The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland
We left Belfast early to hit up some of the natural sights that line Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast. Our first stop was the Dark Hedges in Balleymoney, one and half hours from Belfast. You will want to arrive early as the Game of Thrones tourist crowds start to arrive around 11.
You shouldn’t drive down the tree lined road (but the signage doesn’t appear to be honored). Instead park in the parking lot at the Hedges Estate Hotel (free, ample). You walk across the street onto the property of the Georgian mansion, Gracehill House. We took a stroll in front of the mansion as to approach The Dark Hedges head on.
The hedges, which are really pruned beech trees are so impressive. The morning light was just stunning. We couldn’t have picked a better time to visit. We had the lane to ourselves for nearly 10 minutes.
Enjoy walking the stretch of road. It’s actually deceptive how thick the trees are. As you get into the hedge row it doesn’t look as full, so your best views are from the edge of the lane.
We were glad to have our wellies with us so we could walk through the puddles and not be bothered by the mud. In winter you may have many of these places to yourself but you’ll have to brave the weather. We figured we were no worse off than if we had stayed at home in The Netherlands.
The onslaught of tourists was perfectly timed to ask someone to take a family photo before the lane became crowded.
We opted to take the nature footpath through the Gracehill estate back. The mulched nature path winds around the outside of the property back to the parking lot. There are fairy houses at ground level and bird houses hiding in the trees that amused the kids.
This is a ‘not to miss place’ if you’re passing through the Northern Ireland countryside. It’s a quick stop but incredible to see for yourself. It is sure to stimulate your kids’ imaginations as well.