Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Step back in time on a tranquil Bannside walk

Ancient: Mountsandel Fort are dates to 7,000BC

This pleasant riverside walk along the western bank of the Lower Bann River in the centre of Coleraine introduces the walker to an area steeped in history and natural beauty.

The ancient site of Mountsandel, where Mesolithic man first settled in Ireland, is located on the opposite bank. The path has recently been upgraded to provide improved access for all, including cyclists.

Directions

Christie Park, located between the two road bridges in the centre of Coleraine, is accessed from Strand Road. Somerset Riverside Park car park is located approximately one mile south, accessed from Castleroe Road. There are good public transport and cycle links to Christie Park.

This linear walk, which hugs the western bank of the River Bann, can be started from two locations: Christie Park car park in the centre of Coleraine or Somerset Riverside Park car park, approximately one mile south along the Bann.

The linear riverside path links the two parks by passing under Sandelford Bridge. Walkers can return to their starting point by retracing their steps.

It should be noted, when starting in Christie Park and walking south to arrive at Somerset Riverside Park car park, walkers have the opportunity to lengthen their walk by exploring Somerset Forest on the opposite side of Castleroe Road.

The Backdrop

Placed between Coleraine's two bridges, Christie Park has a spectacular location, with great views across the Bann. It's an oasis of calm only a few minutes from the bustle of the town centre with a free car park and public toilets accessible from Strand Road.

Boat trips on the River Bann depart from Christie Park on a seasonal basis (see riverbanncruises.com for details). It's a good place to start the Highway to Health Walk.

The riverside walk can be extended by passing underneath the new bridge and entering Somerset Riverside Park, a linear park with more of a countryside feel than Christie Park. Keep an eye open for cormorants and herons on the river and even the occasional seal venturing upstream from the Barmouth, hunting for fish in the tidal stretch of the river as far as the Cutts.

A waymarked path runs through the Forest Service site of Mountsandel Wood to the earliest known habitation site in Ireland. In addition to this Mesolithic site there is also Mountsandel Fort. The area around the Fort dates back to about 7,000BC, and here hundreds of small flint tools have been found, providing evidence of Stone Age hunter-gatherers camping near the natural weir to trap salmon.

The large earthen fort probably dates to Norman times and may have given Coleraine its ancient name of Culrath, meaning Corner of the Fort. There are fine views across the river to Somerset Wood and downstream towards the town centre, before the path enters an area of broad-leaved trees and doubles back to the car park along the riverside, from where swans, kingfishers or herons may be seen. A small floating jetty allows access for boat users to the woodland.

Further information

For further information on walking, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com . CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Walk Name: Christie Park and Somerset Riverside Park, Coleraine.

Area: North Coast.

Nearest big town to start point: Coleraine.

Distance: 2 miles / 3.5km (return).

Terrain: Surfaced riverside shared use pathway.

Access Restrictions: Worth noting that the riverside path is shared use for cyclists also, and forms part of the Lower Bann Cycleway (NCN 96).

Refreshments: Wide variety of establishments serving refreshments available in Coleraine town centre and Riverside Regional Park.

Walk Developed By: Coleraine Borough Council.

Map: Sheet 4 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series.

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