A Return to Mussenden Temple & Downhill House January 2018

Sitting comfortably as one of my all time favourite places in Northern Ireland, Downhill Demesne has such a wonderful atmosphere of lost elegance and abandonment. Maybe thats just because I tend to visit here in the depths of Winter (or at the very least late Autumn) but theres definitely something magical about the place for me. I jumped on the first train from Belfast yesterday morning arriving at Castlerock Station at 750am (the Sun hadnt yet risen) and I walked along the empty streets of Castlerock town (waves crashing on the beach in a dark blue oncoming dawn) making my way across the Black Glen and up into Downhill. 

By now the Sun had just poked its head above the horizon illuminating the temple with a warm orange glow.

 

Looking up towards the ominous shadow of Downhill House lurking at the end of the path from Mussenden Temple.

 

Dawn breaks above one of the faux fortified “castle” walls of Downhill House.

 

Upon entering the gate into what is left of the house I got a brilliant light show of sunbeams and shadows.

 

Most only venture up here to photograph the Temple but Ive always found the house just as photogenic. It has a monolithic presence on the skyline.

Behind the house sits the “mausoleum” not actually a tomb, just a rememberance monument. The winter morning sky gave it much more reverence.

One last shot of the Temple (taken from a less common angle) sitting as a coastal sentinel as it has done for 233 years.

 

Rostrevor & Cloughmore Stone, Co. Down

Cloughmore Stone, known locally as “The Big Stone” is a huge granite boulder that sits about 1000ft up on the side of Slieve Martin overlooking Carlingford Lough and the Cooley peninsula in County Louth and above the village of Rostrevor County Down.

 

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The name comes from the Irish “an Chloch Mhór” which means “the big stone” and its believed to weigh around 50 tonnes having been transported via glacial retreat from Scotland  (from an island in Strathclyde bay) and deposited here over 10,000yrs ago during the last Ice Age.

 

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Local legend has it that the stone was thrown from the Cooley Mountains on the other side of Carlingford Lough, by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) who gets accused of a lot of things here in Northern Ireland haha (Lough Neagh, The Giants Causeway etc).

 

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The stone has many names and dates carved into it which go back centuries remembering those from history who have visited there. The Cloughmore Stone is a venue at Easter where the residents of Rostrevor would go up and roll their Easter eggs down the hill. A sort of a tradition for the Rostrevor residents.

 

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Quite impressive even on a rainy day like this one and there are some great views from the surrounding area.

 

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Theres a really nice walk up here through Rostrevor forest but it does get steep at times. Bring a lunch and rest at the top.

 

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North Coast Dreams (video) Slideshow of the Causeway Coast County Antrim.

Ive created a little slideshow video here of several pictures Ive taken around the North Antrim coastline. Its my first attempt at this so forgive its amateurish limitations. Locations seen include Castlerock, Binevenagh, Portrush, Portstewart, Dunseverick, Port Moon, Gortmore, White Rocks, and a glimpse of Dunluce Castle.

 

A 2017 Winters Morning. Portrush, White Rocks Co.Antrim

Even in Winter, on the windswept North Antrim coast (which gets a never ending battering from the Atlantic ocean), you can find peace and solitude away from the tourist draws of Belfast. No murals here, no big buildings with sunken ships, no relics of mans past, just a natural sight that hasnt changed for millenia.  

 

Shortly after sunrise on a cold, but beautiful February morning in 2017. White Rocks, near Portrush.

 

Stretching far off into the distance you would be looking towards the Giants Causeway and Fair Head here.

 

Slightly further up the coast from the White Rocks theres a small car park that has a stunning view. In one direction you can look back towards the rocks (and Portrush can be clearly seen) and in the other…. Dunluce Castle sits perched on its cliff top where its seen thousands of sunrises just like this one (click for large pictures).

 

A final view from above the White Rocks where the second biggest sand dune in Ireland towers above the beach as early walkers come out to take advantage of the sunshine.

Port Moon, County Antrim, Causeway Coast

A while ago I posted some pictures taken at Dunseverick Grasslands which involved climbing over the wall at the Dunseverick Castle layby and walking right around the headland there. Its a truly stunning walk and one thats hidden from the road so it can only be accessed on foot. There is another walk in the opposite direction however which is just as amazing towards a magical little bay called Port Moon.

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Port Moon has a long history of fishing going back well over 200 years and from 1830 nets were attached to the rocks offshore to catch Atlantic salmon on their journey to the river Bush for spawning. Crabs, lobsters and kelp were also harvested here.

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One of the crags jutting out into the sea on the walk to Port Moon, clearly showing the hexagonal columns which cover this area very close to the Giants Causeway (less than 5mls away).

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Your first views of the little “Fish House” bothy seen from several hundred feet above Port Moon bay (and yes, you can climb down there if youre brave enough).

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The surrounding area is simply stunning.

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After climbing down the looping path to the bottom of the cliff (it looks much more scary than it actually is, but be careful if its been raining as it can be slippery) you arrive at the old Fish house which now operates as a bothy (a small hut or cottage used as a refuge) which you can arrange to stay at if youre feeling adventurous (see here: http://www.canoeni.com/canoe-trails/north-coast-sea-kayak-trail/access-point/port-moon/ ). The building used to house all fishing operations at Port Moon but had fallen into disrepair until it was resurrected as a bothy in 2011. There are some pictures of the inside here https://www.hikersblog.co.uk/an-overnight-stay-in-port-moon-bothy/ but normally its locked.

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Looking out across the bay from the Port Moon shore. Not bad for a wintery February morning!

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The bothy seen from the opposite side of the crescent shaped (moon shaped) bay.

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Port Moon, a magical little place now deserted and haunted by the ghosts of its fishing past. Its really worth seeing and its very much an undiscovered gem of NI that most residents wont even have seen. Dunseverick Castle may not be much to look at but once over that wall and walking either left or right youll surely be impressed.

 

Autumn around County Down

I’m a bit late putting these up as Winter is well and truly upon us but having found them on my camera I thought Id stick them here as a reminder of Autumn 2016 which has left us for ever.

Picture 1: Queens University Belfast, Picture 2: The Ulster Museum (Botanic Gardens), Picture 3: Palm House (Botanic Gardens).

 

Picture 1: Tree shadows in Botanic Gardens, Picture 2: Yellow tree at Queens University Belfast.

 

Holywood, County Down. Looking over Belfast Lough just after an Autumn sunset.

 

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A burst of yellow @ Ballymenoch Park, Holywood, Autumn 2016

Divis & The Black Mountain Belfast

Providing the back drop for the city of Belfast, Divis Mountain was the filming location for several scenes in the movie “Dracula Untold” and there’s certainly a lot of old history up here. On a clear day there are views of Strangford Lough, the Mournes, The Sperrins, as well as Scotland and Donegal. The area is covered with 1,500 acres of upland heath and blanket bog and its home to a wealth of flora and fauna and archaeological remains. There are several easy walks around the area too with wooden paths and tarmacked routes allowing almost anyone to enjoy the fresh air and greenery above Belfast.

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After arriving at the car park youll see this welcome sign. Entrance is free.

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There are 4 routes around the area. Ranging from an easy 1 mile amble, to something a bit more strenuous (4 miles).

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None of the routes involve any real climbing apart from a stile or two.

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Depending on the time of year, there’s some wonderful bursts of colour up here.

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Which leads to fantastic views over the entire city.

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So next time youre in Belfast for a day or two take a walk across the Divis & Black Mountain trails (theres a cafe for refreshments too – check opening times etc here: https://www.facebook.com/diviscoffeebarn/ )