Northern Ireland, photography, walking

Bewitching Binevenagh

Saturday 8th September 2018

Binevenagh Hill Walk, Castlerock WalkFest – 6.4 miles

Entering the packed Peter Thompson Hall for the 8th Castlerock WalkFest there was a real buzz and it was evident that “the pleasure of walking is contagious”. I was looking forward to the Binevenagh Hill Walk but was a little apprehensive as I was on my own! However, I needn’t have worried as I soon relaxed with fellow walkers over a cup of tea & some welcome scones.

8th Castlerock WalkFest
8th Castlerock WalkFest

We were bussed to the start of our walk at St Aidan’s Roman Catholic Church, which sits within this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Our guide filled us in with some local history about the site of the church & it’s connections with Saint Aidan. The church dates back to the 13th Century but a holy well suggests that it may have been a pre-Christian site around the time of St Aidan, dating back to the 6th Century. St Aidan died at Lindisfarne in Northumberland but his remains were brought back and are buried underneath the medieval ruins. The present church was built in 1826 as penal laws were relaxing and catholics & other denominations, outside the established Church of Ireland, were eventually allowed to worship freely.

St Aidan’s Old Church

At the back of the church grounds are a set of steps into a deciduous forest. Climbing gently along a muddy track, followed by a maze of cross-country trails, we eventually reached the base of the Binevenagh cliffs after about an hour.

Binevenagh Slips
Binevenagh slips

Binevenagh was formed 60 million years ago from molten lava, is at the western end of the Antrim Plateau and the steep basaltic cliffs stretch for 6 miles.  Binevenagh is derived from the Irish Binn Fhoibhne, meaning “Foibhne’s peak”, and folklore has it that Foibhne, the local Chief’s son, was killed on the mountain.

Steep climb through the Binevenagh Slips
Steep climb through the Binevenagh slips

After a short rest looking at the cliffs we made an assault on a steep section between the Binevenagh ‘slips’ – it was a tough climb but thankfully everyone made it!  They say that a climb is always worth it for the views … and the panoramic views of Magilligan, Lough Foyle and Donegal did not disappoint!

Rewarding views of Lough Foyle & Donegal Hills
Rewarding views of Lough Foyle & Donegal Hills

As we continued walking parallel along the base of the cliffs it was a fantastic feeling taking in their enormity and their majesty.

Walking along the base of the cliffs
Walking along the base of the cliffs

The sun was shining and the blue skies were really showcasing the cliffs. High above us we were mesmerised as numerous gliders encircled us, enjoying the thermal uplifts. I’m sure we must have looked like little dots on the landscape as they soared like eagles above us!

The Little People
The Little People

After lunch we reached the Binevenagh trig point (385m), with fantastic panoramic views of the River Roe & The Roe Valley stretching out below. Continuing uphill we eventually reached the artificial lake & car park at the top of the cliffs. Although there were no anglers today the lake is a popular spot and well stocked with 2,000 rainbow trout!

A Walker's Perspective
A Walker’s Perspective

From the cliff top we were able to see a large cruise ship just off Greencastle, Co. Donegal.  Later that evening I discovered that it was the cruise ship ‘Prinsendam’ which carries 800 passengers & 450 crew.  Apparently they use the lifeboats to ship the passengers onshore at Greencastle … I hope some of them took the opportunity to explore the Inishowen Peninsula!

The River Roe & The Roe Valley
The River Roe & The Roe Valley

Another fantastic walk & if you aren’t sure if a walking festival is for you I’d say give Castlerock WalkFest a try!  They’re a really friendly bunch & with 10 different walks to choose from there’s something for everyone!

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