Meet the Locals:
Local fisherman Davy Smyth has been plying the waters off Carnlough all his life. The North Channel supports copious scallops, cod, pollock, conger, mackerel and herring, and he made a good living from catching them. In recent years, however, restrictions on fishing have tightened and the tourist industry has boomed. Davy has spied an opportunity to diversify.
His tour boat, Curiosity, now takes visitors to bag a catch of unforgettable memories. Davy bought Curiosity as a retired lifeboat and lovingly refurbished it in his workshop in the hills above Carnlough. It took careful preparation and a good deal of ingenuity to get it down to the water through the narrow streets of the town.
He moors the boat by the same steps that feature in HBO’s Game of Thrones®, in the scene where Arya Stark pulls herself from the water after being stabbed by the Waif. You can charter Curiosity for half-hour trips around Carnlough Bay, to see gorgeous scenery, a rich diversity of wildlife, and historic sites. Talk to him about bespoke journeys further afield and he’s more than happy to take you to some of the places that only the locals know.
Nature & history
Along this coast, many towns and villages sprouted between the uplands and the sea. These hills are rich with minerals, and people have quarried them since the earliest times. They cultivated the hills in steeply-rising pastures, bordered by dry stone walls. Davy will let you into this fascinating world.
One of the most interesting trips is out to the Maidens, rocky islets far out in the North Channel. (Subject to weather conditions.) These outcrops were formed in the same volcanic activity that formed the cliffs of the Antrim Plateau, Slemish Mountain and the Giant’s Causeway. Two lighthouses rise from each of these rocks – one disused and the other automated – eerie places to visit if you come ashore.
Today, these rocks host breeding colonies of kittiwake, razorbill, and guillemot. You can climb to the top of the disused lighthouse on the West Maiden to enjoy views of the Scottish and Antrim coastlines or explore the ruins of the lighthouse keepers’ accommodation block.
Dolphins are regular visitors to Carnlough Bay and a particular favourite on Curiosity’s trips. “You never know when they are going to turn up,” says Davy, “but it’s become a lot more common to see them, certainly over the last 20 years. When you have people out on a tour and they see the dolphins, it’s like they’re at a firework display. All you hear are the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. It’s almost like a life-changing experience for some people.”
You can get in touch with Davy at Carnlough Harbour, or visit his website for contact details.