Discover The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark- Our Top 10 Walks

Posted on August 14, 2017 @ 10:42 AM in AdventureWalking

The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark in Co. Fermanagh is well known for one of the finest show caves in Europe, but did you know there is more to this location than the caves?! The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark contains some of the finest landscapes in the north of Ireland with wonderful walkins in Fermanagh and Cavan ranging from rugged uplands, lakes and forests through to gently rolling drumlins. The landscapes represent a complex earth history dating back as far as 895 million years ago and can be explored on foot. Here are some of our must visit walks in the Co. Fermanagh region of the Geopark.

Walks under 5 milesBelmore Forest

Belmore Forest (Pollnagollum Cave Walk), 4.3 miles circular
This walk is located in the Boho-Belmore Mountain area, right in the heart of Fermanagh’s cave country. Beneath your feet lies an extensive maze of caves which attract cavers and potholers from far and wide to west Fermanagh. The most extraordinary feature on this route is Pollnagollum Cave, Irish for "Hole of the doves". The cave is fed by a waterfall toppling down from the top of a limstone cliff and is swollen to a torrent during harsh weather. Depending on the time of day and year keep a watchful eye out for bats and birds around the cave entrance.

Big Dog Forest

Big Dog Forest (Big Dog Walk) 2.5 miles circular
Cloaked largely with conifers, this beautiful short walk allows you to explore some of Fermanagh’s best upland landscapes. The forest is inhabited by wildlife as varied as red deer, herons and dragonflies. One of the highlights of this walk is the short but rewarding climb to the summit of Little Dog where you will be rewarded with 360 degree panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Castle Archdale Toms Island

Castle Archdale Forest (Toms Island Walk) 1.8 miles circular
Located on the eastern shores of Lower Lough Erne, this walk takes in many differing landscapes and offers something for everyone. The magestic Tom's Island boasts great views across the lough to White Island and Davy's Island. This trail also skirts around the shoreline offering a quite place for reflection. The forest is a richly varied one and features ruined Castles, WWII docks & buildings as well as ancient woodland. Be sure to pack a picnic and enjoy the panoramic views. 

Castle Caldwell

Castle Caldwell Forest (Rossergole Point Walk) 2.5 miles circular
Spectacular views await those who explore Castle Caldwell Forest. One of three routes this walk follows the lake and shore and takes in man-made and natural wonders, including a lime-kiln which hints at the association of the Caldwell estate with the nearby Belleek Pottery and the eerie ruins of Castle Caldwell.

Jetty Walk Ely Lodge

Ely Lodge Forest (Carrickreagh Jetty Walk) 1.3 miles linear (one way)
Sweeping up from the shores of Lower Lough Erne, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Ireland. Ely Lodge Forest is important nationally for its broadleaf woodland and biodiversity. Taking its name from the nearby Ely Lodge, one of two gate lodges that would have adorned the gates of the demesne of the Marquis of Ely, Nicholas Loftus, the Estate was the largest in Co. Fermagh during Victorian times. One of three routes in the forest, the blue waymarked route will take you on a path through a wooded landscape to Carrickreagh Jetty where on a calm day the mirror reflections on the lough are breathtaking.


Gortmaconnell Viewpoint Walk 1.2 miles linear (one way)
The summit of Gortmaconnell Rock can be reached by a short but rewarding climb contouring around the hill. The viewpoint offers wonderful 360 degree panoramic views of Cuilcagh Mountain, MacNean Valley and the Erne Lowlands. From here you can also see the Owenbrean River, which flows down from Cuilcagh Mountain before sinking underground, eventually reaching the Marble Arch Caves system.

Blackslee Waterfall

Lough Navar Forest (Blackslee Waterfall Walk) 4 miles circular
Lough Navar Forest is undoubtedly one of the jewels in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. With 4 routes to choose from this walk along forest roads makes its way through the oldest part of Lough Navar Forest leading to the Blackslee Waterfall, where water cascades over a 20 metre cliff before continuing its journey down an undercut rocky gorge.

Walks over 5 milesCuilcagh Boardwalk

Culicagh Way (Legnabrocky Trail) 4.5 miles linear (one way)
Famous for its boardwalk and stairway to heaven, this route has been highly popular with walkers since it opened. This section of the greater 33km Cuilcagh Way meanders through one of the largest expanses of blanket bog in Northern Ireland. The trail follows quiet farmland track before traversing a wooden boardwalk that consists of a steady climb to the mountain face. Here a stepped boardwalk climbs through steep terrain and boulders fields before reaching the summit plateau. A rough mountain path negotiates the wild summit plateau for a few kilometres before reaching an ancient cairn. The imposing mountain flanks of Cuilcagh give this walk a very atmospheric feeling providing breathing views, the most impressive view is of Lough Atona, a lake nestled at the foot of the mountain which was carved out by the glacier during the last Ice Age approximately 13,000 years ago

Ballintempo Forest

Ballintempo Forest Aghanaglack Walk  7 miles circular
One of the largest sections of continuous forestry tracks in Northern Ireland, this forest is steeped in geology, local myths & wildlife; so there is something for everyone. The walk passes a classic Dual Court Tomb from the Neolithic period, an elevated site amongst the conifers, it was constructed when there were fewer surrounding trees, allowing for spectacular views across the area. As you walk, keep a look out for upland birds such as merlin and hen harrier, have a rest at the Brimstone Rock and take in stunning views of nearby Cuilcagh Mountain.

Carrigan Forest Lough Formal Walk

Carrigan Forest Lough Formal Walk 7 miles circular
This brisk walk is a chance to fill your lungs with mountain forest air while enjoying the views from the summit of Formal More. The route is almost all on forestry tracks with a short path through the heather. Spend some time taking in the views which include features of geological interest, you may be surprised at how much wildlife comes to you in this seemingly barren woodland. The most intriguing feature in the forest is Lough Formal, sitting at 240 metres above sea level this small mountain lake sits astride a fault (or crack) in the Earth`s crust.

Visit WalkNI for even more walks in the Geopark.

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

Walk Where You’ve Never Walked Before

Posted on June 19, 2017 @ 3:37 PM in AdventureWalking

For those in search of an epic Instagram photo or somewhere new to walk this summer, we share some exciting new trails which have opened in the spectacular Causeway Coast & Glens. Your chance to enjoy previously inaccessible spectacular views near Ballycastle and Cushendun, Co. Antrim this summer. 

Fairhead
Fairhead Northern Ireland

Those who come to explore the new trails at Fairhead are in for a treat this summer, with over 13 miles of trails to discover, you can expect stunning coastal views towards Ballycastle, Rathlin Island and the picturesque Murlough Bay from this ruggedly beautiful, wild and remote location.

Local myth states that it was at the iconic cliffs of Fairhead above the famous Sea of Moyle where the Children of Lir, were put under an evil spell, transforming them into swans to spend 900 years in exile from humanity. Composed of a rock called dolerite, the great cliffs of Fairhead were born out of volcanic activity some 60 million years ago. The upper half of the cliff is formed of gigantic columns which are up to 12 metres in diameter, some of which are separated from the rest of the cliff but still stand, despite their precarious nature.

The walks begin from a farm car park clearly signposted off the Fairhead Rd. With a range of walks to choose from ranging from 1.5 to 3.4 miles (all offering spectacular clifftop views) these fully waymarked trails are named according to their Irish placenames. Several interpretative panels are dotted along the routes to provide you with more information on the history and geology of the area. Choose between 5 routes

  • Lough Dubh Walk (Red Route) 1.5 mile
  • Casan an Loch Walk (Purple Route) 2.2 miles
  • An Belach Runda Walk (Green Route) 3.1 miles
  • Loch na Crannoige Walk (Blue Route) 3.3 miles
  • Murlough View Walk (Yellow Route) 2.9miles 

The walks are all interlinked meaning that you can return to the start at various points. Please be aware that sections of these walks are situated near a cliff edge and due care must be taken particularly during windy conditions and in poor visibility.  Weather conditions along the coast can change very quickly - so be prepared.  Although the walks are waymarked it is advised that you equip yourself with a map.  The walking routes pass through areas of open land and working farmland. Livestock may be present and ground conditions are often uneven, wet and mucky underfoot and as such walking boots are strongly recommended.  

Ronan's Way
Ronan's Way

Ronan's Way is a rare opportunity to access some of the most stunning scenery in the Glens of Antrim on foot. With over 8 miles of new trails developed this is a fantastic opportunity to experience the breathtaking scenery of the inspiring Glens landscape.  

The walks are located on the McAuley Farm, on a stretch of land in memory of Ronan McAuley, a true Glens man who had a dream that more people would explore and enjoy Glendun and the exquisite views of the land that he called home. A couple of benches situated along the routes mean you can sit back and admire the breathtaking views. The diversity of natural habitat (woodland, peatland, farmland and the river) in Glendun means that there is an abundance of wildlife to see. 

A truly inspiring landscape, there are four routes of varying lengths to explore each providing an opportunity to view across one of the nine Glens of Antrim and over the channel to the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. Located in a glen all of the walks have climbs, but the views are worth it! Walking boots are strongly recommended as the ground can become mucky underfoot. All walks begin at the carpark off the Glendun Rd where a trailhead panel and waymarker posts will direct you to the following walking routes;

  • Green Loop, 0.9 miles
  • Yellow Loop, 1.2 miles
  • Blue Loop, 2.3 miles
  • Red Loop, 3.4 miles

Those looking to extend their time walking in the Glens can visit the nearby Cregagh Wood; a short 0.9 mile woodland walk worth a visit. The wood's tranquil and peaceful surroundings make this location an excellent home for Red Squirrels who can often be spotted running from branch to branch.   

Waterfoot Beach Walk
Waterfoot Beach

For those who do love to be beside the seaside, the new 1.6 mile beach boardwalk at Waterfoot near Cushendun is well worth exploring on a sunny day. 

Depending on tide levels, you can take a walk back on the beach or retrace your steps along the coastal path when you reach the end of the route. With two playparks along the way for the kids to explore this is an ideal family walk this summer before tucking into a BBQ/ picnic on the beach and paddling in the sea.

The walk looks out towards Red Bay Castle which projects out onto the headland just north of Glenariff and passes species rich grasslands. Feel free to walk through the wildflower meadow where you can spot yellow-rattle flower and small copper butterfly.

Don't forget to share your photos with us on social media using #WalkNI.

Latest comment posted by Valerie campion on July 3, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

I am visiting the area in sept for a weekend of walking , I am looking forward to taking some of the above walks . The area looks spectatulor . Read more >

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

Get into Watersports with Get Wet NI this Summer

Posted on May 31, 2017 @ 12:22 PM in Adventure

Continue the fun out on the water through the summer months with Get Wet NI's Participation Events. Come and have a go at something new with your local watersports club, uncover a new passion or improve your skills and confidence.

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Down

Coastal Rowing Summer Sessions For Juniors, Portaferry Coastal Rowing Club, Strangford Lough, Sat 8th & Sun 9th July.  A fantastic opportunity for kids aged between 11 & 18 yrs to have a go at rowing on the Gilpin Skiff. Each session will be led by a qualified cox from Portaferry Coastal Rowing Club

Bright Night Sailing For JuniorsDonaghadee Sailing Club, Various dates throughout May, June & July. An opportunity for those aged between 8 & 17 yrs old to get out on the water and learn some of the basics of sailing while having great fun with like-minded juniors.

Dinghy Ducks Sailing Programme, East Down Yacht Club, Downpatrick, Various dates throughout May & June. Get out on the water and learn to sail a Dinghy during these popular Friday night training sessions ideal for individuals, families and groups of friends.

Learn to Waterski/ Wakeboard with the experts, Meteor Water Ski Club, Various dates throughout May, June & July. Learn to ski on a beautiful picturesque lake. An adrenaline fuelled session with expert coaches. 

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Antrim

Go Rowing With Lagan Curraghs, Lagan Curraghs, River Lagan, Belfast, Various Dates throughout May, June & July.  Experience rowing a traditional currach on the River Lagan and Belfast Lough. Learn basic rowing techniques and try your hand on the steering oar.

4 Week Rowing Course for Beginners, Lagan Scullers, River Lagan, Belfast, 4 week course with various start dates from May to October. This four week course for beginners is aimed at improving your basic rowing skills and confidence in a fun and safe way.

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Fermanagh

Sunset Paddle, Share Discovery Village, Lisnaskea, Fri 2nd June. Sunset Paddles are an excellent way to be introduced to the sport of canoeing. You don’t need to have any previous canoeing experience, specialist kit or skills…just come and have a go!

Recreational Paddle, Erne Paddlers, Castle Archdale, Sun 4th June. A great way to see and experience the beautiful vistas and ancient sites of Lough Erne. Joine Erne Paddlers and explore some hidden gems only accessible by boat including.

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Armagh

Learn To Sail Beginners Sessions, Craigavon Watersports Centre, Various dates throughout May, June, July, August & September. Learn how to confidently sail in sheltered waters. This first step session is aimed at beginners and is an ideal way to learn the basics of sailing.

Canoe & Kayak Starter Sessions, Newry & Mourne Sea Kayak & Canoe Club, Camlough Lake, Sat 10th June. An ideal opportunity to get out on the water and try canoeing & kayaking with expert instructors.

Check out GetWetNI.com for even more fantastic events on offer throughout the Summer.

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

Bear Grylls Island Survival Academy – it may hurt a little…

Posted on May 11, 2017 @ 3:17 PM in Adventure

Just as I was beginning my après lunch coffee in Belle Isle Castle’s Grand Hall a team of menacing uniformed figures marched in.  They were on a mission, their leader Will quickly briefed us on the afternoon ahead. In fact, he told us very little (a theme which would remain for most of the day), only to dress appropriately as we will get wet and dirty and to be in a Land Rover outside at 1400. They left to the sound of a pin dropping in the background...

We piled into the Land Rovers and raced off into the grounds of Belle Isle Estate before arriving on the shores of Upper Lough Erne.  Following more instructions from Will (again suitably brief), we were equipped with buoyancy aids and paddles before venturing out onto the Lough. Just as I was beginning to take delight in the peaceful tranquillity an orange smoke flare set off from an island begin us.

After landing our kayaks on mass at the wooded island, we followed Will and his brigade to a pre-prepared campsite. Heath (another man not to be messed with) further focused our minds as he instructed us on how to safely use a knife during the remainder of the day.  The term ‘triangle of death’ (the area between your two kneecaps and you know where) will remain with me for a while.

The first task was to prepare a warm drink with a spark, a tampon and a Kelly Kettle.  Although no Café Latte, we were able to fashion a nice cup of coffee. Will and Heath then demonstrated their soft side and passed around the Jaffa Cakes. Just one each, they didn’t want to spoil us.

We split up into groups and rotated through several different exercises.  During the first, Will provided detailed instruction on the dark arts of concealment before issuing some camouflage cream and netting.  He then gave us two minutes to hide in the undergrowth within 20 paces before he came to find us.  I am immediately ran over 40 paces away, frantically covering myself in netting, diving into the biggest bush I could find and then closing my eyes in the hope that this would further help prevent my capture – it didn’t!  

With Heath’s guidance, we then became trackers carefully following a trail of footprints through the forest.  We achieved our goal with 20 seconds to spare. My two-year-old doesn’t stand a chance the next time we play hide and seek.

Following a short exercise in shelter building we returned to camp to be greeted by Venison Hot Dogs – a magic combination. After which the competitive spirits were raised with a round of axe-throwing.

As we walked back to the kayaks, this previous group of strangers were laughing and sharing fond stories of an excellent adventure. As it turned out we didn’t quite have one foot into the luxurious Belle Isle Estate just yet. Somebody had stolen half of the kayaks.  Will and Heath looked slightly sheepish although no one dared make any accusations.

The newly bonded group worked together to construct a raft to bring the remaining party ashore. I overheard the instructors trading bets on the raft’s chances of success – our odds weren’t good!

However, the raft optimistically named ‘Titantic II’ defied the odds and we reached the shore successfully.

The Land Rovers whisked us back to the luxurious accommodation afforded throughout Belle Isle Castle and Cottages, before enjoying a delicious dinner in the Castle’s Grand Hall, produced using the finest local ingredients.

Belle Isle Estate is the exclusive destination of the Bear Grylls Island Survival Academy. For more information on tailored incentive and corporate experiences contact:

Belle Isle Estate  

+44 (0) 28 66 387231

info@belle-isle.com

Chris Scott was a guest at the official launch of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy at Belle Isle Castle and Private Island

Photos within this blog are kindly provided by Ken McBride Photography

 

Chris Scott
Chris Scott

Having 'retired' from competitive sailing he is trying to find something new to fill the void. Currently mixing it up with 10ks, trail running and adventures with his two year old son.

Get Wet With A Watersports Club Near You

Posted on May 9, 2017 @ 10:53 AM in Adventure

There are lots of exciting come and 'have a go' watersport sessions happening across Northern Irleand over the next couple of weeks for £10 or less as part of Get Wet NI 2017. With no experience necessary, all equipment provided and many of the activities suitable for individuals, families and groups of friends, there really is no excuse not to try something new out on the water this May!

Sailing Northern Ireland

Set Sail

Try Sailing Day, Lough Neagh Sailing Club, Craigavon, Co. Armagh, Sat 13th May
An introductory session aimed at providing a taste of sailing to beginners on the largest freshwater lake in NI.

Try Boating Session for people with DisabilitiesBelfast Lough Sailability, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, Sat 13th May
Come and have a go sailing in speciality boats for wheelchair users and those with limited mobility.

Sailing Taster at Cushendall, Cushendall Sailing & Boating Club, Co. Antrim, Sat 20th May
Set sail and learn the basics before taking the helm in the stunning setting of Cushendall.

Come & Try It Day, Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, Holywood, Co. Down, Sun 21st May
A day of fun on and off the water experiencing the excitement of sailing.

Womens Introduction to Dinghy Sailing , Newcastle Yacht Club, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
An opportunity for the ladies to try out sailing in picturesque Dundrum bay. 

Push The Boat Out Northern Ireland

Push The Boat Out & Try Something New

Introduction to Sailing, Canoeing & Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Holywood Yacht Club, Holywood, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
An action packed day of activities on the water inlcuding sailing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and driving a power-boat. Ideal for beginners and families, come along and give it a go.

Try Sailing & Kayaking, East Down Yacht Club, Downpatrick, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
Try sailing and kayaking at East Down Yacht Club in a variety of boats, no sailing experience needed. A fantastic opportunity to learn more about the sport, chat with members and feel the atmosphere of the club.

Try Sailing & Windsurfing Taster Day, Craigavon Watersports Centre, Sun 14th & Sun 21st May
Try the exciting sport of sailing and windsurfing with experienced instructors at Craigavon Lakes.

Diving Northern Ireland

Diving

Try Sub Aqua DivingLisburn Sub Aqua Club, Lisburn Swimming Pool, Co. Down, Thur 18th May
Experience the freedom of swimming underwater without needing to come up for air during this fun intro session. This pool based session is a low cost way to have a go at this truly unique experience.

Canoeing Northern Ireland

Canoe/Kayaking

Come & Try It Canoe SessionsCounty Antrim Paddle Sports, Portglenone Marina, Co. Antrim, Sat 27th May
Learn the basics of canoeing before paddling upriver to Porglenone Forest. 

Sunset Paddle, Share Discovery Village, Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh, Wed 31st May & Fri 2nd June
An excellent introduction session to canoeing. Take in the spectacular scenery as you learn the basics or improve your skills at sunset with an expert team of instructors.

For more events check out GetWetNI.com

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

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