Whitepark Bay, North Coast, County Antrim

White Park Bay (also spelled Whitepark Bay) is a bay and three-mile long beach located near Ballycastle, County Antrim on the north coast along the Giant’s Causeway Coastal Route.

Whitepark Bay hosts a great display of Ireland’s geological past with many fossils scattered at the Southern end of the beach which can be found pretty easily. On the day we were there, we found 7 rocks within 15 minutes containing fossilized remains. The cliffs on both West and East sides of the bay are composed of Upper Cretaceous (Santonian- lower Maastrichtian) chalk. The chalk itself is a form of limestone composed almost entirely of Calcium Carbonate. This chalk formed late during the Cretaceous period, a time when many marine transgressions took place, and much of the continents were under water- as was Ireland. The cliffs at White Park Bay are rich in fragments of the belemnite, a form of early squid. You can spend hours here combing the white beach and examining the little white rocks (the fossils only seem to be in those). The sound is amazing as they roll in and out with the waves.

whitepark bay (6)

The first sign we saw after parking our car in the car park.

whitepark bay (11)

Across the meadow to your left is Portbradden in the distance.

whitepark bay (7) whitepark bay (5)

As you saw on the sign above, this used to be an 18th Century “Hedge School” for young gentlemen. Based on the sign on the building now though, it seems some non-gentlemen damaged it in the past. I’m not really sure however what the sign is referring to (to be honest) as the building looks as if its been a ruin for a very long time. Anyway, you’ll pass it on your way down to the beach.

whitepark bay (1)

More information on this special beach on the North coast

whitepark bay (19)

Reflections of the dramatic Winter sky on the wet sand at Whitepark Bay. Portbradden (again) in the distance.

whitepark bay (45) whitepark bay (44)

The pictures here probably don’t do the place justice, but when the sun comes out, the beach just glows white. And any one of those stones you see here could contain a real fossil.

fossils

This is a picture of a few we took home. Maybe not the greatest fossils ever, but we found these while hardly even looking. And that shell at the back is actually completely fossilized, its solid stone, (even though it looks just like a normal shell). Amazing stuff!

whitepark bay (46)

Youll see this sign as you leave Whitepark. I expect it only means you cant take the sand or fine gravel away (not one of the millions of rocks) as the tourist info for the Bay encourages hunting for them. We cant wait to go back.

Whitehead, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Whitehead, on the opposite side of Belfast Lough to Bangor, actually used to be one of Northern Irelands premier seaside resorts in the early to mid 20th Century. In a lot of ways its hard to imagine that now but the current reinstating of the famous “Gobbins Path” along the Blackhead cliff edge here could well bring thousands more visitors to the area as in its heyday the path drew crowds from across the country.

800px-Berkeley_Deane_Wise_at_the_Gobbins

The path (seen above on a postcard from 1902) gradually fell into disrepair and crumbled into the ocean, and its been closed for decades now. But back in 2013 work began to rebuild it where its expected to reopen again later this year. The tubular section above was replaced a few months ago and can be seen here: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/54-ton-bridge-craned-in-to-cliffhugging-gobbins-coastal-path-near-larne-30685152.html Whitehead is the home of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, and in the mid 1970s Sting (aka Gordon Sumner) from The Police lived here with his ex-wife Frances Tomelty, a Northern Irish actress. Its a quiet and not unattractive little town with some nice walks along the lough shore.

whitehead (4)

The colorful houses along the promenade.

whitehead (6)

Looking towards Whitehead from the small beach. If you look really closely to the far left you can see a steam train heading for Belfast.

whitehead (10)

A plane descends along Belfast Lough for the city airport.

whitehead (7)

An early Winter morning at Whitehead.

whitehead (12)

A panoramic view of the bay.

Tyrella Beach, County Down, December 28th 2014

Like most, we sat in the house over Christmas, eating, drinking, watching (terrible) TV, with some eating, and drinking (sorry, did I say that already?) and by the time the 28th of December came we decided we just had to get the hell out of the house as we felt like stuffed pigs. Luckily, the weather was amazing (though cold) so we headed off in the direction of Castlewellan (near Newcastle, Co.Down) to explore a little. After a few well needed coffees, and about a 40 minute drive, we followed the sign for Tyrella beach…

TYRELLA 28.12.14 (9) 

Tyrella is situated in an “Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty” within Dundrum Bay. It is backed by a great sand dune complex with winding pathways where you can enjoy a sheltered walk.

TYRELLA 28.12.14 (1)

Our view from the car park as we arrived.

TYRELLA 28.12.14 (2)

Looking like Kilimanjaro, this is a relatively uncommon shot of Slieve Donard (part of the Mourne Mountains) sprinkled with snow on a blazing sunny day. It is the tallest mountain peak in Northern Ireland.

TYRELLA 28.12.14 (3)

A whole galaxy of rag worm sand casts at low tide Tyrella beach.

TYRELLA 28.12.14 (7)

The deserted sands at Tyrella, just 3 days after Christmas 2014.

TYRELLA 28.12.14 (5)

A rider and horse the only other living thing we saw that morning.

TYRELLA 28.12.14 (4)

A beautiful scene.

TYRELLA 28.12.14 (6)

Our final view before we headed back to our car for the trip to Castlewellan Forest Park, just a few miles up the road.

Benone Strand and Magilligan Point.

Pretty much at the end of our trip along Downhill and Binevenagh now with just these last two places to visit before the drive home. We had a great time, and to see an area so lovely within your own country is amazing. So many things to view around here, and a cool November couple of days changed nothing. Who needs the summer? Hopefully this collection of pictures from a designated area of outstanding natural beauty will entice you to visit too.

1

Our car on Benone beach. Winter Sun creating a stark contrast between sky and sand.

2

Looks like a horse trotted along here.

3

If you look really hard you can see Mussenden Temple in the distance back at Downhill.

4

“Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach, a feeling in the air, the Summers out of reach…”

1

The Point Bar at Magilligan. You can get the ferry across Lough Foyle from here.

4 5

(From Discover NI Website):

The Martello tower at Magilligan is a well known landmark, built between 1812 and 1817 during the Napoleonic Wars, to guard against possible French invasion.

It was one of 74 constructed in Ireland, 40 or so survive. They were placed at strategic points all around the coast and designed to fire on any invading fleet or withstand lengthy sieges. This tower marks the end of a long tradition in Ireland of defensive buildings stretching back over 3,000 years to Bronze Age forts.

The walls are over 9ft thick and built of imported stone. There are three floors. The top floor housed a twenty-four pound gun able to swivel and shoot in any direction. A small furnace was used to heat the shot in order to set wooden ships on fire. The middle floor was the living quarters for one officer and twelve men. Below is the cellar. This is reached by a spiral staircase. There is a water well and storage rooms for gunpowder and food. The entrance to the tower has been changed. An iron staircase now replaces the original wooden ladder.

Living History events take place here at the Tower during the summer months.

Martello Tower lies within Magilligan Point Nature Reserve which is the tip of Northern Ireland’s largest sand dune system. The ever changing tides and storm events constantly change the profile of the beach, dunes and shape of the ‘Point’ itself. The mature or ‘grey dunes’ have established populations of various mosses, lichens, grasses, herbs and higher flowering plants providing a good nectar source for a variety of bee, butterfly and moth species. The rare Scarce Crimson and Gold moth, which is only found on the North Coast, has been recorded here.

3

Sun sets before our drive home.

2

Throw your TV away and get out and explore. 😉

Downhill Strand/Beach, County Derry/Londonderry

Apologies to those following my page today if you’re getting a lot of update mail in your inbox. I’m trying to get all these pictures posted of a two day trip we had to the Downhill and Binevenagh area so I can move on. They’re also being posted enmasse as a response to a thread on the Northern Ireland Tripadvisor forum which recently stated the top ten tourist places to visit in NI and this area wasn’t mentioned – just plain criminal to me! So I wanted to show why this area should be included. Hopefully it will.

1

Under fading light of Winter, we arrived at Downhill Beach.

8

You can stay at this little Guesthouse/Hostel which must have one of the most wonderful locations in all of NI. Link below.

2

The iconic Mussenden Temple keeps sentry over the beach. This beach was a location for filming Game of Thrones. See here: http://www.downhillhostel.com/burning-of-the-7-game-of-thrones-films-on-downhill-beach-dragonstone/

9 10

Simply world class beautiful. And almost deserted.

11 4

You could be forgiven for thinking these were taken in Thailand.

5

A cow on the hill above the beach, as the Sun starts to set.

6

Our car in the distance. You can drive onto the beach here. If you don’t have a car its still possible to walk from Castlerock to here (via the train) which will allow you to explore the whole Downhill area.

Castlerock and Belvedere Summer House Downhill

Just by parking your car (or getting off the train) at Castlerock you have so much access to many wonderful sights and coastline around this area. We left the car at “Tunnel Brae” – two carparks with a viewpoint over the town and set off to walk across the Black Glen towards Belvedere Summer house – part of the large Downhill Demesne. I really don’t need to say much more than the walk was absolutely stunning.

2

Castlerock beach on a November day.

4

Some local information (sorry about the bird poo)

5

Known as the Twelve Apostles, and situated just behind the Tunnel Brae carpark, these were old labourers cottages built in the 18th century, if you follow the road along here you will find the path towards Downhill Demesne.

6

Another little cottage at the end of the road with a sign for the Black Glen walk.

8

From the Black Glen looking back towards Castlerock. Its not as far as it looks.

2

We’ve already visited Mussenden so its on to Belvedere.

1

Your first view from the valley below. It was built by the Bishops daughter Mary.

4

This little set of windswept trees have been painted and photographed many times by others.

6

Looking into the Summer house. Its quite small really, but a major part of the entire Demesne. You can get in round the back.

7

If you look really closely here, to the far left under the tree, you can see the railway tunnel to and from Castlerock. Another tunnel is at the far end of the headland (under Mussenden) where you are now. These are the two longest railway tunnels in Northern Ireland.

Melancholic Moods at Downhill House

Situated just behind Mussenden Temple (see below), Downhill House seems to exude sadness into the air around it. I don’t know what it is about old abandoned buildings, but you can almost feel a sense of loss of past grandeur. Downhill House doesn’t get the same attention as the famous Temple in front of it, but as you step through its big iron gates you soon realize it has as much to offer by way of awe for its past history. Even in its heyday though, it was insulted for its silly location exposed to just about the worst weather Northern Ireland can ever have, perched on a clifftop exposed to the North Atlantic Ocean. But on this last November day of 2014 (with no one around) the echoes of its old beauty still seemed to resound for me – though very faint now. Wiki page here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downhill_House

1

Downhill House appears like some Irish Stonehenge in the distance.

2

You’d be forgiven for thinking it was a castle from this angle.

3

As you step inside through the iron gates (they should be open) this is the sight you see.

4

Theres a small labyrinth of broken rooms and walls to explore.

5 11

In the distance here you can see whats known as the mausoleum (though no one was buried there), it is a memorial monument to this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_William_Hervey,_2nd_Earl_of_Bristol and its much taller than it looks when you get closer. I will post pictures of it here soon. The house looks very imposing on this second picture.

14

Some history of the house on a post inside.

6 7 8 9

Some shots of the front of the house. Be advised, watch your step around the entire surrounding fields, sheep are regularly grazed here and have left many little brown presents hidden in the grass haha. Ive been told too that during the really cold days they actually get allowed into the house for shelter. Not many sheep would have a barn like this.

10 12

The house really does catch the eye on the flat landscape here.

13 0

The view from the “Lions Gate” as you enter from there. And a photo from the (opposite) Castlerock side. This entire area is magical. A must see.

Mussenden Temple, Downhill, County Derry (November 2014)

I guess many photographs have been taken of Mussenden Temple, its used continually in almost all of Northern Ireland tourist advertisements, its iconic image likely known the world over. But even for someone who lives in the country, its still a pretty impressive sight to see, and its really worth the trek up to see it. What we did was drive to Castlerock (the seaside town at the opposite side of the headland – also worth checking out) and walked all the way up, crossing the valley below via the small dam like structure at the pool. You see much more of the cliffs and impressive approach to the entire Downhill Demesne this way.

5

Coming from Castlerock, one of your first sights of the temple.

4

Some impressive cliffs before you reach there.

6

Looking back towards Castlerock beach in the distance.

8

From the far side of the valley here, you can see how the trains enter the tunnel underneath the temple. Don’t ever try taking a shortcut through this tunnel to get to Downhill beach on the other side however. Theres a high chance you could be killed. At Downhill these are the two longest tunnels on Northern Ireland’s railway network and its pitch dark inside. If a train were to come (while you were in there) you’d never get out.

3

This is a panoramic pic I took of the temple and Downhill House (will be posting it later) showing the distance between them. Obviously the quality is a little lower as you have to pan the camera to get these stills. But not bad for my little compact.

9

Getting closer now (heed the sign) if you walk towards the left of this picture you will see a pool and a small dam below. Thats where you cross to climb up to the other side. Don’t worry, it looks much harder than it actually is lol.

10

Cross over here.

1

You’ll see this sign.

11

The temple. Which I suppose isn’t too impressive until you walk around the back and get a glimpse of this….

12

Yup, a real wow moment. Even on a dull November day like today.

15

A wider shot of the gorgeous Downhill Strand below. Not a bad view for a picture taken just 4 weeks before Christmas 🙂

13

Theres a wall that gives visitors protection from certain death with a fall up here. Not for climbing on haha.

14

Heading back, and goodbye to Mussenden Temple.

Crawfordsburn Country Park, County Down. In the snow

Right now we are having a pretty mild autumn here in Northern Ireland. Its mid October but the weathermen have forecast temperatures up to 17C by Friday which is almost unheard of for this time of year. In fact, our Summer temperatures have been known to only get that high so its quite crazy for us indeed. Anyway, I’m sure Winter isn’t too far away, and when it comes it’ll probably be quite sudden. A few years back NI had temperatures as low as -18C (yes that’s minus 18C) during Winter. I really hope we never get those again. Below are a few pictures I took back in February 2013. I was off work that day and when I woke up and saw a blanket of snow outside I quickly ran and grabbed my camera to walk down to the beach where I live and get a few shots before the thaw. As it was a weekday, there wasn’t a soul around, totally silent apart from the waves on the frozen shore. Fantastic.

Crawfordsburn Park Snow (1)

The little sign at the Southern end of Helens Bay beach where you enter the lower reaches of the Country Park.

Crawfordsburn Park Snow (2)

During Summer, if the weathers fine, this beach will be packed with day trippers who travel in from Belfast. I guess not many of those have seen it look like this. Like most seaside towns however, those who live there probably look forward to the end of Summer when their areas regain their peace and tranquility. I cant really argue with that.

Crawfordsburn Park Snow (3)

Looking through an iced twig towards Crawfordsburn bay (from Helens bay). The Winter Sun has just begun its slow and shallow climb into the morning sky.  No one around but me.

Crawfordsburn Park Snow (4)

Quite a beautiful scene. Crawfordsburn Bay frozen in the early morning sunrise.

Crawfordsburn Park Snow (5)

The promenade beside Crawfordsburn beach. The snow actually only lasted a few hours that morning as the thaw took place quite quickly. I think I took these pictures around 8am, but by 10am it was mostly gone. Lucky shots then.

Crawfordsburn Park Snow (6)

During the Summer, this little bench would likely be in high demand. Not today however, only the snow rests here now.

Crawfordsburn Park Snow (7)

Crawfordsburn beach boasts an award of a Blue Flag, an indication that the sea water is above a certain standard of cleanliness, and the beach has good hygienic conditions too. You might just be able to read some of the sign here which sits at the North end of the beach. Without the snow, this area has lush green grass overlooking the sea, where many families sit having a picnic in the warmer months. This year I was actually down here with my children in March and it was lovely.

Crawfordsburn Park Snow (8)

Im not entirely sure if this little guy is a woodpecker or a kingfisher. Hes been carved out of a tree and sits beside the main carpark at Crawfordsburn forest. This morning only him and me braved the cold. Everyone else was at work or huddled at home near the fire. Brrrr!

Whitehead, County Antrim

Whitehead is a small seaside town on the east coast of County Antrim, lying almost midway between the towns of Carrickfergus and Larne. It lies within the civil parishes of Island Magee and Templecorran. Before the Plantation of Ulster its name was recorded as both Whitehead and Kinbaine (from Irish an Cionn Bán, meaning “the white head”).

Located at the base of Muldersleigh Hill, at the entrance to Belfast Lough, 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 Lough. Whitehead is notable in that there are no streets with the suffix “Street” in their name, giving rise to the nickname ‘The Town With No Streets’.

whitehaed 1 (1)

This picture (and the two below) were taken from a moving train so the quality isn’t just up to scratch, but the bay at Whitehead still looks quite nice in this.

whitehaed 1 (2)

Quite a strange cloud formation. I expect its to do with the wind hitting the two land masses at this point (Ireland and Scotland) which are very close together here separated by just a few miles of ocean.

whitehaed 1 (3)

Another sunset picture just a few miles South of Whitehead. Even an oil refinery can look good with the Sun in the background.