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