Ballymena is set in the middle of County Antrim. In fact, its name means “middle town”. It is surrounded by breathtaking countryside, with plenty of attractions. Booking one of the many hotels in Ballymena is a sure way to be able to visit them.
Cushendall is one of the most delightful towns in the surrounding area, set in the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It sits on Ireland’s eastern coast, looking across to the Firth of Clyde. Curfew Tower is one of the highlights of a visit to the town. Built in 1809, this extraordinary building is at the centre of the town. It was built by Francis Turnly of the East India Company. He employed an army pensioner named Dan McBride to act as the tower’s guard, stipulating that the tower had “a permanent garrison of one man”. McBride was not allowed to leave the tower, either by day or by night. The tower was originally built as “a place of confinement for idlers and rioters”.
The four-storey tower measures 20 feet on all sides, with battlements on top. The tower has a windowless dungeon, oriel windows and a well behind it. Renovation work recently has included installing a new curfew bell, rescued from a London fire station, a new lead roof and repair work to the floors, staircase and stonework.
In 1992, the tower was sold to the Hearth Revolving Fund. The organisation, set up in 1978, is a housing association that buys, restores and then resells dwellings in Northern Ireland. After Hearth had completed the renovation of the tower, it was sold to musician Bill Drummond in 1999.
Drummond has had a colourful and varied career in the world of music, art and literature. Together with Jimmy Cauty, he formed hip-hop group The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, then The Timelords, which had a number one hit with their novelty record, Doctorin’ The Tardis, a dance reworking of the Doctor Who theme tune. After the success of the record, the pair published The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way), which was popular enough to justify three print runs and was translated into German and Czech.
After the duo’s success with their next project, the KLF, they formed the K Foundation, which awarded a prize of £40,000 to what they considered to be the worst artist of the year. Drummond set up In You We Trust and bought the tower specifically as a residency for artists. The residency is curated every year by a different organisation, including Void from Derry, Catalyst Arts from Belfast, Eastside Projects from Birmingham and Static Gallery from Liverpool.
Cushendell is just one of the many unique places in County Antrim that thrill visitors with their charm, history and breathtaking views across the hills or the sea. Booking a hotel in Ballymena is the perfect starting point to visit not just Cushendell and the surrounding area but the wealth of scenery and interest that the locality has to offer.