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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Ramblers Trip to the Antrim Coast and Glens~~~Day Four~~~Binevenagh,Mussenden Temple,Downhill and Castlerock

It's Thursday the 14th of October 2010,and today we're travelling a little further west.
As I mentioned in the last post,our guest at the Fullerton last night was a lovely lady who a couple of us had met at the Newton Stewart walking festival.
I hope Iris doesn't mind me using her christian name.When I'd told her of our trip over here and asked if she'd like to walk with us,she'd agreed to help me with walks.

Being a baby sitting grandmother,as well as walking and often leading walks with the Ballymena Health group,she's a busy lady.
However today she's all ours,and is taking us over to Downhill and Castlerock west of Coleraine.

She's waiting in her car on the east side of Coleraine and we form a convoy as she takes us round the city and on to Downhill.

We continue on to a parking place on the Leighry road in the Binevenagh Forest for our first walk.

This from Wikipedia.

Binevenagh or Benevenagh (from Irish: Binn Fhoibhne meaning "Foibhne's peak") marks the western extent of the Antrim Plateau formed around 60 million years ago by molten lava. The plateau and steep cliffs extend for over 6 miles across the peninsula of Magilligan and dominating the skyline over the villages of Bellarena, Downhill, Castlerock and Benone beach. The area has been classified as both an Area of Special Scientific Interest and as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

I've had problems with the pronunciation,but finally have it.
It's 'Ben' as in Ben Nevis,followed by 'Even' as in seven,and 'Agh' as in a frustrated outburst.'BENEVENA'

There's a lot of mist around as we begin the walk.We're hopeful of it clearing.
There's a BBC Northern Ireland page called 'Off the beaten track' showing Binevenagh.
It's worth a look.
There's also a very good comprehensive PDF of teachers notes on a government environment page at

We begin by climbing up through the forest.As usual when it comes to climbing I'm near the back.We'll get plenty of mini breaks today.

We're soon a good height up,and when the mist occasionally clears we're looking down on Lough Foyle and over to Donegal.
Below us somewhere is Limavady,and I'd been trying to remember a well known connection.I was back in Scotland before finally remembering.It's where the Londonderry Air originated.There's so much stuff been written about this and the Danny Boy lyrics,that I wont even go into it.

We're still gaining height and although the grass looks long,the path is well defined.There's a lovely church below.

It's a good thing we have Iris leading us today.The mist comes and goes,but when it does clear we get the most fabulous views.

Some of us ignore the warning signs !
Of course on good days, the Ulster Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club take no notice at all.

Below us we see the mouth of the River Roe as it flows into Lough Foyle.

At the viewpoint,photo opportunities are rare,but we make the best of the occasional lift of the mist.

Now we turn away from the cliffs to come to Binevenagh Lake.It's an artificial volume of water created for the fishing.
I like the line in an Explore Northern Ireland page,it says "The fishery can be very exposed in inclement weather and anglers should be appropriately dressed.".This fisherman certainly looks surprised to see us.

It gets a little wetter as we leave the lake.More waterproofs are donned.

A little more gentle climbing gets us to the 385 metres summit...

...while me and the 'Weaver' claim another Flush Bracket.

Forest tracks now take us back to the start point and lunch.
The Honda Kid draws on a rolled up cigarette.He wants to give up he says.

Once we're refreshed we're back in the vehicles and make our way to the north coast and the beach at Castlerock.

A popular place in the summer,but a little quieter at this time of year.We make use of the loos which are open,(Take heed Wigtownshire!) then begin walking westwards.

It's a lovely view behind us.Castlerock has it's own community website at
Coastline Castlerock
It's very informative.

We round the railway tunnels on the Coleraine to Londonderry line.Reportedly the longest railway tunnels in Ireland.
Now we're in the National Trust park of the Downhill Demesne and Mussenden Temple.
The NT are doing weddings here now.
Weddings at Mussenden Temple

What a lovely place this is.

"Suave mari magno, turbantibus aequora ventis, E terra magnum alterius spectare laborem"

"Tis pleasant, safely to behold from shore, The rolling ship, and hear the tempest roar."

Whilst looking for the translation of the above roman text,I was quite amazed at how many different ones there are.

The cameras are fairly clicking now.Just a couple of hundred yards gets us to the ruins of Downhill House.Here's Wikipedias page.
Downhill House

What a great place to take pictures.It's hard to believe that as recent as WW2,this was used as a billet for RAF servicemen and women.

The mist has lifted,but it's still quite overcast as we leave the house...

....we're now looking at the Mausoleum.In 1839 the 'Big Wind' demolished the rotunda and statue on the top.

Now we head for the park entrance.

This apparently has always been known as the Lion Gate entrance.In fact the newly restored cats are Ounces or Snow Leopards.

A short stretch of road walking now.This takes us to the Downhill Forest for a pleasant short circular walk through the woods.Two very large trees were the subject of some discussion as to their species.
I think someone mentioned Spruce.They'd be right since they are Sitca Spruce.We'd have known straight away if Shorty had been with us.

Now directly across the road is the Bishops Gate Gardens.

Such brilliant colours for October.
Is that someone peeking through the bushes ?

Harder to find in the above collage.Bottom left ?...'s a close up clue.

What a fabulously colourful spot.It's soon time to move on though,and we'll head along part of Black Glen towards the town.

We get a look into one of the above houses.The owner's busy with interior work,and kindly allows some of the group to look it over.It's a nice spot for a holiday home.

Iris tells us of an apparent suicide around here,that 17 years later, due to a troubled conscience, turns into a murder trial.The delayed trial will start in November 2010.
Getting away with murder must weigh heavy on the mind.
Mind you, the paltry sentences passed by judges these days almost make murder worthwhile.What's happened to our society ?

Now we're back into Castlerock via the Tunnel Brae viewpoint.Even the nicest places suffer though.Wreaths and flowers outside holiday apartments signify another tragedy.
Three bright young men,A-level students from Glengormley High School were enjoying a short break at the seaside.Two of them died tragically from carbon monoxide poisoning.The third although unconscious was found just in time.Fumes leaking into the flat from below were blamed.Such a sad loss of life.

The sun's not quite made it out today,but it's certainly much brighter now.The shoreline's a picture of tranquility.

It's time to say goodbye to Iris. Everyone's had a great time.
We thanks you for a wonderful day,and for the excellent local biscuits which were soon consumed back at the hostel.
We look forward to seeing you again at the walking festival.Keep them healthy in Ballymena.

A quick stop for a bit of shopping in Bushmills gets me this picture of Finn MacCools.Now it's back to Ballintoy.We're all ready to eat.

It's our last night in the Fullerton,and William is on top form seeing to our needs.Above is the beer garden out the back.I'll keep it in mind for the next visit.
Today was another very good day.

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