Shining A Light On Northern Ireland's Great Lighthouses

Posted on August 1, 2018 @ 11:08 AM in Walking

Down through the centuries Lighthouses have helped guide ships and sailors safely along the coastline avoiding perilous rocks. Dotted along the stunning coastline on various walking routes, Northern Ireland boasts 5 Great Lighthouses waiting to be explored! 

The Bumblebee Lighthouse

St John's Point Lighthouse courtesy of Malcolm McGettigan

Image: St. John's Point Lighthouse courtesy of Malcolm McGettigan

Overlooking Dundrum Bay in the coastal town of Killough, you can't miss St John's Lighthouse. Located on section 4 of the Lecale Way between Ardglass and Tyrella, St John's is the tallest onshore lighthouse in Ireland, designed by acclaimed designer George Halpin Senior. It's striking tall tower is marked with vibrant bumblebee bands of yellow and black. These vivid colours, which distinguish it from other lighthouses, are known as its daymark. 

The Little Lighthouse

Blackhead Lighthouse courtesy of Malcolm McGettigan

Image: Blackhead Lighthouse courtesy of Malcolm McGettigan

Sitting on the edge of a cliff overlooking Belfast Lough, Blackhead Lighthouse is located only half an hour from Belfast. Built in 1902, the lighthouse has guided many famous vessels to safety during Belfast's golden age of shipping, including RMS Titanic. As well as exploring the inside of the lighthouse, visitors can follow the dramatic coastline by walking the 2.4 mile linear (one way) Blackhead Path which takes you past a series of sea caves and coves towards the Victorian seaside resort of Whitehead.

The Upside Down Lighthouse

Rathlin Island

Image: Rathlin Island West Lighthouse courtesy of Tourism NI

Whether you love wildlife, are a bit of a history buff or simply want to experience life on an island and feel the wind in your face, Rathlin West Lighthouse is the place for you. At just six miles long, one mile wide, the west lighthouse is one of two lights which can be found on the Island. Known as being Ireland's only 'upside down' lighthouse, it can be accessed via the 4 mile linear (one way) Rathlin Trail. Be sure to take a tour of the lighthouse and embrace the views from its cliff-face vantage point to get a real insight into lightkeeping life. The Island is not only home to this unique lighthouse, but also one of the largest seabird colonies in the UK which can be admired from the RSPB Seabird Centre. 

Lighthouse On The Pier

Donaghadee Lighthouse

The character of Donaghadee is intimately joined to its most well known landmark Donaghadee Lighthouse. Since its construction in 1836 this limestone lighthouse has been a symbol of pride to the town's inhabitants. From it's lofty parapet, there's a seagulls eye view of the harbour and town which you can discover by following the 1.5 mile, Donaghadee Town Trail.

The Great Light 

Titanic Light

Image: Titanic Light courtesy of Titanic Foundation

The Great Light in Belfast's Titanic Quarter is one of the largest optics of its kind ever built in the world, and is around 130 years old. Weighing 10 tonnes and measuring 7 metres tall, the optic is a unique maritime heritage object with significance to Belfast's economic, maritime and industrial past. It is totally irreplaceable and is an exceptionally rare maritime artefact. It produced one of the strongest lighthouse beams ever to shine - a truly GREAT LIGHT. You can discover this light for yourself by following the 500 metre Titanic Walkway on Victoria Wharf, which connects the Titanic Slipways to HMS Caroline and the Thompson Dock.

For more coastal walks in Northern Ireland check out for details.

Latest comment posted by Denis Campbell on October 6, 2018 @ 10:46 AM

Mary, I guess they have included only the visitable ones. The photo of Blackhead shows a small building with a radar scanner (for Belfast Harbour Traffic Control) on top. It was the fog signal ... 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 4 Mountain Climbs For Beginners

Posted on July 23, 2018 @ 12:43 PM in Walking

Sometimes the prospect of climbing to the top of a mountain can be a little intimidating to beginner hikers. The good news is it doesn't have to be - discover some of Northern Ireland's best summits with our guide to the top 4 beginner climbs.

1. Divis & The Black Mountain, Belfast, Co. Antrim


Located just a stones throw from Belfast City Centre, the trails on Divis are ideal for those looking to experience mountain views without the mountain climb. The highest point in the Belfast Hills, Divis stands at 478 metres (1,562ft) and boasts views across Northern Ireland as well as stunning panoramic views over Belfast.

The Divis Summit Trail, 3 miles circular will take on average between 50 mins & 1 hour 30 mins to complete. We recommend taking a detour from this trail and following the Divis Ridge Trail to experience more of the amazing cityscape views before re-joining the summit trail.

2. Slieve Donard, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down

Slieve Donard

At 850m (2,789 ft) Slieve Donard is the highest of the Mourne Mountains. Boasting spectacular views on a clear day it is no surprise this mountain is a popular challenge for visitors and beginner hikers. We recommend those who take on this summit have a good level of fitness and wear suitable clothing and footwear for a mountain climb. Check out WalkNI: Slieve Donard Summit via the Glen River, 2.9 miles (one way) for a full route description of this trail. 

3. Cuilcagh Boardwalk (Legnabrocky Trail), Co. Fermanagh

Cuilcagh Boardwalk

One of the most popular walks in Northern Ireland, the Cuilcagh Boardwalk (Legnabrocky Trail), 4.6 miles linear (one way) provides a unique journey to the top of Cuilcagh Mountain. Situated in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark the extensive boardwalk is most suited to those with a good level of fitness and some experience of walking in the hills. Installed to help protect the rare blanket bog from erosion this linear route is quite isolated and showcases the scenic wilderness of Cuilcagh Mountain.

The Trail meaders along a 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 boulder fields before reaching the summit plateau.

Please note:

  • No dogs are allowed on this walk.
  • There is no access to the summit Cairn beyond the end of the boardwalk (You will still experience the same amazing views from viewpoint).
  • There is a £5 charge for those wishing to avail of the private car park at the beginning of this walk. Alternatively, walkers can park at Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre nearby.

4. Slemish, Ballymena, Co. Antrim


Follow in the footsteps of Saint Patrick to the summit of Slemish (1.2 miles circular). Aside from its natural beauty, in local tradition the mountain was the site of the Saint's slavery, where he spent 6 years herding livestock fro Mulchi, the local chieftain.

This route follows grassy track from the Slemish Car Park to the base of the mountain before following rocky terrain to the summit (some 1437ft above sea level!). This short ascent is reasonably strenuous, however your efforts are more than rewarded with fabulous views that are sure to re-energise any tired legs. For a gentler descent, walk across the grassy summit and hike down the south face of Slemish. You can then traverse back across the south western side of the mountain picking up the route back to the car park.

Despite being only 1.2 miles in length this rocky ramble should take around an hour to complete, leaving plenty of time to take in the jaw-dropping views. 

For more walk ideas check out

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.

Get Into Watersports with Get Wet NI!

Posted on July 20, 2018 @ 11:05 AM in AdventureCanoeing

We’re well into the summer, but there are still loads of opportunities out there to try a new water sport and Get Wet! We've listed just a few we thought you might be interested in below.

Ladies Beginner Wakeboarding Lessons - 28th & 29th July

For only £10 per person, Cable and Wake will introduce you to the high adrenaline sport of wakeboarding. With one to one coaching, this girl’s only course will teach you to glide across the longest cable wakeboard run in Ireland.

Children's Water Ski Day - 28th July

Meteor Water Ski Club are running a Children's day for only £15. Guaranteed to get your little one's excitement levels through the roof as they sail across Lough Henney with experienced coaches. Suitable for ages 8 and older. Be sure to contact the club by emailing

Go Rowing with Lagan Currachs – 28th July

Lagan Currach’s open rowing has been incredibly popular. Suitable for adults and children aged 12+, you’ll get the opportunity to row a community built traditional currach with a crew of 12 down the river Lagan. They’ll provide you all the equipment (including tea and biscuits!) – all you need to do is turn up with some warm and waterproof clothing.

The Big Bann Canoe Challenge – 18th and 19th August

An annual tradition now, the Big Bann Canoe Challenge takes you through the ancient highway of the Lower Bann by canoe. Paddling from Portglenone to Drumaheglis across two days (with an overnight camping stop at Movanagher Lock) you’ll be guided by a team of qualified coaches. Available for all ages and abilities, provided you’re medically fit for the distance. Complete the challenge to earn the right to say “I’ve been Banned!”

Stand Up Paddleboarding Course – 18th August & 29th August

This popular course does what it says on the tin! The fast growing sport of Stand Up Paddleboarding provides great exercise and a brilliant chance to get out on the water and enjoy yourself. Games, yoga and paddling tips will all be included, but pre booking is essential as spaces are expected to go fast.

Inclusive Paddles – 26th July, 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th August

A welcoming, easy paddle for people of all abilities, including those with disabilities. The Erne Paddlers will guide you through the basics of canoeing and kayaking during these Thursday evening sessions, leaving from the Lakeland Forum Canoe Steps.

Women on Water Sailing Programme – 24th July, 31st July, 7th August, 14th August

Another great course for women only, Ballyholme Yacht Club’s 4 week course is intended for people without any sailing experience. Just come along, meet new people and learn a fantastic new skill. All your equipment will be provided and there’ll be an experienced sailor present at all times to show you what to do.

For a full listing of the events taking place as part of Get Wet NI, please visit

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Trail Maintenance And Why We Should Help

Posted on July 17, 2018 @ 1:30 PM in Mountainbiking

Trail maintenance can sound boring, but you'd be amazed how enjoyable those days can be. For the sacrifice of a few hours, a group of strangers can come together to make a real difference to our local trails. Gareth Beckett, from the MTB Tribe podcast, explains why he got involved with the local MTB trails team.

Ever wondered why your trail centres are always in great shape? Well it's because of people like John Howard (Trail Ranger for Davagh) and a team of dedicated volunteers, who take time out of their day to help maintain their local trails.

Have you ever thought of helping out yourself? Well, I have. So I got in contact with Ethan at MountainBikeNI to find out how to get registered and get involved. The process was super easy, took a few minutes and was completely free. Ethan then emailed me when the next maintenance day was happening, I said ‘Yes Please’, and went to help out.

The day was well organised and after meeting at the trail head and a brief safety chat we headed up the mountain to the area we would be working for most of the day. There are a number of different jobs you could be asked to do, anything from repairing holes, rebuilding berms, clearing fallen trees, cutting back foliage- the list go on. On this particular day we were split into two different teams, one working on the lower part of Big Wig, with the other working on the upper half. We also had the help of a quad bike to get the gravel we required up to the top end of the trail. When the quad was not available we used wheel barrows to transport the gravel and after a few of those being run up the hill it was nice to see the quad return. Our job for the day was to fill in break areas that had worn down, some corners that had been well used and a couple of small berms that needed repaired.

It was all enjoyable work and nothing too taxing. You don’t need any experience, just a willingness to do your part and have a laugh while doing it. We had a great spread laid on for lunch, with more than you could eat, a couple of coffees and a good chat with the other volunteers. After lunch we continued our repairs on Big Wig while the other team moved to another area that needed attention. The day finished around 4 pm and gave us time to have a blast down the newly repaired trails (with an uplift to the top of course!).

So why should you help out?

Most of us bikers just show up, gear up and go without stopping to think of the effort that goes in to maintaining these trails. Volunteering gives you a whole new appreciation for the work that goes into both designing and maintaining these trails. It is great to see how the whole process works and why our help is needed to keep the trails maintained the way we have grown to love. You get to find out what really goes into keeping our trails open all year round and what we as users can do to help. It doesn't take a lot of effort or a great deal of time but it means that we can all enjoy this thing called mountain biking 365 days a year. You get to be a part of what goes on behind the scenes- keeping our great trails not only open but safe, maintained and fun to ride and FREE!

But most of all, you get to give something back. It’s just a little thank you for all the hard work that people put into making mountain biking such an enjoyable past time. And to top it all off, you get to meet people with the same passions and interests as you, you build new friendships, have a good laugh and help improve something that just keeps giving back. The guys at Chain Reaction Cycles also have a rewards scheme for all trail rangers that help at two days or more in the year.

So please, get in contact, get involved and help out your local trail centre!

If you want to hear more about what goes into keeping our trails open visit: and listen to podcast episode number 31 with John Howard (Davagh Trail Ranger). We chat about everything from how you can help, to funding for new phases of trail.

If you'd like to get involved with your local trails team, visit where you can download the two relevant forms. Then simply email them to us at!

Gareth Beckett
Gareth Beckett  Producer of MTB Tribe Podcast

Gareth is a keen mountain biker and runs the popular podcast, "MTB Tribe". On here, he interviews people involved in every aspect of MTBing life; from international champions, to retired pros, to local trail builders. Download it free on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast from.

5 Tips on Introducing a Friend to the Mountain Bike Trails

Posted on June 27, 2018 @ 5:13 PM in Mountainbiking

We’re fascinated by how people get in to mountain biking. To those on the outside, it’s a sport for people who are indifferent to collarbone breaks, terrifying heights and bikes worth more than their cars.

Obviously there is some truth to that, but there’s also so much more. We’ve put together 5 tips on how to get your friends into this amazing sport. 

1. Start Small

"You mean we're going up THERE?!"

Picture it: You’ve finally convinced your friend to meet you at the trailhead. Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails are your local, so it’s obvious to meet there – right? They get out of the car, look up – and lo and behold, there is Slievemeen starting them in the face. Even the most hardcore mountain biker will be daunted by that sight, let alone a newbie.

Start small and take them to somewhere with plenty of green and blue trail. The likes of Blessingbourne Estate and even Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails are ideal for that. Leave the red trails for the next session unless they are really taking to it.

In addition to introducing them to the trails themselves, do the fun stuff. Send them a link to learn the mountain biking lingo. Both Blessingbourne Estate and Castlewellan have pump tracks, so have a bit of fun trying to get them going as far as possible without pedalling.


2. Speak to your trailhead provider

All of the trailhead providers love to see mountain bikers cross their door.

There’s a wealth of information out there for beginners that most mountain bikers never have to consider. What height should the seat be? What’s the procedure if you hurt yourselves on the trails? In addition, the trailhead provider is your best bet if your friend doesn’t have a mountain bike themselves.

Trailhead providers for:

Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails – Outdoor Concepts

Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails – East Coast Adventure

Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails – Life Adventure Centre

Outdoor Concepts also do bike hire for Barnett Demesne along with Mobile Team Adventure, and the Lowry’s at Blessingbourne Estate do bike hire and will be more than happy to provide you with advice on their trails.


3. Ride ahead (at the start)

Pedals level, seat up, lean into it... You know the drill!

You’ve picked your trails, sorted a bike and all the other bits and pieces you’ll need for the day – now it’s time to actually get moving. At the start, it’s probably best for you to keep ahead of your friend on the trails. They’ll be able to see the lines you choose (presuming you choose the easier ones for their first time) and follow.

Equally, you can shout back to warn them about any particularly gnarly bits. It also has the advantage of keeping their eyes up on you and how you’re riding, rather than staring down at whatever is immediately over them.

Once their confidence is up – and maybe when you’re on a fairly level bit of trail – feel free to fall behind and help coach their technique.


4. Stop for a breather

Pit stops are a must when spending hours cycling the trails

The mountain bike trails around Northern Ireland provide some spectacular views, which is just as an important element of mountain biking, if not more so, than the exercise. Most people new to mountain biking will feel the burn in their legs a lot earlier than you will, and might not want to let it show.

Stop as you go around and chat to them about whatever section of trail you’re on. Chat to other riders. Lift some litter.

If your friend is struggling badly, it’s possibly a good idea to recommend they try out an e-bike – particularly for the climbs.


5. Fall Off

A  mountain biker crashed out in the Red Bull Foxhunt 2017.

As much as we’d like to say this never happens, if you’re on a bike – it’s going to. And that’s part of the fun. While mountain bikers certainly don’t relish coming off, a small tumble here and there adds to a great recounting of a day on the bikes and generally provides a healthy respect for the trails and your bike.

Remind your friend that they will come off, and that’s okay – just keep the helmet on, the pace steady and the GoPro rolling.


All in all, mountain biking’s hardcore image shouldn’t put people off an incredible sport. The rider who does XC every other day is very different from the DH fans. There are loads of different levels of interest and technique and with a friend like you, they’ll get into it in no time.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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