NI Explorer's Top 6 Walks In Northern Ireland

Posted on January 29, 2018 @ 2:35 PM in Walking

Northern Ireland based culture and travel blogger 'NI Explorer' share 6 superb walks from their adventures around Northern Ireland in 2017. 

Hi everyone, it’s our first-time guest-blogging on Walk NI, so big thanks in advance for flicking-by. With the excitement of the festive period behind us and both bank accounts and belts feeling the pinch, there’s no better time to pencil in some weekend wanders. Here are six superb walks from our adventures around NI last year which we highly recommend exploring for yourself in 2018. Starting with the most southerly and working northwards.

Cuilcagh Boardwalk

Cuilcagh-Legnabrocky Trail

4.6 miles Linear (one way), Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh
Affectionately nicknamed the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or ‘Fermanagh Boardwalk’, our first favourite gained international recognition last year for its stunning views over Counties Fermanagh, Sligo and Cavan. 

The trail begins in Legnabrocky a rural townland just to the north of the mountains summit. From the start of the boardwalk, you will just about see in the distance the faint line of the boardwalk as it creeps up Cuilcagh Mountain. Follow the boardwalk to the now iconic set of steps that zig-zag their way up the mountain. There are lots of small platforms ideal for stopping to catch your breath and taking in the spectacular panoramic views. This walk is popular especially on sunny days, so you'll probably end up using these points to let others past on the narrow boardwalk- a great excuse if you don't want to admit tiredness (like me). As the stairway twists round to the left, you'll get phenomenal views of the imposing mountainside, massive boulders and Lough Atona.

(Please note: There is temporarily no access to the Cuilcagh Way beyond the end of the boardwalk for conservation reasons.)

Slieve Donard

Slieve Donard From Bloody Bridge

3.2 miles linear (one way), Newcastle, Co. Down
Standing at 852m above sea level, Northern Ireland’s highest peak Slieve Donard looks daunting as it looms over the County Down town of Newcastle but, can be tackled with a moderate level of fitness and the correct walking gear. There are numerous ways of exploring the mountain, two of the most popular routes are either starting from Donard Car Park just on the edge of Newcastle town centre or my preferred option from Bloody Bridge.

Less than five minutes into the walk, the landscape is spectacular. As you walk alongside Bloody Bridge River you'll come across large areas of exposed rock, rushing mini waterfalls and rock pools. Around halfway up the mountainside, the landscape quickly turns into a boulder metropolis as you get closer to a disused quarry area. This makes for a great place to stop for lunch and explore. The climb to the summit from the 'Bog of Donard' is steep however, on a clear day it will be worth the extra exertion for the amazing views! We enjoyed watching the sunset from this location which you can read more about on our blog

(Please note: Dogs are allowed but must be kept on leads)

Clandeboye Way

Clandeboye Way- Helen’s Bay to Whitespots Country Park

8 miles linear (one way), Helen's Bay, Co. Down
An easy and beautiful forest walk in the heart of North Down. Whichever side you start from, just a few minutes into the walk you’ll quickly feel like you’ve been whisked into some unknown remote countryside area. The Clandeboye Way is a great off-road walk along old laneways, farm track and woodland paths. There is lots to see along the way including Helen's Tower and the old lead mines. Max (our dog) loved this one too, as you can see.

Cranny Falls

Cranny Falls

1.2 miles linear (one way), Carnlough, Co. Antrim
One of Northern Ireland's most picturesque waterfalls, Cranny Falls is easily reached from the quiet seaside village of Carnlough, also home to one of Northern Ireland's most picturesque harbours. After a straight mile-long walk along an old railway route behind Carnlough, you’ll find amazing views of the Antrim coastline, friendly farm animals and one of NI’s best waterfalls. 

Continuing along the path from the waterfall you'll arrive back at the quarry junction. Rather than turning right onto the gravel path, head over to the left-hand side instead, the views at this point are spectacular! Be sure to bring binoculars aso you can see down to Carlough harbour, where you started. A perfect Sunday stroll for all the family.

Giants Causeway Cliff Walk

Giant’s Causeway Cliff Walk

2 miles circular, Bushmills, Co. Antrim
We couldn’t leave out ‘Lonely Planet’s Number One Region to Visit in 2018’- but with a slight twist. Just like Slieve Donard, a visit to the Giant’s Causeway is a must for all. Why not try the alternative Cliff Walk which offers a phenomenal bird’s-eye view of the UNESCO World Heritage Site from the path which runs along the edge of the Causeway's 100ft high coastal cliffs. Follow the paths as it leads down the 'Shepherd Steps' towards the sea and the infamous lava-formed columns. Taking a left at the bottom of the steps will bring you back to the main Causeway, but for the sake of an extra 20 minutes head on forward to check out some cool views and formations including 'The Organ' and the 'Amphitheatre'.

Rathlin Island

Rathlin Island

Various walks on a variety of terrains, Rathlin Village, Co. Antrim
When we visited Rathlin Island we were left wondering "Why have we not been here sooner?" At just six miles long and one-mile wide, Northern Ireland's most northerly inhabited island is absolutely PACKED with so much to see. We stayed overnight to give us enough time to explore the Island's two main walking routes however, with so much to explore it's a good excuse to plan a second trip.  

Day 1: Rathlin Trail (4 miles linear): We took our time stopping at the various lookout points as we travelled west. This trail leads to the RSPB Seabird Centre and (the upside-down) Rathlin West Lighthouse. Home to thousands of sea birds in the summer months, visitors between April and July will be able to see the thriving colony of puffins.

Day 2: Roonivoolin Walk (4 miles circular): The journey to the southern lighthouse is a lot shorter than to the west lighthouse. We opted to head straight to the lighthouse and leave the coastal walk and views of the seals in Church Bay for the way back up. My favourite part of this walk was finding Doon Bay. Standing here it feels like you're on the set of Lost or Jurassic Park. Out of all the photos I've ever taken, this is probably top of the 'you have to be there' list.

Read more about these adventures and more on NI Explorer's Website

For more walk inspiration inlcuding maps and route descriptions check out WalkNI.com

Are you a walking blogger or walking guide? If you would be interested in writing a guest blog for WalkNI please email: info@walkni.com

NI Explorer
NI Explorer  NI Travel Blogger

Covering a mixture of outdoor adventure, events, food, drink and everything in between- giving ideas and info for great days out in Northern Ireland and beyond.

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