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

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!

Hikers' Essentials - Clothes, Kit & Food

Posted on August 27, 2014 @ 7:46 PM in Walking

Whether your journey takes you along coastal paths, forest trails, or into the mountains, there are few things more rewarding than being surrounded by the outdoors. To aid those getting out for a days walk, Hikersblog have put together some basic information on kit, clothing and food that you’ll need for a day out on the hills...

Hiking Clothes

It is important to remember that the environment and weather you plan on walking in will have a big say in the clothes you need to bring or wear. Remember to bring extra layers and spares in the colder winter months and perhaps consider zip off trousers or shorts in the summer, should you get too hot.

The most common method of protecting yourself from the elements while outdoors is the layering system. This normally consists of a breathable base layer and a warm insulating layer, topped with a waterproof coat.

Footwear is another important part to get right, arguably one of the most important – nobody enjoys blisters! To decide on what footwear to choose for your walk, consider what the ground may be like. For rough, uneven and wet terrain, walking boots may be the best choice, offering ankle support and waterproof properties. If the ground you plan on walking is flat and even, then perhaps consider wearing lighter walking shoes instead.

Essential Kit

Along with wearing the appropriate clothes when walking, it is also important to carry some extra pieces of kit. Some of this may never be needed, but it is important to remember to bring them for safety.

Head Torch – You could be outside longer than expected, and a lightsource could be vital to help you find your way. It can also be used to highlight your location in an emergency.

Emergency Bivouac Bag or Bothy Bag – Useful if injured and awaiting rescue, these pieces of equipment will help you stay warm when sitting still. Bothy bags are available for multiple people and are great to eat lunch in when it is raining, raising morale as well as keeping warm!

Map and Compass – Essential pieces of kit, as is the knowledge of how to use them.

Whistle – Six blasts at one minute intervals is the standard call in a emergency.

Sun Cream – So you don’t end up like a strawberry head while out walking in the sun!

First Aid Kit – A basic FAK is more than enough for dealing with minor injures. Anything major will probably require assistance from the mountain rescue etc. For example carry: plasters, 1 large bandage, 1 triangular bandage and a 2 pairs of rubber gloves.

Mobile phone – Fully charged, turned off inside a waterproof bag.

Rucksack Liner – To keep the contents of your bag dry.

Food

For shorter trips a sandwich and some fruit may suffice, a small lunchbox will protect them from getting squashed or soaked during your walk! Avoid simple sugars in your main meals, instead opting for complex carbohydrates, such as oats. Having a non-perishable sugar source in your pack such as Kendal Mint Cake provides a safety net should a member of your group suddenly experience severe fatigue, but don’t rely on these as a staple.

 

Hiking Food

A good trail mix with a variety of dried fruit and nuts can provide a slow release of energy and protein to help sustain you between main meals. Be sure to have this within easy reach, as it works best when eaten in small, frequent portions throughout your walk.

Hot beverages such as tea and coffee, though providing little nutritional benefit, can be great for raising morale and providing a psychological boost when hiking. A small vacuum flask is easily carried to provide these when out and about.

We hope this guide has given you an idea for what to carry when walking outside. Remember that practice makes perfect, and that this guide can be added to, to suit your individual needs. Above all enjoy your time outdoors, stay safe, and leave no trace.

Hikers Blog
Hikers Blog  Walking Enthusiasts and Blogger

HikersBlog.co.uk is a blog run by a group of Irish hiking and camping enthusiasts who can often be found exploring the Mourne Mountains and further afield. Happiest when they are outdoors they document their adventures through trip reports, videos and photos as well as offering gear reviews.

A Walkers Word

Posted on August 6, 2014 @ 2:43 PM in Walking

Northern Ireland is home to so many beautiful and stunning walks.  However here at WalkNI we have to admit we may be a little bit biased, so don’t just take our word for it…take the walkers word!

We’ve compiled a list of walks from WalkNI with the best comments and reviews from people who have been out there, tried the walks and witnessed the views first hand.

If you’re planning to head out walking, whether it be a short lakeside stroll, a dander through the forest or a more challenging mountain summit don’t forget to leave your feedback on WalkNI.com.  Simply go to the individual walk page and scroll down to the bottom to leave a comment.  We’d love to hear from you!  If you took any photos along the way then don’t forget to post them on the WalkNI facebook page.  

Share the good vibes and let’s get more and more people out walking and experiencing these hidden gems, local favourites and not to be missed views from the top!   

Walks in Co. Antrim

Ballintoy to Bushmills

Causeway Coast Way

Causeway Coast Way

Glenoe Waterfall

Glenoe Waterfall

Moyle Way

“there is a feeling of wilderness about the trail and that is very refreshing. Beautiful views all around” 

Eugene Mulholland, May 2013

Moyle Way

North Antrim Cliff Path to Dunseverick Castle

“Amazing walk with incredible scenery on the north coast.”

Tom, August 2013 

Walks in Co. Down

Central Mournes 

“I have walked many times in the Mournes, I am not sure any of them matched this walk for views. Helped by a cloudless sky... Brilliant” 

David July 2014

Slieve Donard, Commedagh and Bearnagh

Slieve Donard

Lough Shannagh

Lough Shannagh

Hare’s Gap

“A pleasant walk up to Hares Gap featuring changing terrain types. Sensible footwear and clothing a must as the valley can be a natural funnel for high winds and rain. The more adventurous can use this location to explore the surrounding mountains and hills. Fantastic views from the style at Hares Gap entice the hikers lust for more. A great walk for beginners compass and map reading skills. Plenty of features, handrails and catching points to hone those important skills. Suitable for all the family on pleasant days.”

Eamonn 5 May, 2013

Castle Ward Boundary Trail 

Castle Ward

 

Walks in Co. Armagh 

Clare Glen 

“One of County Armagh's best kept secrets. Definitely worth a return visit!” 

Pete, June 2014

Walks in Co. Fermanagh

Crom

Crom

Sliabh Beagh Way

Ulster Way

Walks in Co. Derry~Londonderry

Prehen Wood

“A stunning hidden gem part of what is left of the ancient woodland surrounding the city of Derry.”

Flavio, Sept 2009

Benone Strand

Benone

Walks in Co. Tyrone

Criagnamaddy Circuit

Craignamaddy Circuit

Lough Fea

“Lovely walk, relaxing and peaceful…Stunning area”

Del, May 2014 

Moor Lough

“The setting is easily the best in the north west for a short walk. Dragonflies are amazing and the views across the Sperrins are fantastic - recommended!”

Emmet Scanlan Sept, 2013

Vinegar Hill Loop

Sperrins

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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