Beech Hill Donnelly Trail
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A circular family trail within the grounds of the Beech Hill Country House Hotel.
Follow the blue waymarker disks that say ‘Donnelly Trail’ from the trail head which is located at the western end of the Hotel car park. The trail flows in an anti clockwise direction, leading you past the Kennedy –Skipton Coat of arms and the top pond. The arms in the top-right corner belong to the Kennedy Family and consist of three small crosses. The Kennedy crest is a dolphin. The arms in the top-left corner belong to the Skipton family and consist of an anchor with a bird sitting on it; the Skipton crest is a raised arm holding a dagger. The motto Pro Patria belongs to the Skiptons. Follow the blue waymarkers leading to the left of the top pond. The Gate Lodge, Walled Garden and Stone Arch can be seen from here. The Arch is reputed to be the site of the first house at Ballyshaskey built by Alexander Skipton in 1622. This house was burnt down in the rebellion of the 1640s. The walled garden dates from before 1833 and is gradually being restored to supply the hotel with fresh vegetables and fruit. All trails are gentle sloped paths.
Continue to follow the trail crossing the top pond bridge. The trail then weaves its way through the woodland to emerge onto the Lime and Beech Tree Avenue. This is the original carriage avenue and in 1835, was "formed by several rows of old lime trees which render it peculiar in this country and very interesting". Today there are also beech trees in the avenue.
Continue across the avenue following the blue waymarkers. The trail then joins an old vehicle track leading past the car park which contains the old Quonset Huts. The two huts are a legacy from 1942 -1944, when the Beech Hill demesne became part of Base One Europe - the US Naval Operating Base, Londonderry. A Quonset hut is a lightweight prefabricated structure of corrugated galvanized steel having a semicircular cross section. The name comes from their site of first manufacture, Quonset Point, Rhode Island, USA.
Continue following the track until the blue waymarker saying ‘Donnelly Trail’ directs you to the right onto the purpose built trail. From here the trail weaves through the peaceful natural woodland until reaching a trail junction. From here bear right following the Donnelly Trail waymarkers. This trail leads past a steep slope so care should be taken here. From here metal posts that are the remains of the World War II Base One Europe Beech Hill Camp boundary, can be seen.
You then rejoin a vehicle track which leads you past the old quarry. This was a partly artificial hill called the Bower. It was once surmounted by a moss house, as a vantage point. There is now an old quarry here. Continue following the vehicle track until reaching a junction, bear left here. Continue up the hill towards the bridge between the middle and bottom ponds. From here there are pleasant views of the bottom pond waterfall and the middle pond bridge. Continue to follow the waymarkers leading left after passing across the bridge. The Beech Hill Water Wheel can be seen from here. This water wheel came from an old mill in Donnemanna and was restored by Leo Donnelly. The trail then ends by rejoining the car park at the front of the hotel.
Public roads: Off Public Road
Getting to the start: Along the main A6 Londonderry to Belfast road take the turning off at Faughan Bridge (Beech Hill signage at the bottom of the hill). Travel a mile further to Ardmore Chapel. You will see the Hotel entrance on your left, opposite the Chapel.