ABOUT THE COURSE
The turnaround point of the Antrim Coast Half Marathon is Ballygally, a coastal village 3 miles north of Larne. It is one of the oldest inhabited areas of Ireland.
Archaeological excavations carried out in the 1990’s revealed Neolithic houses just some 500m from the shore of Ballygally Bay.
In the middle of the village is Ballygally Castle. This one of the oldest occupied buildings in Ireland. It was built in 1625 by James Shaw of Greenock as a fortified house to protect his family and other Scottish settlers who settled in Ireland. It is now a popular 4 star hotel that is reputedly haunted by friendly ghost “Lady Isabella” and brave guests can visit the ghost room in the tower.
Close to Ballygally is Cairndhu Golf Club with its magnificent coastal views of the Inner Hebrides, Jura, Mull of Kintyre, AIlsa Craig and Isle of Mann and is one of the premier golf courses in Northern Ireland.
Also to be found on this breath taking stretch of the Antrim Coast is Carnfunnock Country Park, on the route of the half marathon. This 191 hectare site contains a 5 star caravan park and campsite and provides lots of activities for families all year round.
THE ANTRIM COAST ROAD
The Antrim Coast Road, stretching from Larne to Ballycastle was built 1832-1842. Prior to 1832 the roads were very poor and often dangerous, and the Glens of Antrim were largely isolated from the rest of the country.
It was easier for the people of the Antrim Glens to do business with Scotland than their land neighbours over the mountains.
The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland came up with the idea of building the Antrim Coast Road. This road was to have political, economic and social impact.
It integrated this isolated region into the rest of Ireland and opened the area for trade. The Antrim Coast Half Marathon wouldn't have been on the agenda in those days, but thanks to the work of that time we can host the most scenic and flat half marathon not only in Northern Ireland, but on the island of Ireland.
THE ANTRIM COAST ROAD
William Bald was the engineer in charge of construction on the Antrim Coast Road starting in Larne. He decided to build the road at the foot of the cliffs that ran by the sea.
Some of these cliffs on the Antrim Coast were 330ft high (~100m). This was a revolutionary idea as previous plans had suggested that the road be built some distance from the coast.
Bald argued that by building the road by the sea it would be much more level. An important consideration for the horse-drawn transport of that time, and today means the Antrim Coast Half MArathon is both a flat and fast race.
Bald found his building materials onsite, blasting off the Antrim Coast cliff face using explosives and using the rocks crashing down on the foreshore as the base of the new road. Work finished in 1842 and remained largely unchanged until the 1960’s.
The Antrim Coast Road is now considered one of the greatest tourist routes of the world and is proudly home to the Antrim Coast Half Marathon.
PLACES OF INTEREST
For over 2000 years seafarers have found Larne a safe and accessible harbour. Romans, Vikings and Edward Bruce all benefited from its sheltered waters and good anchorage.
In the 18th century the lough was the departure point for many emigrants leaving for America; indeed by the end of that century Larne had become the principal port in Ulster for emigrants.
In the 19th century, largely due to the enterprising James Chaine, Larne Harbour became the leading sea link to Scotland with the development of the Larne to Stranraer route.
This continued for 123 years until in 1995 Stena announced that their operations would move to Belfast. However at this time Larne was benefiting from the P&O Ferries service from Larne to Cairnryan.
Today P&O Ferries (main sponsor of the Antrim Coast Half Marathon 2020), are the only ferry company operating from Larne – with up to 7 daily passenger and freight crossings to Cairnryan. This remains the shortest sea route across the Irish Sea.
The stunning Antrim Coast Road – aerial video.