Skip along the North Coast
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Combine the intimacy of antiqued woods, the vast bleakness of the cliff edge and the human eccentricity of Mussenden Temple this spring and summer.
Downhill Demesne trail
Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the stunning Downhill Demesne with its beautiful sheltered gardens and cliff walks. Visit the apple orchard in the walled garden, and the beautiful 18th-century folly, Mussenden Temple, originally inspired by the Tivoli Temple of Vesta. Start at the Bishop’s Gate entrance to the Demesne and enter the Bishop’s Gate gardens. Take the right track and pass through a relict arboretum with many rare tree species. Follow signs for Mussenden Temple and you will soon leave the trees behind to enter an area of open grassland with views of the majestic ruins of Downhill House. You can turn left towards the Walled Garden or explore the ruin, either way the paths will lead you towards Mussenden Temple, perched on the cliff edge. From here you can enjoy dramatic views of the Inishowen Peninsula. Follow the path along the cliff towards the east and you will come to a small collection of trees, take the stile on the left side. Steps lead you down to the pond and back to Bishop’s Garden.
Trail distance: 2 miles (3.25km) circular
Portstewart Strand: Sand dune and estuary trail
Many walkers and families enjoy the two miles of magnificent golden sands at Portstewart Strand. Fewer are aware of the waymarked trail at the top of the sand ladder that meanders through 6,000 year old dunes to the river edge at the Bann Estuary. It’s a different world – the serenity of the estuary habitats for shelducks, lapwings and wintering wildfowls is a wonderful contrast to the wind and waves of the open beach. Following the path along the river's edge, narrow in places, and up the dunes brings you to a stunning vista of the Barmouth. Here the River Bann enters the Atlantic, with the headlands of Donegal in the distance. Mussenden Temple can be seen to the west, perched on the cliff edge within Downhill Demesne. As you complete the circular route back along the beach, keep an eye out for porpoises and seabirds. The dunes, designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest, are a haven for wild flowers and butterflies during the summer months.
Trail distance: 3.6 miles (5.6km) circular
There are four stunning trails at the Giant’s Causeway. Recently upgraded, all are colour coded and awash with breathtaking views of jagged cliffs and bays lashed by wind and waves. There’s a trail to suit every ability, from a pram-friendly jaunt to a challenging coastal hike.
Green trail – easy. See the Giant’s Causeway from a different viewpoint.
15 minutes from Causeway Hotel to picnic site and viewpoint.
Distance 0.4 miles (700m)
Blue trail – moderate. The Camel, Giant’s Granny, the Causeway and Giant’s Boot – there’s so much to see.
25 minutes from Visitor Centre to Giant’s Causeway (allow time at the Causeway).
Distance 0.8 miles (1.2km)
Red trail – difficult. A panoramic view of the Giant’s Causeway and wider World Heritage Site.
35 minutes from trail head to Shepherds’ steps. 0.8 miles (1.2km)
90 minutes circular route when linking with Blue trail. 1.8 miles (3km)
Yellow trail – challenging. A challenging trail for the more experienced walker.
This trail interlinks with the Causeway Coast Way and the Ulster Way. These way-marked routes will take you beyond the National Trust site.
For more information on local walks, visit www.walkni.com (external link).