Galboly – The County Antrim Village Lost in Time

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Galboly cottage view
A cottage built within Galboly Village for ‘Game of Thrones’

Galboly Village

Nestled in the picturesque glens of Antrim is the little abandoned village of Galboly. Hidden from view, the derelict remains of rural cottages recall a bygone age. Its location, with the mountains of Garron plateau above and the sea below, add to its unique charm and mystery.

Galboly meaning ‘the English dairy’ or ‘the bright dairy’ is in the parish of Ardclinis, in the barony of Lower Glenarm.

Ruins & hillside
Ruins & hillside

Galboly History

Galboly Population

Even though life was hard, Galboly was once a thriving village.

In Griffiths Valuation, compiled between 1847 and 1864, the village is divided into Lower and Upper Galboly. In total there were around 48 houses. There was also a National School and a Dispensary.

The landlord for the area was Frances Anne Vane, Marchioness of Londonderry. The tenants rented their land and sub let smaller parcels and houses to less well-off folk. The most common surname among the villagers was Murphy, but there were also McAllisters, Mulvennas, McNeills, Blacks and McCallans.

Cottage Construction

The sturdy cottages were small, stone-built, one storey dwellings. Only one building in the village had an upper floor. Most consisted of only one room, where the family ate, lived and slept.

Originally the roofs would have been thatched, but in later times some of the houses acquired aluminium sheet roofs. Each house would have had an open fireplace with a turf fire. This would have provided not just heat, but would also have been used for cooking.

Galboly - a village lost
Galboly – a village lost

Village Life

The inhabitants of Galboly were mainly subsistence farmers, they ate what they could grow or catch. Any surplus would be sold at the nearest market in Glenariffe, 3 miles away.

Being close to the sea, fish and shellfish were a staple part of their diet, which also included potatoes, rabbits and root vegetables.

There was no nearby water supply, so water had to be transported to the village, usually in large containers carried by donkeys.

Magnificent ruins
Magnificent ruins

A Village in Decline

Close to the village was Garron Tower Estate (now a school). It was built in 1850 by Frances Anne Vane as a holiday home and summer retreat. She was the daughter of Sir Henry Vane-Tempest of County Durham, England and Anne Katherine MacDonnell, Countess of Antrim. Some of the villagers would certainly have been employed on the estate.

By 1901 there were 22 houses and a total of 78 occupants in Lower and Upper Galboly. It is amazing to think that in some of these small homes there was a family of 5 or 6 and perhaps 3 generations! Most of the folk are farmers but some earned their living labouring on the nearby limestone quarry.

Galboly ruin
Galboly ruin

In 1899 Garron Tower was rented to Larne based Henry McNeill Ltd, who operated it as a hotel. This also provided job opportunities for the locals –

  • Michael O’Leary at 1 Lower Galboly was employed as a hotel manager
  • Annie McVicker and Mary Anne Black at the same address were waitresses
  • Alexander Rea of 18 Lower Galboly was a gamekeeper
  • Several Galboly girls, including sisters Catherina and Bella McNeill are described as domestic servants.

10 years later the census records just 18 houses and 65 people. The majority are employed as small farmers or labourers. However, Annie Augusta McNeill is a postmistress, Lucy McBride is a school teacher, Mary Murphy is a shopkeeper and John McNeill is a shepherd.

The path back
The path back

A Village out of Time

With changing times and new farming methods requiring fewer workers, the old ways of life were forced to adapt too. Agricultural machinery was not viable on the steep mountainside and small farmers could not compete with the expanding commercial enterprises.

Slowly but surely the population of the village dwindled as residents had to leave to seek employment in the towns and cities. By 1951 only 6 people were still living in this peaceful rural location.

The last farmer to live in Upper Galboly was Robert Gibson. In 1962 he was the only resident, living in the same cottage in which he had been born. In a village with no electricity, no spring water, no road and no neighbours.

“I can remember when all the houses had people in them, some with maybe 10 children….People today are different, but I think there is no point in being critical. They can go their way and I’ll stick to mine here in Galboly”

Bob Gibson   Belfast Telegraph 5th February 1962
Cottage scenery
Cottage scenery

Paradise Lost

In the 1970’s there was still one resident in Lower Galboly. He was sheep farmer James O’Boyle. James, one of nine children, was the only one of the family to remain in his native hamlet.

“James, known to some as the hermit, has no intention of leaving his paradise. He has got no time for the fast city life. He’s content with the cows, the sheep, the two Old English collies, Sheila and Spot, with the wind and the sea and the silence”

Deirdre Mooney   Belfast Telegraph   30th January 1973

James was not fated to be the last resident of Galboly however…

Galboly view
Galboly view

The Last Man

A new, and the final, resident of the village was a monk from Portglenone Abbey. He lived a solitary existence here for some years until he died at the age of 73 in 2013.

With the death of the monk, the village was now abandoned to nature.

Galboly path & ruins
Galboly path & ruins

Game of Thrones

The original village houses have fallen into ruins over the decades. However, Galboly experienced an unexpected burst of activity when it was selected as the location for filming – most recently as Runestone in the Valley of Arryn in the popular fictional Game of Thrones series. The ‘feature’ cottage was actually a film set for the Game Of Thrones episode ‘Wars to Come’ in series 5 and has been used as a location for other productions. This late addition to the village makes the most of its scenic setting.

Click the gallery images to view full size on mobile devices. Swipe up on mobiles to quit the slideshow

Galboly really is a hidden treasure, a little pocket of history that has escaped modern life.

“For Galboly, sitting on a plateau above Garron Point on Antrim’s Coast Road, is a child of the hills, a child that has not grown up, a Peter Pan of hamlets”

Ballymena Weekly Telegraph 13th November 1937
View from above
View from above


Remembering the Hidden Village

The dramatic mountain views and the sparkling seascape here are breathtaking while the ruins exude a poignant charm. I am sure many tears were shed by those having to leave this pastoral idyll, but for all that, it is a happy place. It almost seems that if you just listen hard enough, you can hear the echoes of voices and laughter and songs through the ages!

Sheep and Antrim glens
Sheep and Antrim glens
The path home
The path home


The ‘lost village’ of Galboly is not signposted as it is on private land.

It is less than a decade since the death of the last resident but nature is reclaiming its land.

We’ve included loads of images in the gallery to give a sense of the tranquillity of the place.

Click the gallery images to view full size on mobile devices. Swipe up on mobiles to quit the slideshow

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Mary Gilmartin Peppiatt · 2 October 2021 at 5:53 pm

My mother came to America from Co. Antrim. We have made several trips back. Never knew this existed. Fascinating and enchanting.

    P&P · 2 October 2021 at 6:46 pm

    Mary, this is really a ‘forgotten’ location. Many living here do not know of it though the Game of Thrones activity has recently drawn more attention.
    We were lucky on the day with the weather to get good views to the sea.

Gilda OBerle · 2 October 2021 at 12:55 am

Thank you, Loved the story of Gallboly! Although I could not see photos, it was a good read!

    P&P · 2 October 2021 at 12:25 pm


    A few readers reported problems with photos not showing. This was simply because we have included so many images to do the location justice. We have edited the post now to allow images to load faster.

    If the gallery shows small images – simply click the first image to view at full size in slideshow mode.

    Please try again to see if the images display now: Read about Galboly Village

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