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 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.

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.