Ed Leahy unwinds in Derry.
The coastal drive from Belfast to Derry is one of the most scenic stretches of roadway in Europe.
The attractions are endless, the scenery spectacular, whether stopping off to marvel at the cliff-edged Dunluce Castle or edging your way across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
And when you are making your way either to or from the Town that Phil Coulter loved so well, the Roe Park Resort in Limavady will provide the perfect base for you to explore the north coast.
Arriving at the resort, the driveway takes you through the scenic Roe Park Valley where Aedh, one of the High Kings of Ireland, once ruled back in the sixth century.
In fact, the rolling hills around the Roe Park Resort were the location for the Convention of Druim Cett, which was convened to address some major problems facing the Kings.
One of the main issues raised was that the Bards in Ireland should be banned as they were becoming quite troublesome, and such was the importance of this meeting that the Bards called upon St Colmcille (Columba) from Iona, where he lived and preached, to defend them.
Colmcille, a trained poet himself, had gone into voluntary exile, vowing never to return to Ireland. However, being respected by both sides, due to his noble bloodline, Colmcille returned and legend has it that when he came to the convention he wore Scottish sods beneath his feet and remained blindfolded.
Colmcille negotiated a compromise for the Bards but their influence throughout the land soon diminished and numbers dwindled.
The current hotel building, dating back to the 18th century, was developed into a four-star resort and spa in 1995 and now boasts 118 guest rooms and luxury suites, an 18-hole parkland golf course and top quality leisure, swimming and spa facilities.
The hotel retains its country manor charm, while the modern interior is designed to complement the traditional features of the original building.
One of the hotel's biggest assets is its location and really proves ideal for anyone exploring the north coast and the surrounding hills and valleys.
Some of Ireland's most popular and scenic attractions are located in the vicinity, with the Giants Causeway and the Bushmills Distillery always worth a visit, while golfers are spoilt for choice with championship courses at nearby Portrush and Portstewart.
Derry City and Coleraine are also close by, while walking enthusiasts are well catered for, with endless tracks taking you over heather-covered mountains or down to the beaches of the north coast.
The waterways around the Roe Park Resort are also ideal for fishing excursions, with the River Roe and its tributaries all well-stocked. Equestrian activities are also available at the Crindle Stables in Limavady, where you can take horseriding lessons and ride cross-country tracks.
On return from your day's activities, the Roe Park Resort comes into its own as the welcoming warmth of the hotel sets you up for a very enjoyable evening.
The bedrooms are spacious, while the décor is both modern and stylish with an emphasis on comfort.
A visit to the spa or leisure centre is recommended and will have you feeling refreshed as you sample the fare at the hotel's award-winning restaurant.
Greens Restaurant has been recognised by the Taste of Ulster and is considered one of the best contemporary restaurants on the north coast.
The menu is seasonal, sources the best local produce and has recently been awarded the Red Rosette for its use of the freshest and highest quality local ingredients.
And the food really impressed, as classic dishes were served with the hotel's personal touch – the tempura monkfish with Asian noodles, sesame, chilli and soya dressing coming highly recommended.
Golf at the Roe Park Resort
Golfers are treated to a scenic ramble throughout the extensive Roe Park Resort estate. The parkland course takes you up over hills and back down through the valley with amazing backdrops on every hole, most notably the spectacular Antrim plateau, which dominates the distant skyline, as well as Lough Foyle and the Inishowen Peninsula.
The course provides a really enjoyable parkland golf experience and could well be the perfect place to get your game in shape before heading out the coast where two of the world's best links courses await at Portrush and Portstewart.
Nightlife at the Roe Park Resort
One final mention goes to the great atmosphere that was present in the hotel's O'Cahan's Bar. The singsong went into the early hours and it would appear that the Bards were starting to make their presence felt once more throughout these ancient hills of Ireland.
For more information, visit: www.RoeParkResort.com.
For more information on the north Antrim coast, visit: www.discovernorthernireland.com.
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