A weekend in County Derry
This post, the eight in a series of 32 covering the entire island, offers a few ideas for things to do on a weekend in Country Derry. The following is just one sample itinerary based on the information in our book Exploring Ireland: a guide to the Irish outdoors, where you will find plenty more details, ideas and inspiration.
WALK PORTSTEWART STRAND
A very popular Blue Flag beach with a lifeguard in the summer. Parking is permitted on the sand and there are designated areas for swimming and other watersports. The extensive dunes are a haven for wildflowers and butterflies thanks to the cattle who graze them during the winter and keep the grass short. The 5.6km Sand Dune and Estuary Trail heads to the end of the beach returning along the banks of the River Bann before cutting through the dunes. See walkni.com for details. Just to the east of the main beach is a small cove, called the Wee Beach, which offers a bit more shelter on windy days.
This 4.8km loop follows gravel tracks across the western edge of the Antrim Plateau. Along the way the trail skirts the impressive basalt cliffs that form the northern limit of the plateau from which there are panoramic views of the coast. The summit of Binevenagh is only a short distance off the trail (55.1138, -6.9164). It’s also possible to drive up the rough gravel access road and park beside the lake (55.1194, -6.9189), which is stocked with rainbow trout.
VISIT MOUNTSANDEL FORT
These Mesolithic remains on the east bank of the River Bann in Coleraine is the oldest known settlement site in Ireland. Roughly 9,000 years old it would have been home to a number of primitive wooden huts, now all that remains are a series of grassy humps and hollows. To reach the fort, park at the entrance to Mountsandel Woods (55.1128, -6.6496) and follow either the riverside path or the higher trail. There is a 3.2km loop that continues past the fort on one trail and returns via the other, see walkni.com for details.
EAT HARRY’S SHACK
This very popular seafood restaurant operates out of a wooden building, which sits right on the beach in Portstewart. It opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner and also has an outside coffee bar.
STAY BURRENMORE NEST
This site is home to four very stylish elevated treetop lodges (each sleeps 2) set on 80 hectares of woodland. It is situated only a short walk from Downhill Demesne and beach. Each lodge has huge windows to take in the forest surroundings and a private outdoor whirlpool bath.