Walk of the Week: Christie Park and Somerset Riverside Park
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.
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. 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.
Placed between Coleraine's two bridges, Christie Park has a spectacular location, with great views across the Bann. It's a real oasis of calm only a few minutes from the bustle of the town centre. There is a free car park and public toilets, accessible from Strand Road.
As you walk beside the river, you can enjoy looking at the wide variety of trees and flowers, feed the swans or simply admiring the view. 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 — even the occasional seal — and enjoy songbirds in the trees.
There are opportunities to view Mountsandel Fort across the river in Mountsandel Wood, and view the sluice gates at The Cutts.
Mountsandel Wood includes both a Mesolithic site and Norman fort. A waymarked path runs through this Forest Service 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 from 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 from 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 broadleaved trees and doubles back to the car park along the riverside. A small floating jetty allows access for boat users to the woodland.
Somerset Forest is another Forest Service holding on the edge of Coleraine, in very close proximity to Somerset Riverside Park. Two waymarked paths lead through a wide variety of broadleaved and conifer trees.
These paths can be used for jogging in conjunction with exercise apparatus situated in a fitness cluster next to the car park. Guidance on how to use this apparatus safely and effectively is given on an illustrated lectern beside the fitness cluster. Herons nest beside the woodland, and squirrels can be seen further in the wood among the oak and beech trees.
For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, 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.
Nearest town to start point: Coleraine.
Distance: 1 mile (linear).
Time: This walk should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
Access Restrictions: Path is shared use for cyclists also, and forms part of the Lower Bann Cycleway (NCN 96).
Suitability: Suitable for all abilities.
Refreshments: There are a wide variety of establishments serving refreshments in Coleraine town centre and Riverside Regional Park, Coleraine.
Walk Developed By: Coleraine Borough Council.
Map: Sheet 4 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series.