Thursday, 24 May 2018

MAGILLIGAN POINT


Well, I am nearing the end of my blogging journey around the British coast, and this is the last headland before the border with the Republic of Ireland.  Poking out into the mouth of Lough Foyle, Magilligan Point is a short distance from the Republic and there is a year-round ferry to Greencastle on the other side.  A short distance from the ferry crossing point is a Martello tower built during the Napoleonic Wars to protect the lough from those pesky French, but also as a defence against American privateers.  Group tours of the tower can be undertaken by arrangement.  The tower stands within the Magilligan Point Nature Reserve, distinguished by its extensive system of sand dunes, the largest in Northern Ireland.  The flora growing among the dunes attract a variety of insects such as bees and moths, including the rare Scarce Crimson and Gold Moth, a variety of moth only found along this coast.


File:Martello Tower, Magilligan Point - geograph.org.uk - 583940.jpg
Photo by Ross, via Wikimedia Commons


Friday, 18 May 2018

CASTLEROCK


The kilometre-long stretch of sandy beach stretching to the west of the mouth of the River Bann belongs to the small resort of Castlerock.  The beach is adjacent to the Castlerock Golf Club and its dunes continue upstream to a National Trust bird sanctuary.  Wildlife enthusiasts should keep their eyes peeled when eyeing the estuary as harbour porpoises and seals can sometimes be seen feeding there.  Castlerock’s celebrity claim to fame is that the actor James Nesbitt called the resort home when a teenager. 



Another famous name associated with Castlerock is the author C. S. Lewis, who used to holiday there when growing up in Belfast.  Lewis used to visit the nearby Downhill Demesne, and was so captivated by the site that it provided inspiration for some of his work, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  The Demesne is run by the National Trust and includes the ruined 18th century mansion Downhill House, a Mausoleum, a Dovecote and an Icehouse among its points of interest.  For nature lovers there are The Bog Garden, The Black Glen, and there is a Walled Garden which nowadays is home to sheep and apple trees.  Another attraction within the Demesne is the clifftop Mussenden Temple, which is based on the Temple of Vesta in Italy, and which, along with the beautiful beach it overlooks, featured in Game of Thrones as Dragonstone.  By the way, the word 'demesne' is used in Ireland to mean a piece of land attached to a manor.


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Mussenden Temple overlooking Downhill Beach. Photo by D LN, via Wikimedia Commons


Thursday, 10 May 2018

PORTSTEWART


In a dramatic scene from series 5 of Game of Thrones, Jaime Lannister and Bronn are seen duelling with the Dornish guards on a stunning beach.  The beach in question was the Strand of Portstewart, just across the county border from Portrush, in County Londonderry.  The timing of the filming, which took place in 2014, was unfortunate, being in August, the busiest time of the year, as the beach had to be completely closed for it.  However, there was significant payback for the resort, which gained valuable exposure as a result of its starring role in the series.



The Portstewart Strand, which holds Blue Flag status, stretches out from the mouth of the River Bann, with the Portstewart Golf Club at one end.  The beach is popular with surfers, and in the town there is a Dive Centre for divers at Aquaholics, where boat trips can also be booked.  One the opposite bank of the river and inland a bit is a bird hide run by the National Trust (as is the Strand itself).  The hide offers the opportunity to observe waterfowl, waders and nesting birds.  The built up part of Portstewart lies to the other side of the golf course, occupying an area surrounding a small rocky peninsula, and it has a range of cafes, restaurants, pubs and shops for visitors to choose from.  There is a promenade leading to the Strand, taking in a small harbour. 


File:The Promenade at Portstewart - geograph.org.uk - 1322701.jpg
Photo by Des Colhoun, via Wikimedia Commons


Thursday, 3 May 2018

PORTRUSH


Portrush, which has signs of human habitation going back to around 4000 BC, started out as a fishing town, but the arrival of the Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine and Portrush Junction Railway in 1855 paved the way for its development into a resort.  Attractions such as Barry’s Amusements and Waterworld make it a hit with families.



The big attractions at Portrush are its wonderful beaches, the windswept location making them popular with surfers.  Horse riders and dog walkers are also attracted to the golden sands, though these should be aware that restrictions apply from May to September.  Whiterocks Beach, so named because of the limestone cliffs and rocks dotted about the beach, which were formed around 150 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period, lies to the east of the town, bordered by the Royal Portrush Golf Course.  The East Strand, meanwhile, is managed by the National Trust, so parking is free for members.  



For offshore activities, Portrush Sea Tours offer boat trips and charters, and the town has a Yacht Club.  The town itself is built on a peninsula called Ramore Head (the name Portrush comes from the Irish Port Rois, meaning “promontory port”.  On the east side of the peninsula is the Blue Pool, which is popular with divers.  Golfers are well catered for, with a second golf course, Ballyreagh Golf Course, to the west of the town.  The Coastal Zone is a visitor centre with an exhibition space covering aspects of the area’s history and natural attributes.  A group of small offshore islands called The Skerries are home to seabirds such as kittiwake and eider duck as well as more exotic marine species such as the cotton spinner sea cucumber.



Portrush  hosts a number of prominent events every year, including an Air Show in September, the North West 200 motorcycle race in May and an RNLI Raft Race.  For a list of events in the resort follow this link.



File:The White Rocks near Portrush (3) - geograph.org.uk - 785946.jpg
White Rocks Beach. Photo by Albert Bridge, via Wikimedia Commons