26 June by Eleanor McGillie
Every place has a story to share – to inspire. There’s one man who stands proudly on the North Coast to tell our visitors authentic stories which have been passed down through the generations of one family. Mark Rodgers of Dalriada Kingdom Tours talks about his love of our rugged coastline, its history and why locals and international travellers love to hear authentic stories about the people of the shores.
Standing at Dunluce Castle is Mark Rodgers – a man, who alongside his wife Rosemary, has created one of the most unique tours in Northern Ireland. We don’t use the word ‘unique’ loosely. These stories are totally unique in that they have been told by the Purdy family down through the generations.
Mark and Rosemary decided that the history of the people of the shore, from generations gone by, have played such a powerful role in who we are today so they decided to take the plunge and set up a walking tour so unique that people are travelling from all over to hear the stories first hand.
Since Dalriada Kingdom Tours began its own journey, people from all over the world have stood on the shores of the North Coast with Mark to capture the authenticity of his storytelling. Tours include bespoke tours of the Giants Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Rathlin Island. In fact, Dalriada Kingdom Tours is the only tour guiding company conducting tours of Dunluce Castle.
Mark, who is identifiable also as the man wearing the Causeway Tartan kilt, said he is so proud that he and Rosemary have created a tour which honours the people of our shores and protects the heritage which could so easily be lost.
He said: “We believe that our future is anchored in our past. Our past is so important. So, before the passing of my father-in-law, William John Purdy, he asked me if I wanted to continue on a storytelling journey. For too long our stories were not being told on the Causeway but we are here now and we are changing that. We are now telling stories with pride and passion.
“The tartans too have great character and great warmth and they always remind me of William John. I will always wear it with pride in his memory. His love for the Causeway and the people of the shore knew no boundaries.
“The North Coast is magical. It’s mysterious, haunting with its iconic landmarks, ancient with its graveyards and burial sites, full of nooks and crannies, has so many caves to explore and is steeped in history. Dalriada Kingdom Tours exists to bring new life to a heritage lost and a people long forgotten – the ‘people of the shore’.”
The Purdys are from Lisnagunagh. They are known on the coast as the family from the Spanish ship. Some members of the family have traced the family lineage back to survivors of the Spanish Armada ship, the Girona which sank on the Causeway on October 26, 1588.
More recently though, the family have an association with the Causeway that goes back 125 years. In that time the family have been kelp harvesters, fish mongers and they also tour guided from ponies and traps.
Dalriada Kingdom Tours guides are descendants of famous local families such as the Purdy’s, the McFetridges, the McMullans and the McQuilkens. The Giants Causeway is their home and the tour guides know it inside out. Their story is one of clan rivalry, epic battles, marriages, political intrigue, famous chieftains, a ‘mermaids cave’ and of course the Dunluce Castle ghost.
Mark said: “The names of these families are woven into the very fabric of this iconic site. Their ancestors have shaped and formed the Giants Causeways as much as it has shaped and formed the people living there today. It has made local people who they are today and have given them a real sense of self worth and a pride of place.
“We know, that by tradition, the men from the local families were the original guides on the Giants Causeway. The last authentic independent local guide to work on the site was in the early 1970s. Now for the first time in over 40 years local families are back where they belong, guiding on the Giants Causeway.
“Our tours raise the awareness of the importance of the local people living here. Their contribution to our heritage and culture really is something else. We are all part of a story.
“Visitors coming to the North Coast are constantly fascinated by what we tell them. They love the fact too that I wear Causeway Tartan. It just adds authenticity to what we are doing.
“We get a lot of people from America on our tours. They come from the cruise ships. We welcome them, and all of our visitors, with open arms because they understand why we have such an immense sense of pride when we deliver our tours of the Giants Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Rathlin Island.
“Our place is magical and it’s not just tourists from overseas. People from right across Northern Ireland are coming to visit us. People are culturally curious so Dalriada Kingdom Tours ticks their boxes. They want to see and hear about our churchyards, old graveyards, burial sites and the ghosts of our past.
“It’s an honour for us to ensure our past is not forgotten. The fish mongers, the kelp harvesters, the storytellers – the people of the shore – they have shaped the future. It’s our pleasure to honour them and to help shape the future of our coast families.”
Dalriada Kingdom Tours is a Live It Experience It member. To book a tour with Mark visit Dalriada Kingdom Tours
Live It Experience It’ is a group of tourism businesses working together to promote our region through water, air and land based activities, food and drink and great places to stay. If you would like to become a member business in of ‘Live It Experience It’ please submit your information through our online form – Sign Up Here. Pitch your business and meet like minded tourism businesses who you could cluster with. #liveitexperienceit