The Dark Hedges were planted in the 18th century as an avenue to a Georgian house. Later, when the narrow gauge railway was built between Ballycastle and Ballymoney, a station halt was installed at the top of the avenue. The location has been visited for decades by artists, film crews and visitors (some by train). It was not until HBO unfortunately, used the setting that it was jumped on by the N I Tourist Industry and used in massive global promotion campaigns. No investment was made at the location prior to this which has now led to serious problems arising with environmental damage, littering, grass verge erosion, traffic congestion and inadequate parking facilities. A 'classic' study case for how not to develop and sustain a rural tourism asset that is not managed.
The best time to see them is at the crack of dawn in summer or 'out of season' if you want a quiet avenue, today it is extremely rare to find it deserted as in the promotional photos used to promote it. If you explore the rural area around north Antrim you can 'discover' several similar tree lined lanes and canopy tunnels, though not as grand or mature as this example. There is believe it or not, a preservation group formed to look after the trees as they come to the end of their natural life cycle.
The easiest way to get here is from Armoy, take the Carrowreagh Road to the Dry Arch then turn left for Gracehill. There you will find a hotel, golf course and restauarant who provide parking on site. Please do not park on the verges as they are being destroyed at an alarming rate, use the off road car park provided free by the Dark Hedges Estate, after your visit enjoy some refreshments there if you wish.
I forgot to mention, the avenue is haunted by the Grey Lady who glides silently along the hedges at twilight, so be aware when the light falls on the Dark Hedges.