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Belfast City Break with Mountains on Your Doorstep

Posted on October 16, 2014 @ 6:23 PM in Walking

Enjoy the city and retreat to the countryside for some great walking all in the one weekend! Providing breath-taking views across the capital the Belfast Hills bring a unique sense of wilderness and escapism from the hustle and bustle of urban life below.  Just a 2 hour drive from Dublin head up the Motorway or start your weekend with a relaxing train journey direct to Belfast, either way it won’t take long to get away from it all for the weekend.      

A striking visual boundary, just minutes from the city centre, fantastic views over Belfast and beyond can be easily enjoyed from the Belfast Hills. Divis (the highest of the hills), Black Mountain and Cave Hill all provide great vantage points to spot the iconic landmarks below including; The Samson and Goliath cranes, Titanic Belfast and the Stormont Parliament Buildings to name a few. There are also opportunities to cast your eyes further afield across Belfast Lough and as far away as the Isle of Man and Scotland.

The hills are home to a wide range of wildlife and archaeological sites and have inspired writers and artists for centuries. Johnathan Swift was said to be inspired by the sight of Cave Hill leading him to pen his most famous work “Gulliver’s Travels”. One of Ireland’s most famous poets, Seamus Heaney used the hills as his muse and the area has also more recently been the setting for movies such as Hollywood blockbuster ‘Dracula: Untold’ and Oscar winning short film ‘The Shore’.

 

 Image: Cave Hill, Belfast 

Divis and the Black Mountain

At 478 metres (1,568ft) Divis is the highest point in the Belfast Hills.  There are four walks to choose from at this National Trust owned site west of Belfast consisting of an expansive 2,000 acre mosaic of upland heath and blanket bog, home to a wealth of archaeological remains and wildlife.

Divis Mountain

Divis Ridge Trail (4.2 miles/6.8km) & Summit Trail (3 miles /4.5km)  

The 4.2 mile circular Divis Ridge trail is located in the Belfast Hills and offers spectacular skyline views over Belfast. Other views from the viewpoint include the Mourne Mountains, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Although situated high in the Belfast Hills the route is on relatively flat paths on tarmac, boardwalk and stone pitched gravel - designed to maintain the condition of the mountain slope.   More serious walkers can walk a loop walk combining the Ridge Trail and Summit Trail which includes the summit of Divis and affords views to The Sperrins and North West Ireland. Other possible routes include the Heath Trail, a 4 mile route that traverses blanket bog, taking in the northern end of Divis and the Black Mountain site and the all ability 0.9 mile Lough Trail. Afterwards enjoy a cuppa or a sweet treat in the brand new Divis Coffee Barn

Belfast Hills

Image: Divis Ridge Trail with the Mourne Mountains in the distance

Cave Hill Country Park

Just 9 miles from Divis, Cave Hill Country Park in the North of Belfast is home to the 12th Century Belfast Castle as well as fantastic walking trails up to the summit of the Basaltic Cave Hill.  

Cave Hill Walk (4.5 miles /7.2km) 

Starting in the carpark at Belfast Castle the walk follows a path uphill to McArts Fort, an Iron Age stronghold from which breathtaking views over Belfast can be enjoyed. An at times challenging route, over unsurfaced paths, with some steep sections you wont be disappointed once you reach the top where United Irishmen Theobald Wolfe Tone and Henry Joy McCracken once met in 1795 to take an oath to launch the rebellion of 1798.  Afterwards enjoy afternoon tea or something more substantial at The Cellar Restaurant in Belfast Castle where traditional music can be heard most weekends in the adjoining bar. 

Titanic Belfast

Explore Belfast City

Less than 9 miles from the city centre there is plenty for walkers to explore once down from the hills.  From the world famous Titanic Belfast to the Ulster Museum, Stormont Buildings and Queen’s University as well as countless restaurants, bars and shops.  Check out Discover Northern Ireland for great accommodation deals in Belfast as well as information on everything you need to discover the city vibe during your next visit. 

The city centre offers some great urban walking too.  From fascinating history to ghostly goings on there are lots of informative and interesting walking tours led by guides throughout the city.  You can also explore the urban areas at your own pace with one of the many self guided walking tours taking in the history of Belfast, the tale of the Titanic and the hometown of world renowned footballer George Best. More details of these can be found in the WalkNI online Belfast Walking Guide.  

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

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