Welcome to our walking blog. The aim of this blog is to give readers a further insight into walking in Northern Ireland. The blog will cover everything from seasonal walking suggestions and events to information on how to best practice ‘Leave No Trace’ techniques and walk responsibly in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We will also be inviting local accomplished mountaineers and industry experts to give their thoughts and opinions into Northern Ireland top walking spots and other trails more off the beaten track.

For your definitive guide to walking in Northern Ireland visit www.walkni.com

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Posted on December 17, 2014 @ 4:50 PM in Walking

Winter often has the power to transform our landscapes.  From snow-capped mountains, to misty lakes and glittering frost there are many beautiful scenes waiting to be discovered. 

Whether you want to take a short dander along the banks of a frozen river or fancy embarking on a more adventurous snow-capped mountain ramble, Northern Ireland’s landscape is full of great walking opportunities that come into their own in the winter months.  As proof we’ve put together this photoblog showcasing some of Northern Irelands great walks in the winter season as sent to us by our WalkNI fans - thanks for submitting some great snaps!

Click on the links below for free downloadable route descriptions and maps to head out for your own winter walks. 

Mourne Mountains, Co. Down

There were too many fantastic photos for us to include here so make sure to check out the 'Snow Covered Mournes' Album on the WalkNI Facebook page for even more stunning shots from walkers. 

Barnett Demesne, Belfast, Co. Antrim

Barnett Demesne 

Gortmore to Hell's Hole, Co. Derry~Londonderry


Glenariff Forest Park, Co. Antrim

Glenariff Forest Park

Divis & the Black Mountain, Belfast Hills, Co. Antrim

Divis Mountain

Belfast Castle, Co. Antrim

Belfast Castle

Botanic Gardens, Co. Antrim

Botanic Gardens

Sperrins, Co. Derry~Londonderry/Co. Tyrone


Sperrin Mountains

Cuilcagh Way, Co. Fermanagh

Cuilcagh Way

Moyle Way, Co. Antrim

Moyle Way

Causeway Coast Way, Co. Antrim

Causeway Coast Way

Minnowburn and Giant's Ring, Belfast, Co. Antrim 


If you’re out walking over the festive period don’t forget to use #WalkNI on Twitter and Instagram or email s.nelson@outdoorrecreationni.com to share your winter walking snaps with us. 

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!

A Beginner’s Guide to Photographing Landscapes Part 1

Posted on November 17, 2014 @ 8:12 PM in Walking

Part 1: Think compositionally about the landscape 

Picture the scene. You’ve come home after work. The kids greet you with howls of “What’s for dinner – I’m starvin’!!” You amble over to the fridge to see what you can rustle up to quieten their relentless cries, only to discover that when you get there, the cupboard is (almost) bare! On occasions like this, I’m very likely to reach for the phone and put in an order for the chippy.  But my wife is made of more resilient stuff. And she happens to be a fabulous cook who has this amazing ability to rustle up delightful meals, without the need for any recipe. To my amazement and before my very eyes, she pulls out the very same meagre ingredients I was just surveying and, fifteen minutes later, we’re all sitting down to an wonderful dinner. It’s incredible how two people can look at the same thing – and yet see it entirely differently! One person sees the food and knows there must be a meal in there somewhere – the other has the vision to see potential and has the ability to create something from this potential.

At its heart, this is similar to the essence of landscape photography. To be able to view the landscape in such a way as you begin to see what is hidden there in plain sight. It’s about selecting what elements will work together. And it’s the capacity to arrange and frame those elements pleasingly.  But how do you begin to see a landscape bristling with potential like this? The good news is that there are ‘rules’ or - perhaps better - guidelines that can help train your eye to see the landscape, rather than just look at it. And I’m going to share some of these with you below! 

1. Use the rule of thirds to help compose your shots

The first photographic rule you will learn in any class or book is the rule of thirds. This rule breaks the composition of a photo up into thirds both horizontally and vertically. This means you have two horizontal lines and two vertical lines to help you compose your elements, so perhaps you would have the horizon running approximately along the upper line. In addition, it gives you four intersection points for you to place features (such as a rock outcrop or the setting sun). It seems that people tend to be drawn to these places when looking at images, and placing your points of interest here is more aesthetically pleasing.

Sunrise over Donard with the ‘Rule of Thirds’ grid superimposed. Look how use is made of the lower horizontal line and the top right intersection.

2. Lead the viewer into and around your photo with curved or diagonal lines

Not all lines in your photos need be horizontal, however. Diagonal lines can work very well to guide people into the shot. You could also use sweeping curved lines formed by features such as paths or rivers to guide the eye. People often start looking at the bottom of an image, so look for ways of guiding them in from there to the rest of your photo.

The blue hour following sunset at the Giant’s Causeway. Which lines does your eye follow in this picture?

3. Look for foreground interest

When you’re standing in a landscape, the sheer scale of the environment can draw your eyes upwards and outwards. But landscape photography is about depth and perspective, and using elements in the foreground as well and the mid-ground and background can help add interest to your photos and again help draw people into the shot, leading them further into the depth and planes of the view you’re capturing. It might be a rock outcrop, a flowering plant, a stream. Look for these and see if you can find pleasing ways of building them into your composition.


Doan sunburst

The rock and the moving water provide the foreground interest in this winter photo of Dunluce Castle

4. Use the pano function on your phone to capture the sense of horizontal scale

When you stand in the middle of a mountain range like the Mournes, part of the experience is how you seem to become immersed in the landscape. All around you, in every direction, peaks stretch upwards and valleys sweep majestically between them. Your phone will probably have a panoramic function. Use it to capture something of the horizontal sweep. But when doing so, remember the rules of composition. You will have to try to visualise the final shot, more than what can appear in the view finder at once. Think about your rule of thirds, your foreground interest, your leading lines. But the great thing about your phone is that you’ll get immediate feedback – how does the composition work when you’re finished? If things don’t quite line up properly, try it again!

A panoramic from the summit of Doan. Although I stitched this together in Photoshop, your phone will probably allow you to create a vista like this too.

5. Use vertical compositions to emphasise the sense of height in a mountain area or the sense of depth in landscapes

At other times, maybe it’s the vertical scale you want to emphasise. For example, it might be the mountains soaring upwards breaking the line of the horizon that you want to capture. In that case, turn your camera around through 90 degrees and shoot in what’s called portrait mode. Even in less grand landscapes, portrait mode can help you look for ways of building depth into your compositions. Look for something in the foreground that can capture the eye. Look for lines that can lead you in, or bands that can emphasise different planes of depth in the landscape.

Just before sunrise at Donard - the foreground rocks and the tiny person help give a sense of scale to the towering summit in the background

6. Use people to give your photos a sense of scale – and a point of human interest in your photos

When you’re standing in a landscape, the scale is obvious to you. If you’ve just climbed a mountain in the Mournes, you know exactly how high up you are! Sometimes, though, capturing that sense of scale in a photo can be challenging. One great way to do this is to include people in your landscapes. They can be close by or further into the distance, but placing them there can… One thing, though – it’s still a landscape shot, not a portrait. It’s often best to have the person standing with their back to you, facing the view. Or at least looking into the view, inviting the observer to join them in exploring the amazing landscape in front of them. 

Sunset from the top of Doan in the Mournes

7. Slow down

The last tip I’ll give here is simply to slow down when taking photos. You will have to pause and look carefully at the landscape, to see what’s actually there in front of you. Notice the elements before you. Think about the best location for you to stand in to arrange them well. Perhaps a few steps to the side will place that foreground element in the sweet spot compositionally. Experiment with a shot and check it out afterwards. Recompose, tweak, try again. As you do, you’ll begin the process of training your eye to see and not just to look. You may still have to phone the chippy when your fridge is nearly empty, but with time and practice, you’ll be able to see the compositional potential right in front of you in the landscape you enjoy walking through.

Latest comment posted by Maggie on November 29, 2014 @ 10:22 AM

Love the photos, magical. Thanks for the tips. How I long to take photos such as these. Please do a course. :-) Read more >

Alistair Hamill
Alistair Hamill  Landscape Photographer

Alistair is a landscape photographer who likes nothing better than trying to capture something of the stunning beauty of Northern Ireland’s wonderfully diverse landscapes. From getting his feet wet in the Atlantic Ocean on the North Coast, to forcing those same tired feet to clamber up yet another mountain in the Mournes, he loves to get out and about in our amazing countryside. www.alistairhamillphotography.com

Belfast City Break with Mountains on Your Doorstep

Posted on October 16, 2014 @ 6:23 PM in Walking

Enjoy the city and retreat to the countryside for some great walking all in the one weekend! Providing breath-taking views across the capital the Belfast Hills bring a unique sense of wilderness and escapism from the hustle and bustle of urban life below.  Just a 2 hour drive from Dublin head up the Motorway or start your weekend with a relaxing train journey direct to Belfast, either way it won’t take long to get away from it all for the weekend.      

A striking visual boundary, just minutes from the city centre, fantastic views over Belfast and beyond can be easily enjoyed from the Belfast Hills. Divis (the highest of the hills), Black Mountain and Cave Hill all provide great vantage points to spot the iconic landmarks below including; The Samson and Goliath cranes, Titanic Belfast and the Stormont Parliament Buildings to name a few. There are also opportunities to cast your eyes further afield across Belfast Lough and as far away as the Isle of Man and Scotland.

The hills are home to a wide range of wildlife and archaeological sites and have inspired writers and artists for centuries. Johnathan Swift was said to be inspired by the sight of Cave Hill leading him to pen his most famous work “Gulliver’s Travels”. One of Ireland’s most famous poets, Seamus Heaney used the hills as his muse and the area has also more recently been the setting for movies such as Hollywood blockbuster ‘Dracula: Untold’ and Oscar winning short film ‘The Shore’.


 Image: Cave Hill, Belfast 

Divis and the Black Mountain

At 478 metres (1,568ft) Divis is the highest point in the Belfast Hills.  There are four walks to choose from at this National Trust owned site west of Belfast consisting of an expansive 2,000 acre mosaic of upland heath and blanket bog, home to a wealth of archaeological remains and wildlife.

Divis Mountain

Divis Ridge Trail (4.2 miles/6.8km) & Summit Trail (3 miles /4.5km)  

The 4.2 mile circular Divis Ridge trail is located in the Belfast Hills and offers spectacular skyline views over Belfast. Other views from the viewpoint include the Mourne Mountains, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Although situated high in the Belfast Hills the route is on relatively flat paths on tarmac, boardwalk and stone pitched gravel - designed to maintain the condition of the mountain slope.   More serious walkers can walk a loop walk combining the Ridge Trail and Summit Trail which includes the summit of Divis and affords views to The Sperrins and North West Ireland. Other possible routes include the Heath Trail, a 4 mile route that traverses blanket bog, taking in the northern end of Divis and the Black Mountain site and the all ability 0.9 mile Lough Trail. Afterwards enjoy a cuppa or a sweet treat in the brand new Divis Coffee Barn

Belfast Hills

Image: Divis Ridge Trail with the Mourne Mountains in the distance

Cave Hill Country Park

Just 9 miles from Divis, Cave Hill Country Park in the North of Belfast is home to the 12th Century Belfast Castle as well as fantastic walking trails up to the summit of the Basaltic Cave Hill.  

Cave Hill Walk (4.5 miles /7.2km) 

Starting in the carpark at Belfast Castle the walk follows a path uphill to McArts Fort, an Iron Age stronghold from which breathtaking views over Belfast can be enjoyed. An at times challenging route, over unsurfaced paths, with some steep sections you wont be disappointed once you reach the top where United Irishmen Theobald Wolfe Tone and Henry Joy McCracken once met in 1795 to take an oath to launch the rebellion of 1798.  Afterwards enjoy afternoon tea or something more substantial at The Cellar Restaurant in Belfast Castle where traditional music can be heard most weekends in the adjoining bar. 

Titanic Belfast

Explore Belfast City

Less than 9 miles from the city centre there is plenty for walkers to explore once down from the hills.  From the world famous Titanic Belfast to the Ulster Museum, Stormont Buildings and Queen’s University as well as countless restaurants, bars and shops.  Check out Discover Northern Ireland for great accommodation deals in Belfast as well as information on everything you need to discover the city vibe during your next visit. 

The city centre offers some great urban walking too.  From fascinating history to ghostly goings on there are lots of informative and interesting walking tours led by guides throughout the city.  You can also explore the urban areas at your own pace with one of the many self guided walking tours taking in the history of Belfast, the tale of the Titanic and the hometown of world renowned footballer George Best. More details of these can be found in the WalkNI online Belfast Walking Guide.  

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!

Best Pub Walks in Northern Ireland

Posted on October 16, 2014 @ 9:48 AM in Walking

We’ve put together our favourite walks conveniently located next to bars and restaurants so you can treat yourself to a well deserved pint or some tasty grub after stretching your legs.  With open fires, thatched roofs, home brews and award winning food all to be found enroute the scenery won’t be the only thing inspiring you to get out walking! Whether you want to work up an appetite or work off a Sunday lunch, these walks are sure to hit the spot:

Co. Antrim

Walk: Portrush to Bushmills 

Best Place to eat/drink: Bushmills Distillery or Bushmills Inn

This 6.6 mile walk (one way) from Portrush to Bushmills via Portballintrae will definitely help you work up an appetite.  Passing beach, cliff and castle there is plenty to admire along this coastal route which will take you along the sandy dunes of Whiterocks, a fabulous viewpoint towards Dunluce Castle and alongside the tracks of the Giant’s Causeway to Bushmill’s railway not to mention the jaw dropping coastal scenery along the way.  

Once you’ve reached Bushmills pay a visit to Ireland’s oldest working distillery and take in the sights and smells on a guided tour or simply enjoy the end product at the onsite restaurant and bar. Alternatively less than a mile away step back to a time steeped in charm at the luxurious Bushmills Inn.  Roaring peat fires, nooks and crannies and a gas lit bar provide the perfect setting for a drink or two. Don’t miss out on the Traditional Irish music every sat night.

Bushmills Inn

Walk: Lagan Towpath 

Best Place to eat/drink: Hilden Brewery

A tranquil riverside route, this continuous flat off-road path links the two cities of Belfast and Lisburn.  Starting from Stranmillis, just minutes from Belfast City Centre, the walk follows the river and late 18th century canal system through a variety of wetland, riverside meadows and mixed woodland. Your map readings skills don’t have to be great - just follow the water! Once in Lisburn, simply hop on the train back to Belfast. 

After walking the 11 miles from Belfast you will be greeted with the welcome sight of Hilden Brewery. A family run microbrewery take a tour or enjoy one of their many home brewed ales over a relaxed lunch or dinner in the Tap Room restaurant.

Walk: North Antrim Cliff Path to Dunseverick Castle

Best Place to eat/drink: Causeway Hotel

This spectacular cliff walk follows a key section of the longer Causeway Coast Way & Ulster Way.

Nearly 5 miles in length, the walk starts from the famous UNESCO world heritage site – the Giant’s Causeway.  Along the way you will be greeted with some of the finest cliff scenery in Europe, with attractively named headlands and bays such as: Port na Spaniagh, The King & his nobles, Plaiskin Head, Hamiliton’s Seat, Benbane Head, Bengore Head, Portnabrock and culminating in the largest bay of Port Moon.

Before you start pay a visit to the Causeway Hotel on the doorstep of the famous landmark.  Built in 1836, the Taste of Ulster 2014 award winning hotel has a bar lounge ideal for a drink or light bite. For more substantial local fayre visit the hotel restaurant with stunning views across the bay to the Atlantic Ocean.

pubs and walks northern ireland

Co. Down

Walk: Crawfordsburn Country Park 

Best Place to eat/drink: The Old Inn Crawfordsburn

Located on the southern shores of Belfast Lough, with two excellent beaches, spectacular scenery, a stunning waterfall and tranquil walks through wooded glens and along coastal path Crawfordsburn Country Park provides a relaxing natural retreat. 

Just a ten minute walk away sink into a comfortable chair by the fire or dine in elegance in the 1614 restaurant at The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn.  One of Ireland’s oldest hostelries the Old Inn has played host to many notable visitors under its thatched roof from famous author C S Lewis to former US President George W Bush.

Walks and pubs northern ireland

Walk: Murlough National Nature Reserve 

Best Place to eat/drink: The Bucks Head Inn

A fragile 6000 year old sand dune system owned by the National Trust and managed as Ireland’s first Nature Reserve since 1967, Murlough Nature Reserve is a fantastic 2.5 mile long walk with stunning views of the Mournes and Dundrum Castle. 

A short 5 minute drive away situated in the historic village of Dundrum, The Bucks Head Inn is sure to give you a warm welcome.  This 18th century building has a cosy cherry panelled bar with an open fire conducive to casual intimate dining, as well as a new contemporary restaurant.

Murlough Nature Reserve

Walk: Castle Ward Estate 

Best Place to eat/drink: The Cuan

Home to a twenty-one mile network of multi-use trails through the stunning 820 acre demesne there are no shortage of walks within Castle Ward.  Situated on the shores of Strangford Lough take a stroll along the waters edge or head into the forest and explore the unique 18th century house or exotic sunken garden.

Just 2 miles away in the picturesque village of Strangford the Cuan’s excellent food and drink await for walkers where strong emphasis is placed on using fresh ingredients and sourcing local produce.

Walk: Slieve Donard via Glen River 

Best Place to eat/drink: Hugh McCanns

The Slieve Donard via Glen River (approx 6 mile) walk starts in Donard car park and climbs up through the forest to meet the famous Mourne Wall for the final steep ascent to the top. A total climb of 850m, the dramatic views of Newcastle and the sea below definitely make it worth the ascent.  

After climbing Northern Ireland’s highest peak the good news is you won’t have to go too far to find the perfect spot to rest your legs and enjoy a cold one. Situated 2 minutes walk from Donard car park Hugh McCanns is a fantastic spot to refuel and reminsence about your conquest. 

Slieve Donard Walk

Co. Derry~Londonderry

Walk: Beech Hill Trails 

Best Place to eat/drink: Beech Hill Country House Hotel

Just 2 miles from the bustling city of Derry-Londonderry you’ll find Beech Hill Country House Hotel where 3 miles of circular trails twist their way through the mixed woodland and landscaped gardens near the River Faughan, in the Faughan Valley.  A nature lovers haven, the trails first appeared on the first edition ordnance survey maps (1830-1844) and in records from the mid 19th century.  A hub of history, Beech Hill was used as a World War II camp by the US Marines who carved their names on a tree in the woods which can still be seen today.

The trails start and finish at the front of the hotel where you can enjoy a meal in the Ardmore restaurant where the menu uses only the finest and freshest of ingredients mostly from nearby farms and local fishermen with vegetables and herbs grown in the hotel’s own walled garden. Alternatively relax and unwind whiling away the hours with a drink in the bar area. 

Pub Walks Northern Ireland

Latest comment posted by Robert Miller on October 17, 2014 @ 4:40 PM

It would be great if people would post their favourite pub/grub walks here. After a few weeks, the result could be printed by the N.I. Tourist Board. Personally, I favour an urban weaving walk ... Read more >

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!

Walk in the Footsteps of Dracula – Filming Locations for Dracula Untold

Posted on October 1, 2014 @ 12:26 PM in Walking

Dracula Untold hits cinemas on Friday 3rd October.  Filmed on location in Northern Ireland you may recognise one or two familiar backdrops in this Hollywood blockbuster.   Combining the story of the origin of its title character, Count Dracula with the true history of Prince Vlad the film stars Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon and Charles Dance.

Highlighting the varied and interesting landscape that can be found in Northern Ireland it is no surprise location manager, Catherine Geary wasn’t stuck for places to portray the mythical lands of this big budget action film.  

With fantastic walks to be found at each of the main filming locations, see below for downloadable route descriptions and maps so you can walk in the footsteps of Dracula….if you dare!

Mount Stewart, Newtownards, Co. Down
The Italian Garden at Mount Stewart in Co. Down acted as the grounds of Dracula’s Castle.  There a several walks to choose from on this National Trust owned property taking in the lake and world famous gardens, planted in the 1920s by Edith, Lady Londonderry.

Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills, Co. Antrim
The world-famous stones of the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim double as a fictional Transylvanian Mountain - with a little CGI help.  Renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt it is the only World Heritage Site in N Ireland.  Move over Finn MacCool, the Causeway has a new legend who wants to claim this land as his own! Starting at the visitor centre this 2 mile walk along the famous stones has a lot to offer.

Leading lady of the film, Sarah Gadon, was a fan of this particular location whilst shooting.  Speaking to Click online she enthused, “I loved the Giant’s Causeway! It was so beautiful and we drove through the Glens of Antrim and I just think that’s the best part about shooting in Northern Ireland – every location we go to is stunning…”



Divis & the Black Mountain, Belfast, Co. Antrim
Described by location manager for the film, Catherine Geary as “stunningly desolate” Divis and the Black Mountain played host to the movie’s dramatic battle scenes. Just minutes from Belfast City Centre you will be transported to unspoilt countryside with arguably one of the best views in Belfast as you look down on the city’s famous landmarks below and impressive Mourne Mountains in the distance. Choose between 4 walking trails from 1 – 4miles, all providing something different across open moorland on the highest point in the Belfast Hills.


Tollymore Forest Park, Tollymore, Co. Down
Covering an area of almost 630 hectares at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, Tollymore Forest Park is home to spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the sea at Newcastle.  Follow the trails through the forest to the arboretum, along the river to the stunning Shimna Stepping Stones or take on the Mountain and Drinns Trail incorporating several points of historical interest for something more energetic.

Roe Valley Country Park, Limavady, Co. Derry~Londonderry  
A variety of walking options exist along the riverside and through woodland, combining legend with industrial and natural heritage in the place where shooting first began for the film back in August 2013.  The park is a haven for wildlife with over 60 species of birds having been spotted as well as foxes, badgers and otters. 

Scrabo Country Park, Newtownards, Co. Down
Home to the famous Scrabo Tower, built in 1857, the views that can be found at one of Northern Ireland’s most famous landmarks are some of the finest in the country.  A great place for a leisurely stroll this 2.3 mile walk takes in the summit of Scrabo Hill before descending to the disused sandstone quarries which provided building stone since Anglo-Norman times and are now designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest.

Killynether Wood, Newtownards, Co. Down
Featuring a steady climb on woodland paths to a viewpont over the Drumlin countryside and beyond, Killynether Wood was another location used in this retelling of Dracula.  A result of planting in the mid nineteenth century this former estate woodland provides a peaceful surrounding to this 1.5 mile walk.

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!

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