New TV series focuses on creation of the Antrim Coast Road

A new three-part series from BBC Northern Ireland tells the largely unknown story of the creation of the Antrim Coast Road as well as stories about its history and its people.

Thursday, 29th September 2016, 1:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 2:45 pm
Adrian Morrow, from Glenarm
Adrian Morrow, from Glenarm

In centuries gone by, the Glens of Antrim were seen as a place apart – isolated from the rest of Ulster, pinned in by the Antrim Plateau – inhabitants faced Scotland; not the rest of Ireland.

It was easier to travel by boat to the Mull of Kintyre than it was to travel overland to Belfast or Ballymena.

The people of the remote west of Scotland and parts of east Antrim effectively lived as one community, known as the Kingdom of Dalriada.

Carnlough farmer Charlie McAuley

Dalriada thrived during a time of bloody battles, conflict and politics, with various clans jostling to become Lords of the Isles.

This title was eventually claimed by the McDonnell clan, former gallowglass mercenaries, who brought their kinsmen to Antrim, helping to create the social fabric of the area, with modern day families such as the McAllisters, McAuleys and others tracing their lineage back to this time.

Everything changed in 1832, when Scottish engineer William Bald hatched an innovative plan to build a road that would open up the Glens to the rest of Ulster.

Rather than consider bridges and other structures, Bald looked to the coast, and committed to the bold technique of cliff blasting.

Fisherman Davy Smyth

Starting on Sunday 9 October at 10pm and narrated by actor, Ian McElhinney, Shaping the Coast, on BBC 2 reveals life before and after the Antrim Coast Road, whilst also decoding the monumental engineering undertaking and enigmatic genius behind its designer.

Now a jewel in the crown of this area of outstanding natural beauty, Bald’s achievement has largely been lost to history.

No portrait or bust exists; his only legacy is the impact that the genius of his design has had on the communities of the Antrim Coast.

In episode one, we meet some of the people who live and work along the road and, Andrea Bald, William’s great-great-great-granddaughter and by coincidence, an engineer herself.

Andrea Bald

Andrea has travelled to Antrim from her home in New Zealand to discover more about her elusive ancestor.

Episode two uncovers the engineering achievement of William Bald and reveals how the Antrim Coast Road has changed the lives of the people of The Glens forever.

In episode three, we follow Davy Smyth, a third generation Carnlough fisherman who is diversifying into a new tourism venture.

We also meet Adrian Morrow, Glenarm Castle Estate Manager, and organiser of the now annual Dalriada Festival.

Carnlough farmer Charlie McAuley

Deirdre Devlin, executive producer, BBC Northern Ireland said: “This beautifully shot series has a fascinating wealth of information about the area, as well as great stories of the history and the people of the Glens.”

Shaping the Coast is a Paper Owl Films production for BBC Northern Ireland with funding from Northern Ireland Screen’s Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.

Fisherman Davy Smyth
Andrea Bald