Dungiven to Castlerock incorporating the North Sperrins Way
From the main spine of the Sperrin Mountains a broad ridge of rolling upland stretches north all the way to the north coast. The North Sperrins Way makes up the majority of this route following the crest of this ridge from the historic town of Dungiven all the way to Swans’s Bridge near Binevenagh. The Ulster Way section then continues further to Castlerock on the north coast. Along the way the route enjoys fine views and a variety of walking, from open mountainside to forest trails and quiet roads.
OS Map 4, 7, & 8
Terrain Starting with rural roads (some of which can be busy at times), moving onto open moorland and extensive forest trails before finishing with rural roads into Castlerock.
Nearest Town Dungiven
Route Shape Linear
Grid Reference C694087
Route Type Quality Section
Please Note: A section of the Seacoast Road at Downhill has been closed indefinitely because of a rockfall and unstable cliffs. Alternative routes in the area should be sought.
The walk begins in Dungiven, a town that grew up around the site of Dungiven Priory, founded by the O’Cahan Clan as an Augustinian Priory in 1100 AD. From Dungiven the route climbs over Benbradagh and onto the American Road, which was constructed in 1967 by the US Navy to provide access to the US Naval Communication Centre on the summit of this mountain. The base was closed in 1977.
Beyond Benbradagh the route runs past Legavannon Pot, a scarp-edge plunge pool formed by retreating glacial melt water. North of the Pot the route enjoys fine views over the Roe Valley; the River Roe which is renowned for its fishing, is designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest.
The middle section of the walk follows the Murder Hole Road for a short time. The road earned its foreboding name from the activities of Cushy Glen, a notorious highwayman of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Cushy hid the bodies of his victims in a bog hole, but met his own end at the hands of an intended victim who shot him dead during a failed robbery.
The northern Sperrins end at Binevenagh, a mountain renowned for the dramatic escarpments and wonderful views. The cliffs are rich in natural diversity, supporting a habitat-rich grassland and arctic-alpine flora. They have been designated as a National Nature Reserve, Area of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation. The entire area falls within the Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
From Binevenagh the route drops down to the coast along the Bishop’s Road, which was built by Ferderick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry to reach his residence at Downhill estate. The estate’s main attraction is the Mussenden Temple, built on the cliff edge in 1785. Although the estate is not strictly on the route of the Ulster Way, it is easily reached by making a short detour.
The walk ends in Castlerock, a small seaside resort whose development was strongly influenced by the Hervey Bruce family of Downhill Estate, and the coming of the railway line during the 1850s.
Please be aware that this walking route passes through areas of open land such as hillside, working farmland and working forests. Livestock may be present, ground conditions may be uneven or wet underfoot and all forestry signage should be adhered to. Please refer to the ‘Walk Safely and Responsibly’ information in the Useful Info tab above.
Please note there is currently no waymarking in place between Donald’s Hill (C738166) and the B66 Ringsend Road just north of Cam Forest (C755234). It is hoped that the signage will be completed as soon as possible.
Leave Dungiven via the Curragh Road, which winds its way up the southwestern face of Benbradagh. At the top of the climb, one and a half hours from Dungiven, is a metal gate and a junction. A detour to the summit of Benbradagh can be made by turning left here and following a track north for ten or fifteen minutes as far as an abrupt right turn. Leave the track here and make a short climb across open ground to the summit of Benbradagh. At 465m it affords a fine view over Benedy Glen, the Glenshane Pass and the high Sperrin peaks to the south.
Return to the main route where you follow the American Road down the eastern flanks of Benbradagh for twenty or thirty minutes. Look carefully for waymarker posts leading north across open terrain towards a forest plantation. The ground is generally uneven and boggy here, so it is important to follow the waymarkers carefully as there is no formal path. After ten minutes cross a stile to enter Lenamore Forest and then follow a track downhill for twenty minutes, ignoring all turn-offs. Continue out of the forest and then turn right onto Gelvin Road.
After a few minutes turn left and walk north for twenty minutes along a country road to the B64. Turn right and follow this road uphill for a few minutes (take care with traffic) and then turn left onto a track that descends past Legavannon Pot to reach Kilhoyle Road after forty minutes.
Turn left onto Kilhoyle Road and follow it west for forty minutes. Turn right onto the Gortnarney Road for a short distance and then turn right again, following the fence line steeply to the summit of Donald’s Hill, an effort of around forty-five minutes. At 399m Donald’s Hill provides a panoramic view of the Roe Valley from Lough Foyle to Dungiven. Wind turbines can be seen to the west at Altahullion Wind Farm. It is important to carefully follow the waymarker posts over the mountain’s open terrain on this section.Follow a raised track northeast over blanket bog and heather. After twenty minutes you reach Temain Road. Cross a stile, turn right and follow the road for a short distance. Turn left and walk north across open mountain terrain for thirty minutes to Rigged Hill and the ten wind turbines overlooking the Roe Valley. Pick up a forest road and descend through Cam Forest for thirty minutes. Cross a stile to leave the forest and follow a track west for twenty minutes as far as a junction. Turn right and walk along this surfaced track for a few minutes to the B66.
Turn right and continue carefully east for a short distance. Turn left onto a track into the northern section of Cam Forest and climb steeply through the trees to a clearing with good views. Take a while to look back towards the headlands of Donald’s Hill and Benbradagh, with some of the higher Sperrins peaks beyond. Continue north into the trees, descending steadily to the A37 Coleraine-Limavady road, fifty minutes from the B66.
Cross the road, and taking great care, walk east along the verge for a short distance and then turn left onto a forest track leading down into Springwell Forest. Continue past Formoyle Church to the B201 – known locally as the Murder Hole Road – forty-five minutes from the A37. Turn left and take great care on this road as you proceed in a westerly direction for thirty minutes to a junction with the Altikeeragh Road. Turn right and follow this road for a short distance and then turn left onto a forest track. Walk west through Grange Park Wood to the television relay station on the summit of Harkins Hill and join a surfaced road for a short distance to Bishop’s Road, an hour and twenty minutes from Altikeeragh Road.
Turn right and follow Bishop’s Road north for a kilometre to a junction. To make the out-and-back detour to Binevenagh, turn left and descend along Leighrey Road for a short distance. Turn left onto a forest road and follow it to the car park and viewing area at the edge of Binevenagh’s impressive cliffs. Return along the same route to Bishop’s Road; the total time for this detour is approximately an hour and forty-five minutes return.
Continue north for forty-five minutes along Bishop’s Road, enjoying fine views across Magilligan and Inishowen before the road swings northeast and begins to descend more steeply. Another forty minutes takes you almost into Downhill.
Look out for a right turn leading into Downhill Forest and after ten minutes turn left along the Burrenmore Road. At a sharp junction turn right into the Springbank Road then turn left again after a few minutes to enter Downhill Forest. Walk through the trees for thirty minutes to reach the A2. It’s well worth making the short detour from here to visit the Mussenden Temple (National Trust property – entrance fee from Easter to September), perched on the edge of the cliffs above Downhill and then continuing past the 12 Apostles Cottages into Castlerock. Allow an extra thirty or forty minutes for this. Otherwise simply turn right onto the A2 and follow it for twenty minutes before turning left into Sea Road and walking the short distance downhill to the finish of the Ulster Way quality section in Castlerock.
Dungiven, Benbradagh, Binevenagh, Binevenagh AONB, Downhill, Castlerock
Dungiven is situated along the A6 between Maghera and Londonderry. Car parking is available in Dungiven
Dungiven is regularly served by Ulsterbus Service 212 from Belfast to Londonderry
Contact Translink Direct on:
Telephone 028 9066 6630
Textphone 028 9038 7505 (for people who are deaf or hard of hearing)
Refreshments are available at the start and finish of the route in Dungiven and Castlerock. However this is a long route with no refreshment stops along the way – walkers should carry provisions accordingly.
There are a few B&Bs and Guesthouses in Dungiven at the start with a greater selection at the end in Castlerock.
There is also no accommodation along this section of the route so walkers should arrange collection for accommodation off-route in Limavady or Coleraine area.