Ulster Way Highlights- The Sliabh Beagh Way

Posted on January 29, 2018 @ 5:47 PM in Walking

In the second blog in the 'Ulster Way Highlights Series' we move west from the Mournes to explore the spectacular Sliabh Beagh Way, as it meanders through the valleys of Co. Tyrone, the drumlins of Co. Monaghan and the lakelands of Co. Fermanagh.

Sliabh Beagh Way

Steeped in local myth and legend, the 40mile two-day route, follows a mixture of country laneways and forest tracks, as it explores the varied countryside around South Fermanagh. A remote path across the expanse of moore around Sliabh Beagh is one of the highlights, while good signage and generally firm terrain make it suitable for fit walkers with experience walking in the hills.

Walking The Sliabh Beagh Way

Sliabh Beagh Way

Day 1: Aughnacloy to Muckle (via St Patrick's Well & Chair), 18 miles (29.5km)
Crossing over the River Blackwater at Aughnacloy, the first half of this route crosses back and forth between Co. Fermanagh and Co. Cavan in the Republic of Ireland on country roads, forest track and moorland trails. One of the highlights of this section is St Patricks Well & Chair, which we highly recommend taking a short detour to explore. The moss-cloaked stones, make this an evocative place and it is tempting to linger a while to soak up the atmosphere. From here the trail leads to a high moorland viewpoint, where you will be rewarded with fantastic views of Lough More and the open peat-cloaked hillsides, which surround Sliabh Beagh. The final section of this day concludes, with a walk along a remote path crossing the expanse of moore around the lower slopes of Sliabh Beagh towards Muckle Rocks.

Sliabh Beagh Way

Day 2: Muckle Rocks to Lisnaskea, 22 miles (35.8km)
The 2nd day of walking begins at Muckle Rocks, following country lanes to Mullaghfad Forest; passing Mullaghfad Parish Church, a remote, stone church with an external bell dating back to 1836. The route meanders along the shores of several upland lakes; a haven for wildlife throughout the year. If it is a warm day, the placid waters of these lakes provide a pleasant place to take a break. Follow the trail as it descends to meet the road at Eshywulligan before climbing along a moorland road. Good views are afforded across the surrounding countryside; from points where the slopes are free of trees. The final section of this route from Tully Forest to Lisnaskea follows a series of country lanes, winding gently towards the finish.

Did you know?

Just north of the forest at Muckle Rocks, lies Shane Barnagh's Lough and a nearby outcrop of sandstone known as Shane Barnagh's Stables. The name recalls an outlaw, who roamed across Northern Ireland in the 17th century used the rocks to hide stolen livestock; rumours persist of a horde of undiscovered treasure still buried beneath the lough.

Where To Stay

There is a wide range of walker friendly accomodation in close proximity to the route. More information can be found on page 16 of the Sliabh Beagh Way Walkers Guide.

Where To Eat

After a hard days walking, some good food and drink is a must. The area is home to an extensive range of eateries catering for all tastes. For recommendations, of where to eat in the Sliabh Beagh area please contact the Killymaddy or Fermanagh Visitor Information Centres

Getting Around

There are a number of ways in which you can travel around Aughnacloy and Lisnaskea. The rural bus network links Dungannon, Enniskillen, Fivemiletown, Augher and Clougher, to the start and finish of the route. For route information and times, check out the Translink website or phone (028) 9066 6630. There are also a number of local taxi services, further details of this can be found on page 19 of the Sliabh Beagh Way Walkers Guide.

Sliabh Beagh Way

Please be aware that this walking route passes through areas of open land such as hillside, working farmland and working forests. Livestock may be present, ground conditions may be uneven or wet underfoot and all forestry signage should be adhered to. Please refer to the ‘Walk Safely and Responsibly’ Guide.

Although this walk is waymarked walkers are always advised to carry the relevant map and ensure they are prepared for changeable weather.

You can read our first blog 'Ulster Way Highlights- The Mourne Way' where we share details, of a marvellously varied two-day walking route from coast to coast across the edge of the Mourne Mountains. 

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.

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

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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.

WalkNI Award Winners Revealed

Posted on January 15, 2018 @ 5:27 PM in Walking

The results are in and we are excited to announce the winners of the 2017 WalkNI Awards as voted by the public, showcasing the best of what Northern Ireland has to offer when it comes to walking. 

Mourne Mountains

'Favourite Walking Destination'...The Mourne Mountains
The highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland, with 42% of the vote, the Mournes has once again topped the poll holding onto its title of 'Favourite Walking Destination'. This compact yet impressive mountain range offers endless routes for walkers to explore and breath-taking views. From rocky outcrops on the summits and stunning reservoir views to the distinctive Mourne Wall the entire Mournes Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is simply unique.  

Slieve Bearnagh

'Most Epic View'...Slieve Bearnagh (Photograph By Alistair Hamill Photography)
With so many spectacular views to choose from, this is always a closely fought contest in the awards. However, we are delighted to announce that the Mournes are officially home to the 'Most Epic View' in Northern Ireland. The winning view from Slieve Bearnagh was taken by the talented Alistair Hamill. One of the most distinctive mountains in the Mournes renowned for the granite tors on its summit it can be accessed via the Trassey Track from Meelmore Lodge car park.

Causeway Coast Way

'Favourite Coastal Walk'...Causeway Coast Way
With its secluded stretches of sandy beaches, interesting rock formations and cliff top paths it was no surprise that the Causeway Coast Way in Co. Antrim got 73% of the votes in this category to be crowned 'Favourite Coastal Walk'. A walk along this 33-mile waymarked way reveals many wonders including quaint villages and harbours such as Portbradden & Ballintoy; made famous by Game of Thrones, The Giant's Causeway; Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site and historical gems like Dunserverick & Dunluce Castle.

Castle Ward

'Favourite Country Park/ Estate'...Castle Ward
A popular choice in this year's awards the vote for 'Favourite Country Park/ Estate' goes to the historic 18th century mansion and estate of Castle Ward. Looking out over the tranquil waters of Strangford Lough in Co. Down the estate boasts over 34km of trails including woodland rich in wildlife and rare plans, farmland and coastal paths ensuring there is something for everyone. Visitors can expect to discover something new around every corner from Temple Water & stunning ornamental canal to Audley’s Castle a 15th century tower; made famous by HBO in their award-winning show Game of Thrones.

Mourne International Walking Festival

'Favourite Walking Festival/Event'...Mourne International Walking Festival
Holding onto its title of 'Favourite Walking Festival' this internationally recognised event organised by Newry, Mourne & Down District Council attracts walkers from around the world. Taking place every June the guided & self-guided walks in the mountains and surrounding countryside showcase the best of the area. As well as offering excellent walking opportunities, festival goers can enjoy the social opportunities surrounding the festival to experience local hospitality and get to know fellow walkers.

Murlough National Nature Reserve

'Favourite Nature Reserve'...Murlough National Nature Reserve
A closely fought contest with Glenariff Nature Reserve, Murlough National Nature Reserve located on the Co. Down coastline near the popular seaside town of Newcastle was crowned 'Favourite Nature Reserve'. A haven for walkers and nature lovers alike, the reserve owned by the National Trust features a fragile 6,000 year old sand dune system and boasts spectacular views of Slieve Donard, the highest peak in the Mourne Mountains and Dundrum Bay.

Castlewellan Forest Park

'Favourite Family Friendly Walk'...Castlewellan Forest Park
With just over 50% of the votes, Castlewellan Forest Park, Co. Down is a must- visit for families looking to pack a picnic and enjoy a fun day out together. There are a range of walking trails within the park which boasts a lake, castle, one of the world's largest permanent hedge mazes and incredible panoramic views it won't dissapoint. The park features 'Animal Wood' a natural play structure designed for 4-11 year olds which is sure to capture their imaginations.

Visit WalkNI.com for more information on the winning trails, upcoming walking festivals, events and downloadable guides. 

Latest comment posted by billie on January 17, 2018 @ 11:18 PM

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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.

The MountainBikeNI Award Winners

Posted on January 11, 2018 @ 4:24 PM in Mountainbiking

The MountainBikeNI Awards, powered by Chain Reaction Cycles, are consistently one of our favourite times of the year, but we equally can’t wait until they’re over to see who has won! Wait no longer, as we introduce your 2017 Champions:

 

Favourite Trail Centre: Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

 

For the first time, we've got a new champion in this category - congratulations Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails! After five consecutive years of wins by Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails, it's great to see the obvious popularity of other trails coming through. Castlewellan MTB Trails are actually the most visited trails of any in Northern Ireland.

 

Favourite Trail Section: The Great Escarpe, Castlewellan

A fantastic black section of trail in Castlewellan, The Great Escarpe lets you build up some serious pace on the flowing sections. It's a favourite for some of its wide berms that look incredible with a fisheye lens on your camera. Another first-time winner for Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails.

 

Favourite MTB View: Roll Up Your Slievies, Rostrevor

We're off to Rostrevor with this winner, and it's easy to see why. The view from 'Roll Up Your Slievies' takes in the Mourne Mountains, Carlingford Bay and the towns of Rostrevor and Warrenpoint. A fourth consecutive win for the stunning views in Rostrevor, taking 54.6% of the votes.? Every time we're up there it's hard not to be blown away.

 

Favourite Trailhead Provider: Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan

With another successful Christmas Trail Quest under their belts, as well as Ireland's first ever 24 hour enduro, 2017 was a great year for Life Adventure Centre at Castlewellan. Taking first place in the Favourite Trailhead Provider will hopefully have been the icing on the cake!

 

Favourite MTB-Friendly Café – Urban Coffee Café, Castlewellan

Urban Coffee Café is almost as synonymous with Castlewellan as the mountain bike trails are. Another new winner in the MountainBikeNI Awards, it's great to see the support that mountain bikers provide to local businesses. Next time you're stopping in, congratulate them on their win!

 

Favourite Spot for an Aprés Ride Pint: Maginns, Castlewellan

A wise man once said, "The only thing better than the first sip, is the thought of the first sip." Our Facebook feed was alive with mountain bikers reminiscing over good times spent in Maginns after a day on the trails. Yet another first-time winner in Castlewellan!

 

Best MTB Event of the Year: Red Bull Foxhunt

The Red Bull Foxhunt wins Best MTB Event of 2017. The variety in this category is a great indication of the vibrancy of mountain biking in Northern Ireland, with well organised events such as the Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup taking third with 18.9% of the vote. Life Adventure Centre's Psycle 24 Hour Endurance received 12.5% of the vote and the Ulster XC 2017 events took 8.3%.

 

Favourite MTB-Friendly Accommodation: Blessingbourne Estate

A closely fought category, Blessingbourne Estate came out on top with 24.5% of the vote. It's reputation as a favourite accommodation spot for mountain bikers has officially been sealed with this being it's second win in a row. Blessingbourne is home to 12km of fantastic trails and award winning luxury accommodation.

 

MountainBikeNI Volunteer of the Year: Sam Thompson and Donal McKendry

We couldn't quite believe this. After almost 700 votes across two months of voting, we have a tie!

Donal McKendry from Magherafelt, and Sam Thompson from Rathfriland both ended up with 20.5% of the votes in this new category - congratulations to both of you! A big shout out to Niall Convery from Cookstown, who very narrowly missed out on a triple place for first, with 18.4% of the vote and to the other nominees and all of our volunteers.

We added this category as a small recognition of our incredible volunteers and everything they do for the trails in Northern Ireland. We're sincerely grateful to you all.

 

A special shout out also to the winner of the Garmin VivoSmart Heart Rate and GPS Monitor from Chain Reaction Cycles, Diane Burgess.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

MountainBikeNI's Top Videos of 2017

Posted on December 18, 2017 @ 1:31 PM in Mountainbiking

If a picture tells a thousand words, we're pretty sure a video must tell... a lot more words?


Below you'll find a list of our favourite mountain bike videos from 2017. Maybe you missed it when it was first posted it. Maybe you just want to watch it for the twentieth time. Either way, we hope you enjoy and we'll see you back again in 2018!


1. Kelan Grant and Killian Callaghan RideNorth

We don't like to brag, but we're pretty sure our two models for this video couldn't have been better picked. Kelan, who rides for Team WideOpen Mag, just happened to beat some of the best in the world by winning the Red Bull Foxhunt in October, and Killian picked up the title of U.21 Men's Enduro World Champion earlier this year also. Not bad! Watch the lads tear around Castlewellan, Davagh Forest and Rostrevor MTB Trails.

 

2. Rob Warner Interviews Loic Bruni for MountainBikeNI

Speaking of the Red Bull Foxhunt, we got chatting to two of the biggest names in the business when it was taking place down at Rostrevor MTB Trails. Current DH World Champion Loïc Bruni and all round MTB legend Rob Warner joined us, with Rob kindly agreeing to interview Loïc. There's some name calling and accusations of cheating, but all in good fun of course.

 

3. Greg Callaghan Rides Davagh Forest

Greg Callaghan has arguably done more for the sport of mountain biking on the island of Ireland in the past few years than anybody. His performance at this year's Enduro World Series was phenomenal. Despite holding the overall lead on a number of occasions, he was pipped in the final rounds and finished an extremely respectable third.

We were delighted then that when he got back, he'd head to try the trails on Davagh Forest for some R&R!

 

4. Colin Ross Talks to MountainBikeNI at the Red Bull Foxhunt

As if more big names were needed in this list, we've also got a clip of Colin chatting to us just after his run at the Red Bull Foxhunt. An incredible biker and currently riding with our friends at Chain Reaction Cycles, Colin is possibly the most beloved mountain biker in Northern Ireland. His description of his first time riding as a Fox is well worth a watch.

 

5. Welcome to Davagh Forest

We're back to Davagh Forest again for a pretty epic montage video if we do say so ourselves. Totalling only around 40 seconds, this video highlights the incredible scenery and riding on offer in Davagh Forest, in the heart of the Sperrins. If you haven't been, this will get you in the mood.

 

You can find plenty more great content like this on the MountainBikeNI YouTube page.

We'd also love to see some of your clips from the trails in Northern Ireland! Drop an email to info@mountainbikeni.com and show us what you can do.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

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