Garron Tower

Published: June 28th 2015
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The sun broke through this morning but perhaps not for long. So we quickly pulled on our hiking shoes and headed out to find the path up to Garron Tower and St. Killian's College. The trail starts out next to a home across from the little Garron Point park next to us on Garron Road. You walk up the driveway for the house and continue on into the forest along a nearly invisible overgrown path. It widens out after a short way, turning into dirt and rocks as it winds its way back and forth beneath the trees, up the hillside towards the tower. You eventually reach a stone wall and it follows along that, in front of the tower, until it reaches a gate and takes you onto the grounds of St. Killian's College. Once inside the grounds, you can see a row of cannons aimed out through holes in the surrounding wall.

The tower and mansion were built in 1850 by Lady Londonderry, Winston Churchill's great-grandmother. After she died in 1865, the tower mansion was available for rent but mainly stayed empty until it became a hotel in 1898. It was popular and successful until a fire destroyed
St Josephs Dining RoomSt Josephs Dining RoomSt Josephs Dining Room

The stables, later the hotel dining room then St. Joseph's Dormitory.
much of it in 1914. The tower was used again off and on until it was burned again in 1922. It reopened after this as a hotel again but the start of the war in 1939 brought their operations to an end. In 1941, The Belfast Charitable Society leased it for use as a Senior's Home to use during the war, moving back to Belfast in 1946. In 1947 the Tower mansion was purchased by Mrs. Cushendall, restored, and turned into St. MacNissi's College. In 2010, St MacNissi's College and two other Antrim schools, St Aloysius' College, and St Comgall's College, amalgamated to became St Killian's College , an age 11 to 18 Catholic School.

We wandered through the deserted grounds for a while then up through a soccer field to find huge Calvary statues on a hillside, surrounded by sheep. The sheep have pink spray paint on them to mark them. The painting is common here to be able to see which sheep are yours, as herds share fields. They also mark them to keep track of which ones are pregnant, which have already been vaccinated, etc.

Walking gradually through the grounds, up towards Tower road above the college, we found an easy way out of the property through gates into and out of a small water reservoir area, just for the college I think. We discovered a gated path across the road leading up the mountain. Mostly dirt and rocks, we walked slowly as it was kind of slippery from the recent rain. We were in the shade much of the time in thick forest, climbing a very steep path. But the higher we climbed, the more the sun came out and it became very warm. The path was surrounded by Broom, Heather, and Stinging Nettle. One leaf of the stinging Nettle touched my pant leg and it stung like crazy for about 20 minutes. I remember it well from our time on Saltspring Island where it grew everywhere.

The views kept improving dramatically as we climbed so I stopped frequently to take photos of the coastline, Garron Tower, and the Calvary statues. We surprised a couple of these huge Dalesbred sheep on the path as we rounded a curve. They're kind of scary looking with huge horns, but luckily they ran away from us. They are probably pretty docile but from the looks of them, they could butt us over the fence into the stinging nettle pretty easily!

As we climbed, the path gradually became grassier, making the footing more secure. We decided to head back before making it to the top as the climbing looked steeper and more difficult and would likely turn into a mountain climbing expedition. The walk back down was easy and quick although our attempt at a short cut through the college grounds wasn't successful as the huge electric driveway gates were closed and watched by surveillance cameras. So we had to back track a while along Tower road to pass by the reservoir again and return on the same path we used to climb up to the college originally.

We got back into our cottage for lunch just before the rain started again. At least the sun was out for a long enough time to warm up our cottage so we didn't need the wood stove to heat it anymore.

Additional photos below
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25th October 2015

Garron Point walk
Well done Roger and Christine for taking on this climb! We often do this walk, summer and winter, and you have captured it beautifully with your photos. Just one correction! We don't play soccer in North Antrim. We have a very strong GAA tradition, especially in Hurling!

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