I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to visit Larne in Northern Ireland last week, as a friend from Larne living here in England had a free ferry ticket to use. Having just returned from France and suffering from those terrible Post-Holiday Blues I jumped at the chance, knowing very little about Larne or indeed Northern Ireland.
Funzo's Fantastical Follies and Forays previously in France entered Fenian Fields.
First off was the 7 hour drive to Cairnryan in Scotland to get the P & O ferry to Larne.
This is the most direct ferry to Larne and actually took in stunning scenery of the Lake District, although the hard, ominous rains hampered this. By the time we got to Cairnryan the weather was so bad that there was even talk of the ferry being cancelled. My decision not to bring waterproofs was not looking the wisest I have ever made.
There are two types of ferry to take over - the 1 hour sea cat and the cheaper but two hours normal ferry. See above link for prices.
The ferry thankfully braved the elements and we arrived at the Port of Larne and magically it had stopped raining. The Gods were indeed smiling.
The first thing that strikes you about Larne is the most unattractive sight possible - the power station. Its imposing structures all concrete and steel dominate the view from the port. Upon commenting on what an eyesore the power station was, my friend defensively and proudly countered with the fact that it provides over 33% of Northern Ireland's power.....still, it now made the view of Watford seem like a Japanese sunset!
The name Larne is Latharna meaning "Lothair-na"--the domain of a Viking Cheftain. Situated on the east cost, it has good road and rail links the rest of Northern Ireland. The A8 takes you to Belfast and although is only a single lane road for most of the way, in what ostensibly is one of Northern Ireland's main roads, there has been talk of late of a widening scheme. This being Northern Ireland, the talks are expected to continue for some time though before anything gets done. There is a town centre not unlike any other town centre in England with all the usual high street stores with maybe a few more independently owned shops than in England. I would say that the shopping in Larne constitutes an attraction in itself, but everything is there and for a town of 22000 people it seemed livelier than some town centres with much larger populations. One recommendation is "the poo bear' ice-cream in Maudes. Never has honeycomb and icre-cream blended so well.
The first sightseeing stop was at Sallagh Braes. Out in the hills behind the town of Larne it would I imagine on a clearer day give a wonderful view of the area. You can see out to Scotland from there on these fabled clear days and the lushness of the hillsides were rarely broken with houses or roads, Lunch was taken at a pub called The Meeting Point but known as Mattie Moores, although Mr Moore was deceased for over 30 years , change, endearingly so, is not something the locals take in quickly. Had a good lunch there of Beef and Guinness Pie with Champ (creamy mashed potato with spring onion) and spent the afternoon trying to walk it all off at Carnfunnock.
Carnfunnock is a little village north of the town of Larne. It comprises some very well kept Victorian gardens complete with graffiti free bandstands and a pleasant enough promenade to stroll down. The rocky coastline provides an abundance of wildlife and porpoises are regular visitors to the shores, although not on this day!
Having just about walked off lunch, we went to eat at the Londonderry Hotel in Carnlough, about 15 mins drive along the beautiful coastal road that Larne is on..otherwise known as the A2. Carnlough is in the borough of Larne and a quaint enough little harbour to visit. The Londonderry hotel used to be owned by Winston Churchill and has a grand history but even with a traditional local menu the food was a little disappointing and certainly not worthy of its surroundings or its price.
Info on the Londonderry can be found on :
The following day the sun was shining and the views from the surrounding glens were spectacular. The emerald like ocean complimented the thick sumptuous hillside greens and there are a number of trails and walks that you can go on. Info for these is at
Because I was staying at my friends family place I have no idea of Hotels or accommodation in Larne. I saw a few B & B's scattered around but am unable to add further information on that one.
With time running against us and still Belfast, Portrush and the giants causeway to see I spent the afternoon seeing the various murals or colours of Larne. My only real knowledge of Northern Ireland was from via the news regarding the troubles there and I have always been fascinated by the sometimes beautiful if not provocative murals on the news. At this stage I had not visited Belfast and seen Shankhill or Falls road, and was thus drawn in to the few but still powerful paintings in Larne.
I'm not going to even attempt to explain the political situation in Northern Ireland as it way too complex an issue for little ol' me. But Larne did not disappoint my voyeuristic appetite. Predominately loyalist, the town is resplendent in Union Jacks and Ulster Flags. Outside of Jubilee day I have not seen so many flags. Curbs were painted red white and blue and there was a wonderfully intricate portrait of Oliver Cromwell on someone's house. I was shown where the bonfires are held in July and although Larne isn't the hotbed that is Belfast, you could not fail to feel to feel the undercurrent of political outpourings in Larne.
The final evening was spent in a local pub called The Kiln which is not, and never will be a tourist attraction. Most of the pubs and bars have closed in Larne due to its ageing population and the demise of the pub industry in gerenal. The Kiln is very much a local pub and far too ordinary for me to waste further words on...so I will not!.
I left Larne with good memories. Ok, it has a power station, Ok it has a large port and Ok it has a feel of a town in very slow decline. But for all that it is a town with charm. A town with very friendly people, good enough shopping and fine local foods. Larne has character, history and rolling glens and if you are in Northern Ireland take the coastal road and be sure to stop at Larne and get a Poo Bear ice cream at Maudes. :-)