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Python's Michael Palin falls for magical Northern Ireland rail journey

Mussenden - the enchaning journey
Mussenden - the enchaning journey
Seaside special: The Londonderry to Coleraine train passes beneath the Mussenden Temple on a coast-hugging journey described by travel expert Michael Palin as 'one of the most beautiful in the world'
Seaside special: The Londonderry to Coleraine train passes beneath the Mussenden Temple on a coast-hugging journey described by travel expert Michael Palin as 'one of the most beautiful in the world'
Seaside special: The Londonderry to Coleraine train passes beneath the Mussenden Temple on a coast-hugging journey described by travel expert Michael Palin as 'one of the most beautiful in the world'
Seaside special: The Londonderry to Coleraine train passes beneath the Mussenden Temple on a coast-hugging journey described by travel expert Michael Palin as 'one of the most beautiful in the world'
Images from the Belfast Telegraph Readers' Gallery of Ulster Beauty Spots Waterfall at Glenariffe. Submitted by Garry Steele, Bangor Waterfall at Glenariffe. Submitted by Garry Steele, Bangor
Red bay. Submitted by Sian Johnston, Belfast
Black and White Beach, Ballywalter
The beautiful 'Glens of Antrim'. Submitted by Linda King - Kells
The lake at Mountstewart. Submitted by Geraldine Wilson (Western Australia but just back to NI for holiday)
"Anyone For Tennis?" Portstewart Strand
The Gardens at MOunt Stewart
Belfast Castle. Submitted by Jane McLaughlin Newtownabbey
Birds enjoying the morning sun at Wildlife Park, Carrickfergus
A sunny sail at the Causeway. Submitted by Michelle Myles Maghaberry
Narrow Water Keep, Nr Warrenpoint. Submitted by Jennifer Campbell, Newry
View of the Mournes over Barley fields, taken on one of my favourite walks. Submiited by Bernadette Daly, Acton, Poyntzpass
Summer at Crawfordsburn Country Park. Submitted by Artur Pawlowski
Coast Rd Aug 2003. Loney NJ USA
Glenariff Aug 2003. Loney NJ USA
Framed at Glenarm Harbour. Submitted by Michelle Myles Maghaberry
Donaghadee Lighthouse at Sunrise. Submitted by Adam Shaw, Bangor
Killynether Forest toward Belfast. Submitted by Robert.Brampton.Canada
Waterfall at Glenariffe. Submitted by Garry Steele, Bangor
Greyabbey. Submitted by Garry Steele, Bangor
Whitepark Submitted by Rod Mulholland.Tobermore
Calm After the Storm, Rathlin Harbour. Submitted by Ken Wooster
Scrabo Tower, Newtownards on a stormy saturday. Submitted by Paul Higginson
Mourne March 2010. Submitted by Joe Reid, Castlewellan
Stepping Stones, Tollymore Forest Park. Submitted by Nigel Henderson, Holywood
Waterfalls,Benburb. Submitted by John Shaw,Lisburn
Blackwater Falls, benburb. Submitted by Alan Davison
City Hall, Belfast. Submitted by Alan Davison
Walls and Whins, Silent Valley. Submitted by Alan Davison
Fishing Boats, Kilkeel. Submitted by Alan Davison
Shimna River, Newcastle. Submitted by Alan Davison
Reflection of City Hall, Belfast. Submitted by Roisin Hall, Belfast
View at Lower Lough Erne on a calm May morning. Submitted by George Glover, Ballinderry.
H & W, Belfast Shipyard.
Bonamargy Abbey, Co Antrim. Submitted by Paul Morrison, Ft.Myers Florida USA
Donaghadee. Submitted by Piotr Palys, Belfast
Ulster-American Folk Park, Omagh. Submitted by Piotr Palys, Belfast
Mourn mountains. Submitted by Anisha, Newcastle
Hillsborough Forest Park. Submitted by John Shaw Lisburn
Sunset over castlerock beach. Submitted by John Shaw Lisburn
Beautiful without colour, Belfast Zoo. Submitted by Julie Mullin
Portstewart strand, Co Antrim. Submitted by Gordon Esler, London
Sunrise at high tide, Islandhill, Comber. Submitted by Nigel Cameron
St. John's Lighthouse, Co Down. Submitted by Steven Hooks
Oxford Island Jetty. Submitted by Steven Hooks
he view from Dundrum Castle on a sunny day, Dundrum, County Down
The wood around Shane's Castle in spring
Cloudy Scrabo Sunset over Strangford Lough. Submitted by Nigel Cameron, Comber
View from the maze at Castlewellan
A quiet tree-lined road in North Antrim.
A reconstruction of St. Patrick's first church, Saul, County Down
little chapel at Saltwaterbrig, County Down
Hannah's Close, Kilkeel
Slieve Donard in Newcastle. Submitted by Andrew McElroy
Stonebridge, Mountjoy West, Omagh, Co Tyrone
Sunset looking towards the Skerries and Inishowen Penisula. Portballintrae
Where are the squirrels? Submitted by Gerry Mullan O Cahan's Rock Limavady
The Beautiful Front of Portush. Submitted by Ruth McCormick from Conlig
Giants Causeway - May 2008. Submitted by Janet Marie Smekar
Red Sails Festival Portstewart. Submitted by Michael Bradley - Portstewart
Glens of Antrim. Picture by Denis McKee, Toronto, Canada
Valley near Derry. Submitted by Denis McKee, Toronto, Canada
Colerain Bridge At night. Submitted by Michael Bradley - Portstewart
Swan overlooking Blacklion, taken kayaking early morning Lough McNean. Submitted by Lough McNean, Co Fermanagh
The Bell overflow, Silent Valley
Hobbit's abode, Mountains of Mourne. Submitted by Judith McGinness, Geelong, Australia
County Armagh, beauty of the Apple Blossom.
View to mournes from slieve croob. Submitted by Sarah Scott hillsborough
Near benbradagh, Sperrin mountains. Submited by John Herron, Stroke City
Sunset over Belfast Lough from Bangor. Submitted by Paul Lawther Bangor
Mountstewart Gardens. Submitted by Joyce Dunlop Newtownards
Little castle in Ardglass harbour. Submitted by Peter Riordan. Coconut creek. Florida
River moyola tobermore. Submitted by Rod mulholand.Tobermore
Mount Stewart serenity. Submitted by Awynne in Arkansas
Belfast Zoo. Submitted by Donna Quinn, Derry
Gransha Woods, Derry. Submitted Donna Quinn, Derry
Roe Valley Country Park, Limavady. Submitted by Donna Quinn, Derry
Carrick-a-Rede. Submitted by Sheena Corlett
Silent Valley. Submited By Colin R
View of Whitepark Bay, Antrim Coast. Submitted by Paul Jenkins, Ontario, Canada
Antrim Coast, near Torr Head. Submitted by Paul Jenkins, Ontario, Canada
Benone beach looking towards downhill. Submitted by Ian Graham
Scrabo tower. Submitted by Ian Graham
The rope bridge. Submitted by Evelyn McCullough, Carrick -a Rede
Wildflowers at Orlock Point. Submitted by Kathy Cardwell
Giant's Causeway. Submitted by Yvonne Mills
Barmouth, Portstewart. Submitted by Alan
Silent Valley. Submitted by Audrey Matchett, Lisburn
Kilgad Lake in Kells, Co.Antrim. Submitted by David Herron
Castleward. Submitted by Magie Archer
Whins on Newcastle Road at Spelga. Submitted by Lesley, Banbridge
Sleive Gullion, South Armagh. Submitted by Paul Flynn, Dublin
Balintoy, Antrim Coast. Submitted by jjbholmes
Banagher Glen, Sperrins. Submitted by Fiona
Carnfunnock, Co Antrim. Submitted by Enda McAtamney
Coastline at Ballintoy. Submitted by Daniel McCann
Nendrum, Co Down. Submitted by SJ McLellan
Temple Water, Castle Ward. Submitted by F Price
Towards Hare's Gap, Mourne Mountains. Submitted by Clare Harvey
View from the Bridge in Newcastle, Co Down. Submitted by Caron Hunter-Rea.
White Rocks, Portrush. Submitted by Jillian
Knocknacarry, Co. Antrim. Submitted by Jim kirkpatrick
Readers' Pictures: Ulster beauty spots
Portstewart. Submiteed by Evelyn McCullough
Mount Stewart, Newtownards. Submitted by Ken
Newcastle. Submitted by Alan Davison
North Antrim Coast. Submitted by Alan Davison
Government House, Hillsborough. Submitted by Alan Davison
Armagh. Submitted by Alan Davison
The North Channel from the Causeway road. Submitted by A. Guiotto - Spain
Newcastle. Submitted by Juanita Fogarty,Portadown
Sketterick Island. Submitted by Sean Wright, Carrickfergus
Ulster Folk Museum. Submitted by Sean Wright, Carrickfergus
A collage of images. Submitted by T. Knight, California
Strangford Lough. Submitted by Magie Archer
Boathouse, Castle Ward. Submitted by Magie Archer
Ballynahone nature reserve.Tobermore: Submitted by Rod Mulholland.
Ballycopeland Windmill: Submitted by online reader
Antrim Coast: Submitted by M. Delargey, Canada
Portstewart Strand: Submitted by Evelyn McCullough
Cushendun harbour: Submitted by Evelyn McCullough
Donaghadee harbour: submitted by Alan Davison
Ballintoy Harbour: submitted by Alan Davison
The Cavehill Country Park: submitted by Michael McCausland
Co Antrim Coast: submitted by Robert McAuley
Murlough, Co Down: submitted by Derek Flack
Causeway Coastal Route
What can you say about one of the most celebrated scenic drives in Northern Europe? As you pass through quaint fishing villages, quiet beaches and mountain glens, take your time, have a relaxing picnic, breathe in the refreshing ocean breeze and lose yourself in thoughts and reflections.
Glenarm Tulip Festival
There's more to flowers than Valentine's Day and your mum's birthday as you'll experience at the fifth annual Tulip Festival in Glenarm. The Walled Garden will form a tranquil and spectacular backdrop to gardening demonstrations for those of you with green fingers. Or just drop the kids off in the play area and enjoy the music and art displays.
Avalon Guitar Factory
Take a guided tour of the world famous acoustic guitar factory and watch the expert craftsmen at work. You'll be in good company as customers are a who’s who of contemporary musicians including Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, The Corrs, David Gray, Shawn Colvin, The Edge and Paul Brady.
Step onto the rope bridge connecting Carrick-a-Rede to the mainland, if you dare, and experience the exhilarating panoramic view. You'll be rewarded with stunning views of Rathlin and the Scottish Isles whilst being greeted by the friendly locals - a seabird colony!
St. Patrick's Trail
Get the lowdown on the Patron Saint of Ireland and discover if he really banished all snakes from Ireland. Retrace his exciting life experiences on the trail at Saul Church, The Saint Patrick Centre and Saint Patrick's Trian Visitor Centre.
Armagh Apple Blossom Festival 7th – 8th May
Prepare to have your breath taken away in rural Armagh during the apple blossom season, when the delicate flowers of ancient trees burst into numerous shades of pink. Celebrate this beautiful time in the Orchard County with a range of events that breathe new life into Armagh City and surrounding area.
Armagh County Museum
The oldest county museum in Ireland is set in Armagh's beautiful Georgian tree lined Mall. Take your time and get transported back through the centuries with displays, costumes, natural history specimens, memorabilia and household items from a bygone age.
Armagh Ancestry
Armagh Ancestry offers a comprehensive genealogical service to those whose ancestors came from Armagh. Retrace your family tree and discover your roots, maybe you're related to one of Armagh's famous historical figures, perhaps even St. Patrick himself! Pre-booking is essential.
Lough Neagh Angling
Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles and tributaries such as the Ballinderry and Moyola rivers are especially attractive for the trout angler. Spinning, worming or fly fishing, the area is abundant with life and offers anglers revitalizing evening sun sets in spectacular surroundings.
Peatlands Parkside Walk
Enjoy a family day out in the beautiful open green spaces and fresh air of this perfect picnic escape. Highlights include the duck pond, the railway and the bog garden. The invigorating spring air is bound to put a spring in your step.
Titanic - Made in Belfast Festival 3rd – 11th April
If you enjoyed the movie, then just imagine the goosebumps on your skin at the annual springtime festival of all things Titanic. Experience first hand stories of the luxury, glamour, engineering feats, tragedy and lost lives attached to the Titanic's legacy at this moving and exhilarating festival.
Belfast Film Festival 15th – 30th April
If you love movies, then you'll be in good company as the Film Festival takes over the city in various venues across the city including a series of premiere screenings. Celebrating its 10th birthday, there'll be famous faces, red carpets and opportunities to chat to the movie directors and stars.
Spring Fair – Belfast 24th – 25th April
Stop the kids nagging you at home and let them loose on a wide range of activities from sports to face painting and art demonstrations as Barnett Demesne and Malone House play host to the annual Spring Fair. Look at it this way, while they're running about having a laugh, you can sit down, relax & unwind – everyone's a winner!
Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 29th April – 9th May
Meet eclectic and like minded folk as culture vultures from all corners of the world descend on this annual Arts festival. Local, national and international artists will entertain and energize all before them with the very best in music, comedy, theatre, literature, visual arts and film.
CS Lewis's magical land of Narnia from his popular children's books the Chronicles of Narnia were inspired from his experiences of the Mourne Mountains. And it's easy to understand why. There's magic in the air here befitting the outstanding natural beauty. Outdoor enthusiasts will feel right at home on the invigorating and inspirational slopes.
Royal County Down Golf Club
Ramble and Roast at Mount Stewart House and Gardens
Visit the famous gardens at Mount Stewart, planted in the 1920s and containing many rare plants, and revel in the views over Strangford Lough. Go for a revitalizing ramble through the lesser known areas of the grounds with an experienced guide followed by a well earned relaxing meal in the Bay Restaurant.
Tollymore Forest Park
For a refreshing change, head to Tollymore and add atmosphere to your nature rambles. Discover a barn dressed up as a church, spooky gothic arches, rocky outcrops, bridges, grottos and caves. Not to mention Ireland's oldest tree, a quarter of a millennium years old and still none too shabby!
Ballycopeland Windmill
Feel at home and uncover the fascinating history of Ireland's love affair with windmills at this restored and fully functional site. From video demos, audio visual theatre and the visitors centre, no stone is unturned. If the weathers up for it, you may even get to mill your own barley and cook up some delicious home made bread.
Fermanagh Lakelands
Trail blaze in Fermanagh ... every route leads to a great time. Hire a bicycle and explore its quiet byways and breathtaking sunsets. Or hire a boat and escape the daily doldrums on the tranquil waterways that Fermanagh is famous for. You can even travel underground through the Marble Arch Caves if you really want to find a secluded spot!
Belleek Pottery Visitor Centre
2009 was a landmark year for Belleek Pottery's Visitor Centre, which welcomed its 2.5millionth visitor and celebrated the Centre's 20th anniversary. And what keeps the visitors flocking here are the guided tours, showrooms, museum, audio visual theatre and gift shop. Take the family and see if you can help make it 3 million!
Marble Arch Caves
Explore a fascinating, natural underworld of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers. Listen to the eerie echo of your footsteps as you pass the ghosts of our early ancestors who sought refuge here thousands of years ago.
Enniskillen Castle Museums
Put yourself into the shoes of the Maguire's, the resident founders or into the shoes of their immediate threats, the O'Rourke and the O'Donnell clans and imagine the tension and feuds as history is brought to life in the guided tours and exhibitions of this magnificent castle.
Angling on Lough Erne
Awash with all varieties of fish from Pike, Perch, Rudd and Bream to Roach, Brown Trout and Eels, Lough Erne is a maze of channels and islands with vast shallows and rocky areas, perfect for the eager fisherman. Hire a boat to reach some of the Loughs hotspots or just hug the shoreline. Either way it's a perfectly relaxed and unhurried afternoon escape.
Images from the Belfast Telegraph Readers' Gallery of Ulster Beauty Spots Walled City of Derry (Londonderry)
Immerse yourself in a fascinating tour of the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of Walled Cities in Europe. Nowhere else has the same historical and political significance as this compelling, compact and exhilarating experience.
Art Exhibition by John Behan RHA 31st Mar - 24th Apr
If you've got an interest in culture and art you won't want to miss the opportunity to see one of Ireland's best known sculptors, who is credited with playing a major part in the development of sculpture in Ireland over the course of the last forty years.
City of Derry Jazz Festival 29th Apr - 3rd May There's something both relaxing and exhilarating about Jazz that transports you to another place and time. If you're an aficionado of the genre, or if you just enjoy music, then hop down to Northern Ireland's biggest Jazz Festival in Derry this May.
Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne
Don't forget your camera as both the Temple and surrounding views are among the most photographed scenes in Ireland with its dramatic wild coastal landscape, that’s bound to inspire and re-energize your batteries. You could even tie the knot here as the Temple is now available for civil wedding ceremonies!
Spring Fair at Ulster American Folk Park 3rd April
Stroll down Shipbuoy Street this Easter and experience the sights, smells and sounds of a typical Spring Fair Day of the late 19th century. Treat the kids to an exhilarating horse and cart ride or sample the local market stalls.
Sperrins Cycling Routes
Experience the wind rush and exhilaration of a unique landscape, rich in archaeological heritage and folklore on any of the 12 circular waymarked cycle routes of the Sperrins. Each route hosts points of interest along the way, where you can stop to explore, have a rest or a bite to eat.
Baronscourt Estate
Explore an oasis of peace and tranquillity in the sheltered foothills of the Sperrin Mountains at Baronscourt. The carefully tended woods frame wonderful vistas, that together with the lakes create a truly enchanted location in which to relax away from the pressures of modern living. It's like a fairytale book come to life.
Omagh Historic Walking Trail
Experience a sense of place and history as Omagh's secrets are revealed on this enthralling and energizing walking trail. You'll enjoy the quiet charm and the good humour of its people when you stop off in any of its characteristic watering holes.
Ulster Museum
There are a few new faces waiting to meet you at the newly refurbished Ulster Museum. Takabuti, the Egyptian Mummy. Peter, the polar bear. And Edmontosaurus, the um, Edmontosaurus! It's just one of the many fascinating museums scattered across Northern Ireland. So take a step back in time and discover something new – or old – this spring.
Sperrin Mountains
Put the spring back in your step and go for a rejuvenating and exhilarating hike up one of Ireland’s most beautiful wildernesses, the Sperrin Mountains. It's a breath of fresh air from city life and home to a wide range of outdoor pursuits such as horse-riding, golf and water sports, not to mention the spectacular cycle and driving routes.
Spa Breaks
Go on, you deserve it. Escape from it all, put your feet up, sink into a mud bath, jump into a jacuzzi, sizzle in a sauna, feel the stress of city life melt away with a relaxing massage and afterwards go for a gentle nature trail stroll. Spa breaks in Northern Ireland – a match made in heaven.
Strangford Lough Canoeing
The glistening waters of Strangford Lough make for a memorable family day out if water sports are your thing. Hire a canoe and retrace the Viking invasion of yesteryear. Bring your fishing rod with you and plunder the depths of the Lough for it’s abundance of fish.
Beauty Spots
To launch the Beauty Spots Gallery just click the image above.
Seaside special: The Londonderry to Coleraine train passes beneath the Mussenden Temple on a coast-hugging journey described by travel expert Michael Palin as 'one of the most beautiful in the world'

By Linda Stewart

An Ulster train journey has won the ultimate stamp of approval — the praise of Michael Palin. .

The Python turned travel writer has described the railway line between Derry and Coleraine as “one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world” — and he may just have a point.

Translink is making the most of this accolade with a special leaflet outlining what you’ll see if you take the train along the spectacular north coast — everything from vast beaches to great flocks of wildfowl to soaring cliffs.

The journey could kick off in the historic 6th century city of Derry which has won its own set of accolades as Ireland’s only completely walled city. It has a spectacular riverscape which unfolds as the train follows the River Foyle and heads into the surrounding lush green countryside.

The first stop is the small station of Bellarena where you can still see the 19th century station, which is now owned privately. The stretch passing Limavady and up to the north coast commands beautiful views of the Foyle estuary stretching away to Greencastle in Co Donegal and the bay is a well-known hotspot for wildlife.

Route manager Frank Moore says: “You can see waders and seabirds and it’s quite possible that sometimes you might see the odd porpoise breaching the water.”

The railway soon travels past the golden sands of Benone Strand stretching like a ribbon with the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto the shore. The track itself runs alongside the sand so you have spectacular views of one of Ireland’s most unspoilt beaches.

Next stop is the popular seaside resort of Castlerock, close to Downhill and the Mussenden Temple, and the 45-minute journey is almost over as the train skirts the River Bann on its sweep into Coleraine. The line crosses the Bann estuary on a swing bridge. The town of Coleraine is steeped in history — in fact the archaeological remains at Mountsandel are the oldest known human settlement in Ireland, radiocarbon dated to between 7010 and 6490 BC.

The new Translink publication ‘One of the World’s Great Railway Journeys’ is now available in local bus and train stations. For further information click or call 028 9066 6630.

Three unmissable stop-offs along the way

BENONE STRAND — a multiple recipient of the European Blue Flag and Seaside Awards, Benone has seven miles of golden sand and a magnificent backdrop of mountain and cliff scenery, along with stunning views across to Donegal. It’s one of Northern Ireland’s longest beaches and commands impressive views.

DOWNHILL — Now in ruins, the magnificent mansion at Downhill was built by Earl Bishop Hervey and became one of the most renowned in Ireland. On the nearby clifftop the Earl Bishop built the iconic Mussenden Temple as his library, modelled on the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. During the building of the railway, two tunnels, named Castlerock and Downhill, were cut and blasted. These remain the longest railway tunnels in Ireland, measuring 668 and 307 yards respectively.

CASTLEROCK — The small John Lanyon-designed station of Castlerock dates back to 1875. The popular seaside village is perfect for a beach picnic or exploration of the nearby National Trust properties such as the Mussenden Temple. The construction of the railway played a key role in the growth of Castlerock after its arrival in 1853. In a bid to boost the development of the village, the railway company set up a lucrative ‘Villa Tickets’ scheme which would run from 1880 to 1930 — anyone who built a villa in Castlerock was entitled to free first class travel for a 10 years.

Belfast Telegraph


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