Cushendall means 'Foot of the Dall' although another suggestion in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of 1830-38 refers to Cushendall being a corruption of the word Bunindalla or Bun-an-daaa meaning 'the foot of the the two rivers'' - the river Dall forms from the union of the Glenann and Glenballyemon rivers. The village and surrounding area is well worth exploring, you will find a beach, river and cliff walks as well as a marina and golf course. In the village there are walks through the Cottage Wood, while just outside the village is the secluded beauty of the old Layde Church ruin.
Like many Ulster villages Cushendall is endowed with exceptional architecture and character, the summits of Lurigethan and Tievebulliagh mountains both with remains of bronze age forts look over the village, the adjacent glens are scattered with traces of man's existence here since Neolithic times.
The Normans took the glens by force from local chieftains and held power here until the late 1300's, this eventually passed to anglo/norman/irish families . Eventually the Scottish McDonnell clan through the marriage of Margery Bissett to John Mor McDonnell (Lord of the Isles) gained possession of the glens and over time expanded their power base right along the north coast. Their family burial sites are found in Bonamargie Friary at Ballycastle and nearby Layde Church. A surge of development in the village took place in the 1600's with the advent of water power and migration of settlers from Scotland. There are references of Cushendall being assigned to the son of Henry Knowles, the vice-chamberlain and treasurer to Queen Elizabeth Ist but this arrangement was thwarted by Sorley Boy MacDonnell during a time of favour with the crown.
In the early 1700's the village belonged to the Hollow Sword Blade Company, an English company formed in 1690/91 which acquired huge areas of land throughout Ireland, seized assets after the victory of King William III Prince of Orange over his father-in-law King James II. The company began using a process of hollow grinding to make lighter and more easily handled swords, a process based on a German technique, to achieve this the company employed German swordsmiths. The Hollow Sword Company itself failed but one of the sword smith's later formed the Mohll Sword Company which was eventually taken over by the Wilkinson Sword Company.
There are references to Danish cavalry and infantry units being quartered at Solar, Glenarm, Templeoughter, Ardclinis and the Layde in 1689. They were part of a larger contingent of 7,000 troops under the command of the Duke of Wurttemberg and spent three months in the area prior to the Battle of the Boyne. The cavalry were an elite fighting force which had seen action in European conflicts. The cavalry officers may have indeed brought with them examples of these new lighter weapons which were readily available in Germany at the time. After the failure of the Hollow Sword Blade Company the village was sold to a Dr. Richardson who is remembered mainly for changing the name of Cushendall to Newtown Glens.
The final owner was Francis Turnly, born in 1765, he acquired Cushendall as part of an estate purchased after returning from China where he worked for the East India Company. The town flourished under his ownership which led to the construction of several fine buildings in the village and surrounding area including the Curfew Tower, the Glens of Antrim Hotel and Drumnasole House. Turnly was also responsible for contributing to improving and opening up the coast road, the famous Red Arch below Red Bay Castle was part of that scheme. The Curfew Tower still holds the centre piece of the village and was built in 1809 as a prison, the design was influenced by the towers he had seen in China - perhaps from the Great Wall of China.
An army pensioner called Dan McBride was the first person employed to garrison the tower. Records state that he was given one year’s supply of food and the following armaments: one musket, a brace of pistols, a bayonet and a thirteen-foot pike. The windows were designed to allow the pouring of boiling fluid on any attacker below. Another unique feature is the drinking fountain set into one side of the tower, this allows a flow of water to drop to a lower receptacle, allowing a person and a pet to drink at the same time. The tower was bought in 1995 by Bill Drummond KLF (1980s), he and fellow band member Jim Cauty are also known for the famous burning of one million pounds on Jura. Today the tower is used for artist residencies through a trust body called In You We Trust. Each year an exhibition runs to coincide with the 'Heart of the Glens' festival.
Cushendall once held eight fair days throughout the year and that tradition is kept alive today through the 'Heart of the Glens' festival which takes place over ten days each August. Cushendall is a superb location to place yourself for a visit to the Glens, it is good for walking too. A short distance from the village centre brings you to the beach where walks can be taken along the shoreline or via the cliff to Layde Church. The Cottage Wood adjacent to the village has nice walks through mature trees. Here you'll find a range of native and non-native species of trees and shrubs including Scots Pine, Elder, Holly, Ash, Horse Chestnut, Beech, Sycamore, Gorse, Spruce, Ivy, Laurel, Rhododendron, Elm and Fuchsia. A wide range of plants grow below the woodland canopy, including Wood Sorrel, Primroses, Saxifrage, Wild Garlic, Celandine, Bluebells, Violets, Herb Robert, Cuckoo Flower, Stitchwort, Cow Parsley and Foxglove.
In 1924, Cushendall became one of the first villages in Ireland to have street lighting. This was pioneered by Anthony O’Connor who was also the last commercial miller to operate in Cushendall. He realised that small mills were no longer sustainable, so he decided to change his business from milling to generating electricity. The scheme proposed to place six lights between St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and the start of Mill Street, one on High Street, four along Shore Street, one at the Cushendall Hotel on Bridge Street and three along the road to Waterfoot. The new lighting scheme placed Cushendall firmly in the 20th century, ahead of towns like Bangor, which only lit their streets in 1930.
Close to the village on the Ballybrack road you'll see the distinct fairy hill of Tiveragh. Local folklore tells of the hill having both good and bad fairies living within it and if you look carefully you will see it has a nicely grazed side and a more rough wilder side. If you drive past Tiveragh, you will notice a ‘fairy tree’ halfway up the slope. No one would dare think about cutting it down for fear of something bad happening to them! According to local folklore, the fairies, or ‘wee folk,’ from time to time, appear around the hill and tree, especially on Halloween. It is also said that the bad fairies have been known to lure the unsuspecting visitor into the hill by playing enchanting music.