Walk of the week: Make a real Point of enjoying great views
This short circular walk at the western end of one of Ireland’s longest beaches provides a blast of sea air at the mouth of Lough Foyle, along with panoramic views to Inishowen, the north coast and some Scottish islands.
It’s a great place to explore, with a range of sea and bird life to be found throughout the year.
Magilligan Point is located at the end of Point Road (B202), which is off the Causeway Coastal Route from Seacoast Road (A2). Follow the signs for Martello Tower and Ferry, 12 miles north of Limavady and 12 miles west of Castlerock. Use the car park opposite the ferry terminal or at the Martello Tower.
Arriving at Magilligan Point, follow the road past the Point Bar leading to a car park adjacent to the boundary of Magilligan Nature Reserve. Park on the left-hand side of the road and then pass through the kissing gate to view the Martello Tower straight ahead.
Pass to the right of the tower through the dunes to join up with the beach near a military sanger. Turn left and continue along the beach as you round the Point, with Lough Foyle opening up and the ferry slipway coming into view. Retrace your steps along the beach and then return to the kissing gate via the Martello Tower.
Whilst this is a short route, Magilligan Point is best explored at your leisure. You may find it difficult to take in the ever-changing view once you start looking at the variety of shells that can be found on the beach or the wildflowers and butterflies that adorn the dunes in summer.
The largest and broadest sea lough on the north coast, Lough Foyle straddles the border between Co Londonderry and Co Donegal. Its extensive mudflats and marsh are a winter home to internationally important numbers of Whooper Swan and Brent Geese and, as such, it is a European Special Protection Area and Ramsar site.
A ferry links the short distance across the mouth of Lough Foyle to Greencastle in Inishowen. Take the time to watch the ferry negotiate the sand banks, currents and busy channel that serves Londonderry Port. The lough continues to be an important site for aquaculture and some salmon netting continues locally.
A great variety of travellers have passed through the mouth of the Lough, ranging from St Colmcille on his way to and from Iona, thousands of people emigrating to America in search of a better life and the German submarine fleet on their way to surrender at Lisahally during the Second World War.
Today it is busy with commercial traffic and cruise liners heading upstream to Londonderry and trawlers at Greencastle harbour.
As well as being a National Nature Reserve, Magilligan Point is at the tip of Magilligan Special Area of Conservation, a site of European importance because of the sand dunes and associated biodiversity.
In the 1800s, up to 3,000 acres of sand dunes in this area held rabbit warrens which were farmed for their skins. Tens of thousands were sold annually to be used in hat making. The beach at the Point is a great place to view wintering flocks of sanderlings, with divers, grebes and passing seabirds such as skuas in the deeper waters off-shore.
The Martello Tower at Magilligan Point is one of 40 surviving towers throughout Ireland. Constructed in 1812 in anticipation of a Napoleonic invasion, it looks across at another tower on the other side of Lough Foyle at Greencastle.
At 11 metres high with walls 2.5 metres thick and a gun platform on top that allowed the cannon to rotate and shoot through 360°, the tower could accommodate an officer and 12 men. However, in later years it was home to a single soldier, his wife and four children. Originally built on the shore, it now stands in the dunes as the Point has grown since the 19th century. However, there may be some evidence that the shore is now retreating again.
The waters off the point are rich in sealife. Watch carefully for pods of harbour porpoises offshore tumbling through the waves. To the north-east of Magilligan Point you may see waves breaking on The Tuns, a sandbank that, legend has it, was the home of the sea god Manannan Mac Lir.
Following winter storms, a variety of seashells will cover the beach like a cobbled street including scallop, Icelandic mussel and razor clam shells.
Not only does the point command great views across to Inishowen and along the north coast, but when visibility is good the distinctive shape of Islay and the Paps of Jura on the west coast of Scotland may be seen.
For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) at, 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: Magilligan Point.
Area: Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Nearest big town to start point: Limavady.
Distance: Less than a mile.
Terrain: Sandy coastal walk.
Access Restrictions: Please note that the beach is adjacent to a military firing range to which access is restricted. A red flag is displayed when the range is in use. Should you wish to explore the sand dunes more fully, make your way east to Benone Strand where access is not restricted.
Refreshments: The Point Bar offers a good welcome, refreshments and an open fire.
Map: Sheet 4 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).