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Magilligan to Portrush

12 nautical mile paddle from Magilligan Point to Portrush Harbour past Downhill, Castlerock and Portstewart.

12 NM
Nearest Town
Route Shape
OS Map
OSNI Discoverer Map Series 1:50,000 Sheet 4
Access Point
Magilligan Point - C659387
Egress Point
Portrush Harbour - C854407

Points of Interest

Benone and Downhill Strand, Mussenden Temple, Castlerock, Portstewart and Portrush.


The imposing defensive structure of the Martello Tower, built in the early 1800s,
marks the launching place to start you on this north coast trail.

Launch from the beach just below the Point Bar. Keep clear of the pier and its ferry boat
crossing the narrows to Greencastle in County Donegal, and be aware of the military presence and security patrols when parking.

Between Magilligan and Benone there is a military firing range extending almost 3 nautical miles out to sea. When planning your journey it is essential to contact Belfast Coastguard for details of when firing is scheduled and plan to paddle outside of these times. If the firing range is in use, red
flags (daytime) or red lights (night) are visible on hoisted flagstaffs on the beach. There are no buoys marking the range out to sea.

The sand dunes and grasslands are part of the Magilligan Special Area of Conservation, full of colourful butterflies, orchids and other flora in summer. Waves frequently break
on the Tuns Bank offshore, reputed burial place of Manannán mac Lir, a mystical sea god whom we’ll encounter again further east.

Inland, the basalt escarpment of Binevenagh curves gradually seawards and the distinctive domed shape of Mussenden Temple, a local landmark, can be seen from some distance. Passing under the high cliffs at Downhill, cut
by the Black Glen, you get a brief glimpse into the former estate of Frederick Hervey, the Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, known as the Earl Bishop, who had the Temple and other buildings erected in the late 1700s, all now part of a National Trust property. The railway line passes through two tunnels either side of the Black Glen and the sea cave close to Castlerock is worth inspection.
Past the small resort of Castlerock, twin piers guide the waters of the River Bann seawards. At the Barmouth there can be large standing waves with the ocean swell meeting the outflow of the Lower River Bann following heavy rain and on an ebbing tide. The boundary between the brown freshwater and the sea can attract porpoise, feeding seabirds such as kittiwake, and other gulls.

Paddling beyond the surf that breaks on Portstewart Strand, you approach a mainly lower-lying rocky coastline with shallow bays,
off-lying rock outcrops and tidal channels ideal for exploration. Portstewart Harbour slipway is exposed and the headland can be
unsettled due to any combination of tide wind
and swell. Kittiwake colonies on the cliff face by the caves and rafts of eider
amongst the wave cut platforms add to the experience.

Portrush, the end of this section, is one of NorthernIreland’s premier holiday resorts, and there are ample diversions and facilities available if you choose to go ashore

Getting to the Start

Head southwest from Portrush along the A29/Coleraine Road and go through 5 roundabouts. At Greenmount Roundabout take the 3rd exit onto the B201/Greenhall Hwy. Turn left onto the A2/Quilly Road and continue to follow the A2. Turn right onto the B202/Point Road and slight left to stay on the B202 and continue towards Magilligan Point.

Photo Gallery

itinerary photo
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