Whitehead, County Antrim

Whitehead is a small seaside town on the east coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, lying almost midway between the towns of Carrickfergus and Larne. It lies within the civil parish of Templecorran, the historic barony of Belfast Lower,[2] and is part of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. Before the Plantation of Ulster its name was recorded as both Whitehead and Kinbaine (from Irish an Cionn Bán 'the white head').[3]

Marine Parade, Whitehead - geograph.org.uk - 264264.jpg
The shorefront
Whitehead is located in Northern Ireland
Location within Northern Ireland
Population3,802 (2011 Census)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBT38
Dialling code028
UK Parliament
NI Assembly
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°45′26″N 5°42′14″W / 54.757223°N 5.703964°W / 54.757223; -5.703964Coordinates: 54°45′26″N 5°42′14″W / 54.757223°N 5.703964°W / 54.757223; -5.703964

Located at the base of Muldersleigh Hill, Whitehead lies in a small bay between the limestone cliffs of Whitehead and the black volcanic cliff of Blackhead, with the Blackhead Lighthouse on top, marking the entrance to the Belfast Lough. Whitehead is about 20 miles (32 km) from Belfast. On the opposite coast of Belfast Lough, the Copeland Islands, Bangor and part of the County Down coastline, are clearly visible.

It had a population of 3,802 in the 2011 Census.[4] Whitehead is notable in that there are no roadways with the suffix "Street" in their name, giving rise to the nickname 'The Town With No Streets'.


In late Victorian and Edwardian times, Whitehead was a popular seaside holiday destination developed by and visitors flocked from Belfast and the surrounding area each year. Whitehead is a Victorian railway village with a well preserved conservation area, including the railway station. It is home to the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland,[5] County Antrim Yacht Club and the Council owned Bentra Golf Course, as well as being the starting point for the popular Gobbins Path. The town also was home to an aerodrome during the First World War which housed two airships.

A pioneering Irish railway engineer called Berkeley Deane Wise took this tourism endeavour to the next level, creating innovative new paid-for attractions that would encourage visitors to use the railway company's services. Just south of Gobbins Path, Wise helped transform the tiny hamlet of Whitehead into a premier holiday resort. He designed and built a bandstand, ladies and gents bathing boxes, a ‘children’s corner’, a slipway and a pavilion with 500 seats.

Whitehead received a silver at the Britain in Bloom awards in 2005 & 2006 and a bronze in 2007 with the local Brighter Whitehead group planting many of the flowers. In 2012 Northern Ireland's only Jubilee Wood was planted at Whitehead to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

Blackhead Coastal PathEdit

The Blackhead Path was built by the Victorians in 1892, partly funded by the railway company, to attract day trippers and holiday makers to Whitehead which was at the time a growing tourist destination and resort. Wise also built a new path Blackhead Path along the coast from Whitehead to the lighthouse at Blackhead, overlooking the town, in 1892. To reach the lighthouse he added several bridges and a tunnel. Wise soon had ambitious plans for a much more elaborate path built on sheer cliffs a few miles to the north: The Gobbins Path was about to be born. This free accessible path is a seaside walk past Sunshine House, around Blackhead Lighthouse and along the Irish Sea cliffs of Islandmagee.

In 2018 the pathway was closed due to health & safety issues and a possibility of severe landslip.[6][7][8][9] The Mid and East Antrim Council started a full renovation of the whole path in 2019.[10][11][12] The path was reopened in July 2020.[13]


One primary school exists within the town - Whitehead Primary School. Another school, Lourdes Primary School, operated until June 2011.

Whitehead High School, an all-girls secondary school, was present until its closure in 1986. It is now the site of a nursing home.


  • Whitehead Baptist Church
  • Whitehead Presbyterian Church
  • St Patrick's Church of Ireland
  • Whitehead Methodist Church
  • Our Lady of Lourdes (RC)
  • Whitehead Congregational Church


The TroublesEdit

For more information see The Troubles in Whitehead, County Antrim, which includes a list of incidents in Whitehead during the Troubles resulting in two or more fatalities. The UDA South East Antrim Brigade lists Whitehead as a base of operations.[14]


  • Neighbours actress Jackie Woodburne lived in Whitehead before her family emigrated to Australia.[15]
  • Sting (Gordon Sumner) lived & holidayed with ex-wife Frances Tomelty in Whitehead during the mid-1970s.[16] The wooden house on the coastal path that they holidayed in was originally a temperance hotel and has recently been replaced with a new building. He was also known to have stayed on the top road to the lighthouse and Chester Ave.
  • Keith Gillespie (Northern Ireland footballer) went to Whitehead Primary School.[17]


Whitehead railway station is on the Larne Harbour to Belfast Central and Belfast Great Victoria Street line. Located on the Northern Ireland Railways network being part of the Belfast Suburban Rail as well as the home of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.


Whitehead had a population of 3,802 people at the 2011 Census,[4] an increase of 2.7% on the 2001 Census figure of 3,702.[18]

Of these:

  • 17.8% were aged under 16 years and 22.2% were aged 65 and over
  • 17.5% were from a Catholic background and 69.2% were from a Protestant or other Christian background
  • 4.2% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Hap-Scotch in Boneybefore". Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots. Ulster-Scots Academy. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  2. ^ "White Head". Place Names NI. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  3. ^ Placenames Database of Ireland
  4. ^ a b "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Whitehead Settlement". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Welcome to Whitehead Excursion Station". RPSI. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  6. ^ "Blackhead Path | Mid and East Antrim Borough Council". www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  7. ^ "Blackhead Path Preservation Society Page". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Blackhead Path Council Meeting, 23-Aug-18". www.youtube.com. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  9. ^ Fitzpatrick, Michael (24 August 2018). "Blackhead Path to be closed until 2019". BBC News. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  10. ^ "LA02/2018/0787/F | Install 200m of new armour causeway Install approx. 115m of additional rock armour revetment along the existing concrete revetment to tie in to the existing rock armour slope at the car park Install 200m of new 7m wide concrete path surface Replace 200m of existing kee klamp steel post and rail fence Install approx. 76m length of new stone gabion baskets to act as a retaining wall | Blackhead Path Castletown Whitehead BT38 9PB". epicpublic.planningni.gov.uk. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "LA02/2018/0785/F | Cliff face repairs -scaling operation to remove loose or unstable rocks. PVC coated galvanised zinc mesh panels are to be deployed from the crest and draped down the slope (approx. 1,730m2). Mesh is to be secured at the top by cable, fittings and anchorages. Mesh is to be secured at the bottom by horizontal cables fixed to the rock face. Stainless steel rock bolts will secure large blocks or overhanging pillars and buttresses. Shot-crete to be sprayed across 45m2. | Blackhead Path (land adjacent to the Lighthouse McCrae's Brae) Whitehead". epicpublic.planningni.gov.uk. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Blackhead Path - Mid and East Antrim Borough Council". www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  14. ^ Mural directory from Conflict Archive on the Internet
  15. ^ "Jackie Woodburne article: Jackie hasn't found Mr Right in real life". www.ramsay-street.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  16. ^ "Police Reunion, Stormont Castle, Belfast". sting.com. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Keith Gillespie had so much promise but it was only partially fulfilled: A classic case of could have been - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk". BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Census 2001 Usually Resident Population: KS01 (Settlements) - Table view". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). p. 7. Retrieved 30 July 2019.

Other SourcesEdit