Waterfoot lies at the mouth of Glenariff Glen (Glenariffe) which interestingly, you enter and leave through an arch, on the Cushendall side you pass through a sandstone Red Arch, still intact and built by Francis Turnly in 1817 for easy access between his estates at Cushendall and Drumnasole near Carnlough. On the Carnlough side you will pass through the remaining limestone walls of the old railway bridge.
The Glenariff Mineral Railway operated here between 1873-85. It was the first and the highest narrow gauged railway in Ireland and crossed the coast road by the White Arch onto Carrivemurphy Pier. The limestone engine shed (now a village hall) and a row of houses known as ‘The Terrace’ (which were built for the miners), can still be seen nearby.
The railway ran inland from the coast, up the south-eastern side of Glenariff, to the townland of Cloughcor where it served several mines. There had been plans to connect the Glenariff line to the main Retreat/Ballymena line but finances could not be raised. After the depletion of ore, the engines were sold to the Derry and Lough Swilly Railway Company, where they continued to work for another 14 years.
On the headland above the Red Arch is Red Bay Castle, the site is known locally as McQuillans Fort. The McQuillans at one time held power in the Glens and the Route. The area was later owned by John and Walter Bissett, who had bought the glens from Richard de Burgo after they had been exiled here from Scotland in 1224. It was probably at this time that the first stone structure appeared on the headland, replacing an earlier wooden one built by the McQuillans.
The ruins we see today are of a castle originally built in the mid 1600s by the McDonnells. The McDonnells inherited the Glens and the castle through marriage with the Bissetts in the late 1390s. The castle was destroyed in 1652 during the military campaign of Oliver Cromwell. Directly below Red Bay Castle you will see another cave which is said to have been an escape route connected to the castle. In 1945 during quarrying for the Pier, coins, human and animal remains were discovered in the vicinity of the Red Arch.
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