The Dark Hedges are some of the most photographed trees in Northern Ireland. They can be found in County Antrim about halfway between Ballymoney on the A26 road and Ballycastle on the north Antrim coast. The nearest villages to the Dark Hedges are Armoy and Stranocum.
Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.
In Episode 1, season 2 of Game of Thrones Arya Stark flees King’s Landing and rides through the Dark Hedges transformed into Kingsroad on her way to join the Night’s Watch. Tourists have flocked to the hedges ever since that first episode of season 2 was aired.
It’s about 9 miles to the Dark Hedges from the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge car park via Ballonlea Road. Some people might prefer to drive eastward to Ballycaste and then take the A44 road to Armoy. That route is about 11.5 miles.
The line of trees takes up about 0.6 miles along Bregagh Road near the Hedges Hotel.
The Stuart family planted 150 beech trees lining the roadway to their Gracehill House mansion (named after James Stuart’s wife Grace) in 1775, 244 years ago. There are about 90 trees left. The average beech tree has a life of about 250 years (some say 200, some say 300).
Storm Gertrude in 2016 destroyed two trees and damaged another. Storm Doris downed another tree in February 2017. Another tree was toppled by Storm Hector in June 2018 and one more tree fell in a storm in January of this year. One of the recent trees fell over the road and had to cut up with chain saws and moved away with heavy machinery. The tree from this January fell into a field and is still there.
From Wikipedia: “According to legend, the hedges are visited by a ghost called the Grey Lady, who travels the road and flits across it from tree to tree. She is claimed to be either the spirit of James Stuart’s daughter (named “Cross Peggy”) or one of the house’s maids who died mysteriously, or a spirit from an abandoned graveyard beneath the fields, who on Halloween is joined on her visitation by other spirits from the graveyard.”
For the last couple of years it has been against the law to drive down Bregagh Road but that hasn’t stopped a lot of people. We saw several cars drive past us when we were there.
We planted a beech tree in our front yard 46 years ago. I guess one of my descendants will have to think about replacing it in 200 years!
After our visit to the Dark Hedges we drove back to Belfast and had dinner with Geraldine’s sister Siobhan and her family. I will have more about our evening with Siobhan, her husband Adrian and their children in my next posting.
Bonus — The Music of Ireland: Memory of Trees by Enya
Enya’s full name is Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin (anglicized as Enya Patricia Brennan).
She is famous for her New Age music and is the # 1 Irish record seller. Enya wrote two songs for the Lord of The Rings trilogy. May it Be is the theme from LOTR # 1 — The Fellowship of the Rings. She sang her song while the credits were rolling at the end of the film. Enya also performed May it Be at the 74th Academy Awards in 2002. She came out with Memory of Trees, her fourth record album, in 1995.