Learmount Forest covers just over 1340 hectares [ 3000 acres ] of the foothills at the northern face of the Sperrin Mountains. It has over fifteen different tree species planted, with some well over one hundred years old. An imposing castle built by Henry Barre de la Poer Beresford in 1830 can aslo be found here. Roads and paths offer over 4km of trails that rise 200m up from the banks of the River Faughan to the slopes of Meeny Hill.
The river Faughan flows 46kms to Lough Foyle, entering the forest under the Footstick bridge at Altinure. Near here you can find otter tracks in the sand of the river’s edge. Further downstream, Dippers, Heron and different types of wagtails are common. It may also be possible to see a kingfisher, badger, fox, stoat and red squirrel in the forest.
Muff Glen Forest is nestled in a valley, just outside Eglinton. With thirty four hectares of mixed woodlands which straddle a valley along the Muff River. You may see an array of wildlife species, including the rare red squirrel, buzzards, herons, jays and brown trout around the Muff River. Muff Glen is predominately Japenese and Hybrid larch, all planted in the early to mid 1960s. Ash, Sycamore, Hazel and Holly all grow here. The summer months bring swallows and house martins in large numbers, the Muff River providing an abundance of insects for them to feed on. There is a circular walk around the Muff Glen, crossing over the river by a wooden bridge and passing a beautiful waterfall.
NESS COUNTRY PARK
Ness Wood is named for an las or Ness, meaning waterfall, in this case the highest waterfall in Northern Ireland. After the last ice age, ten thousand years ago, the old Burntollet River course was blocked by glacial boulder clay deposits. In eroding a new channel through the underlying metamorphic schist rocks, the river has created the magnificent waterfall, gorges, portholes and rapids which are a feature of Ness Woods. The Country Park is made up of 55 hectares of mixed woodland, including riverside walks, wildlife ponds, picnic tables, wildflower meadows and a new Visitor Centre where you can view an exhibition on woodland biodiversity. The site is notable for Purple Hairstreak butterflies, unusual in Northern Ireland. A rich variety of species of tree can be found, including beech, sweet chestnut, silver fir, larch, and cherry laurel.
Prehen Wood is one of Northern Ireland’s rare and irreplaceable ancient woodlands, dating back as far as 1600.Beech trees, interspersed with hazel, holly and oak are all found here. Spring brings an amazing array of woodland flowers, including bluebells, lesser celandines and wood anemones. Amongst the special wildlife that inhabits the wood are the endangered red squirrel, sparrowhawk and long – eared owls. Visitors can choose between a 40 minute or a 20 minute circular walk. There is also a new eco-trail to explore. The entire wood has Tree Preservation Order status and was designated a Site of Local Nature Conservation Importance in the 1990s. An old quarry that was used to build Lisahally Docks on the River Foyle is a haven for wildlife.
This is a large, remote, mostly coniferous forest with Sitka Spruce planted on peat slopes. The forest provides a variety of habitats for small birds and mammals. It is also a rich hunting ground for birds of prey. Merlin, buzzard, peregrine falcon and sparrowhawk are all seen here. The forest roads and paths provide access along both the Glendara Glen and the Altnaheglish River, and along the north shore of the Altnaheglish Reservoir. It is possible to do a round trip of approximately 15kms, linking the two glens through the Banagher Nature Reserve. Banagher Glen contains one of the largest intact examples of sessile oak woods in Northern Ireland .
In Binevenagh Forest you can observe soaring birds and gliders from the local gliding club, making use of the up draughts caused by the impressive cliffs. These cliffs have been classified as an Area of Special Scientific Interest due to their geological and geomorphological features, and the corresponding vegetation. At the bottom of the cliff face is a standing stone that has become known as the Finn Mac Cool Fingers Stone, relating to the famous giant reputed to have lived in the area many years ago.
Visitors can enjoy views of the surrounding countryside, Lough Foyle and Donegal from the shores of Binevenagh Lake.There are some walking paths, including part of The Ulster Way. You will also find picnic tables near the car park, beside the lake. The lake is stocked with Rainbow Trout and is managed by the Department of Arts, Culture and Leisure. The lower areas of Binevenagh Forest at Ballycarton, beside the River Roe, were linked in a province – wide cycling network Sustrans [ Route 93 ], running from the Leighery Road down through mixed mature larch, spruce, fir, pine and broadleaved woods.