Bellarena House was the centre of an estate that once covered around half of Magilligan. These were designated church lands under the Plantation of Ulster and were leased from the Bishop of Derry. It is a triple pile building (three pitched roofs) with a projecting sandstone porch added by the eminent Victorian architect Charles Laynon in the late 1830′s, who also made internal changes. The main part of the building is said to date from 1797 but there may be remnants of an earlier, seventeenth century house within its fabric. Built of basalt stone it has a very distinctive appearance and commands its surroundings well.
Bellarena Dispensary is located behind a curve on the Seacoast Road as it enters the Magilligan area. Built around 1840 the taller building is the dispensary while the lower is a separate house. In 1997 it was still in use as a doctor’s surgery two days per week. The little Gothic windows give the building great charm and this, and the fact that it is built on the edge of the Bellarnea Estate, suggest the hand of the landlord in its commissioning and construction.
Ballycastle Farm Aghanloo, Limavady. Reputed site of the first Anglo Norman fortification in the Limavady area and also the site of the Haberdashers Bawn during the Ulster Plantation. A beautiful place but little evidence of its interesting history-apart from its name- can be seen there today.
This unusual structure is a WWII training dome on the former Aganloo airfield near Limavady. This was used for training gunners during World War II. An image of an aircraft was projected onto the inside surface (which was lit up with blue florescent light to simulate the sky), and a dummy gun was fitted in the centre with a small projector which pinpointed where the gun was pointed. This is understood to be a unique survival in Northern Ireland. Three or four examples are understood to survive in the UK as a whole.
The West Lodge, Drenagh, is a reflection of the big house beyond. Finely proportioned, it was designed in c.1840 by the eminent Victorian architect Charles Lanyon.
The Moon Garden, Drenagh. Constructed in 1968 and designed by Frances Rhodes of Somerset. A circular opening gives access to a Japanese inspired garden. A place to contemplate contemporary efforts to reach the moon perhaps? It is certainly a very beautiful and restful place.
The Viewing Platform on the Drenagh Estate near Limavady is reached via a long grand staircase of 21 steps from the main gardens of the house behind. It looks out onto an enclosed glen which was originally planted to look like an Italian garden. The platform itself is designed like a classical gateway with a semi-circular niche with quarter-spherical head instead of an opening. A circular pool projects from its base and looks out towards another in the garden beyond. It is an elegant and secluded place.
High Clachan farm, Kirkcolm. A Victorian farmhouse flanked by substantial outbuildings which makes a strong group in the landscape. Some of the nearby buildings have chimneys and were clearly houses in the past suggesting that the group may indeed once have been a traditional clachan as found in Scotland and Ireland. This is where a group of farm houses were surrounded by a system of infields and outfields. The system, known as the rundale system was largely superseded in the nineteenth century as farming practices changed and landlords became more aware of the benefit of rotating land use. In many cases, as appears to have been the situation here, clachans were then converted to a single larger farm. The current arrangement is shown on the first Ordnance Survey of the area taken between 1845 and 1856.
Happy New Year. This is Kirkcolm graveyard about two miles from Stranraer in Scotland. The name betrays the site’s early medieval origins. Kirkcolm - the church of St Columba once stood on this spot and there is a holy well nearby. Columba, of course, is traditionally understood to have left Derry in 563 setting up a monastery in Iona from where he took his mission first to Scots and later to the Picts. This area would have been controlled by the Scots (Irish) at the time, and, if indeed an early site, a timber church in the Irish style would once have stood here. This would have been replaced later in stone. An overgrown circular boundary wall, reminiscent of those found around monastic sites in Ireland creates a strong sense of a connection with this early period. Records note that the church was a ‘free parsonage’ in the 13th century, and that it was repaired in the 18th but pulled down in the 1820′s to make way for a replacement in the nearby village. Today the graveyard is a place of great atmosphere and charm.
Marks of Time
Sketches of buildings in the North West and further afield with a little information about their history.