Chris ArmstrongKieron GribbonNick Wolsey
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2015 – A Year of New Walks

Posted on December 18, 2015 @ 2:49 PM in Walking

2015 was a big year for walking routes in Northern Ireland with the iconic Gobbins Cliff path being lovingly restored and reopened.  There were also lots of exciting new additions to walking routes across Northern Ireland with giants, animals and the famous Gruffalo making an appearance along some of our favourite trails.  If you haven’t had a chance to visit these walks opened within the last year why not enjoy them over Christmas and the New Year?

Gobbins

The Gobbins, Islandmagee, Larne, Co. Antrim
Opened in late summer 2015 the spectacular Gobbins cliff path on the very edge of the Irish Sea is a re-awakened coastal experience which was first enjoyed in 1902 by the Edwardians. Only accessible via guided tour expect to see the waves crashing into the cliffs, feel the wind in your hair and witness the natural wonder of the coastline up close as you walk the winding cliff path.  Bridges, tunnels, caves, steps, unique rock formations and stunning views will punctuate your path as you walk beside the curious geology. 

Gruffalo Trail, Colin Glen Forest Park, Belfast, Co. Antrim
Opened in Nov 2015 with each character magically recreated by sculptor Andrew McIntyre and set against the backdrop of a stunning forest park this family attraction is perfect for kids and kids at heart! Walkers can follow the Gruffalos footsteps along the 0.6 mile trail to meet the silly old fox, owl and snake on the way to an amazing 8 foot tall Gruffalo.

The Giant’s Lair, Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Co. Down
A magical living storybook is brought to life along this mile lone trail intertwined with fairy houses and arts features creating a childhood land with dragons, giants and fairies.  Follow in the footsteps of Flynn the mischievous fairy, drop in for a cup of dandelion tea, grab a seat at the Giant’s Table and stroll along to the Ladybird House, you are sure to fall in love with this enchanting trail in the beautiful setting of Slieve Gullion Forest Park.


Causeway Coast Way, Co. Antrim
The stunning cliff path along section 5 of the Causeway Coast Way between Portbraddan and Dunseverick was reopened after a landslide had closed the route for a number of years.  The newly upgraded and diverted pathway features stunning views of Bengore Head to the North West and Rathlin Island to the North East along this breath-taking section of the spectacular coastline route.

Lough Foyle Trail, Limavady, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Linking two existing Quality Walks; Ballykelly Bank and Ballymacran Bank to create a new 5.2 mile (one way) linear, off road trail for walkers and cyclists – the Lough Foyle Trail opened earlier this year. A new footbridge was installed across the Burnfoot River near to the village of Ballykelly to create the route exploring the designated Ramsar site which is a bird watchers paradise.

Cuilcagh Way, Co. Fermanagh 
2015 saw access to Cuilcagh Mountain Special Area of Conservation open again with a brand new boardwalk constructed to prevent walkers from damaging the protected blanket bog.  Situated along the 20 mile Cuilcagh Way, the long distance route has been divided up into 5 sections to make it easier for walkers to choose to walk all or part of the route. 

cUILCAGH

  • Cuilcagh Way Clagagh Glen (Section 1)
    1.5 mile linear route through the striking landscape of the Cladagh River gorge.
  • Cuilcagh Way Legnabracky Trail (Section 2)
    A 4.5 mile linear route which will appeal to walkers with some experience walking in the hills showcases the scenic wilderness of Cuilcagh Mountain. The trail meanders along a quiet farmland track before traversing a wooden boardwalk to reach the 666 metre summit featuring an ancient cairn.
  • Cuilcagh Way Hikers Trail (Section 3)
    An alternative vigorous and exposed 5.5 mile linear route to the summit of Cuilcagh involving a steep climb across boggy ground to reach Fermanagh’s highest point. 
  • Cuilcagh Way Legacurragh Valley Trail (Section 4)
    Meander through limestone landscape, blanket bog and deep woodland before reaching Florence Court House Estate on this 4.2 mile linear route.
  • Cuilcagh Way Florence Court Forest Trail (Section 5)
    Weave your way through the Florence Court Forest Park before reaching the rolling Marlbank Hills with their species rich grassland and exposed rocky outcrops of limestone on this 4.5 mile linear route.

2015 also saw two new nature play areas open – a great way to entice the kids out for a walk in our fabulous forest parks!

The Big Deer - Tollymore Forest Park, Tollymore, Co. Down
Featuring a giant timber Fallow Deer, castle turret, folly tower and hollow tree all connected through a series of rope-bridges, tunnels, spider webs, basket swings and slide the ‘Big Deer’ is sure to keep the kids entertained. Parents can sit back, admire the views and enjoy a picnic at the Deer tables before enjoying the four walk trails throughout the forest park.

Tollymore Forest Park

Animal Wood - Castlewellan Forest Park, Castlewellan, Co. Down
Located beside the Peace Maze, ‘Animal Wood’ provides lots of opportunities for playing on wild woodland animals including a badger and its den, a red squirrel and a giant spider.  In addition it boasts a wooden play structure with a tower in the image of The Moorish Tower where children can enjoy the climbing wall, fireman’s pole and rope-bridge over to a hollow tree stump slide and Red Kite nest. The forest park is also home to a 7.5 mile walk trail network featuring breath-taking views to the Mourne Mountains as well as some of the oldest and rarest existing trees in the British Isles. 

Castlewellan

Visit the walks section on WalkNI.com for free downloadable route descriptions and maps of over 270 spectacular walks to inspire you to get outdoors in 2016.

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!

2 comments have been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Alan Graham on December 21, 2015 @ 8:23 PM

Why you have not mention the new pilgrim walk backed by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board,The longest pilgrim route sign posted.St Patricks Way.

Posted by Jennifer Cumming on December 29, 2015 @ 11:11 PM

There are also great walks in Kilbroney Forest Park and the Narnia Trail is great fun with the kids

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