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

The Best of Walking in Northern Ireland

Posted on January 17, 2017 @ 9:32 AM in Walking

The results are in and we are excited to announce the winners of the 2016 WalkNI Awards showcasing the best of what Northern Ireland has to offer when it comes to walking. Be prepared to get inspired and be in awe as the winning list is revealed.

Favourite Walking Destination - Mourne Mountains 

The highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland we are not surprised to see the mighty Mournes in Co. Down top the poll for favourite walking destination.  Offering endless routes for walkers to experience a beautifully wild landscape with breath-taking views this compact yet impressive mountain range has a lot to offer.  From the 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.  

Most Epic View - North Antrim Cliff Path, Co. Antrim 

WalkNI Awards Most Epic View

With so many spectacular views to choose from, it was a close call but we can now announce that The Causeway Coast and Glens are officially home to the ‘Most Epic View’ in Northern Ireland. The winning view overlooking Benbane Head can be accessed from the North Antrim Cliff Path, part of the 33 mile Causeway Coast Way.  Just a couple of miles from the Giant’s Causeway this stunning section of coast is less known but yet provides some of the finest coastal views in Europe.  The secret is now out so make sure to get exploring this fab path with spectacular views around every corner!

Best Walking Festival - Mourne International Walking Festival

Mourne International Walking Festival

Taking place every June this international walking festival organised by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council alternates between Newcastle and Warrenpoint each year attracting a whole of host of international visitors.  With stunning routes between 10k and 40k for all levels in the mountains and surrounding countryside the guided and self-guided walks showcase the best of the area. As well as offering excellent walking opportunities, festival goers can experience the friendly local hospitality and get to know fellow walkers in the ‘Knees Up Shindig’ on the Saturday evening. Booking is now open for the 2017 festival happening in Warrenpoint so make sure you don’t miss out!

Best Walk Challenge Event - Causeway Coast Challenge Walk

Causeway Coast Challenge Walk

With absolutely stunning coastal views to keep you motivated, getting your certificate and badge after completing this 30km long distance walk won’t be your only reward! Organised by local walking group, the Bannside Ramblers, this annual event is known for its friendly atmosphere.  The walk begins at Portballintrae, heading towards the world famous Giant's Causeway and onwards along the spectacular cliff top path to Portbradden before returning via the same route.  This year the event will take place on Sunday 30th April, get it in the diary, you won’t want to miss it! 

Favourite Walk in the Mournes - Slieve Donard via Glen River 

Slieve Donard via Glen River

With so many route options to choose from, all with their own unique charm we envy anyone having to choose in this category!  By a margain of 10%, at 853m, the highest summit in Northern Ireland peaked the poll to be crowned the public’s favourite route.  Slieve Donard can be accessed via a number of routes with this particular one following the Glen River from Donard Forest Park the people’s favourite.  We can go on and on about how great the view is from the summit but we think you should go see for yourself!  If you’re planning on standing on NI’s highest peak in 2017, send us your summit selfies. (#walkni Instagram / @walkNI Twitter)

Favourite Walk in the Causeway Coast and Glens - Ballintoy to Bushmills along the Causeway Coast Way

Favourite Walk in the Causeway Coast

With sandy beaches, interesting rock formations and cliff top paths it was no surprise that the 12.5 mile Ballintoy to Bushmills route received over 40% of the vote to win the title of favourite walk in the area.  A walk along this particular section of the Causeway Coast Way reveals many wonders including quaint villages and harbours such as Ballintoy and Portbraden, historical gems like Dunserverick and stunning stretches of sands in the form of Whitepark Bay.

Outstanding Achievement through Walking - Dermot Breen (Cancer Research UK)

Outstanding Achievement through Walking Award

Everyone in this category was definitely deserving of an award but it was Belfast man, Dermot Breen who walked the entire Ulster Way and then some in memory of his wife Jacqui who received the Award. Completing his long distance walking challenge over 38 days Dermot raised thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK along the way. Inspired by the book ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ (a firm favourite of the couples), in which the title character walks 627 miles to visit a terminally ill colleague Dermot (who by his own admission was no natural walker) pledged to walk even further and did so covering a distance of 652 miles, in memory of his wife.  Since completing this challenge Dermot has gone on to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain raising even more money for the charity and the Great Wall of China in aid of NI Hospice.   You can read about his experience here, ‘the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Dermot Breen’ or follow his walking adventures on Facebook

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!

10 Images that Prove Winter Walking in NI is Magical

Posted on December 13, 2016 @ 12:26 PM in Walking

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so we’ll let these awesome photos from Hibernia Landscapes do the talking and you can get out and do the winter walking! 

Lough Neagh

Lough Neagh Aurora - One of the beauties of winter is the longer nights, and the darker skies.  When a dark, moonless sky coincides with a solar storm, we can sometimes see the northern lights all over Northern Ireland.  This shot was taken not far outside Lurgan, on the southern shores of Lough Neagh in Co. Armagh.  The largest inland lake in Europe was completely still that night so there were reflections all the way to Aldergrove in the north east corner, where, if you look carefully you can see planes coming in to land.  I wonder did the passengers know what was going on outside?!

Mussenden Temple

Stormy Downhill  - I've photographed this scene on the beautiful Downhill Bay, Co. Derry~Londonderry in many weather conditions and it always looks different depending on the tides and the skies.  This was a particularly cold morning as the winds battered the cliffs and clouds threatened rain.

Mournes

Mourne Mist - Sometimes you can walk for hours and see nothing but darkness and thick cloud in the Mourne Mountains.  But if you walk far enough and high enough, sometimes you can get above the cloud and see a spectacular sunrise like this, from the summit of Slieve Bearnagh looking across to Slieve Donard.

Cave Hill snow

Cave Hill, Belfast - Snow on the summit of Cave Hill, looking down on Belfast at midnight.  A winter wonderland. 

Devenish Island

Devenish Island in Co. Fermanagh is one of our most beautiful but perhaps under-appreciated locations.  This was taken on a calm morning when the sun rose behind me but the colour filled the whole sky.

Mussenden Temple

Mussenden Storm - Every 10 minutes, the heavens would open, then the skies would clear and another big cloud would blow in.  This was taken at Mussenden Temple, Co. Derry~Londonderry just before another rain shower started.  A group of tourists stood and watched bemused as I voluntarily stood on the dangerous side of the wall in the rain...but hopefully you can see why!

Murlough Bay

Murlough Bay, Co. Antrim - Taken on Valentine's Day at Murlough Bay near Ballycastle, this has to be one of the greatest viewpoints we have.  

Lough Shannagh

Lough Shannagh, Mourne Mountains  - A sunset can come out of nowhere, on even the dullest and cloudiest days.  The sun can just catch the cloud and light up the sky as it dips below the horizon.  This is one of the iconic views of the Mournes and I was very happy to be hiking on Slieve Lough Shannagh during this sunset!

Ballymorran Bay

Ballymorran Bay is an idyllic little bay between the drumlins on the western shores of Strangford Lough, Co Down. This was shot at sunrise on a perfectly still winter morning.

Slieve Donard

Frozen Planet - During the big freeze winter of 2010, at sub-zero temperatures and cutting winds, this was photographed very quickly at sunrise! The snow drifts were 8-10ft in places and I've never seen icicles like that on the shelter of Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains  before or since.

For more incredible photographs of the beautiful landscapes of Northern Ireland visit hibernialandscapes.com or follow Hibernia Landscapes on Facebook 

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!

WalkNI Awards - Outstanding Achievement through Walking

Posted on November 21, 2016 @ 11:23 AM in Walking

Inspirational things can be achieved through walking.  Whether it be raising money for charity by taking part in a sponsored walk or improving your lifestyle and health by upping your daily step count.   In an effort to recognise some of the most inspirational feats achieved by putting one foot in front of the other and in a bid to inspire others, we have created the ‘Outstanding Achievement through Walking’ category in the inaugural WalkNI Awards.

Read the nominees stories, be inspired and help recognise their fantastic achievements with your vote.

Belfast father–of–two Paddy Lynas once thought his life was over. He suffered from depression over his newly diagnosed lung disease, the resulting loss of his job and the death of several close family members. Now, just a couple of years later, he walks 12 miles a day and is off all medication. He no longer takes drugs to control his chest condition, bronchiectasis, and in 2015 was officially discharged by his consultant.  Defying all the odds he has completed the Belfast City Marathon and last year climbed Slieve Donard raising funds for the charity.  Paddy explains, “Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke gave me my life back, so I’m going to do everything I can to help anyone else who might find themselves in a similar position.” Hear Paddy tell you in his words how Chest Heart & Stroke and walking helped turn his life around for the better. 

Having pledged to walk the entire Ulster Way in memory of his wife Jacqui, Dermot Breen completed his long distance walking challenge over 38 days raising thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK along the way. Inspired by the book ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ (a firm favourite of the couples), in which the title character walks 627 miles to visit a terminally ill colleague Dermot (who by his own admission was no natural walker) pledged to walk even further and did so covering a distance of 652 miles, in memory of his wife.  Since completing this challenge Dermot has gone on to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain raising even more money for the charity and the Great Wall of China in aid of NI Hospice.   You can read about his experience here, ‘the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Dermot Breen’ or follow his walking adventures on Facebook. 

Undergoing treatment for depression, Emma chose to celebrate her 18th birthday at the Belfast AWARE Mood Walk. Too unwell to celebrate her birthday at the time, the 18 year old decided to mark the occasion with 18 of her friends by participating in the AWARE Mood Walk at the Mary Peter’s Track in Belfast. Emma explained, “Participating in a charity walk is probably not how most 18 year olds would choose to celebrate a birthday, but for me this is very important. Last year I was diagnosed with depression and it was an extremely difficult time in my life. …I have received so much support from my friends and family in the last year and by participating in the AWARE Mood Walk, I am able to bring everyone together in a bid to stamp out the stigma that’s still associated with depression.” In a brave move to tell her story and help educate and inform people about how to talk to someone with an illness that people can still find very difficult to talk about, Emma released a video during Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2016.  To find out more about the series of Mood Walks visit AwareNI.

The Moore family have been selflessly supporting Cancer Focus Northern Ireland for a number of years through different walking, running and rugby events.  Diane and Patrick Moore first got involved with the charity by organising the 26.2 mile Ards Peninsula Marathon Walk.  Organising and taking part in the event again the following year they didn't even let a snow storm stop them from completing the walk! Making it a family affair, their daughter Abbie and friend Molly took it upon themselves to organise the 20 mile ‘Dog to the Duck’ charity walk challenge from Bangor to Holywood and back.  Since 2012 the Moores have raised over £8,000 for Cancer Focus NI through their all-weather walks, not including donations to other charities, such as Lendwithcare and RVH Liver Suport Group who have also benefited. All the money they have given to Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has been used to support cancer patients and their families in NI, promote healthy lifestyle messages through cancer prevention and advocacy work, and for research in QUB and UU.  Keep an eye on the Cancer Focus NI events calendar for future Cancer Focus NI walking events.

Vote Now in the WalkNI Awards

Latest comment posted by Barbara lewers on November 30, 2016 @ 10:07 AM

It was that stretch from Kilbroney to Newry that kept you going!! ?? 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!

Top Tips for Hill Walking this Autumn

Posted on November 14, 2016 @ 2:31 PM in Walking

tOPS tIPS FOR HILL WALKING

Our mountains offer fantastic opportunities all year round with the often termed ‘off’ season being no different. Changing colour, changing light and the all too familiar changing weather all add to what is already a privileged experience. Whether you’re inspired by the natural beauty or the raw challenge, autumn is, without doubt, the time to get up there.

That said if you’re more akin to our summer conditions, the autumn can pose various considerations, not least the potential increase in risk. Without the correct approach, this can prevent participation or if you dare venture out, an actual increase in risk. The ‘unplanned’ can provide some great tales of survival but also lead to an impromptu introduction to the local Mountain Rescue Team.

So, how do we make the most of the mountains in autumn without the drama or more importantly, the crisis?

Firstly we need to identify the key areas of difference from what you’ve been used to during the summer season with the following top 3 being a good start;

  1. Weather
  2. Terrain
  3.  Daylight

There’s no guarantee of good weather at any time of the year and hence you should never drop your guard, but there’s no doubt that with autumn comes significant change. The most obvious change is the drop in air temperature alongside the potential for increased wind and rain, all of which can be extreme. Bearing in mind that forecasts are predominantly for lower levels, you will need to consider the multiplier effect of the mountains. The higher you travel, the lower the air temperature, the stronger the winds and the heavier the rainfall.

The terrain is never necessarily easy as they are mountains after all and something that should always be considered, but again, autumn does bring added challenges. The seasonal change does affect the typical mountain surfaces with moorland, heathland and rock all becoming treacherously slippery. Consider the addition of the prevailing mountain weather and how the terrain changes accordingly and more than often rapidly. Swollen rivers, frozen surfaces and even strong winds in exposed locations can all have an impact.

Finding your way in the mountains in summer can be fun at the best of times but add the autumnal navigational challenges of reduced visibility and even darkness brings a whole new dimension. The culmination of the weather and terrain combined with reduced daylight hours often collectively catch out even the most experienced walker.

Any one of the above can lead to an ‘unplanned’ event such as a simple delay or discomfort, while exhaustion, hypothermia and even injury are all equally realistic possibilities.

Then we need to prepare accordingly with the following top 3 being a definitive guide;

1. Prior Planning

Maps, learn how to read them and plan your route in advance – include alternatives
Forecasts, understand how to interpret them for the mountains and your route – include change
Daylight, consider sunrise and sunset and the impact on your route – include delays

2. Personal Preparation

Clothing, know how to use the layering system – include base, mid, shell and extremity clothing
Boots, appreciate the importance of good footwear – include 3, preferably 4 season boots
Knowledge and skills such as navigation - keep them current and work within them

3. Pack Priorities

Torch, add a head torch to your essentials – include spare batteries
Food, consider the added energy required, so stock up – include fluids
Map and compass – keep them handy and know how to use them

And remember, it’s a fine line between an Autumnal walk, which you’re now prepared for, and a Winter epic. Even in the Mournes, winter conditions can be extreme so watch carefully for that often subtle seasonal change.

If you would like to develop your knowledge and skills, why not use a professional Mountain Instructor? The Association of Mountaineering Instructors is the representative body for professionally qualified Mountaineering Instructors in the UK and Ireland. By employing an AMI member you will be in the very best of hands as all AMI members adhere to a professional code of practice and undertake continuing professional development training (CPD). Find an instructor at www.association-of-mountaineering-instructors.co.uk

A good coat's essential although the colours optional!

To hear more about the great work that the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team do and any opportunities to help support them, keep up to date via their Facebook page

Martin McMullan
Martin McMullan  Mountain Instructor

Martin is a professional Mountain Instructor and a full member of the professional body the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI). Martin is currently a Director with the Life Adventure Company alongside being a Rescue Co-ordinator and Training Officer with the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team.

5 Things You Didn't Know About the Causeway Coast

Posted on October 26, 2016 @ 4:12 PM in Walking

Away a Wee Walk share with us some secrets about the epic Causeway Coast and why everyone should walk it!   

1. There are Hidden Views as Good as the Cliffs of Moher

The Victorians were onto something.  Long before the modern visitor facilities at the Causeway, much of the site was more challenging to access.  It wasn't uncommon to visit the stones by boat on a tour and many people walked much more of the coastline along a magnificent lower path (now closed due to erosion) and back along the cliff tops.  With easier access the cliff top walking route has become somewhat of a secret and is underused.  Imagine if more of the 850,000 visitors who go to the Causeway each year were aware that just one hour away on foot, along the cliffs, is a view that rivals the Cliffs of Moher.  The site with the best view is known as Hamilton’s' Seat.  

Causeway Coast Cliff Path

Image: Alistair Hamill Photography

2. It Was Once a River 

We think that the Causeway is all about the honeycombed shaped 'stones', (which are technically rocks) however the stones are not the exclusive reason the location is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Another reason is the geological story, of when America effectively, went to America - the beginning of the separating of Europe and North America and the creation of the North Atlantic Ocean. It all happened around 60 million years ago when the rocks cooled very slowly (not very rapidly, as many mistakenly believe).  The area was a huge river valley which acted like a thermos flask causing the lava to cool very slowly.  As the lava cooled and contracted it caused the hexagonal columns to form at the main site and along the coast. 

3. It Features Secluded Bays with Bothys

 Bothy's can be found around the Scottish and Irish coast and in remote mountain locations.  They range in size and shape but traditionally were very simple shelter for fishermen and mountain users.  There is a renovated bothy at Port Moon, near Dunseverick, which can now be booked by sea kayakers paddling the North Coast Sea Kayak Trail

Portmoon Bothy

4. You can swim in ‘Private' rock pools 

Just keep swimming. Dunseverick must be one of the smallest places in Ireland that neither has a pub nor a post office yet it has two lay-bys, a small castle ruin, a harbour and rock pools!  The pools are viewable from the road down to the harbour and are regularly used by locals in the know for swimming in ocean water without having to deal with tides and waves.  If you clamour over a few more rocks, you'll discover smaller but deeper pools, out of view from the harbour road.  

Dunseverick

5. It Has an Ancient Royal Past  

The castle ruin at Dunseverick might be a disappointment to anyone showing up to see an actual castle.  We know very little about Dunseverick today, yet archaeologists are able to inform us that one of the five roads that left Tara, site of the ancient Seat of Ireland's High Kings, ended at this location on the Causeway Coast and proves that the location was once highly strategic in Ireland's past.  

causeway coast way

The Causeway Coast Way, especially the section from Portballintrae to Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge is among the most scenic coastal walks you can find anywhere.  Check out tide times if you want to access White Park Bay the easy way.  You roughly have three hours either side of low tide if you want to keep your feet dry!

causeway coast way portbradden

Away A Wee Walk regularly offer guided 6 mile walking tours along one of the most scenic sections of the Causeway Coast Way from Dunseverick to the Giant’s Causeway.  Take in amazing cliff top views whilst hearing plenty of interesting facts from a passionate guide. Cost: £35pp for a half day guided tour.

Eimear Flanagan
Eimear Flanagan  Owner of Away A Wee Walk

A lifelong lover of the outdoors, Eimear set up 'Away A Wee Walk' (Northern Ireland's only dedicated scenic hiking tours and holiday company) after a 500 mile trek in Spain. She now provides hikes and holidays that are the 'quintessence of Ireland', creating experiences that are cherished forever. Eimear often finds herself pointing out breath taking landscapes to her visitors, while they take photographs of the sheep!

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