Off the Beaten Track – Binevenagh
Binevenagh (Bin – evan – a) is one of those places that is often found by accident and it is normally viewed from the shoreline along the famous Causeway Coastal Route, rather than from its summit. So welcome to our latest Off the Beaten Track – Binevenagh, where we reach the top of this remarkable landmark.
Close to Downhill and the famous Mussenden Temple is Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Despite its famous profile and unique upland features, it was only recently that the area received its AONB status – as close as we come in Northern Ireland to a National Park. Binevenagh marks the western end of the Antrim Plateau which was formed by the cooling of molten lava around 60 million years ago. The plateau stretches for over 10 kilometres across the Magilligan Peninsula with steep cliffs dominating the skyline high above Benone Strand and the villages of Castlerock, Downhill and Bellarena.
Rather than stick to the coast road, it is worth the detour just after the entrance to Benone Strand to the Bishops’ Road, named after the famed Earl Bishop of Derry, Frederick August Hervey. A steep drive will take you to the Gortmore Viewing Point where you can enjoy views across Lough Foyle to County Donegal – and on a very clear day to the Highlands of Scotland. You can pause for a while at Gortmore, with its viewpoint and the now infamous Mannanan Mac Lir (whose original sculpture was unceremoniously dumped over the cliff top), the ancient Celtic sea god.
Venture further along the Bishops Road for about 2 kilometres and you will pick up a brown sign for Binevenagh Lake. You can park up here and hike to the top, but if you are short on time or just downright lazy, you can drive to the top via a fairly rough track with periodic, achingly steep ramps. This will take you to a car park and an artificial trout lake that’s popular with local anglers, but if you’re not into fish, then follow one of the dirt tracks emanating away from the lake that lead to the cliff edge.
This is not a journey for the faint-hearted, as there is nothing in the way of a steep and painful (and probably fatal) fall to the rocks below but fresh air. However, stand as close as you dare to the cliff edge and you will have stunning views of the landscape below, set out like a giant model farm set – with its own railway – stretching away across the shimmering Foyle to the Inishowen Peninsula and onward to the distant Derryveagh Mountains.
On calm days, you can expect to see gliders from the nearby Ulster Gliding Club soaring effortlessly and silently above these jagged peaks. You might also spy the peregrine falcon gliding on those same currents, but it will just do to sit quietly on the damp scrub and soak the whole thing in.
Binevenagh is along the A2 Causeway Coastal Route which is well signposted all the way from Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. The Bishops Road is signposted at the entrance to Downhill (Benone) Beach with a brown sign for Gortmore Viewing Point.
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