The name Castlerock derives from a black basalt outcrop close to the shore, the area around here has been habited since the first hunter gathers made their way up the river Bann and settled at Mount Sandal some 9000 years ago.  Evidence of mesolithic and bronze age settlements have been found in the dune systems on either side of the Barmouth. This area  today is a wonderful wildlife reserve which sees thousands of migratory birds stopping off during the season. Up until the advent of the railway Castlerock was little more than a small collection of houses scattered close to the shore. During the Plantation of Ulster the Clothworker's Company acquired land that stretched from Coleraine to Londonderry. The company established the village of Articlave in 1613 which was one of the first settlements on the estate, two hundred years before Castlerock would emerge as a village.

 

In 1853 the railway line finally opened between Londonderry and Coleraine, it was owned and run by the Coleraine and Londonderry Railway Company. A major engineering achievement was the creation of two tunnels cut through two headlands which takes the line from Castlerock to Downhill. With the opening of the railway Castlerock developed as a seaside resort, partly due to a scheme which offered free first class rail travel to anyone who would build a villa here.  The Coleraine and Londonderry Railway Company were eventually bought over by the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company in 1871. Today the railway journey is highly regarded as one of the best in Europe as it hugs the coast and estuary to Londonderry. Both Michael Palin and Michael Portillo have featured the railway journey on their shows. The fabulous railway station designed by John Lanyon, the son of Charles Lanyon was built in 1874, Charles Lanyon had designed many iconic building such as Queens University and the Custom House in Belfast as well as the Glendun Viaduct.

 

One connection which the village can be proud of is  C.S. Lewis, who as a child would spent summer holidays at Castlerock with his brother Warren and parents. He was fascinated by the steam trains coming through the tunnel gushing steam as they slowed to a halt at the station. He would explore the pathways that lead to Downhill Castle and the Lion's Gate, play in the rock pools near the Castle Rock, visit Dunluce Castle and walk on the Causeway Stones, all of these childhood experiences  left an indelible impression in his imagination which later found found their way into his writings. The magical seashore in Prince Caspian echoing those childhood days and tidal pools, Cair Paravel in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe reminding us of Dunluce Castle, Aslan the great lion from the Lions Gate at Downhill and the door handle on the manse at St. Marks Church in Belfast.

 

The house where he stayed is still here, shamefully though, there is nothing done to recognise or celebrate this important and now popular scholar and author who took a part of this landscape away in his young mind and created a world of wonder in his books. The Castle Rock which gave the village its name was the location of a tragic shipwreck, 'The Trader' from Greenock ran into a severe gale and after hours of fighting to keep offshore she foundered on the rock during the night of 24th November 1826 with the loss of the crew of eight. The bodies of the sailors were taken from the shore and buried in St Paul's Church at Articlave. You can see the gravestone just through the main gates and against the wall on the left hand side, this was the closest graveyard at the time.

 

Castlerock, Articlave and Downhill are all in the Parish of Dunboe, an area steeped in history. The name Dunboe means 'Fort of the Cow', tradition says that in the reign of King Art, there was a famine in the district. A famous cow called Glasgavlin was stolen from Ballynascreen and tethered to a rock at Downhill known as 'The Tether Rock'. She is said to have saved the lives of the people with a constant supply of milk.