The inner lough is designated as an area of Special Scientific Interest and has a RSPB reserve. The mud flats and Swan Island in particular provides nesting sites for a large range of birds including the only site in Northern Ireland for the Roseate Tern.
As you leave Ballylumford and head round the coast of Islandmagee you'll come to Brown's Bay, a sandy port which is a popular site during the summer. A short walk takes you to Skernaughan Point which is great for picnics and views of the ferries leaving and entering Larne Harbour. Here you will find the famous 12 ton basalt 'Rocking Stone', a finely balanced stone which arrived during the last ice age and was rocking until a few years ago when the local authority deemed it a Health and Safety issue and cemented the base!
The next port is Portmuck (Port of the Pig), the port is marked on a map dated 1572 where it is referred to as Portmuk and on another as Port Muk. It was an important trading point to Scotland and would have had a settlement, church and fortification at some stage in its history.
Excavations in 2000 confirmed a large medival settlement here dating to 1150-1500. In the Ordnance Memoirs, reference is made to an ancient church and grave in the Kirk Field. The castle ruins we see today was built in the late 1500s, though suggestions are that a castle/fort existed here from the 11th century.
Portmuck was a very important location for exporting and importing of livestock and was situated at the end of a cattle trail from Ballynure. Horses were imported here and moved back down the trail to Ballynure. The area is wonderful for walking with exceptional views. Further down the coast is the site of the Gobbin's Path which you can read about under the Whitehead link.
Muck Island near Portmuck is an offshore island and nature reserve which provides a habitat for shags, fulmars, gannets Kittiwakes, razorbills and puffins, it has the third largest colony of cliff nesting birds in Northern Ireland. Around the island you can spot otters, grey and common seals as well as porpoises. It is estimated that there are over 130 species of birds on and around Islandmagee.
The Isle of Muck as it was once known takes its name from 'Muc' which means pig in Gaelic. the pig may refer to porpoises which were called muc na mara or 'pig of the sea'. The area brought crowds in the early 1800s when the Belfast newsletter reported that a mermaid had been captured and brought ashore (it was probably a porpoise). These beautiful creatures are still frequent visitors to the waters around Muck Island.
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