Stretching from the seaside town of Portstewart to the mouth of the River Bann, Portstewart Strand is a glorious two-mile ribbon of golden sands and towering, pristine dunes. Owned by the National Trust, it is both a Blue Flag beach and a designated Area of Special Scientific Interest.
Beaches don’t get more accessible than this: visitors are allowed to drive their cars right onto the sand – an old tradition that the Trust inherited, and allowed to continue, when it bought this stretch of coast in 1980. Bring a picnic and take in the spectacular scenery as you listen to the surf crashing in from the Atlantic. Depending on the time of year, closer scrutiny will reveal butterflies, wild orchids, pansies and thyme flourishing among the dunes, and you may also spot seals in the sea. The western end of the Strand, by the river estuary, is home to abundant birdlife, which you can view from a wheelchair accessible hide.
From Portstewart, brown signs point the way to the National Trust visitor centre, where there’s a parking area (no designated disabled spaces) on the beach. The visitor centre has a disabled toilet and an accessible shop. Beach access is simple for wheelchairs, as the sand is hard and compacted. That said, if you are planning to go far up the Strand, make sure you feel confident about navigating the beach in all weathers, as conditions can change very quickly. The paths through the dunes are not suitable for wheelchair users or those with restricted mobility. If you want to visit the bird hide, you’ll need to park a couple of miles west on the other side of the river: it’s at the end of Barmouth Road, off the A2, towards Castlerock. From the car park, the path to the bird hide is level.
Food & drink: By far the best option is to bring your own picnic. You can also buy cold drinks and ice creams at the visitor centre, or head to Portstewart for a selection of local pubs – the Portstewart Arms serves decent food and has disabled access and its own car park.