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The Roe Valley Scenic Route loops off and back onto the Causeway Coastal Route at Limavady. If you miss the signs, the route follows the Baranailt Road (B69) then on the left you follow the Drumrane Road which will take you up one side of the Roe valley to Dungiven. Dungiven is located where three rivers merge, the Roe, Owenreagh and Owenbeg, it is on the main road from Londonderry to Belfast. From Dungiven you will follow the Ballyquinn Road (B68) back down the other side of the Roe valley to Limavady. The river has a reputation to be good for salmon and sea trout and there are a couple of great locations to stop off and enjoy it. The scenic route is also the access route for the Roe Valley Country Park which is signposted, this is a fabulous setting with walks stretching over 10km beside the river. It also provides one of the few natural semi white water rivers in Northern Ireland for kayaking, a cafeteria is onsite and the Green Lane Museum. You can find more history about the location on the main menu under Limavady. The Country Park can also be accessed from both sides of the river giving you the choice of visiting it first or last.
Approximately 800 metres past the Roe Valley Country Park turn off, on the left hand side of the road you will see a green wooden signpost for Carrick Rocks Footbridge. This will lead you down to a small car park and access to the upper end of the Country Park at the Carrick Rock Gorge, a very picturesque deep gorge with trees on both sides of the river. The gorge was carved by water during the last ice age. A short flight of steps will take you down to a footbridge erected in the early 1900s for people to cross the river to the parish church of Carrick. The listed bridge has a unique double span bowstring construction and has been carefully restored for public use, it can only carry a maximum of ten people at any one time. This is a tranquil and beautiful location where you can enjoy good riverside walks, you can walk from or to the main Roe Valley Country Park from here on both sides of the river. Leaving Carrick Rock you then get back on the main road and head towards Dungiven, when you come to the small village of Burnfoot there is a road sign which point to Bovenagh Old Church, this is another beautiful location with a secluded 16th century ruin.
The site at Bovevagh (House or Church of Maeve) goes back to an early monastic settlement. One unique feature here and the oldest visible part of the site is a mortuary house which dates to circa 13th century. This is a small building, at one end there is a hole big enough for a hand to pass through. An early Christian practise was to place the body or relics of a saint inside. Pilgrims would come to reach in and touch the remains of a holy person, the earth from inside is believed to have miraculous properties. You will find similar places at St Aiden's and Banagher Old Church. Bovenagh Old Church is approximately 1 mile up the road on the right hand side and very easy to miss as there are no road signs for it. A small lane leads up to the ruin, it is possible to back a car into this or park on the roadside. Very interesting ruin in a beautiful secluded setting.
The next location is the rural town of Dungiven which is on the main Derry to Belfast road, here you will find Dungiven Castle, the present building dates to the 1800s but the site is much older, you can find out more information about the area on the main menu under Dungiven. Dungiven Priory is well worth a visit if you enjoy ancient sites, it was an Augustinian priory which dates to around 1100 AD. The chancel of the priory contains an ornate tomb reputed to be that of an O'Cahan chief who died in 1385. The site has had many additions built on it over the centuries including plantation buildings in the early 1600s which turned it into Bawn (fortified dwelling). The grave area is another interest area to wander through and there is also a walk down through woodland. Just off the main path you will find a holy well, the water from which is said to cure warts and other ailments. The branches of surrounding bushes have pieces of cloth tied to them, testament to its continual use as a place of healing. The pieces of cloth would be used to bathe the area of the body and then tied to a branch close to the well. The water collected in a Bullaun Stone is believed to have healing properties.
If you want to go inside the chancel of Dungiven Priory to take a closer look at the ornate tomb you will need to visit during the published opening hours of Saturday and Sunday 2pm – 4pm, outside of these hours you can make prior arrangement with Limavady Council Offices (+44 (0) 28 777 60650 ) or Environment and Heritage Service (Tel. 028 7772 2074) who have a warden that can open it by request.
Outside the library on Main Street you will find a sculpture of 'Finvola' by the artist Maurice Harron, there are also place to have some refreshments or food before you continue. While still in the area it is well worth a short detour along the Feeny Road which is just outside the town on the Derry Road. About 2.5km along here you will find Feeny Picnic site on the left hand side. Newly created it has a sculpture of the last serpent in Ireland, Lig Na Paiste. The sculpture was created by the artist Maurice Harron. On the same road about 1km along you will see a sign for Banagher Old Church. The ruins here date to the 12th century with a 13th century Mortuary House, the site itself though is believed to be an early Christian monastic settlement founded by St. Patrick.
The history of Banagher is very interesting and the ruins are one of the earliest surviving ecclesiastical examples of the period in Ulster. It is also a very picturesque location with the mountains off in the distance. If your feeling to explore a bit more you can also visit Banagher Glen and Banagher Dam. From Dungiven you have a scenic drive back down the Roe Valley to Limavady, with some great views of the surrounding landscape and mountains. Approximately 9km down the road on the left is a lane which will take you to the other side of the Carrick Rock Gorge and Carrick Parish Church which was built in 1847. 500m past this entrance is another lane to Carrick Mills where you can access the riverside walks and see the remnants of the linen and mill industries of the nineteenth century.
A bleaching mill, scutching mill and corn mill all took power from the river here. The site also had a corn kiln and a flour and retting mill. Another 4km down the route from here you will find the other entrance to the Roe Valley Country Park on your left. The park is well worth visiting for its beautiful riverside settings, old bridge, stunning walks, museum and café. Also recently installed is the wonderful sculpture of O'Cahan's Hound which was created by the artist Michael Harron. A lovely piece of work which captures the momentum of a leaping dog. The Country Park is a unique location and a hidden gem along the Causeway Coastal Route. You can read more about it on the main menu under Limavady including places to visit in the town, also check out the facebook page for updates and more images.