The first location you will come to along the Causeway Coastal Route is Newtownabbey, this name was introduced in 1958 to represent the older villages of Carmoney, Glengormley, Jordanstown, Monkstown, Whitehouse, Whitewell and Whiteabbey. Today these settlements have merged into one but each still retain their own district , local identities and history.
Whiteabbey is the first location you arrive to at the end of the motorway out of the city. The name derives from a Premonstratensian Abbey founded here in the 12th century. The monks were known as the White Canons because unlike the vast majority of monks they wore white habits. Their formal title was The Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré founded by Saint Norbert at Prémontré near Laon (Picardy) in 1120. The Norbertine Order was very unique in regarding women and men as equals with women being known as canonesses. The order lived in high austerity and ministered within the local community.
One of most important feature at Whiteabbey is known as the White House, the ruins of which have now been restored and open to the public as an interpretation centre. The building is referenced on a 1570 map as one of only four buildings existing between Belfast and Carrickfergus. The others were Belfast Castle, Lugg Castle and Carrickfergus Castle. It is 300 years older than the oldest known building in Belfast.
The old quay at White House served as a landing and shipping point for the developing settlement of Belfast, it was also where the troops of William lll landed in 1690. King William himself landed at Carrickfergus and rode to meet General Schomberg at the White House before the campaign started. Today the White House has an exhibition space which not only tells its own illustrious history but also that of the Williamite war in Ireland and its relationship to the wider European conflict of the time. The exhibits include artefacts and clothing from the period. To visit the centre follow the Causeway Coastal Route signs along the M5 until you come to the first roundabout. Take the first left, then drive about 200 metres until you see Whitehouse Park on the left. The White House is down this road about 300 metres on the right and well worth a visit.
At the same roundabout the third turn off will bring you into Hazelbank Park, an excellent park area with fabulous walks along the lough shore. Hazelbank was once a private estate with its own walled garden and orchard, James Mackie of Mackie Engineering lived here until his death in 1943, the original house was demolished in 1972. The interesting basalt turrets which you see along the promenade were used as lookouts points during the Second World War. You can enjoy some good walks here, in fact it is possible to walk or cycle from the city centre along pathways to here and on to Loughside Park.
Jordanstown is home to the campus of the University of Ulster with up to 10,000 students enrolled, it was originally the site of the Ulster Polytechnic. The railway station at Jordanstown is just a ten minute walk from the campus and was built in 1853, five years after Whiteabbey (1848), in what was then a rural area with a just a road down to the lough shore. If you are interested in railway artefacts, then you should take a look at the Bleach Green viaducts, the station here was closed in 1977. As the name implies its history stems back to the linen industry when surrounding fields would have been used to dry the freshly bleached linen. A siding ran off from the Belfast /Larne line to Hendersons Mill and Bleachery. To see the viaducts , just before the Loughshore Park, on the left hand side coming from Belfast, look out for a set of traffic lights and Whiteabbey Presbyterian Church Hall, turn in and drive up Glenava Manor beside it, you can park at the top and then walk through the park. The impressive viaducts are 70 feet high with a span of 600 feet, they were built of precast concrete in the 1930s.
Loughshore Park, is a recreational space with bandstand, beach, children's play area, large car park and cafeteria. What is great at this location is the superb views of the lough with open loughside walks. Good for watching the constant movement of ships that ply in and out of the port including exceptionally large cruise liners. Each year in August the park hosts the Shoreline Festival, a three day free event.
As you drive along towards Carrickfergus you may notice on the hill top to your left a large monument, this is known as Knockagh War Memorial, at 110 feet tall it is the largest war memorial in Ulster. It was created as a smaller replica of the Wellington War Memorial which is in Pheonix Park, Dublin. The memorial was started in1922 and finally completed in 1936. From the top you can enjoy some of the best views of Belfast Lough from the port area to Carrickfergus and beyond.
To get there follow the Jordonstown Road opposite the Loughshore Park, then turn right onto the Monkstown Road , at the top junction turn right onto the Old Carrick Road and then left onto the Knockagh Road. Follow this for about 2.5 miles until you see Monument Road on the right. This will take you to a carpark and the location. The views are pretty spectacular on a clear day.
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