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

Taking on the Causeway Coast Walk Challenge

Posted on June 4, 2015 @ 3:37 PM in Walking

Causeway Coast Walk Challenge

Last month Dublin based walking club Oldtown Road Trailbreakers headed to the North Coast to take on the Causeway Coast Challenge Walk. A 30km walk along the rugged coastal path of the Causeway Coast Way organised by local walking club the Bannside Ramblers, the route features some of the best views Ireland has to offer.  Martin Dunne, one of the founding members of the Dublin based club shares his experience of their walking trip North…

Hiking in Northern Ireland is nothing new to the Club, it was actually on an excursion to Slieve Binnian in 2012 where the name The Oldtown Road Trailbreakers was christened!! It was on the recommendation of three of our hikers who attended last years challenge that we decide to take this one on this year and boy we weren't disappointed. The only thing that matched the scenery and banter of the day was the welcome we received on arrival and the care and attention to detail of this well organised event. An absolute credit to the Bannside Ramblers.

Our day started with a 5am start leaving Balbriggan and heading up to have ourselves ready for hiking at 8:30am. The weather didn't seem to want to play ball at the beginning but we were soon we'll into our stride and as the scenery took hold of us the weather seemed to matter little. This truly is one of the most pictorial trails we've taken to date with postcard type views around every corner and over every hill. It's a photographers dream and we were instructed to stop many times by our very own club photographer Sandra to pose for some of the great shots you can see of our day.

Causeway Coast Way

The route itself was not extremely difficult but the distance of the challenge made us take it seriously. Again the quality organisation of the event made sure that no one would suffer much as the welcomed water stops and coffee Van at the halfway point were as well positioned as they were well received !! There was certainly nothing technically difficult about the route and the navigation is as straight forward as any hike we've been on however the well maintained trail is a credit to the area and again the views are the absolute making of this special event.

Causeway Coast WayLooking down on Port Moon Bothy

It's safe to say that everyone was happy to finish the trail though after a long day and a decent distance covered. An 8hr hike is always a trek. Again a thanks to the Bannside Ramblers for the snacks and drinks at the finish and the classy touch of a certificate of completion and a badge to remember the day. The after event dinner at the Bayview Hotel was a welcomed celebration of the day and spirits were high and the conversation of the day flowed along with many tasty well earned beverages.

Oldtown road trailbreakers

It was a long day as we returned home around 10pm that night, though these long trips are nothing new to us and as long as we enjoy our days as much as we did this one we will continue to take on these type of challenges. We regularly hike in the Mourne Mountains and after sampling what the North Coast has to offer we will certainly be venturing back !! There has already been rumblings within the club about returning for this years Causeway Marathon Challenge so this won't be the last time the Trailbreakers come to the Coast.

The Causeway Coast Challenge Walk takes place at the start of May each year.  The route follows part of the Causeway Coast Way from Portballintrae to Portbraddan and back.  If you would like to walk this section of fabulous coastline yourself, walking route details and maps can be downloaded for free from WalkNI.com (see sections 3-5 of the Causeway Coast Way).

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Martin Dunne
Martin Dunne  Cofounder of Oldtown Road Trailbreakers Walking Club

Martin is the cofounder of the Oldtown Road Trailbreakers and continues to lead them on treks and adventures all over the country. An avid outdoor enthusiast, who if not on the Trails can be found kayaking the inlets and Islands of the East Coast. Never one to sit easy he is always busy helping to plot the next big Trailbreakers Adventure.

Discover More of the Mournes

Posted on May 14, 2015 @ 11:53 AM in Walking

It’s not long to go until the Mourne International Walking Festival happening on 26th-28th June.  An ideal time to discover the delights of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, sample some of the excellent local cuisine and accommodation, enjoy traditional music and most importantly participate in some wonderful walking.

This year the festival base is in the pretty seaside resort of Warrenpoint situated on the shores of Carlingford Lough.  A relaxed and friendly town with quaint shops, bars and restaurants there is plenty to see and do as after you've walked to the impressive summits.

Warrenpoint

Relax, Eat & Drink

Located 50 miles to the south of Belfast and approximately 1 1/2 hours from Dublin, Warrenpoint is a great base for walkers wanting some fantastic walking as well as a wide choice of cafés, restaurants and pubs on their doorstep.  Here are some top tips from the locals for places to relax with a coffee or have a bite to eat:

Café – Fulla Beans Coffee & Food Bar
This family run café offers an extensive menu with everything from delicious breakfast baps to healthy soups, bagels and wraps not to mention gourmet burgers.

Restaurant - Fusion
Husband and wife team, Mark and Patrice O’Kane run this gem of a restaurant on Duke Street in Warrenpoint. With a relaxed wine bar feel, fabulous food and welcoming staff, Fusion is the perfect setting for an evening meal with friends or family.

Bar & Grill - Bennett's Seafood Bar & Grill
Established in 1854 as a coaching inn, Bennett’s has remained a hub of activity in Warrenpoint. Nestled in the heart of Warrenpoint, between the Mourne and Cooley Mountains on Carlingford Lough, they specialise in fresh, local seafood, and prime quality steaks with all their seafood caught from Kilkeel Harbour, every morning.  

Hotel – The Whistledown Hotel
Located on the seafront, this independently run hotel boasts two popular restaurants and two lively bars with full cocktail menus not to mention Prosecco on tap! It is also the venue for the social highlight of the festival – the Blister Ball on the Saturday night where you can kick off your boots and socialise with other walkers. This is a casual event with a hot supper and dancing into the small hours.

For more places to refuel check out www.visitmournemountains.co.uk or phone the Visitor Information Centre in Warrenpoint T: +44 (0)28 4175 2256 

What else is there to do in the Mournes?

Whilst walking may be the main focus of your trip to the Mournes we know that most of you will probably also want to explore a little during your stay. Check out some of our ideas for other things to do in the Mourne Mountains all within a 30 min drive.

Things to do Mourne Mountains

Mourne Seafood Cookery School, Kilkeel

The harbour town of Kilkeel is famed for its fabulous seafood and the Mourne Seafood Cookery School, located in the Nautilus Centre, is the place to learn the art of seafood cuisine from highly skilled professional chefs. Find out all about how fish are caught, filleted, handled and cooked, then serve up and enjoy your own meal on one of their popular culinary courses.

Whitewater Brewery Tour, Kilkeel  

All fans of real ale and locally brewed lagers should not miss a trip to Whitewater, one of Northern Ireland’s most loved microbreweries. Also located in Kilkeel, Whitewater produce handcrafted beers from the finest ingredients with no additives and a tour of the brewery will teach you the various processes each bottle goes through before ending up in pubs and bars across Northern Ireland.

Mourne Food Cycle Tour, Newcastle

With the Mourne Mountains as its backdrop, the Mourne Foods Cycle Trail pairs up gentle cycling, stunning scenery and simply delicious food! Devised by the Enniskeen Country House Hotel the trail showcases the wonderful artisan food in this area of Northern Ireland. You will get the chance to stop off with local producers, hear their stories and buy directly from the farmer, before storing your provisions in the specially provided bike panniers adding to this unique and memorable experience.

Soak Seaweed Baths, Newcastle

This multi award winning alternative seaweed bath house and spa is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day in the hills. Located on the seafront in Newcastle, Soak offers a place to be spoiled in silky hot seaweed baths or enjoy rejuvenating spa treatments.

mourne mountains things to do

Outdoor Action

If you fancy a bit of variety from just hillwalking, there are a whole host of other outdoor activities available in the area. Everything from the Kilkeel Cycle Route, a 28 mile (45km) circular route around the foothills of the Mournes, to mountain biking around purpose built trails at Castlewellan Castlewellan (also home to a fantastic scenic walk trail network) or Rostrevor Forest Park to rock climbing or sea kayaking along the South East Coast Sea Kayak Trail. You can be rest assured that on your trip to the Mournes there will be plenty to keep you busy. Visit OutdoorNI.com for a whole host of other activity ideas to try out during your stay in the Mourne Mountains. 

Golf

The Royal County Down Golf Club is located in one of the world's most naturally beautiful links settings in the Murlough Nature Reserve. Located on the edge of Newcastle, it is one of the oldest courses in Ireland and is widely regarded as one of the best in the United Kindgom.  Against the magnificent backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne, the links stretches along the shores of Dundrum Bay, zigzagging back and forth to provide a different vista from virtually every hole. 

Enjoy your time exploring the Mourne Mountains! 

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 5 Walks in the Mournes

Posted on May 13, 2015 @ 9:46 AM in Walking

The highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland, there is no shortage of walks with fabulous views and breath-taking hills to climb in the Mourne Mountains, Co. Down.  With so many to choose from we’ve put together a list of the top 5 viewed walks in the Mourne Mountains on WalkNI.com. Click on the links below for downloadable route descriptions and maps:

1. Slieve Donard via Glen River

Distance: 2.9 miles (one way) linear

Slieve Donard

No list of top walks in the Mournes would be complete without including Northern Ireland’s highest summit, Slieve Donard (850m (2,789 ft)).  The most well-trodden way to the top, this route begins in Donard Park and follows the Glen River to the saddle between Donard and Commmedagh before meeting the Mourne Wall for the final ascent to the summit.   Expect extensive views from the top as the mountains sweep down to the sea opening up views from Newcastle to the Isle of Man, Wicklow, Donegal, Wales and Scotland.  For an alternative route to the top check out Slieve Donard via Bloody Bridge

2. Slieve Binnian

Distance: 7 miles circular

Slieve Binnian

This fantastic circular walking route begins at Carrick Little Car Park and follows the Mourne Wall to the summit of Slieve Binnian (the 3rdhighest peak at 747m). It then traverses between the spectacular South and North Tors before descending along a track past the Blue Lough, Annalong Forest and back to Carrick Little car park near Annalong village.  You’ll encounter fine panoramas along the way with the striking Silent Valley and Ben Crom Reservoirs below and towering summits beyond providing dramatic views. 

3. Bearnagh and Meelmore

Distance: 6 miles circular

Slieve Bearnagh and Meelmore

A strenuous walk this route takes in the peaks of Slieve Bearnagh (one of the most distinctive mountains in the Mournes, renowned for the granite tors on its summit (739m)) and Slieve Meelmore (704m), finishing by walking down Happy Valley and along a section of the Ulster Way. This circuit uses the Mourne Wall as a handrail on the higher parts of the mountain and offers superb views on a clear day stretching as far as the Sperrins, Lough Neagh and Strangford Lough.

4. Mourne Wall Challenge

Distance: 22 miles circular

Mourne Wall Challenge

A 1 day challenge following the 22 miles (35 km) of the historic Mourne Wall this highly strenuous route incorporates the ascents and descents of 15 peaks including 7 of the 10 highest mountains in the Mournes and Northern Ireland. Taking over 18 years to complete between 1904 - 1922 many skilled people were employed seasonally to build this stone wall which stands up to 8ft high and 3ft wide. Not for the faint hearted it is sure to reward you with a truly unique experience.

*Group numbers of no higher than 12 should attempt this route in one go, due to erosion issues around the fragile Mourne wall.

Hen cock and pigeon rock

Distance: 5.9 miles circular  

Hen Cock and Pigeon Rock

A circular route in the western Mournes giving a taster of views that can be experienced in the region. The route ascends Hen, Cock and Pigeon Rock Mountains using open mountain terrain before descending through a valley to the starting car park.  Expect interesting rock formations and luscious green grass of the surrounding countryside. 

Latest comment posted by jason on May 15, 2015 @ 11:04 PM

Hen cock and pigeon rock is not a great walk , actually didn't like one bit of it . Other 4 are great 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!

The Heritage of the Mournes

Posted on May 11, 2015 @ 5:01 PM in Walking

Mourne Mountains

Have you ever wondered why there are towers in the Mourne Wall?  Did you know there used to be a railway line in the mountains?  Ever thought about who was responsible for the Gothic gate arches in Tollymore Forest Park?

The Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is brimming with natural and built heritage with many fascinating stories to be told.  In attempt to give us an insight into this colourful history the Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership has released a suite of short films to help raise awareness of the rich built and industrial heritage of the Mourne Area.

Showcasing a number of projects that have been enhanced in recent months the short videos focus on the Granite Trail, Water Towers and the follies in Tollymore Forest Park to help bring to life the stories of the landscape.

Check out the videos for yourself below:

The Granite Trail

The Granite Industry in Mourne dates back to the 1800s when it provided much needed jobs for local people. This film uncovers the remarkable story of the local men who used their skills to turn a natural asset into a famous industry.

The Mourne Water Towers

This short film presented by Dawson Stelfox MBE (the first Irishman to climb Mount Everest) provides an overview of the history of the 3 Water or Summit Towers which are features of the 22 miles long Mourne Wall  (constructed between 1904 and 1922). The towers are located on the summits of Slieve Donard, Commedagh and Meelmore.

The History of Tollymore Follies

This film provides an overview of the history associated with a number of the unique follies and structures in Tollymore Forest Park, Co Down. These structures, some of which date back to the 1700s, are excellent examples of the rich built heritage of the Mourne area.

Tollymore Follies Restoration

Chris McCollum, conservation building surveyor, describes the delicate restoration skills and techniques used to preserve these unique structures for future generations to enjoy.   

Find out more about the Mourne Heritage Trust and the work they do in the Mourne Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty. 

Latest comment posted by I enjoyed these presentions a lot , and learnt something. on June 21, 2015 @ 6:04 PM

Very cood 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 Coastal Walks in Northern Ireland

Posted on April 24, 2015 @ 4:33 PM in Walking

From dramatic cliff top paths to glorious sandy beaches and rolling waves nothing quite beats the feeling of fresh air and spectacular views on a coastal walk. Whether you’re looking for a quick jaunt along the shores of Strangford Lough, fancy a quiet stroll on a sandy beach or want to take in the iconic views of the Causeway Coast Northern Ireland has plenty to offer when it comes to coastal walking.  With this in mind we have put together a few of our favourite walking routes for you to enjoy – it’s time to get out and smell the seaweed!

Mussenden Temple & Downhill Demesne, Castlerock, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Distance: 2 miles circular 
There cannot be a more wild and dramatic headland in Northern Ireland than Downhill Estate. With fabulous views that stretch over the whole of the North Coast of Ireland and open windswept cliff top walks, it is not surprising that the estate is part of the Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is a well-known icon.

Mussenden Temple

(Photos l-r Instagrammers: @naomi_winder, @livcardale, @g_clements)

North Antrim Cliff Path, Bushmills, Co. Antrim
Distance: 4.8 miles (one way) linear 
Featuring one of the best panoramic views of the iconic Giant’s Causeway and ending at the ruins of Dunseverick Castle, spectacular cliff landscape & rich biodiversity of the coast merge effortlessly with the surrounding farmland to provide what is one of the most spectacular cliff top walks in Ireland.  Leave the trail of visitors behind as you pass by attractively named headlands such as Port na Spaniagh, The King & his nobles, Plaiskin Head, Hamiliton’s Seat, Benbane Head, Bengore Head, Portnabrock and Port Moon Bay to experience one of the Causeway Coast’s best kept secrets.

North ANtrim Cliff Path

(Photos l-r Instagrammers: nick_crater98, @mark_mac_)

Dundrum Coastal Path, Dundrum, Co. Down
Distance: 1.6 miles (one way) linear
Running along a stretch of disused railway line on the western shore of Dundrum Inner Bay this path forms part of the Lecale Way and is great for birdwatching.  Beginning in the small National Trust car park just to the north of Dundrum the route can also be easily reached by walking out from the village itself.  At high tide it has the feeling of a riverside walk and can be visually quite stunning, particularly on clear sunny days.  At low tide the bay becomes a very wide mudflat that is home to various groups of birds and offers a completely different perspective.

Dundrum Bay

(Photos l-r Instagrammer: @ clarec26ou)

Castle Ward Shore Trail, Strangford, Co. Down
Distance: 0.7 miles (one way) linear
Starting in the Shore Car Park, this wide and flat trail suitable for all abilities follows the shore of Strangford Lough from the farm yard to Audley's Quay and back hugging the stunning shoreline of Strangford Lough.  At Audley’s Quay you will find Audley’s castle, dating back to the 15th century and used as a filming location in HBO's epic series Game of Thrones.

Castle Ward Shore Trail

Kebble Cliff Walk, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim
Distance: 1.9 miles circular
When it comes to coastal walking it doesn’t get much better than Northern Ireland’s most northernly inhabited island. One of six waymarked routes on the island this walk takes in the south of the island with stunning views of dramatic sea cliffs, sheltered bays and arches along the way. The route also passes Bull Point, near to where Richard Branson crash landed his hot air balloon in 1987, on his record breaking transatlantic flight.

Rathlin Island

Rathlin walking

(Photos clockwise from top left Instagrammers: @andrea_ricordi, @ottomate, @yawensmall, @kdeckr)

Portballintrae Causeway Loop, Portballintrae, Co. Antrim
Distance: 5.5 miles circular 
This circular route on the stunning Causeway Coast from Portballintrae to the Giant’s Causeway provides the perfect combination of sandy beach and romantic cliff top views.  Crossing the picturesque Three Quarter Mile Foot Bridge the route continues through the sand dunes to emerge onto Runkerry Beach and along cliff path to the Giant’s Causeway before climbing uphill for spectacular views over the world heritage site. 

Giants Causeway

(Photos l-r Instagrammers: @memac13, @yawensmall)

Layd Church, Cushendall, Co. Antrim
Distance: 0.5miles circular
Beginning at the idyllic village of Cushendall this attractive coastal path hugs the cliffs to the south and offers spectacular views of the Scottish coast, Lurigethan, Red Bay Castle and Garron Plateau.  The walk leads to the ruins of Layd Church; a 13th century Franciscan foundation. A church from 1306 to the end of the 18th century the graveyard includes a cross in memory of Doctor James MacDonnell, pioneer in the use of chloroform for surgical operations.

Port Path, Portsetwart, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Distance: 6.5 miles (one way) linear
Another integral section of the Causeway Coast Way this the gently undulating route, which includes several sets of steps, hugs the scenic stretch of coastline between the seaside towns of Portstewart and Portrush. Passing beaches and promenades the panoramic views of the coastline aren’t the only thing to enjoy on this walk, other points of interest include St. Patrick's Well (thought to be the fresh water supply for the Stone Age inhabitants of the sand hills), numerous Ice houses, Portnahapple, a natural sea pool for outdoor bathing and the Dominican Convent, perched on the cliff's edge.

PortPath

(Photos l-r Instagrammers: @elliejoypenrose, @sixmileimages)

Crawfordsburn Country Park Coastal Path, Crawfordsburn, Co. Down
Distance: 1.9 miles (one way) linear
This walk, beginning at Crawfordsburn Country Park located on the southern shores of Belfast Lough, ambles through a hay meadow, full of wild flowers in the summer months before continuing along sandy beaches, including Crawfordsburn Beach and Helen's Bay, passing the wartime fort at Grey Point (a military fort built in 1904), before finishing at Sea Park.  If you can’t get enough of the beautufl coastline you can extend your route along the North Down Coastal Path.

Helens Bay

(Photos l-r Instagrammers: @michaelog1, @broom94)

Check out WalkNI for even more coastal and beach walks in Northern Ireland!

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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