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Touring County Derry

Sperrin Mountains courtesy Mervyn Greer Portstewart Strand courtesy Kenny Allen County Derry is all about its coastline. From the city of Derry (Londonderry) in the west to Portstewart in the east, cliffs, sand, and sea dominate the landscape. This is not to say there is any less to see in the interior where the southern boundary backs onto the Sperrin Mountains, and forests and nature reserves add a pleasing mix. Like other counties in Ireland, prehistoric and early Christian remains are scattered around the countryside.

Portstewart Promenade courtesy Aubrey Dale Portstewart  Harbour courtesy Bob Jones On the eastern coast, Portstewart is the site of St Patrick’s well, originally a pagan sacred well, according to local legend. It’s the focus of a fair held the last Monday of every August. Portstewart Strand (National Trust) is a two mile long historic duneland and sandy beach. Nearby are the Bar Mouth and Grangemore Dunes. This wildlife sanctuary has an observation hide.

Just west of Portstewart is Castlerock. Christ Church on Main St is a cruciform church with a tower and polygonal spire. The listed building was built in 1868-70 of black basalt and sandstone.

Mussenden Temple courtesy Causeway Coast and Glens Bishop's Castle ruins by Barbara Ballard Under the care of the National Trust, the 18th century Downhill estate sits on a wild headland with views over the north coast waters. On the estate are the ruins of Downhill castle, a mausoleum, gardens, and—almost on cliff’s edge—the Mussenden Temple. The temple is built in the classical rotunda style of local basalt faced with sandstone. From Downhill to Magilligan Point are seven miles of sand and sand dunes. The beach is a European Blue Flag and Seaside Resort award. At Magilligan Point is a martello tower built during the napoleonic wars.

Hezlett House courtesy Causeway Coast and Glens Between Castlerock and Coleraine is Hezlett House, also a National Trust property. The thatched cottage and farmyard buildings have 300-year-old timber frames and cruck-truss roof construction.

Coleraine St Patrick's courtesy Aubrey Dale Coleraine Town Hall courtesy Kenny Allen Visit the tourist information centre in Coleraine for a historic town trail map. Coleraine’s central square was laid out in 1610, and its town hall constructed in 1743. The site of St Patrick’s church has been used for worship continuously since medieval times. Its interior contains 17th century monuments. Saint Malachy’s Church, a listed building in the town centre, was built in 1937 in the neo-Romanesque style.

Mountsandel courtesy Kenny Allen Benevenagh courtesy Causeway Coast and Glens South-east of Coleraine is the Mountsandel Fort, a 9000-year-old oval mound by the Bann River. Just south of Coleraine in the village of Castleroe is Cutts House, a listed three-bay, two-storey house built in 1859. For panoramic views over the north coast visit the Gortmore Viewing Point on the summit of Benevenagh mountain, (off the A2 north of Limavady, then B201 to Coleraine and onto Bishops Road.) The Benevenagh National Nature Reserve and forest are here. The cliffs are a special habitat for rare plants and mosses. A well known standing stone, Finn MacCool Finger Stone, refers to the story of the famous giant.

Continuing west along the coast road leads to Limavady. Bovevagh Church in Limavady dates from the late middle ages and was built on the site of an early monastery and an 11th century timber church. The Carnanbane Court Tomb is near the A37. At Duncrun is an inscribed stone cross marking the site of St Patrick's monastery. A church is dedicated to St Aidan and his tomb is near the church ruins. A church of Ireland church on a hill nearby was built in the 1780s.

Roe Valley courtesy Causeway Coast and Glens Roe Valley Museum old fireplace courtesy Phyllis Flannagan At the Roe Valley Country Park, a mile from Limavady, the Green Lane Museum tells about the linen and agricultural industry of the past in a number of exhibitions. Also in the park is Ulster's oldest hydroelectric station, built in 1896. It’s a collection of restored rural industrial buildings and ruined water mills. There are riverside walks and a history trail.

Greysteel, on the Limavady to Derry road, is home to the Vale Centre, with its recreational facilities. Nearby is medieval Faughanvale Old Church. At Ballykelly is Rough Fort, a National Trust property. The earthwork construction is over 1000 years old and was used as a safe haven for livestock in an emergency. At the east side of the village are the ruins of a round tower and Tamlaght Finlagan Church and Graveyard, said to be the remains of an abbey founded by Columba in AD 575.

South of Limavady on the A2 road to Eglinton, the Ballygroll Prehistoric Complex is a group of prehistoric monuments dating from BC 4000 to BC 1000. The group includes a court tomb, two wedge tombs, a round cairn, a barrow, and two stone circles set within a pre-bog field system. Tireighter Wedge Tomb dates from the early bronze age and is twenty-four feet in length. It is located near Claudy (A6) south-east of Eglinton.

Driving into the southern interior of the county, west of Lough Neagh, leads to Maghera. Here is the Upperlands Linen Museum at the William Clark and Sons Ltd factory. Linen fabrics for the clothing industry are made here, and there is an interpretive display. Beetling machines are in operation. Outside, the tour passes the dams that were formerly the source of power for the linen mill and still supply water for manufacturing.

Maghera’s St Patrick’s Church was built in 1825 in the Romanesque style and was rebuilt in 1912. The listed building has a pine hammerbeam roof and two late 1800s stained glass windows. North of Maghera, Killelagh Church was constructed in 1815 and has links to several folklore stories. Also near Maghera is a 4000-6000 year old megalithic burial tomb known as Tirnoney or alternately as Tirnony or Tircony Dolmen.

Glenshane Road Signs courtesy Kenny Allen Learmount Forest road courtesy Kenny Allen Heading west from Maghera to Dungiven leads through the Glenshane Pass and its forests and mountains. Panoramic views reach over Lough Neagh and the Antrim hills. The Ulster Way goes through the forest along the source of the River Roe. North-east of Dungiven, the Gortnamoyagh Forest behind Benbradagh Mountain is another scenic location. South is Legananam Pot, a glaciation feature. Learmount Wood, nine miles south-east of Dungiven and bordering the river Faughan, is an early 17th century estate with conifer and broad-leaved woods.

Dungiven Castle and Benbradagh courtesy John O'Kane On the east side of Dungiven is Dungiven priory above the river Roe. The Augustinian priory was founded in 1100 and restored in the late 14th century. The medieval church is the site of an O'Cahan chief’s tomb, which has a traceried canopy. Dungiven Castle, in a ruined state, was built in 1839. South-west of Dungiven is Banagher Old Church, a ruin with an 1100 nave. Also on the site is a tomb, known as a mortuary house, said to be that of the church founder. Just outside Feeny village is the Feeny standing stone embedded in a hedge bank.

Garvagh village courtesy Kenny Allen Garvagh along the Glenelly valley courtesy Kenny Allen Garvagh, on the A29, north of Maghera, has a museum and heritage centre with stone age artefacts from the Bann Valley, a boat from a nearby eel fishery, farming implements, and various Victorian artefacts. The Garvagh forest lies on the western outskirts of the town. Small wildlife, a pond, and a picnic area make it a family attraction. The Garvagh pyramid is a burial folly created for Lord Garvagh. Near Garvagh is the Knockoneill Court Tomb, which dates from BC 3000. It’s a two-chambered megalithic tomb with a semi-circular forecourt, an antechamber and another chamber, enclosed in a rectangular cairn.

Bellaghy Bawn courtesy Cormac Duffin Bellaghy Bawn, in Bellaghy village near Lough Neagh in southern Derry, is a restored, fortified house of 1618. In the house is information on local history, the Ulster Plantation, and the writings of Bellaghy-born poet Seamus Heaney. South of Bellaghy at Castledawson is an open farm with a traditional thatched cottage, offering teas. Children will enjoy the rare fowl breeds, goats, rabbits, Jacob and Soya sheep, Dexter cattle, guinea pigs, and miniature Shetland ponies.

Ballyronan picnic area and Lough Neagh courtesy Kenny Allen Ballyronan Wood is found on the shores of Lough Neagh, near Magherafelt. Walks through the woods include the Traad ponds. St John’s Church Ballinderry, a listed building two miles from Ballyronan on Lough Neagh, was built in 1850. Of interest are the stained glass windows and Connacher organ.

Moneymore Court House courtesy Kenny Allen The town of Moneymore, on the A29 near Lough Neagh and the county Tyrone town of Cookstown, is home to a Lilliputian size model village, a re-creation of a 17th century plantation settlement in the grounds of the manor house. A 17th century garden and interpretive centre are on site.

Springhill House courtesy Kenny Allen Springhill House, a National Trust property built in 1680 and enlarged several times, is another Moneymore attraction. Guided tours are given of the plantation house, which has a costume collection, family furniture, a library, and a resident ghost. Walled gardens, a tearoom, barn, dovecote, and a shop are further amenities.

In the far south of the county on the border with county Tyrone is Iniscarn Forest, off the A29 Moneymore to Draperstown road. Forest walks and the starting point for the hill walk on Slieve Gullion Mountain are here. The Cairndaisy Wood has much of botanical interest. Drumquin Forest surrounds Drumquin village and offers nature trails. It is overlooked by the Doolish and Tappaghan Mountains. The Ulster History Centre in Draperstown tells the story of 17th century colonization of the area.

Derry city walls view courtesy Chris Gunns Derry City Walls courtesy Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau Derry’s city walls, 1613-1618, were built to protect the old plantation town. Originally they had four gates: Ferrquay, Shipquay, Butcher’s, and Bishop’s. The walls withstood a number of sieges. A one-mile walking circuit is possible and offers views from the top. The city has many historic buildings.

Derry Apprentice Boys Hall courtesy Kenny Allen Derry City guildhall courtesy Kenny Allen The Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall was built in 1877 and enlarged in 1937. In the listed building is a museum with local items. The neo-Gothic Guildhall, just outside the city walls, dates from 1887 and contains stained glass windows. An early Georgian house, Prehen, was designed by a well-known Irish architect.

Christ Church is another listed building. Built in 1830, it was refitted in 1862 and enlarged in 1881. The battlemented three-stage tower is designed in the primitive Gothic style. Long Tower Church was built in 1784 on the site of the former medieval church. The stained glass windows are a special feature of the rococo interior.

St Columb's Cathedral courtesy Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau St Columb’s Cathedral in the city centre dates from 1633. Built in the late perpendicular style, the tower has an early 19th century spire and 13 bells. The roof is open timber. In the nave is a mahogany bishop’s throne. A chapter house was built in 1910. In it are the paddocks and keys of the original city gates.

Derry City St Eugene's Cathedral courtesy Gordon Hatton St Eugene’s cathedral, finished in 1903, was built in the gothic revival style. St Lurach’s (founder of a 6th century monastery) church graveyard is the location of St Lurach’s Romanesque style monument. The carved stone doorway dates from the 11th century. St Augustine’s church is a listed building in the neo-gothic style and dates from 1872. It has a hammerbeam roof.

Derry waterfront courtesy Michael Parry Shipquay Street Derry courtesy Kenny Allen The Tower Museum tells the history of Derry from its geological formation to current history. It covers the monastic and plantation times. For those interested in the history of the Celts, the Fifth Province uses AV presentations to bring their history and culture to the viewer. More recent history is shown in the Flight of the Earls Experience, the story of the plantation in Ireland. Live action, multi-media, and displays provide insight into the history of Ireland from the late 1500s to modern times. Authentic costumes are on display.

Derry Harbour Museum interior courtesy Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau The Harbour Museum is focussed on the maritime and river history of the city. Culmore artillery fort sits on the river Foyle and was used in the defense of Derry City. The stone tower viewed today dates from late medieval times. Parts of the site are Scheduled Historic Monuments. The Workhouse Museum has several themes: the Battle of the Atlantic, Famine, the Workhouse life, and a number of temporary exhibitions. Lovers of contemporary art will want to visit the McGilloway Gallery at the Shipquay.

Derry Attractions

Auglish Stone Circles
Tel. 028 7776 0307

Ballygroll Prehistoric Complex
Slievegore Hill, Erve Rd, Cross, Eglinton
Tel. 028 7126 7284

Ballykelly Forest
6 Forest Rd, Ballykelly
Tel. 028 2955 6003

Banagher Old Church
Off B74, 2 miles south-west of Dungiven

Bellaghy Bawn
Castle St, Bellaghy
Tel. 028 7938 6812

Bovevagh Church
7 Connell St, Limavady, near village of Burnfoot
Tel. 028 7776 0307

Castledawson Open Farm
Leitrim Road, one mile north of Castledawson.
Tel. 028 7946 8207

Christ Church
Main St, Castlerock
Tel. 028 7034 4723

Cutts House
Coleraine; From Coleraine Strand roundabout follow Castleroe Road to village (0.75) miles. Gates are opposite Salmon Leap pub.
Tel. 028 7034 4723

Downhill Estate and Mussenden Temple
107 Sea Road, Castlerock
Tel. 028 7084 8728

Tel. 028 7776 0307

Dungiven Priory and O Cahans Tomb
East side of Dungiven (A6) by foot down lane passing a wart well and rag tree, signposted.

Garvagh Forest
On western outskirts of Garvagh
Tel. 028 2955 6003

Garvagh Museum and Heritage Centre
142 Main St, Garvagh, beside Health Clinic
Tel. 028 2955 8216

Glenshane Forest
7.5 miles from Dungiven on southern side of Glenshane Pass.
Tel. 028 2955 6003

Green Lane Museum
Roe Valley Country Park, one mile from Limavady.
Tel. 028 7776 0304

Hezlett House
107 Sea Road, Castlerock; On A2 Coleraine to Downhill Rd, north-west of Coleraine and close to Castlerock
Tel. 028 7084 8728

Knockoneill Court Tomb
Knockoneill Road, Swatragh, Garvagh
Tel. 028 8224 7831

Moneymore Model Village and Heritage Centre
Manor House, High St, Moneymore
Tel. 028 8674 8910 to view.

Mountsandel Fort
One mile south-east of Coleraine

Portstewart Strand
Tel. 028 7083

Power House
Off B192, a mile south of Limavady at Roe Valley Country Park
Tel. 028 7772 2074

Roe Valley Country Park
41 Dogleap Rd, off B192, a mile south of Limavady
Tel. 028 7772 2074

Rough Fort
One mile west of Limavady, on the Limavady to Ballykelly road.
Tel. 028 7776 0307

Springhill House
20 Springhill Rd, Moneymore
Tel. 028 8674 8210

At east entrance to Ballykelly village, turn right into King's Lane; continue off to the left into Tully Road
Tel. 028 7776 0307

Tireighter Wedge Tomb
Off A6 near village of Claudy on a golf course
Tel. 028 9054 3034

Tirnoney (Tirnony, Tircony) Dolmen

Ulster Plantation Centre
50 High St, Draperstown
Tel. 028 7962 7800

Upperlands Linen Museum
William Clark And Sons Limited Factory Tour
Upperlands, three miles north-east of Maghera
Tel. 028 7954 7200 or 028 7964 2214

City of Derry

Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall
13 Society St, Derry

Culmore Artillery Fort
At Culmore Point on the River Foyle, Derry
Tel. 028 7126 7284

Derry City Walls
Tel: 028 7126 7284

Fifth Province
4-22 Butcher St, Derry
Tel. 028 7137 3177

Flight Of The Earls Experience
50 High St, Derry
Tel. 028 7962 7800

Guildhall Square, Derry
Tel. 028 7137 7335

Harbour Museum
Harbour Square, Derry
Tel. 028 7137 7331

Long Tower Church
Bishop Street, just outside the walls of Derry.
Tel. 028 7126 7284

McGilloway Gallery
6 Shipquay St, Derry

Prehen House
Prehen Rd, Derry
Tel. 028 7131 2395

Saint Augustine's Church
Palace St, Derry
Tel. 028 7126 7284

Saint Columb's Cathedral
Near Bishop St, city centre, Derry
Tel. 028 7126 7313
Web: St Columb’s Cathedral

Saint Eugene’s Cathedral

Saint Lurach’s Church
Tel. 028 7963 1510

Tower Museum
Union Hall Place, city centre, Derry
Tel. 028 7137 2411

Workhouse Museum
23 Glendermott Rd, Derry
Tel. 028 7131 8328

County Derry Tourist Information Centres

Benone Tourist Complex
53 Benone Avenue
Magilligan, Limavady

City of Derry Airport
Longfield Road

Coleraine Tourist Information Centre
Railway Road
Tel. 028 7034 4723
Open: Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm

Derry City (Londonderry) Tourist Information Centre
44 Foyle St
Tel. 028 7126 7284
Open: all year; Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; mid March-June and Oct, Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-5pm; July-Sep, Mon-Fri, 9am-7pm, on Sat from10am-6pm, on Sun from 10am-5pm.

Dungiven Castle
Upper Main St

Limavady Tourist Information Centre
7 Connell St
Tel. 028 7776 0307
Open: July and Aug, Mon from 9.45am-5.45pm, closed 12.30-1.30pm; Tue-Fri, open 9am-5.45pm; on Sat open from 9.30am-5.30pm

Magherafelt Tourist Information Centre
The Bridewell, 6 Church St
Tel. 028 7963 1510
Open: all year, Mon-Sat, 9.30am-5.30pm, until 8pm on Thu

Portrush Tourist Information Centre
Dunluce Centre
Tel. 028 7082 3333
Open: Easter-Oct

Sperrins Tourism Ltd
Manor House, 30 High St
Tel. 028 8674 7700

Official Websites

Causeway Coast and Glens
Coleraine Borough Council
Limavady Borough Council

Photo of Bishop’s Castle ruins © by Barbara Ballard

Photo of Roe Valley, Hezlett House, Mussenden Temple, and Benevenagh courtesy Causeway Coast and Glens

Photos of Derry city walls, St Columb’s cathedral, and Harbour museum courtesy Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau]

Other photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Sperrin Mountains by Mervyn Greer; Portstewart Strand, Coleraine town hall, Mountsandel, Glenshane road signs, Learmount forest road, Garvagh village, Garvagh along the Glenelly road, Ballyronan picnic area and Lough Neagh, Moneymore courthouse, Springhill House, Apprentice Boys Hall, Derry city guildhall, Derry Shipquay street by Kenny Allen; Portstewart promenade, Coleraine St Patricks by Aubrey Dale; Portstewart harbour by Bob Jones; Roe valley museum fireplace by Phyllis Flannagan; Dungiven castle and Benbradagh by John O’Kane; Bellagh Bawn by Cormac Duffin; Derry city walls by Chris Gunn; Derry city St Eugene’s cathedral by Gordon Hatton; Derry waterfront by Michael Parry

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