Hikers BlogBrendan Monaghan & Stephen PrenticeSean Mullan
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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

Best Bluebell Walks In Northern Ireland

Posted on April 29, 2019 @ 11:07 AM in Walking

It’s that time of year when it’s all about the Bluebells! These pretty little flowers have started to make an appearance across Northern Ireland's countryside and forest floors. To help you discover new and exciting walks with some of the best bluebell displays check out a few of our favourite spots below.

Bluebells Northern Ireland

Castle Ward, Strangford, Co. Down
There are around 5 miles of bluebell trails waiting to be discovered in this stunning 820 acre demesne complete with 18th century mansion and over 13 miles of multi-use trail. 

Minnowburn and Giant’s Ring, Belfast, Co. Antrim
Wander through the woods in spring to see a haze of bluebells at this tranquil refuge next to the Lagan river.

Downhill Demesne, Castlerock, Co. Derry~Londonderry
A magnificent clifftop walk, affording rugged headland views across the North Coast. Discover Mussenden Temple and the striking 18th-century ruins of Downhill mansion. 

Scrabo Hill & Killynether Wood, Newtownards, Co. Down
Enjoy some of the best views over Strangford Lough and North Down from the iconic Scrabo Tower, one of Northern Ireland's best known landmarks built in 1857 before indulging in a woodland walk.   

Glenariff Forest Park, Co. Antrim 
Specular waterfalls, breath-taking glens and wild woodland scattered with bluebells await. 

Bluebells Northern Ireland

Clare Glen, Tandragee, Co. Armagh
A delightful walk along the banks of the River Cusher in County Armagh. Hazel is abundant, with oak, ash and wych elm over a stunning ground layer of wood anemone, wild garlic and bluebells as well as several different species of orchid.

Castle Coole, Co. Fermanagh
An 18th century mansion surrounded by ancient wood where you will be captivated by a carpet of native bluebells. 

Castlewellan Forest Park, Co. Down
One of Northern Ireland's most famous lakes, a stunning Victorian Castle, incredible panoramic views, scenic walking trails the forest park comes alive in Spring. 

Bluebells Northern Ireland

Murlough National Nature Reserve, Co. Down
Home to one of the most stunning beaches in County Down with paths running through the dunes and heathland you’ll witness carpets of wildflowers in spring.

Mount Stewart Newtownards, Co. Down
The mild climate around Mount Stewart with its recently restored neo-classical house allows a wide range of plants to grow, from the Mediterranean specimens to the bluebells which are the stars of the show in Spring.

If you spot Bluebells on your next walk make sure to send us your pictures using #WalkNI on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.

Latest comment posted by Rosie Smyth on May 1, 2019 @ 6:01 PM

Portglenone forest is bluebell stunning 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.

Onwards and Upwards- Two Tough Climbs with Amazing Views

Posted on March 27, 2019 @ 9:00 AM in Walking

Previously on WalkNI we shared our favourite ‘Little Hills With Big Views’ but what about those tougher climbs in the Mournes, that are well worth the extra effort for those breath-taking views? While many of the walks in the high Mournes require extra huffing and puffing, there are two iconic peaks that are a firm favourite amongst walkers.

Tough Climbs in the Mournes

Slieve Donard

Slieve Donard

Voted walkers favourite Mourne Summit in the 2018 WalkNI Awards, at 850m (2,789 ft) Slieve Donard is the highest mountain in the Mournes. A tough climb well worth the effort for its spectacular and extensive views on a clear day across Northern Ireland the Isle of Man, Wicklow, Donegal, Wales and Scotland.

There are two routes to choose from to reach the summit views:

Slieve Donard (via Glen River), 2.9 miles Linear (one way)

The most popular route for walkers exploring Slieve Donard from the seaside town of Newcastle, follow the river uphill from Donard car park through the forest. Emerging from trees the trail continues following the river past the Ice House to the Saddle between Donard and Commedagh. From here follow Mourne Wall as it rises steeply uphill to the tower on the summit of Donard.

Slieve Donard from Bloody Bridge, 3.2 miles Linear (one way) 

Starting from Bloody Bridge Car Park located on the sea side of Donard, again this trail follows a riverside path uphill crossing the river further up via a set of boulders. This twisting trail opens up onto broad track which boasts views across the valley. From this point Slieve Donard is largely hidden, but continue to follow the trail as it zig-zags uphill before reaching an old quarry track which extends 1.4km into the upper valley before skirting (right) along the north side of the quarry. Beyond the quarry the path meets the Mourne Wall at 750m. From here Slieve Donard can be reached by following the Mourne Wall uphill for 1km to the summit.

Slieve Binnian

Slieve Binnian

Slieve Binnian, 7 miles Circular

One of the most popular walks shared with us using #WalkNI on Instagram, it's easy to see why Slieve Binnian is a tough walk that appears on the must explore list of any walker. At 747m (2449 ft) the summit boasts several large granite Tors which provide the perfect resting stop and shelter to enjoy those well-earned views.

Your journey to the summit begins at Carrick Little car park, following a clear, stony track rising gently between fields. Crossing a stone stile beside an iron gate, turn left and follow the Mourne Wall uphill. You will soon feel your leg muscles working as the Mourne Wall rises steeply on the slopes of Slieve Binnian. This is an obvious line to follow for most of the way to the summit. However, before the point where the wall runs into a bare face of granite you should drift to the right and aim for the notch in the top of the mountain. This section involves using your hands and taking care on the rock.

The reward is a spectacular panorama views of the surrounding mountain. In clear weather it’s possible to see the Isle of Man and the Wicklow Mountains beyond Dublin. Pick your way carefully around the base of the Summit Tor and continue walking along the ridge of the mountain following a clear path past the Back Castles. There are a handful of wrinkly little tors that you don’t have to grapple with. Simply enjoy the views as you walk past them. The North Tor is a monstrous outcrop of granite towards the end of the crest, and the path passes it on the left side. 

The ground slopes away more steeply as the path wanders through the heather, past boulders and outcrops of granite on the way down to a prominent gap - the col between Slieve Lamagan and Slieve Binnian. At the col turn right and follow a clear path downhill. This passes close to the Blue Lough and by keeping right at junctions with other paths, you'll be led down to a clear track passing a corner of Annalong Wood. Simply follow the track alongside the Forest fence and return to the iron gate in the Mourne Wall. Cross the wall using the stile and follow the track back to Carrick Little car park.

Don't forget to share your colourful walks with us of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #WalkNI

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.

Colourful Walks In Northern Ireland

Posted on February 25, 2019 @ 4:47 PM in Walking

As Northern Ireland's parks, gardens and forests awaken from their chilly winter slumber, walks come to life with breath-taking displays of colourful blooms. In this blog we share some of our favourite colourful walks in Northern Ireland.

Image courtesy of Tyrone & Sperrins Destination

Dazzling Daffodils

Britain’s classic yellow spring flower -  the daffodil makes an appearance across many walks across Northern Ireland from February through to May. One of the biggest displays of Daffodils can be found in Barnett Demesne, Belfast, Co. Antrim. This blanket of yellow flowers in full blooms adds a cheery smile to walkers as they explore the Demesne and nearby Lagan Towpath.

Barnett Demesne
Image courtesy of Tyrone & Sperrins Destination

Magnificent Magnolias

The pink and white Magnolias of Springhill House, Co. Derry~Londonderry are proof that Magnolia is more than just a well renowned neutral paint colour. Discover these flowering trees around the middle of March when they burst into bloom, creating a striking display of colour. There are a few different varieties however, the one that always sparks interest it the one beside the visitor reception which gives off a sweet scent like white chocolate when it comes into flower.

Image Credit: Picture by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash

Glorious Gardens

The World Class Gardens at Mount Stewart, Co. Down burst into colour from early March through to late summer. Universally renowned for the 'extraordinary scope of its plant collections and the originality of its features. Spend an afternoon walking around the lake and exploring the formal and oriental gardens. The unique climate of Mount Stewart on the Ards Peninsula means you may be surprised by the tropical plants that are able to grow there.

Another fantastic place to explore the glorious colours of spring is Montalto Estate, Co. Down. Who open up their seasonal gardens to the public throughout the year. Speak to the expert garden team about top tips for recreating the stunning planted gardens at home. The Estate also features a spectacular structures for children of all ages.

Montalto Estate

Multi-Colour Magnificence

Colour is starting to bloom at The Argory, Co. Armagh with the rampant blue trailing wisteria, blazing yellow Kerria and not forgetting the foxgloves and cowslips along the boardwalk. There’s always something new to discover.

The Argory
Image Courtesy of the National Trust

Spectacular Sorrel

Wood Sorrel with felty green shamrock like leaves, carpets shady woodland floors and sometimes invades mossy tree trunks. Look out for it in Davagh Forest Park, Co. Tyrone and in Belmore Forest, Co. Fermanagh. 

Wood Sorrel
Image Credit: Picture by Ronnie Irvine Photography

Rich Rhododendrons

Daffodils in the garden are not the only thing that catch the eye of walkers to Rowallane Gardens, Co. Down. March heralds the start of rhododendron season. Come and explore these magnificent gardens full of colour and scent throughout the Spring. Enjoy a walk around the garden before stopping for a cup of coffee in the cafe.

Image Credit: Picture by Zhen Hu on Unsplash

Colourful Cliffs

Rare plants are always worth looking for, in the right place, and are more likely to be seen by those who walk or look where others seldom do. The cliffs of Binevenagh, Co. Derry~Londonderry and Sallagh Braes, Co. Antrim (usually in May) have rare spring flowering alpines not found elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Cushions of Moss Campion dotted with pink flowers adorn the cliffs of Binevenagh in May.

Moss Campion
Image Credit: Picture by Ronnie Irvine Photography

Breath-Taking Bluebells

After the quiet of winter, woodlands begin to get a little louder from early March. Birdsong can be heard, frogs spotted and plenty of spring flowers in abundance. One of the most spectacular sites in Spring is the carpet of intense blue flowers that transform our woodlands. It is not suprising that the bluebell is one of the nation's best-loved wild flowers. Crawfordburn Countrypark, Co. Down is just one of many forest across Northern Ireland with a spectacular display. Other forests including Caslte Ward, Co. Down and Carnmoney Hill, Co. Antrim. 

Crawfordsburn Country Park

Don't forget to share your colourful walks with us of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #WalkNI

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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.

Meet The WalkNI Award Winners

Posted on January 21, 2019 @ 4:04 PM in Walking

Northern Ireland’s Favourite Walking Destinations have been officially named in the 2018 WalkNI Awards.

WalkNI Awards 2018

The Mourne Mountains and Causeway Coast & Glens stole the show in the 2018 WalkNI Awards as they picked up a host of accolades, including ‘Favourite Walking Destination of 2018’ and ‘Favourite Place to walk your dog’.

Highlighting the very best of walking in Northern Ireland, the WalkNI Awards allow the public to vote for their favourite walking destinations across the country. Featuring some new categories this year including ‘Favourite place to walk your dog’ and ‘Favourite place to watch a sunrise/sunset’, the Awards proved more popular than ever, with over 1,700 votes cast via WalkNI.com. We highly recommend adding these walks and locations to your must explore bucket list for 2019.

Mourne Mountains

‘Favourite Walking Destination’

The Mourne Mountains won the coveted title of the nations 'Favourite Walking Destination' in this years Awards. From summit views to rambles around the foothills and lowland forests, it is unsuprising as to why this location came out on top. Explore this area for yourself by checking out our Walker's Guide to the Mournes.

Mournes by Hibernia Landscapes

‘Favourite Place to watch a sunrise/sunset’

This new category in this year's awards was competitively fought by some of our favourite photographers in Northern Ireland. 'Golden Hour' in the Mourne Mountains was voted walkers favourite location and beautifully captured by Hibernia Landscapes

Moonlit Walk Cancer Focus

‘Best Charity Walk of 2018’

Voted 'Best Charity Walk of 2018' in this new category, Cancer Focus Moonlit Walk’s came out ontop. These Moonlit walks which reward walkers with spectacular panoramic views of the twinkling street lights of Newcastle Co. Down and Belfast, Co. Antrim from the top of Slieve Donard and Cave Hill in North Belfast. Check out the Cancer Focus NI Facebook page for details of their next Moonlit walk.

Mourne International Walking Festival

‘Favourite Walking Festival / Event’

The Mourne International Walking Festival held onto their title of 'Favourite Walking Festival / Event' in this year's awards. Taking place annually in the Mourne Mountains this festival is an unmissible date in hillwalkers diaries both nationally and internationally. Offering walkers a range of fantastic walks and a lively social scene its easy to see why this walking festival is so popular. Keep up to date with this and other walking festivals on WalkNI.

White Park Bay Beach

‘Favourite Place to walk on the Causeway Coast’

White Park Bay came out on top in this hotly contested category. This spectacular sandy beach under the care of the National Trust forms a white arc between two headlands on the Causeway Coast. It's secluded location means that even on a busy day you can find a place to enjoy one of the most natural coastlines in Northern Ireland. A great walk the whole family can enjoy, this locaion is fossil rich with archaeolical evidence everywhere.

Slieve Donard

‘Favourite Summit in the Mournes’

Slieve Donard Northern Ireland's highest mountain was awarded the title of walkers 'Favourite Summit in the Mournes'. There are a number of ways you can reach the summit of Donard. Check out the Slieve Donard via The Glen River Trail or Slieve Donard via Bloody Bridge Trail.

Meelmore Lodge Cafe

'Favourite Walker Friendly Coffee Shop’

Where better to stop after a busy day of exploring the Mourne Mountains than Meelmore Lodge Café?! The ideal start and finish point, Meelmore Lodge offers a large car park, camping area and tempting menu of warm drinks and delicious food options.

Murlough National Nature Reserve

‘Favourite Nature Reserve’

A firm favourite with walkers Murlough National Nature Reserve has once again claimed the title of 'Favourite Nature Reserve' in Northern Ireland. This fragile 6000 year old sand dune system owned by the National Trust was Ireland’s first Nature Reserve. This location boasts an extensive range of habitats to discover including linen-rich hollows, gorse and bracken scrub, and woodland.

Benone Strand

‘Favourite Place to walk your dog’

In another competitive new category in the 2018 awards, dog walkers voted Benone Strand as their favourite location to walk with their dog. Forming one of Ireland's longest beaches this location affords spectacular views along the North Coast, to Inishowen in Donegal and to Scotland. Please note seasonal dog free zones.

The Giant's Lair

‘Favourite Family Friendly Walk’

The Giant’s Lair woodland walk explores Hawthorn Hill Nature Reserve within Slieve Gullion Forest Park. On this trail inspired by legend and mythical folklore, a magical living storybook is brought to life through a trail of intertwined fairy houses and arts features creating a childhood land with dragons, giants and fairies.

Visit WalkNI.com for more information on walking routes throughout Northern Ireland including the winning trails, upcoming walking festivals, events and downloadable walk guides.

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.

WalkNI Awards 2018

Posted on December 3, 2018 @ 4:34 PM in Walking

Have you voted in this year's WalkNI Awards? With lots of new categories competition is heating up and every vote makes a difference! Check out our guide to this year's Awards.

WalkNI Awards 2018

How to vote

Voting in this year's Awards is quick and easy you can do so here: WalkNI Awards (Vote Now)

Why You Should Vote

Who wins is decided by the public and in the most hotly contested categories every vote matters! This year by voting in the Awards you can also enter into our competition to win a £515 walking outfit from this years sponsor Jackson Sports, Belfast.

The Categories

Favourite Walking Destination of 2018

Strangford Lough
Mourne Mountains
Causeway Coast & Glens
Sperrin Mountains

Favourite Family Friendly Walk

Gortin Forest Park & Pay Structure
Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park
Montalto Estate Trails, Tree House & Natural Play
The Giant's Lair, Slieve Gullion
Magic Ink Pot, Mount Stewart

Favourite Place To Watch A Sunrise / Sunset

Slieve Meelbeg, Mourne Mountains (Hibernia Landscapes by Stephen Wallace)
Manannán Mac Lir, Binevenagh Mountain (Neil Moroney Photography)
Giant's Causeway (Alistair Hamill Photography)
Kilbroney Forest Park (Jaime Collins Photography)

Favourite Place to watch a sunrise / sunset 

Favourite Summit In The Mournes (6 Highest Peaks)

Slieve Donard
Slieve Binnian
Slieve Bearnagh
Slieve Commedagh
Slieve Meelbeg

Favourite Place To Walk On The Causeway Coast

White Park Bay
Mussenden Temple & Downhill Demesne
Giant's Causeway

Favourite Walker Friendly Coffee Shop

Synge & Byrne (Slieve Gullion)
Sea Shed (Benone Strand)
Purple Heather Mobile Coffee Unit (Culicagh Boardwalk)
Lock Keepers Cottage (Lagan Towpath)
Ground Espresso Bar, Portadown (Newry Canal)
Courtyard Coffee Shop (The Argory)

Favourite Coffee Shop

Favourite Place To Walk Your Dog

Castle Ward
Lagan Towpath
Scrabo Hill
Benone Strand
Gosford Forest Park
Blessingbourne Woodland Walk
Castle Archdale

Favourite Walking Festival / Event     

Mourne Seven Sevens Challenge
Sperrin & Killeter Walking Festival
Boots N Bogs Walking Festival
Castlerock Walkfest
Walk the Glens Festival
Wee Binnian Walking Festival
Causeway Coast Challenge Walk
Omagh & Sperrins Walking Festival
Glenarm Walking Festival
Mourne International Walking Festival

Charity Walks 2018

Best Charity Walk Of 2018

Mood Walk's (Aware NI)
The Bra Walk (Action Cancer)
Moonlit Walk's (Cancer Focus)
Memory Walk (Alzheimer's Society)

Favourite Nature Reserve

Murlough Nature Reserve
Island Hill & North Strangford Nature Reserve
Bog Meadows
Cladagh Glen
Oxford Island
West Lighthouse, Rathlin Island

When The Winners Are Announced

Voting closes at 11:59pm on Wednesday 12th December 2018. Winners will be announced early in the new year via the WalkNI Facebook Page & Website. The winner of the competition by our sponsor Jackson Sports, Belfast will be contacted in the new year (see terms and conditions for details)

The Most Important Part- Spread The Word!

Every vote makes a difference so don't forget to spread the word by sharing our posts on Facebook or telling your friends!

Latest comment posted by Adele Walker on December 6, 2018 @ 5:42 PM

My favourite walk is Castle Archdale 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.

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