Volcanic landscape shaped by giants and titans
BY MAUREEN O'HARE
When the sun burns bold and bright and the wind whips clouds across the horizon like sheets on a clothesline, that, say the Irish approvingly, is “good drying weather.” Excellent laundry conditions aside, Northern Ireland’s Benone Strand offers cleansing blasts of Atlantic freshness across seven miles of rippled sands, grass-topped dunes and basalt and sandstone cliffs. This is a landscape sculpted by volcano and glacier, part of the Causeway Coast and Glens that curve eastwards to Bushmills whiskey distillery and the Giant’s Causeway.
Teetering on the highest cliff edge, facing Donegal to the west and Scotland to the northeast, is Mussenden Temple, built as a summer library in 1785 by Earl Frederick Hervey and modeled after the Temple of Vista at Tivoli. It’s fitting that a shrine to storytelling should dominate this coastline celebrated in literature and legend. Narnia creator C.S. Lewis spent childhood summers at Castlerock, “Game of Thrones” film locations dot the beaches and harbors, and Celtic myth tells of the cliffs themselves being torn up in a mid-sea battle between querulous giants.
Titans of Victorian engineering have left their mark here, too. The Derry-Coleraine railway, described by travel writer Michael Palin as “one of the most beautiful railway journeys in the world,” runs alongside the beach before disappearing into the 281-meter Downhill tunnel, blasted through the cliffs underneath the temple in 1846.
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The towering cliffs and plateau above the strand have been used as a backdrop for key scenes in "Game of Thrones."
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