Northern Ireland – County Derry

Top 10 places

Top 100 places to visit in Northern Ireland

County Derry

1. Roe Valley Country Park

Roe Valley Country Park runs for three miles either side of the River Roe near Limavady where the river plunges through spectacular gorges, its banks clothed with mature mixed woodland. The park houses a countryside centre and weaving museum, as well as Northern Ireland’s first hydroelectric power station, opened in 1896, with much of the equipment intact and viewable. A 75 seater cafe serves a range of healthy-eating options and Fairtrade Products. Activities include superb salmon and trout fishing, canoeing, rock climbing, orienteering and mile upon mile of riverside and woodland walks.

2. Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne

Frederick Hervey, Bishop of Derry, had an appetite for drama and chose a wild coastal headland for a mansion and temple. The mansion is in ruins but the landscaped park remains. Follow paths through the sheltered gardens or along the cliff tops for views of the North Coast. On a cliff top, he built the circular Mussenden Temple as a library, imitating the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. Children’s Tracker Packs are available and include binoculars, compass and bird identification cards.

3. Bellaghy Bawn Fortified House

Bellaghy Bawn Fortified House was part of a Plantation Settlement and was built in 1618. Most of its fortifications were lost in 1641, but it still retains a striking circular flanker tower which has been well restored. Inside are fascinating interpretive displays explaining the 7000 year history of the settlements in the area, the construction of the village and the diverse ecology of the Lough Beg wetland area. Much of the space is dedicated to one of the world’s greatest living poets, Seamus Heaney, who was born and raised nearby.

4. Hezlett House

Learn about the reality of life in a rural 17th-century Irish thatched cottage told through the experiences of the people who once lived in one of Northern Ireland’s oldest surviving buildings. Hezlett’s quaint exterior, with its elegant Georgian windows, hides a curious early timber frame dating from 1690, and the cosy interior is simply furnished in mid Victorian style. Guided tours offer an enthralling afternoon treat for all the family. Hezlett House is also home to the Downhill Marbles collection from the Bishop of Derry’s Demesne at Downhill.

5. Springhill Manor House and Costume Collection

Experience the beguiling spirit of this inimitable 17th-century ‘Plantation’ house, with its walled gardens and parkland. Informative ‘Living History’ tours breathe life into the fascinating past of this welcoming family home. There are ten generations of Lenox-Conyngham family tales to enthrall you, as well as portraits and furniture to admire, not forgetting Ireland’s best-documented ghost, Olivia. The old laundry houses the celebrated Costume Collection, which features some fine 18th to 20th-century examples of clothing.

6. Fish for Dollaghan on Lough Beg

Lough Beg contains some huge trout, including the dollaghan, unique to these waters. Similar to salmon which are also common, dollaghan grow by three pounds every year and can be caught by spinning, worming and fly fishing: the Ballinderry Black and Bann Olive are famous flies derived from the region. The best fishing is from mid-July to October  – you will need a Fisheries Conservation Board Rod License available from the Antrim tourist office. Information on day-tickets for fishing and specialist boat trips can also be obtained from here.

7. Castlerock Strand

The small resort of Castlerock has a long strand (beach) stretching eastwards to Barmouth, where the river Bann’s estuary draws flocks of migratory birds and birdwatchers. It’s an excellent place for surfing, and you can stop for a drink and a bite to eat at Bertha’s Bar (known locally as Love’s) at the beginning of the promenade. The beautiful beach at Castlerock with dunes which back onto the golf course and attractions at nearby Downhill, offer some of the most scenic views in Northern Ireland.

8. Portstewart

Portstewart is Derry’s largest coastal resort, and like its near-neighboour Portrush, is full of Victorian boarding houses. Of the two, Portstewart is decidedly more sedate and has a better location. Just west of the town is Portstewart Strand, a long sandy beach firm enough to drive on and some of the best surfing in the country. It’s great spot to spend a sunny day, or for a bracing walk along the cliffs running between the beach and the town, passing battlements and an imposing Gothic mansion – now a Dominican college. 

9. Sperrin Mountains Cycle Routes

Twelve circular waymarked cycling routes in the Sperrin Mountains, each have an individual leaflet with a detailed map and other useful information to guide you. Each leaflet also highlights points of interest along the way, where you can stop to explore, have a rest or a bite to eat. The routes vary in distance from 11 to 41 miles (17 to 66 km) and are suitable for the average cyclist. All the Sperrins Cycle Routes are clearly waymarked with brown and white route markers. These indicate the route number and provide directional markings.

10. Faughanvale Pony Trekking Centre

This seventy acre working farm provides a friendly and safe learning environment for novice riders, with off-road treks tailored for all abilities and range over a variety of terrain, including hills and glens and streams. Mounts are carefully matched to individual riders’ confidence and ability and vehicle transfers are available to and from the main ports of entry to Northern Ireland.

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