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Top 11 Walking Picnic Spots in Northern Ireland

Posted on June 27, 2014 @ 12:42 PM in Walking

When the weather is good there’s no better way to spend time together than packing up your picnic hamper and heading outdoors for a stroll. With miles of coastlines and acres of countryside, we want to share with you our top 11 walks with perfect picnic spots across Northern Ireland.

Picnic In Northern Ireland

Portstewart Strand, Portstewart, Co. Derry~Londonderry 

Portstewart Strand Beach is the perfect spot to spend lazy summer days and take long walks into the sand dunes, which are a haven for wild flowers and butterflies. Explore the dune system and waymarked nature trail or visit the Barmouth bird hide for fantastic bird watching.

Mourne Coastal Path, Newcastle, Co. Down

For those staying in Newcastle for the weekend or those escaping just for a day we suggest you take a short walk along the Mourne Coastal Path which stretches for a mile and a half south of the historic site of Bloody Bridge. Newly installed picnic benches and brand new public art at Bloody Bridge Car Park make this a fantastic location for an alfresco lunch. For those looking to walk a bit further from this location you can follow the Bloody Bridge trail along the intriguingly named Brandy Pad, an ancient smugglers’ route from the shore to the heart of the mountains.

Florence Court, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh 

Offering miles of glorious walks through parkland, gardens and the surrounding forest there are plenty of reasons to enjoy a picnic at Florence Court. Take a stroll into the forest to visit the blacksmith’s forge and carpenters workshop before relaxing with a picnic in the peaceful gardens whilst enjoying the mountain scenery.

Botanic Gardens, Belfast, Co. Antrim 

Take some time to stop and smell the roses in the extensive Rose Garden within Belfast's Botanic Gardens where it’s easy to forget that you are in still in Belfast city centre. Home to one of the earliest examples of cast iron glass houses enjoy sitting on the grass eating your picnic in front of The Palm House. For lots more park walks in the city centre download the Belfast Online Walking Guide for some more great ideas.

Crawfordsburn Country Park, Crawfordsburn, Co. Down 

Crawfordsburn Country Park and Coastal Walk offers the best of both with woodland walk and a walk beside the sea. Amble through a hay meadow, which is full of wild flowers in the summer months before enjoying the sandy beaches where you can get out the picnic basket for a treat or two! For those interested in learning something about the history of the area you can spend some time exploring Grey Point Fort a restored coastal battery.

Rowallane Gardens, Saintfield, Co. Down 

Rowallane just a relatively short drive from Belfast, is a beautiful setting for a walk and picnic. Where you can enjoy the many impressive flowers which are on full display in the summer months. Bring your picnic blanket and enjoy one of the many hidden corners of the garden. There are also picnic benches around the grounds so whether you bring your own or pick up a light lunch from the onsite cafe you’ll be sure to find a spot to enjoy.

Picnic Spots Northern Ireland

Lough Navar Forest, Derrygonnelly, Co. Fermanagh

Take time out at Lough Navar Forest Walk next to the Lough or among the trees in the forest. There are many points of interest within the forest including lakes, viewpoints and places of historical interest where you can stop along the way.

Cave Hill, Belfast, Co. Antrim

Enjoy a walk with a view from the summit of Cave Hill you can sit and enjoy the spectacular panoramic views and munch on a well deserved sandwich or two. On a clear day you can see the city of Belfast and beyond to the Mournes, Strangford Lough and even Scotland.

Castle Ward Estate, Strangford, Co. Down

With 820 acres of landscaped grounds Castle Ward estate is a great escape away from the hustle and bustle. Take a walk through the woodland, explore the old castle ruins or take a leisurely stroll along the Shore Trail. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to putting down your picnic rug or take advantage of the many picnic and BBQ areas. For those couples looking get away for the night they also have Camping Pods perfect for a spot of Glamping.

Gortmore to Hells Hole, Binevenagh, Co. Derry~Londonderry

A lovely walk is a lovely walk along the cliff top of Binevenagh which overlooks the spectacular Benone Beach, Lough Foyle and the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal. The walk begins and ends at fortmore viewing point where picnic facilities can be found along with some interesting stone characters.  

Castle Archdale, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh

With a variety of walks along the Lough shore of Castle Archdale enjoy a picnic by the famous Lough Erne, on the tables overlooking the marina, in the wildflower meadow or amongst the butterflies in the butterfly garden.

So what are you waiting for? Make some sandwiches, pack the picnic blanket in the car and get ready to enjoy the fantastic walks during the summer months! Click on the links above for further information on the walks including downloadable maps and route descriptions.

Latest comment posted by Pat on June 11, 2015 @ 10:31 AM

Ballintoy, portballintrea,portrush have lovely spots too Read more >

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Officer & Active Clubs Coordinator for Walking

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She oversees the marketing and communication on WalkNI, OutdoorNI and Walking in Your Community Project. Most recently she has been working with Parkrun Ireland & UK to introduce the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative.

Top Summer Schemes in Northern Ireland 2014

Posted on June 4, 2014 @ 2:28 PM in Adventure

This is OutdoorNI.com’s Summer Scheme blog for 2014 but don’t worry we’ve got a brand new blog with details of exciting Summer Schemes for 2016 'Your Ultimate Guide to Summer Schemes 2016'

With only a couple of weeks to go until the school holidays begin you may be starting to stress about how you are going to keep the kids entertained this summer...The good news is there are lots of fantastic outdoor activity summer schemes happening across Northern Ireland over July and August that are sure to keep them out of mischief!

A great way of making new friends, learning new skills and most importantly getting out of the house and having fun in the great outdoors, the kids are sure to make some great memories and have lots of laughs this summer. With tones of outdoor summer schemes to choose from finding the right activity and date shouldn’t be a problem with many schemes available to book by the day and residential options also available.  With all of the summer schemes listed below taking place with accredited providers you can rest easy knowing your kids are in safe hands and no doubt having a ball!   

Summer Schemes Northern Ireland

Here is a list of some of the top summer schemes taking place in Northern Ireland over the school holidays:

Belfast Summer Schemes

Belfast Activity Centre, Barnett Demesne, Malone Rd

30th June – 22nd August

Set in the heart of the Lagan Valley Regional Park, Belfast Activity Centre is the perfect setting for the kids to experience the great outdoors just minutes from the city centre.  Two multia-ctivity summer schemes are available one for ages 8-11 and one for ages 12-16.  The kids will get to explore the centre’s artificial cave, take on their high ropes challenges and complete team games.  For those who love the water the centre is also running a paddling scheme in association with Belfast Kayak Academy on the River Lagan. 

Mobile Team Adventure, Ardnavalley

21st July – 21st August

Also just mintues from the city centre, Mobile Team Adventure’s summer scheme is jam packed with fun activities from canoeing and kayaking to water games and gorge walking.  The kids will be divided into two age groups; 9-15 years and 5-8 years to make sure they get the most out of these fantastic activities.  They are also running an Overnight Camp consisting of two overnight stays in a tent and three days of fun outdoor activities for a truly wild time!

Bryson LaganSports, Ravenhill Rd, Belfast

28th July - 22nd August

Running over 4 weeks starting on Monday 28th July this week of adventure activities in Belfast is perfectly situated for parents working in the city centre - drop the kids off and let them have a laugh with kids their own age.  From water zorbing on the Lagan to canoeing, archery and campcraft there will be plenty to keep them busy and out of mischief this summer as they learn and have fun with fully qualified instructors.     

Strangford Summer Schemes

Clearsky Adventure Centre, Castle Ward

28th July – 1st August & 4th – 8th August 

Set in the grounds of the stunning Castle Ward Estate this is one summer scheme that promises to send the kids back tired! Activities range from climbing and pier jumping to canoeing, archery and mountainbiking with the week concluding with a family BBQ.  Don’t panic if you don’t have time to drop them off, Clearsky are running a free shuttle bus service from Newcastle, Strangford and Downpatrick each day – we have a feeling this is one bus they won’t be late for in the morning! Suitable for those aged 8-15yrs old.

Fermanagh Summer Schemes

Share Discovery Village, Lisnaskea

30th June – 22nd August

Based on the shores of Lough Erne Share are offering no less than 15 summer schemes with week long skills development courses in sailing, canoeing, lifesaving, windsurfing and mountain biking.  The kids will not only have a great time but also receive a recognised qualification at the end of the week.  Alternatively if they can’t decide which one to choose then there are also multi-activity weeks with a little taste of everything.  The courses take place Monday to Friday and are suitable for 8-16 year olds.

For those who can’t get enough of the action they are also running their annual residential adventure camp 10th – 17th August.  Suitable for 10-14 year olds and 15-18 year olds the camps include morning, afternoon and evening activities, food, accommodation and 24 hr supervision. 

Northern Ireland Summer Schemes

Mourne Summer Schemes

Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan Forest Park

7th July – 22nd August

Life’s Adventure Summer Camp runs Monday to Friday throughout July and August for age groups ranging from 8 to 14 year olds.  With the aim of giving every participant the opportunity to have new experiences, make new friends, learn new 'Life' skills and have an awesome time doing so. Their summer camps will involve a range of activities including survival skills, canoeing, archery, wet bouldering, raft building and team games.

East Coast Adventure Centre, Rostrevor

1st July – 30th August

Let the kids experience a real adventure on a week long residential or send them to the day camp and drop them off on your way to work and hear all about their action packed day on the way home.  Both day and residential camps will run throughout July and August with camps available for all skill levels and ages from little Indians (8-10 years) to youth camps for 14-16 year olds.

Ocean Youth Trust Ireland, Castlewellan

1st June – 31st August

A great idea for the older ones (14-19 year olds) this adventure camp will take place in Castlewellan Forest Park where the Ocean Youth Trust will set up their amazing teepees for group work and cooking.   During the day participants will sail on Castlewellan Lake working towards their RYA level 1 and 2 in dinghy sailing before returning to camp to light a fire under the stars and have a laugh with a few games before bedtime.  

North Coast Summer Schemes

Xplore Outdoors, Portrush

14th-16th July

The kids will enjoy 3 fun filled days of action which will include activities such as coasteering, body boarding, rock climbing, archery, kayaking and beach games.  Based on the stunning North Coast there will be lots of time spent on the beautiful beaches and shores with plenty of fresh air for everyone!

Long Line Surf School, Benone Beach, Limavady

1st July – 31st August

Sure to be an experience the children will remember forever, they’ll get to have 2 hours of fun on the beach everyday whilst learning about the sport, culture and safety aspects of surfing. Running throughout July and August the lessons are open to any child no matter what level of surfing they may be at with qualified surf instructors and life guards on hand at all times.

If two hours is not enough then send them on one of the Kids Big Day Out events. Surfing in the morning, Packed Lunch on the grass (Not Provided) Beach Games, Treasure Trail and then swimming in the sea with lifeguard supervision in the afternoon.  You’ll get a care free day to yourself as the kids have fun on the beach. 

Latest comment posted by OutdoorNI on June 5, 2014 @ 10:15 AM

Hi Daria, Summer Schemes hosted by activity providers are our specialty. All of the summer schemes listed in the blog were taken from OutdoorNI.com which currently doesn't have any details of ... Read more >

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Officer & Active Clubs Coordinator for Walking

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She oversees the marketing and communication on WalkNI, OutdoorNI and Walking in Your Community Project. Most recently she has been working with Parkrun Ireland & UK to introduce the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative.

MTB Northern Ireland: Simple Mathematics

Posted on June 3, 2014 @ 2:02 PM in Mountainbiking

Personal Prelude - Maths was never a strong subject for me in school so probably best you take my botched formulas and theoretical equations with a pinch of salt.

With five trail centres boasting over 110km of trails, each within 90 minutes drive of each other, mountain bikers across Northern Ireland have literally been basking in their new found paradise of purpose-built trails. Northern Ireland’s attraction as a world class mountain bike destination is further enhanced by the proximity of these new trail centres to the country’s main ferry terminals in Larne and Belfast.

Northern Ireland

With this in mind it’s no wonder we are welcoming more and more visiting mountain bikers to these shores each deliberating over how they can get the most ‘bang for their buck’ on their mountain biking trip to Northern Ireland.

So my friends from lands afar, if you are planning a visit to this island of mountain biking goodness this summer and are considering your itinerary, you need ponder no more. We have locked ourselves in a dark room armed only with a pencil, map and abacus to calculate how you can make the most of your weekend mountain biking holiday or day trip to Northern Ireland this year.

The key is to achieve a positive ‘km of driving’ to ‘km of riding’ ratio – simple mathematics.

Northern Ireland
Mountain Bike Weekend – Deep Forest and Big Mountain

Take the 7:30am ferry from Cairnryan to Larne (P&O Ferries) and head west to Davagh Forest. Here you can soak up everything from green and blue routes to a lightning quick red trail through lush forest boasting what Singletrack Magazine described last year as “some of the best singletrack trail. Anywhere.”

Davagh Forest Trails

After lunch head on to Blessingbourne Estate in Fivemiletown. This compact trail centre has recently been given a major facelift which has doubled its trails capacity suiting a wide range of mountain biking abilities and fitness levels. Blessingbourne also boasts some great Self-Catering Accommodation on site so bunker down here for the night before setting off early bells to the Mourne Mountains.

Rostrevor MTB Trails

Day two starts in Rostrevor where in truth you could spend a full weekend alone however for this reconnaissance mission we would allocate three hours which should also allow for a lap of the excellent Red Trail in Castlewellan on your way back to the ferry to catch the 8pm return sailing to Cairnryan.

The Stats

  • Days x 2
  • Total Driving Distance - 363km
  • Total Riding Distance - 85km across 4 trail centres
  • Ratio - 4.3:1


Northern Ireland Mountain Bike Day Trip - Dirt Jumps and Downhill  

Opt for the 7:30am ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast (Stena Line) and drive straight to the Barnett Demesne Trails & Jumps Park, Belfast. Warm up on the cross-country trails before hitting Ireland’s first official dirt jumps park – allow two hours here.

Barnett Demesne Jumps Park

Then head down the M1, straight to Rostrevor for a light lunch in The Old Schoolhouse Café. After you’ve been fed and watered grab yourself a half day uplift pass (£15) from East Coast Adventure and spend the rest of the day sampling Northern Ireland’s Only Official Downhill Trails ‘Mega Mission’ and ‘On the Pulse’. We reckon you can just about squeeze 7 runs in on a half day pass.

Rostrevor MTB Trails

Back up the road to catch the 7:30pm return sailing you’ll be back in bonnie Scotland sipping your finest Glenfiddich night cap (other single malt Scottish whiskeys are available) before the day is out! 

The Stats

  • Day Trip
  • Total Driving Distance - 166km
  • Total Riding Distance - 22km across 2 trail centres
  • Ratio - 7.5:1

Bear in mind this itinerary offers Dirt Jumps & Downhill Riding so we'd suggest you multiply the trails distance by the power of 2!!!

So In Conclusion...

The truth is, the beauty of these trips is working this all out for yourself so feel free to ignore these suggestions, sit down with a road map and work out the best route to match what you are after. One thing we can guarantee is that whichever trails you do decide to visit and no matter where you stay or how you plan to get around, you won’t be disappointed with your mountain biking trip to Northern Ireland. 

Visit MountainBikeNI.com for stacks more information on Northern Ireland’s new mountain bike trail centres including route descriptions, interactive mapping, photos, events and up to date trail conditions as well as more detailed information on getting you and your bikes to and around Northern Ireland.

Photos: Laurence Crossman-Emms

Latest comment posted by Stefanie on July 29, 2014 @ 1:03 PM

Hallo, if you need some tips for walking, cycling, climbing and outdoor tours you can find them here: http://www.three-peaks.info/alto-adige.html Read more >

Chris Armstrong
Chris Armstrong  Mountain Bike Officer

Chris looks after all things mountain biking in Northern Ireland ...it's a tough job but someone's gotta do it!

Northern Ireland's Outdoor Adventure Blog outdoorni.com walkni.com cycleni.com canoeni.com