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Welcome to our walking blog. The aim of this blog is to give readers a further insight into walking in Northern Ireland. The blog will cover everything from seasonal walking suggestions and events to information on how to best practice ‘Leave No Trace’ techniques and walk responsibly in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We will also be inviting local accomplished mountaineers and industry experts to give their thoughts and opinions into Northern Ireland top walking spots and other trails more off the beaten track.

For your definitive guide to walking in Northern Ireland visit www.walkni.com

Game of Thrones In Northern Ireland

Posted on June 29, 2019 @ 11:56 AM in Walking

You’ve been hooked on the HBO Game of Thrones Series for years, but did you know we are lucky enough to have the majority of its fantastic filming locations right on our doorstep. In this blog we share with you our top must-see locations.

Tollymore Forest Park

Tollymore Forest Park- River Trail, Co. Down

The Forest appeared in the first season of the show as the lands around Winterfell when Ned Stark comes across the orphaned Direwolves- the symbol of House Stark- and finds there are as many pups as there are Stark children.

This 3.1 mile circular walk from the main car park follows the Azalea Walk downhill to the Shimna River. Here the trail turns up-stream along the attractive tree lined river bank past the Hermitage to cross the river at Parnell’s Bridge. There is an optional spur to the White Fort Cashel before following the Spinkwee River downstream, past the cascades and back to the Meeting of the Waters. The trail proceeds through conifer plantations, past the duck pond and crosses the Shimna River over the Old Bridge, returning to the car park via Green Rig.

Balintoy Harbour

Dunseverick Castle to Ballintoy Harbour, Co. Antrim

This smallf harbour Ballintoy features in season two of Game of Thrones. Here Theon Grey joy returns home to Lordsport Harbour.

Ballintoy can be found on section 5 of the Causeway Coast Way. This 7.8km is best explored at low tide to allow you to walk along White Park Bay beach. From Dunseverick Castle, continue east along the coastline. One of the highlights of this walk past the limestone cliffs, rock archways and golden sand of Whitepark Bay.

Portstewart Strand

Portstewart Strand - Sand Dune & Estuary Trail, Co. Derry~Londonderry

Portstewart Strand doubled as the coast of Dorne in season five of Game of Thrones when Jaime Lannister was tasked by his sister Cersei to bring her daughter Myrcella back to King’s Landing.

This beach is owned and managed by the National Trust. The beach has the European Blue Flag award for its water quality and beach/dune management. Car parking is restricted to certain sections of the beach. What is less known about Portstewart Strand, are the towering sand dunes (containing some of Ireland's tallest dunes) and declared as an Area of Special Scientific Interest, together with the adjoining Bann Estuary. From here the Rive Bann (N.Ireland's longest river) ends its journey, on entering the North Atlantic.

Binevenagh

Binevenagh, Co. Derry~Londonderry

Binevenagh appeared as the Dothraki Grasslands in season five when Daenerys Targaryen was rescued by her dragon, Drogon, while fleeing from the Sons of the Harpy in the fighting pits of Meereen.

From the Leighery Road pass through the gate into the forest and follow the path taking the first track to the left. Follow this trail uphill for 1.5km before turning right onto forest road towards the summit of Binevengagh. Pass the west side of the trout stocked artificial lake, then head NW towards the cliff edge. Panoramic views from the summit stretch for miles. One a good day the north coast is visible, as is Scotland. The surrounding slopes are home to a number of rare alpine plants and birds. Follow the path NW down to the forest, when you arrive at a track turn right and you will soon be back at the start.

Castle Ward

Castle Ward, Co. Down

A popular pilgrimage for many Game of Thrones fans Catle Ward appeared in Game of Thrones season one as the iconic Winterfell- home of the House Stark.

Overlooking Strangford Lough this woodland estate  Castle Ward has been home to the Ward family since the 16th century. The 18th century mansion house rests on a rolling hillside overlooking the Lough and surrounded by a beautiful 820-acre walled demesne with gardens and woodland. There are a number of walking trails to explore including the Shore Trail and Castle Trail.

Marble Arch Caves

Belmore Forest: Pollnagollum Cave Walk, Co. Fermanagh

The cave featured in season three of Game of Thrones as Beric Dondarrion's hideout in The Riverlands.

Pollnagollum Cave in Belmore Forest is part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark in Co. Fermanagh. The cave is fed by a waterfall and you can follow the Belmore Forest walk which leads to a viewing point for the cave. This 4.3 mile walk is located in the Boho-Belmore Mountain area, right in the heart of Fermanagh’s cave country. Beneath your feet lies an extensive maze of caves which attract cavers and potholers from far and wide to west Fermanagh. One of the most intriguing mammals found in the Belmore uplands is the Irish hare. Larger than rabbits, adult hares have black tips on their ears and their long back legs giving them a distinctive walk or ‘lope’. Depending on the time of day and year keep a watchful eye out for bats and birds around the cave entrance

Downhill Beach

Downhill Strand, Co. Derry~Londonderry

In Game of Thrones, Downhill Beach appeared in season two when Stannis Baratheon rejects the Seven Gods of Westeros and allows Melisandre to burn their effigies as an offering to the Lord of Light.

Located in the very north of Northern Ireland, the beach is part of a seven mile stretch of sand offering a wealth of activities including water sports and scenic walks. Above the beach is the prominent Mussenden Temple, one of the most photographed buildings in Northern Ireland.

Lough Neagh

Lough Neagh, Co. Armagh

Located in the centre of Northern Ireland, Lough Neagh was the location used to film the Summer Sea one of the major oceans of the known world south of both Westeros and Essos. Summer Islanders are a thriving civilization of sea-farers, whose merchant vessels can be found throughout the Summer Sea.

Did you know Lough Neagh is Northern Ireland's largest inland body of water.There are lots of walks to enjoy in the surrounding counties of Armagh, Tyrone, Derry~Londonderry and Antrim. However, we recommend exploring from Oxford Island a haven for wildlife and a great location to start exploring secluded bays and islands. This four mile walk offers those all important views of the 'Summer Sea'.

Sallagh Braes

Sallagh Braes, Co. Antrim

A popular stop off point for fans of the show, Sallagh Braes was used as the film location for the Riverlands, one of the consituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms and a frequent battleground for civil wars 

Sallagh Braes is a stunning 1.8 mile linear walk across exposed hillside, leading to and along the edge of the Sallagh Braes basalt cliffs. Views can be enjoyed across the cliffs to the valley below and the Irish sea in the distance. Interpretation can be found in Linford Car Park. This walk follows the yellow and blue waymarkers for the Ulster/Antrim Hills Way. The view over the curving cliffs make this a very memorable piece of walking. 

Fairhead Northern Ireland

Fairhead An Bealach Runda Walk, Co. Antrim

Dragonstone Cliffs is home to many pivotal scenes from the final seasons of Game of Thrones as Daenarys Targaryen plans her re-conquest of westeros. It is here that large amounts of dragonglass can be foundd, one of only two materials that can be used to kill White Walkers; ther than being Valyrian Steel. It is here Samwell Tarly makes a game-changing discovery: Dragonstone sits atop a mine of dragon glass.

Enjoy breath-taking views from the cliff edge of Fairhead on this ruggedly beautiful, wild and remote 3.1 mile walk. Expect stunning coastal views towards Ballycastle and Rathlin Island and look down on the picturesque Murlough Bay. You’ll also pass historic loughs and open green farmland on one of the many walk options which are guaranteed to invigorate the senses. The iconic cliffs of Fairhead tower above the famous Sea of Moyle where mythology states the Children of Lir, were put under an evil spell transforming them into swans to spend 900 years in exile from humanity.

If you explore any of these walks, make sure you take a picture and tag us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using #WalkNI.

Latest comment posted by The Reluctant Walker on July 1, 2019 @ 7:24 AM

Thank you Jane for information on some inspiring walks. I hope to try a few thus summer/autumn. Read more >

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Officer & Active Clubs Coordinator for Walking

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She oversees the marketing and communication on WalkNI, OutdoorNI and Walking in Your Community Project. Most recently she has been working with Parkrun Ireland & UK to introduce the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative.

Instagram Inspiration - 10 'Must Explore' Walks This Summer

Posted on May 30, 2019 @ 10:01 AM in Walking

When it comes to thinking of where next to walk in Northern Ireland, Instagram is full of inspiration. We have pulled together our top 10 inspiring walks to discover this summer across Northern Ireland. From the rugged Causeway stones and city views to forests and summit selfies there is a walk to suit all. Detailed route descriptions and walker comments on each of these walks can be found on WalkNI.

Giant's Causeway

#GiantsCauseway

The rugged stones of the Giant's Causeway in Co. Antrim along the Causeway Coast way is a popular walk for tourists and locals alike.  Managed by the National Trust, photographers can often be seen at sunrise and sunset capturing the light dancing off the stones.

Mourne Mountains

#Mournes

One of our favourite pictures to see on #WalkNI are the 'summit selfies' that walkers take after a day exploring the Mourne Mountains in Co. Down. A popular retreat for keen walkers, the Mournes offer a range of peaks suitable for those starting out, right the way up to those with lots of experience on the more challenging peaks.  

Cuilcagh Boardwalk

#Cuilcagh

One of the most Instagrammed walks in Northern Ireland, the Cuilcagh Boardwalk in Co. Fermanagh is a must do walk for keen walkers this summer. Please note that no dogs are allowed on this trail due to the habitat you will be exploring via the Boardwalk. 

Cloughmore Stone

#CloughmoreStone

A little hill with big views, the Cloughmore Stone offers panoramic views over Carlingford Lough and the surrounding landscape. Declared a National Nature Reserve and more recently an Area of Special Scientific Interest, maximise the length of your visit by exploring the Cloughmore Stone via Fiddler's Green

Cave Hill

#CaveHill

If you are in search of spectacular city views look no further than Cave Hill Country Park, Co. Antrim. Just a stone's throw from Belfast city centre, this is a popular walk for visitors and locals alike. The views are spectacular at any time of day, however we have noticed the 'golden hour' at sunrise and sunset is a popular time of day for those in search of the perfect Instagram photo.

Scrabbo

#Scrabo

Located on the shores of Strangford Lough, The 2.3 miles Scrabo Hill Walk takes in the summit and the famous Scrabo tower built in 1857, one of Ireland's best known landmarks. The views over Strangford Lough and North Down are some of the finest in the country. The walk descends to a disused sandstone quarry before returning to the car park.

Gortin

#GortinGlens

A favourite walk amongst locals in Co. Tyrone, it isn't surprising that the walks in Gortin Glen Forest Park appear frequently on Instagram. There are a number of fantastic walks to enjoy within this forest park and more are being developed. We recommend following the Pollan Trail up the course of the Pollan Burn as it tumbles down the mountainside or the Ladies View Trail, which is ideal for those looking a more strenuous walk to superb views.

Giant's Lair

#GiantsLair

The Giant's Lair Walk in Slieve Gullion Co. Armagh brings a magical living storybook to life through a trail of intertwined fairy houses and arts features. A childhood land with dragons, giants and fairies inspired by legend and mythical folklore.

Carrick-A-Rede

#CarrickARede

Carrick-a-Rede famous for its rope bridge connecting the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island provides an exhilarating coastal cliff walk in Co. Antrim. Highlights of this walk include spectacular views of the rugged cliffs, Rathlin and a noisy seabird colony. Managed by the National Trust.

CS Lewis Square

#ConnswaterGreenway #CSLewisSquare

The Connswater Community Greenway provides two different routes along the Connswater, Loop and Knock River. This walk takes you through Belfast's own wildlife corridor so there is lots to see along the way. One of the highlights of this walk is C.S. Lewis Square where you can stop and explore the seven sculptures inspired by the characters from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Don't forget to share pictures from your favourite walks with us on social media using #WalkNI.

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Officer & Active Clubs Coordinator for Walking

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She oversees the marketing and communication on WalkNI, OutdoorNI and Walking in Your Community Project. Most recently she has been working with Parkrun Ireland & UK to introduce the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative.

Best Bluebell Walks In Northern Ireland

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

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

Bluebells Northern Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

Bluebells Northern Ireland

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

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

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

Bluebells Northern Ireland

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

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

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

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

Portglenone forest is bluebell stunning Read more >

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Officer & Active Clubs Coordinator for Walking

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She oversees the marketing and communication on WalkNI, OutdoorNI and Walking in Your Community Project. Most recently she has been working with Parkrun Ireland & UK to introduce the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative.

Onwards and Upwards- Two Tough Climbs with Amazing Views

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

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

Tough Climbs in the Mournes

Slieve Donard

Slieve Donard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slieve Binnian

Slieve Binnian

Slieve Binnian, 7 miles Circular

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

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

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

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

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

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Officer & Active Clubs Coordinator for Walking

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She oversees the marketing and communication on WalkNI, OutdoorNI and Walking in Your Community Project. Most recently she has been working with Parkrun Ireland & UK to introduce the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative.

Colourful Walks In Northern Ireland

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

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


Image courtesy of Tyrone & Sperrins Destination

Dazzling Daffodils

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

Barnett Demesne
Image courtesy of Tyrone & Sperrins Destination

Magnificent Magnolias

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

Magnolias
Image Credit: Picture by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash

Glorious Gardens

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

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

Montalto Estate

Multi-Colour Magnificence

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

The Argory
Image Courtesy of the National Trust

Spectacular Sorrel

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

Wood Sorrel
Image Credit: Picture by Ronnie Irvine Photography

Rich Rhododendrons

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

Rhododendrons
Image Credit: Picture by Zhen Hu on Unsplash

Colourful Cliffs

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

Moss Campion
Image Credit: Picture by Ronnie Irvine Photography

Breath-Taking Bluebells

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

Crawfordsburn Country Park

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

Latest comment posted by on @

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Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Officer & Active Clubs Coordinator for Walking

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She oversees the marketing and communication on WalkNI, OutdoorNI and Walking in Your Community Project. Most recently she has been working with Parkrun Ireland & UK to introduce the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative.

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