapping this shoot for Brad’s movie and Game of Thrones will start shooting tonight…

Ballintoy Church during filming of "Lost City of Z"

There was quite the hullabaloo at the Ballintoy Church this afternoon, and as best we can tell they were indeed shooting a Brad Pitt film, The Lost City of Z. For the record, we did not see Brad Pitt. I’ve just been told by our hostel host that Game of Thrones will begin shooting down in Ballintoy Harbor tomorrow morning - yay!! But due to filming, there’s a chance the road will be closed - nooooo! That’s our access point to a lovely coastal stretch on the Causeway Coast Way. If the harbor’s closed, we have to walk the main road and dodge traffic. Clearly I need to catch some magical Irish creature tonight and convince them to grant me a wish or two.

Julie hikes into Ballintoy

Today was our first of three days on the Causeway Coast Way and we hiked from Ballycastle to Ballintoy. Contrary to my prediction in the last post, today was not easier than Rathlin Island or Belfast. We walked 11 miles with two big sidetrips that included significant climbing; when you add the extra weight in our packs for water and food, it was a strenuous day and our dogs are barking!

Chris avoiding traffic on the Causeway Coast Way

Okay Ireland, we’re on to you. We know why you call this a “Way” and not a “trail”. Walking on roads with cars zipping by and no shoulder to speak of is certainly one way to get from Point A to Point B!

Julie crossing the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede

Most of the walk today was on roads, but that won’t always be the case. Tomorrow should be mostly trails and beach walking as long as the harbor isn’t blocked (fingers crossed!) and even today, the roads weren’t always busy. The worst came the closer we got to Ballintoy, probably due to sightseeing traffic heading to or from the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Chris and I enjoyed the bridge for the views and its unique history with local salmon fishermen, but the bridge itself was a bit underwhelming; it was shorter than we imagined and the crowds and controlled access made it feel less adventuresome.

Julie hiking down to Kinbane Castle

We were much more enthralled with the jaunt to Kinbane Castle. It was only a 300-foot elevation change overall, but involved serious switchbacks to get down to the castle at sea level. The climb back up was a drudge, but worth every step.

Julie walking the plank at Kinbane

The castle was built over 500 years old by Clan MacDonnell on a rocky outcropping in the sea. The information placards mentioned Sorley Boy MacDonnell; this was the 3rd time I’d read of him and I had to know more. Further reading revealed he was one of the most powerful of the Scotch-Irish Chiefs and leader of one of the three main Clans (along with MacQuillan and O'Neill) who continually battled for control of The Route, a medieval territory in County Antrim. Kinbane was built by Sorley Boy's brother Colla, and eventually presented to Owen Maclan Dubh MacAllister, the Chief of Clan MacAllister, out of loyalty and service to the MacDonnell Clan.  He seems to have remained loyal as he died fighting alongside Sorley Boy.

Chris befriends another donkey

You might think hiking on a road is no fun, but the day brought charm and revelation. We may have dodged cars, but we also met friendly donkeys, witnessed a sheep contentedly scratching his butt on a fence, and tracked a farmer as he ambled slowly across his fields to feed eager cows; all against a backdrop of clear blue sky, endless ocean, Rathlin Island and Fair Head. I loved the sweet anticipation of heading uphill with the road stretched out ahead - what lay on the other side? It was wondrous to see new scenery slowly unfold as I crested each rise. My biggest challenge of the day was remembering how traffic works. We were facing traffic so walking on the right. I would jump every time a car approached from behind but no need, they were on the opposite side! You probably have to live this to understand, but the driving-on-the-left thing is hard to get used to.

We plan to cap off our time in Ballintoy by visiting every pub in town! It’s not as wild as it sounds…there are only two and we already ate dinner at one :)

Want to know more about hiking the Causeway Coast Way? Check out our Ireland Trip Summary, and the guide Julie wrote: Hiking Ireland's Causeway Coast Way: 1 Person's 2 Cents on a 3-Day Journey