Spending quality time with loved ones means different things to different people, but there is something particularly magical about the detoxifying experience of time spent at this secluded retreat on the spectacular north Antrim coast.
The gate lodge at Magherintemple, Ballycastle has been tastefully and authentically restored to retain all of its original charm but with the benefit of life’s modern luxuries, and is operated by the Irish Landmark Trust as a beautifully quaint, self-catering holiday home sleeping up to four people.
It is one of 29 unique properties across the island of Ireland acquired and converted by the Trust and available to rent.
Despite being just a few minutes’ drive from the centre of Ballycastle, Magherintemple is a world away from the relentless pace of modern society, and a reminder that many of life’s greatest pleasures – such as country walks, bike rides through undulating lush countryside or strolls along a windswept Atlantic beach.
The enchanting gate lodge is an ideal location to explore many of the well-known attractions along the north coast, as well as a few of lesser known but equally worthy ones,
The house itself is warm and inviting with under-floor heating throughout, spacious shower and bath and a large, kitchen/dining room with patio doors into a pleasant garden.
All of the original charm but with the benefit of life’s modern luxuries
A dishwasher, large fridge/freezer, microwave and double oven ensure the self-catering aspect of the stay is a breeze, and every cooking utensil imaginable is at hand.
With so many tourists flocking to the north coast, it is perhaps no surprise that the restaurant scene is vibrant with a vast array of quality cuisine to choose from.
Having done my homework before travelling, I booked early to ensure I secured a table at the lauded Tartine brasserie in Bushmills on a busy Saturday night.
The modern restaurant is located in the village centre in the former home of the Bushmills distillery owners and is a pleasant blend of old world charm and the imaginative forward thinking of so many restaurateurs along the northern coastline.
Another gem is the Central Wine Bar in Ballycastle with its stylish interior, delicious menu and the most pleasantly helpful staff around.
The Giants Causeway, the Dark Hedges (made famous by Game of Thrones), Carrick-a-Reed and its rope bridge, Ballintoy Harbour and the spectacular Dunluce Castle remain as popular as ever with visitors from all over the world, but the short ferry ride to Rathlin Island from Ballycastle opens up even more opportunities for open air adventure.
Once across the six-mile stretch of water, the pace of life drops another notch as you find yourself surrounded by the unspoilt beauty of this haven for seabirds and other wildlife.
There are a number of well signposted walks/cycle routes and ideally you would want to set aside a full day to explore this under-appreciated natural wonder, however, if you only have a half day to spare then it’s still worthwhile spending a couple of hours for the walk to the island’s east lighthouse – the location of Marconi’s first ever wireless telegraphy experimental signals.
The ferry journey takes around 25 minutes each way with several sailings each day.
The Irish Landmark Trust has a further two properties in Bushmills and a particularly quirky property with room for two in a gothic mini castle – The Barbican – further south down the Antrim coast in Glenarm village.
Another couple of the Trust’s offerings on my ‘to do’ list are the three-storey Helen’s Tower in the heart of north Down’s Clandeboye Estate, and the Wicklow Head Lighthouse, between Dublin and Waterford, built in 1781 with six octagonal rooms, metre thick walls and stunning views along the rugged coastline and out to sea.
The lack of television, wi-fi and room service means this secluded short break haven isn’t for everyone, but if you appreciate the finer things in life that money can’t buy then Magherintemple is worth checking out.
Another added bonus for dog lovers is that the gate lodge has a ‘one dog’ policy so the faithful friend doesn’t have to miss out on the fun.
• Mark Rainey was a guest of the Irish Landmark Trust, a not for profit charity that offers a number of unique self-catering properties for rent across the island of Ireland – from north Antrim to Co Cork – many of historical or cultural significance.
A two-night stay at Magherintemple costs £280. For further information and bookings visit: www.irishlandmark.com