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Why a relaxing winter break to the North Coast is written in the stars

Short trip up the North Coast will help blow away the January blues

Dark winter mornings may have you feeling the January blues, but the long nights at this time of year offer an advantage - sublime stargazing opportunities.

Northern Ireland spoils sky watching on clear nights with big open skies and incredible places to get up close and personal with the sight of thousands of bright, glimmering stars.

Benone Beach in Co Londonderry offers seven miles of coastline, its Blue Flag beach stretching from Downhill westwards to where it meets Magilligan Point at the mouth of Lough Foyle. Perfect for gazing into the night sky and pondering the mysteries of the universe.

Immerse yourself in the peaceful surroundings, tread along the soft sand and listen to the sound of the waves caressing the shore. This sets the scene as you take in a sky full of stars and, if you're lucky, a shooting star. Extra points if you can spot any constellations or the Quadrantids meteor shower.

To get an alternative inkling of what's twinkling and an exquisite view of the Northern Lights when they appear, venture to known stargazing hotspot Magilligan Point. Lay down your picnic blanket to stay dry and keep warm as you shoot for the stars.

If it's a romantic short break you are enjoying then dust off the sand, jump back in the car and drive 10 minutes to the 5-star Strand House B&B in Portstewart for luxurious accommodation with top sunset views.

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Strand House

Warm up with a hot drink and rest up for the night.

The next morning, wake up in your spacious en-suite bedroom and take in the sea view before making your way downstairs for a delicious home cooked breakfast. The B&B is ideally located and has championship golf, long walks, fine food and glorious beaches on its doorstep.

After a day of exploring, head to the New York Grill in Portstewart. A table at around 4.20pm is said to provide the best view of the sunset in January.

After taking pictures of the breathtaking view, enjoy a romantic meal.

Experience warm and professional service from the team while sampling delicacies from the grill's sumptuous three-course special menu.

After your meal, take a moment to relax with fabulous cocktails in the York bar situated beside the New York Grill, or stay into the wee hours to experience live music and local talent.

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Downhill Beach

Nearby attractions

Long Line Surf School

Take part in some surfing lessons with Long Line Surf School, located on Benone Beach and Portstewart Strand. Whether you are a complete beginner or looking for advanced coaching, catch some waves under the guidance of the school’s fully trained coaches.

Mussenden Temple

Perched dramatically on a 120 ft cliff top high above the Atlantic Ocean, Mussenden Temple is sure to get your heart racing. It offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the area with spectacular views westwards over Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point and County Donegal and to the east over Castlerock beach towards Portstewart, Portrush and Fair Head.

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Mussenden Temple

Hill Farm Riding Centre

Rope your partner into coming along for a horse riding experience at British Horse Society-approved riding centre Hill Farm in Castlerock. Novices can undertake lessons supervised by qualified staff on well-schooled horses. For more experienced riders, take a trip to the spectacular Downhill Beach, where Game of Thrones was filmed.

For more stargazing or short break ideas visit www.discovernorthernireland.com

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