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

Walk Where You’ve Never Walked Before

Posted on June 19, 2017 @ 3:37 PM in AdventureWalking

For those in search of an epic Instagram photo or somewhere new to walk this summer, we share some exciting new trails which have opened in the spectacular Causeway Coast & Glens. Your chance to enjoy previously inaccessible spectacular views near Ballycastle and Cushendun, Co. Antrim this summer. 

Fairhead
Fairhead Northern Ireland

Those who come to explore the new trails at Fairhead are in for a treat this summer, with over 13 miles of trails to discover, you can expect stunning coastal views towards Ballycastle, Rathlin Island and the picturesque Murlough Bay from this ruggedly beautiful, wild and remote location.

Local myth states that it was at the iconic cliffs of Fairhead above the famous Sea of Moyle where the Children of Lir, were put under an evil spell, transforming them into swans to spend 900 years in exile from humanity. Composed of a rock called dolerite, the great cliffs of Fairhead were born out of volcanic activity some 60 million years ago. The upper half of the cliff is formed of gigantic columns which are up to 12 metres in diameter, some of which are separated from the rest of the cliff but still stand, despite their precarious nature.

The walks begin from a farm car park clearly signposted off the Fairhead Rd. With a range of walks to choose from ranging from 1.5 to 3.4 miles (all offering spectacular clifftop views) these fully waymarked trails are named according to their Irish placenames. Several interpretative panels are dotted along the routes to provide you with more information on the history and geology of the area. Choose between 5 routes

  • Lough Dubh Walk (Red Route) 1.5 mile
  • Casan an Loch Walk (Purple Route) 2.2 miles
  • An Belach Runda Walk (Green Route) 3.1 miles
  • Loch na Crannoige Walk (Blue Route) 3.3 miles
  • Murlough View Walk (Yellow Route) 2.9miles 

The walks are all interlinked meaning that you can return to the start at various points. Please be aware that sections of these walks are situated near a cliff edge and due care must be taken particularly during windy conditions and in poor visibility.  Weather conditions along the coast can change very quickly - so be prepared.  Although the walks are waymarked it is advised that you equip yourself with a map.  The walking routes pass through areas of open land and working farmland. Livestock may be present and ground conditions are often uneven, wet and mucky underfoot and as such walking boots are strongly recommended.  

Ronan's Way
Ronan's Way

Ronan's Way is a rare opportunity to access some of the most stunning scenery in the Glens of Antrim on foot. With over 8 miles of new trails developed this is a fantastic opportunity to experience the breathtaking scenery of the inspiring Glens landscape.  

The walks are located on the McAuley Farm, on a stretch of land in memory of Ronan McAuley, a true Glens man who had a dream that more people would explore and enjoy Glendun and the exquisite views of the land that he called home. A couple of benches situated along the routes mean you can sit back and admire the breathtaking views. The diversity of natural habitat (woodland, peatland, farmland and the river) in Glendun means that there is an abundance of wildlife to see. 

A truly inspiring landscape, there are four routes of varying lengths to explore each providing an opportunity to view across one of the nine Glens of Antrim and over the channel to the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. Located in a glen all of the walks have climbs, but the views are worth it! Walking boots are strongly recommended as the ground can become mucky underfoot. All walks begin at the carpark off the Glendun Rd where a trailhead panel and waymarker posts will direct you to the following walking routes;

  • Green Loop, 0.9 miles
  • Yellow Loop, 1.2 miles
  • Blue Loop, 2.3 miles
  • Red Loop, 3.4 miles

Those looking to extend their time walking in the Glens can visit the nearby Cregagh Wood; a short 0.9 mile woodland walk worth a visit. The wood's tranquil and peaceful surroundings make this location an excellent home for Red Squirrels who can often be spotted running from branch to branch.   

Waterfoot Beach Walk
Waterfoot Beach

For those who do love to be beside the seaside, the new 1.6 mile beach boardwalk at Waterfoot near Cushendun is well worth exploring on a sunny day. 

Depending on tide levels, you can take a walk back on the beach or retrace your steps along the coastal path when you reach the end of the route. With two playparks along the way for the kids to explore this is an ideal family walk this summer before tucking into a BBQ/ picnic on the beach and paddling in the sea.

The walk looks out towards Red Bay Castle which projects out onto the headland just north of Glenariff and passes species rich grasslands. Feel free to walk through the wildflower meadow where you can spot yellow-rattle flower and small copper butterfly.

Don't forget to share your photos with us on social media using #WalkNI.

Latest comment posted by Valerie campion on July 3, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

I am visiting the area in sept for a weekend of walking , I am looking forward to taking some of the above walks . The area looks spectatulor . Read more >

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

Every Day in May!

Posted on May 24, 2017 @ 12:34 PM in Walking

Thomas Johnston talks about how he was inspired to get outside and active every day in May - be prepared to be inspired!  

In 2011 I reconnected with a cousin I hadn’t seen in years right around the time she was training for the 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross race, which takes place in Yorkshire. After a couple of decades of not doing a great deal of exercise, except for some token efforts over the years at going to the gym, she inspired me to get out there again and I quickly rediscovered my love of running outdoors, in all weathers, at all times of the year. (I also bought a mountain bike but I really only have eyes for my running shoes.) I didn’t waste any time in entering the 2012 Belfast City Marathon, ticking off a long-held desire to “run a marathon” from my bucket list. In retrospect it was a foolish thing to do from a near-sitting start. It wasn’t a fast time and I got an injury that bothered me for a long time afterwards, but I still crossed the finish line! This led me on to taking part in Every Day in May, which I’ve been doing each year since 2013.


What is Every Day in May?

It’s a charity event designed to motivate people of all ages and abilities, wherever they are in the world, to go outside, to improve their fitness, and to raise money. Participants cover 5km or 10km each day during May using any self-powered means, such as walking, running, cycling, swimming, canoeing, and so on – anything so long as they are providing the power – with the emphasis being on the outdoors. To make it a more approachable event for people who don’t currently exercise they can split their activities over two sessions – it encourages people to get off the bus a stop or to earlier or to go out for a walk at lunch time. May is the perfect to do this because the days are getting longer, the weather is (hopefully) getting warmer and nature is positively exploding with activity. And being outdoors in nature is incredibly therapeutic.

In 2013 – still nursing my marathon injury – I mostly walked or cycled 5km. In subsequent years I overcame that injury and my running improved, so I was able to alternate between running and walking. This year my fitness has improved to the extent that I am able to run 10km each day. And my partner is also taking part for the first time this year – he’s walking at least 5km every day and, being the good citizen he is, he’s picking up any litter he passes along the way! He won’t mind me saying that he’s pretty darn fit for 73 years – which just proves the Every Day in May is indeed for everyone.

We’ve taken the opportunity to explore the countryside on our walks and runs. We live beside Delamont Country Park which has some of the best views you’ll see anywhere in Ireland; from the Millennium Stone you can look over Down Cathedral (where St Patrick is buried) to the Mournes in the distance and then follow the sweep of the county Down countryside over Gibbs Island and along Strangford Lough all the way down the Ards Peninsula. However, Delamont is pretty hilly so I tend to only run through rather than around it!

We’ve also been along the Quoile River several times, around the lake at Castlewellan, the Waterworks in Belfast (using their parkrun route), Rowallane Gardens in Saintfield, Castle Ward, along the road from Portrush to Dunluce Castle which has some spectacular coastal views as well through our picturesque home village of Killyleagh – famous as the birthplace of Sir Hans Sloane (founder of the British Museum) among many other luminaries. County Down in particular has some stunning places to be outdoors. We’re planning to run and walk along the Comber Greenway and wherever else our map leads us.

We’re doing it for charity

I don’t want to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet – but it’s not easy running 10km each day for 31 consecutive days! It’s extremely tiring and it’s not something people should do as a matter of course. Your body doesn’t have time to fully recover  – but as a one-off event for charity it’s doable. Walking 5km each – for someone not used to that level of activity – is also a massive achievement and something within reach of almost everyone.

As well as the physical aspect it’s also a challenge trying to fit the activity into your day. Factor in the time it takes to get ready and then shower at the end and before you know it you have to find two hours out of every day in between work and family life.

One thing I’m very conscious of when I take part in Every Day in May is just how lucky I am and how much I sometimes take my health for granted. I’m lucky to be fit enough to be able to run 10km every day knowing that at the end of it all I can just stop, recover very quickly, and get on with my life. There are many people in the world who can’t “just stop” being ill – so me running 10km every day is my small way of showing support for those people less fortunate than myself by raising money for charity.

This year we’re supporting two causes:

NI Hospice, in memory of my mum. It's impossible to overestimate her importance in my life. It was difficult to see her health deteriorate, especially towards the end, but she never lost her spirit while her body was failing her. She passed away in 2015. During her illness she was helped by – and always spoke very highly of – the awesome people at Northern Ireland Hospice.

Down Cathedral Organ Appeal, in memory of Helen Walker. Helen passed away earlier this year. She's linked with mum in a sad sort of way because her funeral was the same day as mum's anniversary. Singing in the Down Cathedral choir was a big part of Helen's life and it's our privilege to raise money in her name so that others can continue to hear the organ’s uplifting sounds.

Go outside!

The best thing about running, or walking or jogging, is that you can quite literally do it anywhere. And it costs very little. You don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment – just running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt (all easily packable items), and you’re away, wherever you happen to find yourself. I find it very therapeutic too. If something is bothering me I think about it when I’m out there and by the time I come back it’s resolved or I’ll know what to do to get past it.

Simply going outdoors and listening to the sounds of nature and life passing by (I can’t listen to music when I’m running – too distracting!) is enough to fill up my soul-meter. So my advice to you is Go Outside!

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!

Getting to know each other by getting to know Ireland – A weekend of Exploration on the Causeway Coast

Posted on May 8, 2017 @ 12:53 PM in Walking

The metaphor of the journey is often used to describe a person’s life. Never has it been more fitting than in capturing the experience of Dublin woman Mairead Donnelly. Since meeting her boyfriend Donal McAsey last year Mairead has literally been on a journey through Ireland. Early in their relationship the pair decided that they would use travel and discovering Ireland as a way of getting to know each other. Over the past eight months the couple has explored Dublin, Wicklow, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Wexford, Clare, Meath and Belfast. 

 Causeway Cliff Path Walk

From left - Donal, Mairead, Hope and Conor 

An avid walker Donal was keen to share his love of hiking with Mairead and as any Irish walker will tell you the key to enjoying it in this country is having the right gear. So in autumn last year determined to throw herself into the walking adventure Mairead took herself off to the wholly Irish owned store 53 Degrees North in Carrickmines.  

As luck would have it the visit coincided with a competition co-hosted by 53 Degrees North and WalkNI. The coveted prize a three night stay for four people in Atlantic Way Portrush, a popular self-catering accommodation and a guided cliff walk along the world renowned Causeway Coast Way with Belfast based company Away a Wee Walk. Without thinking too much about it – Mairead completed the entry card and was delighted when she received news that she had won the competition.

“I was thrilled to win the prize. It has been awhile since I was up North and I knew instantly who I would bringing with me – Donal of course and my friend of 22 years Hope and her husband Conor.”

Mairead and her boyfriend Donal travelled North on Friday morning. “We would love to have driven the entire coast from Dundalk but it would have taken too long, so instead we opted to drive to Belfast and from there we followed the Causeway Coastal Route from Carrickfergus, through to Cushendall and on to Ballycastle via Torr Head.”

Stopping off en-route at Carrickfergus Castle to have a look Donal described the experience:  "The castle was beautiful and oozing with history, I was told by an employee in the castle that he was giving a demo on the different suits of armour and weapons used back then, I was excited when he chose me amongst other adults and children that I was able to try out the plate suit of armour. This gave me an insight of what it felt like on, but I couldn't imagine going into battle with something as heavy"

The intrepid pair later stopped off and took a courageous and breath defying walk across at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge before arriving in Portrush in the late afternoon.

“Una had texted me a code for the key safe and we were able to let ourselves in. The house is beautiful, very cosy, everything you could need including a stocked fridge and we immediately felt at home. We were greeted by a welcome note and four chocolates on the table, and a chocolate by our bed side. It was such a lovely gesture”.

 Atlantic Way Portrush

A keen walker herself Una Lynch owner of Atlantic Way Portrush added “It has been great to meet Mairead and her boyfriend Donal. I was delighted to sponsor the competition. Atlantic Way Portrush is a new venture for me and I have tried to create a little ‘home form home’ for visitors. Over the past year the house has provided a second home for visitors from all over Europe, USA, Australia and China. But it is always lovely to have Irish guests. Those who are visiting the North Coast for the first time are often surprised by how beautiful it is. The Giant’s Causeway is usually the reason for visiting but the spectacular coastline, beaches and restaurants are some of the reasons for returning.”

 

Hope Hand a doctor in Dublin’s Mater hospital travelled up after work with her husband Conor Hand on Friday evening. “I was delighted when Mairead invited us to join her for the weekend. It is great to get out of the city and into the countryside – breathing in the Atlantic air is such a tonic.”

On Saturday morning Mairead and her friends met with Eimear Flanagan of ‘Away a Wee Walk’ for a guided walk from Dunseverick Castle to the Giant’s Causeway.

Driven by passion for walking and sharing the beauty of nature with visitors Eimear explained:  “We are so lucky to live in a country with such magnificent scenery. The cliff walk from Dunseverick to the Causeway rivals any walk in the world for beauty. The National Trust has done some great work conserving the path condition and making it accessible and I love sharing the experience with visitors like Mairead and her friends, it is such a privilege. Observing the awe with which people react to the scenery is so rewarding. We were blessed with fantastic weather and magnificent views of Rathlin and Scotland. The highlight for me was hearing Donal say that if he had 'come to the Causeway and only learned about the cliff path afterwards, he would have been so annoyed'.  The Victorians were more familiar with the path than we are today, that is changing though.  Without a doubt the Causeway stones are a significant feature of the coast, but they are certainly not the entire event.”

 

 

Walking is only part of the odyssey that Mairead and Donal have embarked on. Mairead explained “Coming to Portrush has also given us the opportunity to visit the Bushmills distillery and sample the world famous whiskey. In addition to the walking this past year we have also been visiting other Irish breweries and distilleries. James Gate, Teelings, the Whiskey museum and Smithwicks.”

On Sunday morning Mairead and her friends took the ferry from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island, Conor explained "we agreed we would walk around the Island instead of taking the bus, it was a beautiful walk up towards the lighthouse and I was amazed that we could view Scotland from there it was beautiful, I could of walked for miles.”

Maximising every minute of the trip the group returned to Portrush from Ballycastle via the 200 year old "Dark Hedges" made famous by the Game of Thrones.  Mairead explained "We wanted to visit as many places as we could during our stay, we are early risers and love to learn about each county we have been to and this was a great opportunity to do the same while being up North,”

On Monday morning everyone was up early. Inspired by Mairead and Donal’s experience Hope and Conor headed home along the scenic Causeway Coastal Route.  Mairead and Donal took time to explore the ruins of the 16th Century Dunluce Castle on the fringes of Portrush, "It's history was explained well by an Audio we had seen in the discovery room, we then made our way around the castle and got spectacular views out across the Coastline."

Poignantly yet fittingly the couples final stop was to pay their respects at the Dunlop Memorial in Ballymoney" Donal explained "Joey Dunlop was described as "King of the Roads, himself and his brother Robert were legends and tragically lost their lives doing what they did best, motorcycle racing, the memorial was set up in Ballymoney in 2010 and I wanted to go see it personally myself so we stopped by.”

Reflecting on their trip Mairead said "We were sad to leave, we really enjoyed our stay and plan to come back one day soon again, Una and Eimear had really made it special for all four of us, we have learned so much and love it up North.”

Looking to the future Donal said "We have plans to travel around Ireland within the next coming weeks months and years, we want to head down south, possibly around Co. Cork, Kinsale etc. eventually when we have our own country travelled we will be travelling abroad for new walks and adventures. Mairead added "I will be putting our first scrap book together of all the places we visit so we can look back on it in years to come." I'm very blessed I have someone to venture from place to place with creating great memories and learn new things. Anyone who feels that this country is short of places to see and things to do, I'd love to show them differently.”

Giants Causeway

Atlantic Way Portrush accommodates four people and can be booked via AirBnB, TripAdvisor and Booking.com.  For more information contact Una Lynch + 44 7825509441 AtlanticWayPortrush@gmail.com

Guided walks with Away a Wee Walk can booked online or contact Eimear Flanagan for more information +44 78 3770 3643 eimear@awayaweewalk.com

Article by Una Lynch 

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 things to see at Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park

Posted on April 13, 2017 @ 9:32 AM in AdventureWalking

Discover Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park just a stones throw from Belfast City Centre. Donated to the people of Belfast in 1959 by Lady Dixon in memory of her late husband, Sir Thomas, the park covers more than 128 acres and boasts rolling meadows, woodland and gardens.

With 3 newly signed routes, a coffee shop full of delicious treats and fantastic playpark to explore we've picked out some of the top things to see during your visit. 

The International Rose GardenRoses Belfast

The International Rose Garden has made the park world famous, and contains over 20,000 blooms in the summer, the garden also displays the best of the roses from local breeders. Each year thousands of visitors enjoy the rose gardens and associated events during Rose Week in July. In addition, the garden has trial and display beds of cluster and large flowered, miniature, shrub and climbing roses as well as a Princess Diana memorial garden

The Japanese GardenJapanese Garden

The Japanese-style garden with water features for quiet contemplation is ideal for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the City.

Golden Crown FountainGolden Crown Fountain

Commissioned for the Queen's Golden Jubilee The Golden Crown Fountain is a hidden gem within the park for those exploring the newly signposted Garden Trail.

The Magnificent MeadowMeadow Trail

The newly signposted 1.78 mile meadow walking trail follows the parks perimeter and is perfect for those looking to enjoy the flora and fauna on offer in the magnificent meadows filled with orchids, peedweeks, clovers and hayrattle.

The Woodland
Woodland Walk

The new 1.93 mile woodland walking trail takes you through dense woodland before rewarding  you with a spectacular view over the entire park.

Wilmont House
House

In the mid-1800s, the estate was bought by the Bristow family. Wilmont House was built as the family home, designed by Thomas Jackson and completed in 1859. 

The park is also a great base for exploring Lagan Valley Regional Park if you want to keep exploring.

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

5 Reasons to go to the Mourne International Walking Festival

Posted on March 9, 2017 @ 2:45 PM in Walking

A fantastic opportunity to explore the Mourne Mountains for the first time or try out new routes and challenge yourself. Taking place between Friday 23rd & Sunday 25th June 2017.

Here are 5 reasons why this award winning festival ('Best Walking Festival' 2016 in the WalkNI Awards) should not be misses this summer.

Mourne International Walking Festival

1. Spectacular Scenery

Attend the festival and you’ll get to witness views like this first hand (and trust us they’re even more breath taking in real life!) The Mourne Mountains and Ring of Gullion offer some of the best walking in Ireland with epic views, diverse wildlife and a landscape steeped in fascinating heritage, myth and legend.

Explore Slieve Gullion home to ancient burial cairns, take in the stunning reservoir views of Ben Crom and Silent Valley from Slieve Binnian and Doan or follow the Ulster Way through forest and country lanes and witness the stunning landscape of Rostrevor and Warrenpoint. With 10 walks to choose from both guided and self guided from 9 to 20km, whether you’re new to hiking or a seasoned pro now is the time to explore the Mourne Mountains and witness the best of what it has to offer! 

Image: David Doyle Photography

2. It’s a Bargain- Only £6 a Day

It's only £6 a day if you pre-book your place, at that price, it would be rude not to! Price includes transport to and from walks and guides where necessary. Pre-booking also means you can use the 'fast track' registration system on the day so there will be no hanging back in queues. Thinking of getting a group together or want to head to the festival as a club? Discounts are available on bookings of 10 or more participants, contact the Festival Office on +44 (0) 28 4372 2222 or email info@visitmournemountains.co.uk for more info. Registration is also available on the day for an increased cost.

3. It’ll be Great ‘Craic’

A festival wouldn't be a festival without a good party. After a day in the hills enjoy the many bars and restaurants in Warrenpoint and don't miss out on the highlight of the weekend ‘The Blister Ball’. Held in the Lough and Quay, Marine Parade, Warrenpoint on Saturday 24th June, enjoy an evening of ceili and set dancing to traditional music as well as a hot buffet supper (Entry is £12/€15 and pre booking is advisable). 


4. It's not far from Belfast or Dublin

Just 1hr from Belfast and 1hr 30 mins from Dublin by car you'll be in the mountains in no time! With a wide range of walker friendly accommodation nearby make the most of the weekend and variety of walks on offer. Check out WalkNI.com or visitmournemountains.co.uk for a list of walker friendly accommodation.

5. Free T-Shirt for all walkers!

Who doesn’t love a freebie? All festival goers will be given a t-shirt to remember the event.

For more information visit www.visitmournemountains.co.uk/Mourne-International-Walking-Festival. For walking routes and further information please contact the Festival Office on +44 (0) 28 4372 2222 or email info@visitmournemountains.co.uk

Latest comment posted by WalkNI on April 26, 2017 @ 2:15 PM

Hi Joanne, Unfortunately there are no specific family events however if you contact the festival office on +4428 4175 2256 they will be able to provide more detail on the routes themselves. ... Read more >

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

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