Usually, the sight of a polar bear emerging from the sea would strike terror into the heart of even the most intrepid explorers. But the polar bear that reigns over the shores of Northern Ireland elicits more gleeful responses, likely because it isn’t a bear at all.
The “bear” is actually a rock, covered in a coat of white paint rather than fur. Every year, locals give the rock a fresh touch up of paint to preserve its smiling Irish eyes and goofy grin.
No one knows who first gave the rock its polar bear persona. Many families have their own tales about an ancestor who was the first to adorn the structure with its signature smile.
The beloved local attraction has been part of the area for years. Generations of families, past and present, have stopped to take a picture with the friendly rock feature. Bemused tourists cruising along the coastal road on their way to sights like the Glens of Antrim often stop too.
The bear presides over the slice of the East Antrim Coast Road that passes through the picturesque village of Ballygalley. Its immediate domain is a the area around a tiny car park that overlooks the village and offers fabulous views of Ballygally Castle Hotel and Knockdhu, a Bronze Age fort.
Know Before You Go
The bear is situated on the A2 Coast road in Ballygalley, five miles north of the port town of Larne and sits beside the Irish Sea opposite. The best way of visiting would be by car or bicycle.