Roe Valley Country Park, Limavady, County Derry

If you venture just a little further beyond the wonderful Causeway Coastal route, heading in the direction of Londonderry, you’ll come to the tranquil Roe Valley Park. The Country Park stands on the outskirts of Limavady, running three miles along the banks of the River Roe. The river plunges through spectacular gorges with banks shrouded in a mixture of woodland. We arrived early in the morning as the winter sun broke through the mist…

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A beautiful winters morning indeed.

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You can walk along one side of the river, crossing over a bridge, then coming back again which is a total of 3 miles. Its all on a flat path so its suitable for everyone.

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The river Roe here is a magnet for salmon and trout fishing.

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Reflections on the water, silhouettes in the mist.

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Such a calm and peaceful place to walk. Theres also a large tearoom near the park entrance to get some refreshments after youve returned.

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.

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

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Looks like a horse trotted along here.

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

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

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

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(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.

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Sun sets before our drive home.

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Throw your TV away and get out and explore. 😉

Downhill Mausoleum and Old Cemetery

As you approach Downhill Demesne from the Lions Gate entrance, the first thing you will see is the towering “Mausoleum” monument. There’s actually never been anyone buried in there, its really just a remembrance building. Across the road however, lies what seems like a very old graveyard (at the back of the current one), and some of the stones show dates of over 200yrs past. I imagine it might be even older however as when you walk around there looks like even more graves below your feet, with the large ones piled high in the middle. The cemetery looks like something constructed for a movie. Beautiful and creepy.

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The Downhill Mausoleum. Much larger than it looks from the road.

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The inscription.

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Much of it has now fallen down.

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Dominating the landscape of a dark Winters day. Downhill House in the background.

Then across the road hidden away is this….

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An old graveyard.

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Long since past anyone caring for it.

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This stone seems to have a 200yr old epitaph (1817)

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An overgrown tomb.

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The place looks like a classic cemetery from some Hammer Horror movie.

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This mound has a path that winds around it, but as you walk there are small graves under your feet with tiny headstones lost in the grass. It seems like they piled the graves on top of each other.

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The ruins of some old church at one corner of the graveyard. Creepy place.

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.

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

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

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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/

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Simply world class beautiful. And almost deserted.

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

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

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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.

Gortmore and Binevenagh, County Derry/Londonderry

On a cold November day like this one, you’d better dress up warm for where we are going now. Taking the little twisty road up from Downhill beach (posting that soon) you climb through the wilds of Northern, erm, Northern Ireland to Gortmore and on along the Binevenagh plateau. Amazing views, and very, very, windy. Brrrr!

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The road to Gortmore, bleak, yet beautiful.

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Eventually you will come to this National Trust signpost (one end points to Castlerock, one to Limavady) and a carpark.

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Walk out along this path, and hold onto your hat!

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A panoramic shot of the view up here. Its not called windy hill for nothing.

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Some info provided.

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Gortmore Viewpoint is situated on the Bishop’s Road, on the Binevenagh Loop which is part of the Causeway Coastal Route. On a clear day views extend across to Donegal and the islands of Islay and Jura off the west coast of Scotland. Picnic facilities are available. In addition, a sculpture of Manannan Mac Lir, a sea God originating from this area can be viewed from this scenic viewpoint. The distant headland here is where we went next…

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Getting your bearings.

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Follow the road on from Gortmore through the glorious landscape then take the sign for Binevenagh forest (the lake isn’t very well signposted). Once at the lake above, park your car and set off on foot along the trail ahead. All pics above are full size by clicking (as ever).

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You’ll soon come to this. Prepare for the views and a rush of vertigo!

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Its impossible for any photograph to do this area justice. The height above sea level cant really be conveyed. If you have a fear of heights, get near the edge and youll feel sick haha.

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Like you’re on top of the world. Gortmore is almost 900ft up so I reckon this must be something the same. In the distance before you is Magilligan Point.

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Simply breath taking. And Binevenagh remains a place rarely mentioned in the tourist guides for Northern Ireland. Shame. We cant wait to return. It also proves that even in Winter, you can still get out there and enjoy the countryside.

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.

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Castlerock beach on a November day.

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Some local information (sorry about the bird poo)

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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Downhill House appears like some Irish Stonehenge in the distance.

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

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

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

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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.

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Some history of the house on a post inside.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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Some impressive cliffs before you reach there.

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Looking back towards Castlerock beach in the distance.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cross over here.

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You’ll see this sign.

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

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

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

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

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Heading back, and goodbye to Mussenden Temple.

Tamlaghtard Church, Cemetery, and School, County Derry

Its hard to know where to locate this church based on what it says on Google. Some sites state its in Bellarena, others near Limavady, and some in Magilligan. Safe to say its in County Derry however (parish of Tamlaghtard), and sits just below the stunning Binevenagh plateau. Tamlaghtard is said to mean “the cemetery on the height” which is hardly surprising based on its position. It was built somewhere around 1784 and has a wonderful setting in this designated area of outstanding natural beauty. You can see the little church clearly in the distance if you travel from Castlerock to Derry by train. The denomination here is Church of Ireland, and the grounds contain an old school (now abandoned) which may have doubled up as a robing room. There is also a (creepy) tomb of sorts at the back of the attached cemetery which you can see below.

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Tamlaghtard Church. Simply lovely location.

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Seen from the front on an early Winter morning 2014.

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A distant plane leaves for places afar, above Tamlaghtard Church.

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The attached old graveyard, with the imposing Binevenagh cliffs towering behind.

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At the very back of the old graveyard lies this tomb in the right hand corner.

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One of the headstones on the tomb.

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The door was open.

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A look inside.

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These stone coffins were old based on the dates.

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Pretty creepy in here.

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In front of the church is this little building which apparently is an old abandoned school (if anyone knows more let me know).

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The front of the “school” – the door at the back had blown off in the wind it seemed…

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We had a look inside. Very dark, very creepy.

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With the flash on, things became much more illuminated.

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A little desk. We didnt touch or move anything for the few minutes we had a look inside.

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The paint and windows from inside.

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Somebody didn’t want anyone to come in this door, that’s for sure.

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Obviously electrics had been added at some time. The building is mentioned as being used as a robing room as far back as the late 19th century. Apart from that, the internet seems to give up nothing else about the building. Those little coat hooks on the wall could probably tell a story though.

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Is that the book from the Evil Dead movie on the ceiling? I hope not lol.

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Time to leave Tamlaghtard Church. So many more things to see in this area.