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

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

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Dermot Breen – One man who walked the entire Ulster Way in memory of his wife

Posted on September 28, 2015 @ 3:44 PM in Walking

At the start of September, having pledged to walk the entire Ulster Way in memory of his wife Jacqui, Dermot Breen completed his long distance walking challenge raising thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK along the way . Inspired by the book ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ (a firm favourite of the couples), in which the title character walks 627 miles to visit a terminally ill colleague Dermot pledged to walk even further (and did so covering a distance of 652 miles!)  Inspired by his story, we recently caught up with Dermot to chat about his experiences along the Ulster Way.   

Ulster Way 1000k4j

Previous to your challenge, had you much walking experience?
Absolutely none, apart from the odd short casual walk for a mile or two along a beach or through a park, usually with my wife Jacqui. Invariably I would be the first one to say "Right, that's far enough; time to turn back now". I suppose that's what made doing this walk such a challenge. I was taking on something entirely new and I had no idea how I would cope with over 625 miles.

Did you have any expectations going into the challenge? Were these met?
Not so much expectations as I didn't really know what to expect; more hopes. I hoped that I was going to be able to complete the challenge within the schedule I had set for myself and I also hoped that I was going to raise lots of funds for Cancer Research UK. Thankfully both of these hopes were met. I finished the walk on 4th September as planned and I managed to raise over £12,000 for Cancer Research UK.

Did you do much preparation / planning?  If so, what?
To be honest, plenty of planning, but not enough preparation. I had it all worked out in great detail on paper, knowing how far I would walk each day, where my set down and pick up points were, where I would be staying overnight, possible eating places, etc. The WalkNI website was invaluable for this planning, particularly the descriptions of the routes and the printable maps. However, my physical preparation left a lot to be desired. I guess I was so keen to get started that I didn’t really give my feet and legs a chance to properly adapt over sufficient time. My first “training” walk turned out to be a 24 mile hike from Belfast to Lisburn and back in a pair of casual boots. Absolute madness and not to be recommended. My feet were ruined and my legs ached for days afterwards - I still have one blackened toenail remaining from that experience! Then after the first few days of my walk, I had to stop and rest up for a couple of weeks when I developed a painful case of shin splints. Not a great start to my challenge!   

Ulster Way

Some curious friends along the way

What kit did you bring on your walk?  What could you not have done without?
The fact that I was normally being left off and picked up by car each day, meant that I was able to keep my kit to an absolute minimum. I thankfully had no need to carry a tent and generally didn’t need to worry about overnight provisions. I routinely packed a waterproof jacket and leggings – essential for the NI climate - and also a waterproof cape that was large enough to cover me and my backpack when required. I learned early on during my short training period that good lightweight and waterproof hiking boots/shoes and good quality socks were essential – I had boots for the hills and rough terrain and a pair of good walking shoes for the roads and other flat sections. Maps, route descriptions, plasters, compass, mobile phone, iPod and plenty of snack bars were also carried as was a packed lunch if there was not going to be anywhere to stop off on route, which was normally the case. I also took a pair of walking poles with me when I knew I would be tackling boggy ground and/or steep slopes and these proved invaluable. However, the thing I could not have done without was not actually an essential in the normal sense, and that was my camera. It was important for me right from the start to keep a record of my journey and to be able to provide my Facebook followers with a visual account of my challenge. I took over 6,000 photos during the 38 days of my walk. Needless to say, not all of these were worth showing but I like to think that there was the odd decent one among them!

How did you find the navigation of the route? 
Generally this was straightforward enough as a lot of the route is well signed and way-marked and I also carried maps and route descriptions downloaded from the WalkNI website for each of the sections. I would advise against depending on any one of these on their own though. I really needed to use them all in combination and even then there were a few occasions when I inadvertently went off route for a bit before realising and having to double back or take an alternate route to meet up with the Way again. There are certainly a few sections where the way-markers could be better and I did discover a few inaccuracies in some of the maps (which have since been corrected). I did carry a compass, but only needed to use it a couple of times and even then it was more for reassurance than for actual navigation. However, I would imagine that in certain weather conditions a compass could be essential. 

Causeway Coast Way

Approaching Ballintoy (L) Whitepark Bay (R)

If you could choose to go back and walk any section again, which would it be?
This is a hard one as there were so many wonderful sections along the Ulster Way. However, if I was to choose one it would have to be the Causeway Coast Way section and particularly the section from Portrush East Strand to Carrick-a-rede. There are just so many stunning sights to see along this section including Whiterocks, Dunluce Castle, Runkerry, the Giant’s Causeway, Whitepark Bay and Ballintoy. On a good day it is just impossible to beat in my estimation.

What was your favourite view? 
I am going to cheat here and give two. First was the fantastic view from the summit of Benbradagh, which actually requires a short detour from the official route, but it is definitely worth it. The second is the breath taking view from Binevenagh. The view from here on a clear day is simply stunning, overlooking the River Roe and Lough Foyle to the West, Magilligan Point and Inishowen to the North and Gortmore and Benone to the East. If I was forced to narrow my choice down to one, it would have to be Binevenagh. However, I am conscious of the fact that some other potentially superb views were denied to me due to poor weather, such as the views from Slieve Gullion summit, the Magho Cliffs and Cuilcagh Mountain.    


Sitting on top of Binevenagh

What was your most challenging moment / lowest point whilst walking and how did you overcome it?
I don't have to think very hard about this one. Donald’s Hill, in the Sperrins north of Dungiven, and the subsequent trek across the blanket bog and heather to Rigged Hill, was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most challenging and exhausting section of the Ulster Way that I encountered. The climb up the steep slope of Donald’s Hill was tough in itself. However, what followed made the climb up Donald’s Hill seem like a walk in the park! Bog hell awaited. The absence of way-markers here meant that I had to simply head in the direction of the radio masts and wind turbines in the distance and pick my way through the very rough bogland as best I could. There were plenty of stumbles and falls along the way, accompanied by even more sweat and curses, and for a long time the masts or turbines just didn’t seem to be getting any closer. I have never been so happy to finally reach a proper hard track roadway. Undoubtedly, it was the thought of why I was undertaking the challenge in the first place that kept me going. That and the thought of the bottles of cold beer that were waiting for me in the fridge when I got back home!

Donald's Hill 
Benbradagh from Donald's Hill

If you had to single out one memory from your walk that you could revisit, what would it be?
There are so many to choose from, but I suppose the one that replays in my mind the most is the final day of the walk and my return to Greenisland Primary School, where I had set off from two and a half months beforehand. I had chosen this as my starting/finishing point as it was the school where Jacqui had taught for 25 years. My daughter, Hannah, and her boyfriend, Jonny, were walking with me from the starting point that day in Ballynure and I was joined by a lot of friends and colleagues along the way, which was fantastic. The welcome back I received from the staff and children at the school was just incredible. It all made for a very heady mix of elation and emotion and I don't think I will ever forget it for as long as I live. It was a truly fitting end to what was, for me, a very personal challenge.

Dermot and his daughter Hannah return to Greenisland Primary School

Any interesting stories/memorable people from along the way?
Again, there were so many. There were interesting animal encounters, including a deafening donkey demanding attention, a wandering dog that stopped and rolled over in front of me to have its tummy rubbed, a curious seal watching silently from the water and a large brown cow on the road that caused me to unhitch one of my walking poles just in case! In relation to people, I had tremendous support from family and friends along the way, helping out with a bed for the night, packed lunches, lifts to starting points and from finish points and even walking sections with me. The kindness of strangers that I met along the way was also memorable, from people that offered lifts in the rain (which obviously I had to decline), to people that helped with directions and even handed me donations when they found out why I was doing the walk. Particularly memorable were the two young teenagers, Oscar and Rowan, who I met at a church in Coleraine one Sunday morning where I had stopped to use the toilet facilities. They had been asking a friend about my walk and when I came out they insisted on giving me a donation - one of a number of spontaneous acts of kindness that I witnessed during my challenge.

Some sections you had company but the majority of the miles where spent walking alone.  Did you listen to any music along the way – if so what was on your playlist?
I liked to enjoy the sounds of nature when I could and there were even times when I just enjoyed the silence, but there were certainly some long monotonous sections where I was very glad of my iPod. I have quite an eclectic taste in music mostly dominated by rock, indie and Americana. My playlist is quite varied and includes the likes of older stuff like the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen and newer artists like The Charlatans and Dawes. I like to mix things up a bit and therefore tend to listen on shuffle mode rather than stick with one album or artist. I like the surprise of not knowing what song is coming up next. It was surprising how often the song would just suit the section of the walk perfectly, like Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves when walking on a gloriously sunny day in the Sperrins or Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins as I headed out across East Strand from Portrush!

Ulster Way

Donaghadee (L) Mourne Way (R)

Do you have any information or advice you think would be important to someone thinking of walking the Ulster Way?  
Be properly prepared, both in terms of knowledge and equipment. Most people are probably quite familiar with seeing Ulster Way signs when they drive around various parts of Northern Ireland, but this is only the more accessible parts of the route that are on show. What most people perhaps don't realise is that the Ulster Way brings you over lots of very remote and challenging terrain and there are many sections where you will not see another single person for miles on end. It is also important to read the route descriptions on the WalkNI website very carefully in conjunction with the maps - sometimes one sentence on the page or an inch on the map can take an hour or more to cover on the ground! Invest in a good pair of comfortable, waterproof boots and/or walking shoes - it's your feet that you are going to be depending on more than anything else to get you round so look after them!

Will you keep walking or are the feet happy enjoying a well-deserved rest?
A well-deserved rest for now but I would certainly like to keep walking in the future and I don’t think it will be too long before I start planning my next adventure. There are certainly plenty of options in Northern Ireland and there are even some places on the Ulster Way that I wouldn't mind returning to in better weather. For example, I took the route round the lower slopes of Slieve Gullion during my challenge due to low cloud on the day. I would love to return on a better day to take the route over the summit - apparently the views are superb on a clear day! Although I undertook my challenge for a very particular reason, my trek round the Ulster Way has certainly given me a much better appreciation of the varied beauty of little country that we live in and my advice to anyone reading this is to get out there and explore it.

If you would like to support Dermot in his fundraising efforts for Cancer Research UK you can do so via his Just Giving Page.  You can also read about his journey in more detail via his blog posts and view hundreds more photos taken along the route on the 1000K4J Facebook Page.  

Latest comment posted by Nigel Spiers on October 3, 2015 @ 10:51 AM

Dermot, Just finding out now about your walk. I have never met you. Really inspirational. 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 5 Autumn Walking Breaks in the Mournes

Posted on September 10, 2015 @ 3:32 PM in Walking

Colourful scenery, misty mornings and golden sunsets – autumn is definitely the season to be pulling on the walking boots.  To make the most of this fabulous time of year we have teamed up with walker friendly accommodation to provide some great walking break offers in the best walking locations throughout Northern Ireland.  Valid from Sept - Nov (T&Cs apply visit WalkNI for more details) all you have to do is contact the accommodation providers directly and quote ‘WalkNI’ to book.

With so many to choose from we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite walks next to walker friendly accommodation with great offers so you can rest your head (and feet!) for the night on a hassle free walking break in the Mournes this autumn:

The Walk: Slieve Binnian 
This fantastic 7 mile circular walking route follows the Mourne Wall to the summit of Slieve Binnian (747m), traverses between the impressive South and North Tors with spectacular views of both Silent Valley and Ben Crom Reservoirs before descending along a track past the Blue Lough to Annalong Forest.

Place to Stay: Kribben Cottages - 3 nights for the price of 2
A cluster of 5 luxury, 4 star self-catering cottages nestled against the magnificent back drop of the Mourne Mountains, in a rural picturesque area close to the bustling seaside town of Newcastle and walking distance to Binnian.

Slieve DOnard

The Walk: Slieve Donard (via Bloody Bridge) 
An alternative to the popular Donard Forest route, the impressive Bloody Bridge River will guide you past the old quarry - a great vantage point for the line of a disused railway leading to Carr’s Face on the slopes of Chimney Rock Mountain before following the famous Mourne Wall to Northern Ireland’s highest summit.

Place to Stay:
Burrendale Hotel Coutry Club & Spa - 50% Off 
Nestled between the Mourne Mountains and the glimmering Irish Sea this 4 * Country Club & Hotel prides itself on their warm, friendly atmosphere and the high quality of food.

Slieve Donard   - 15% Off
This deluxe 4* hotel with spa is the perfect place to unwind after conquering some of the highest peaks.  A golden strand of beach borders one side with the majestic Mourne Mountains providing a welcoming vista from the hotel. 

Accommodation Offers Mournes

The Walk: Beanagh & 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.

Place to Stay: Gorse Hill Farm - 15% Off
Gorse Hill Farm is a beautiful 4 star self-catering cottage set in the heart of the Mourne mountains with unsurpassed views of Shimna valley, Meelmore and Hare’s Gap (the most dramatic mountain pass in the Mournes).  This coupled with secure storage, free parking washing machine and free Wi-Fi makes it a walkers haven. 

Mourne Mountains Accommodation

The Walk: Lough Shannagh 
This mountain ramble follows the Banns Road in the Mournes and circles Lough Shannagh (the largest natural body of water in the Mournes), reaching a high point of 587m at Carn Mountain. Lough Shannagh (the lake of the fox) is an impressive view in itself however if you are looking to add in more height nearby Doan Mt provides stunning panoramic views form a height.

Place to Stay:  The Mourne Lodge  - 2 nights for £80pp
Walkers are sure to be warmly welcomed at the Mourne Lodge in Attical based in tranquil surroundings between Silent Valley and Spelga Dam.  This budget guest accommodation is perfect for walkers providing delicious home cooked meals as well as self catering options. Relax with your walking group or curl up with a good book beside the wood burning stove in the spacious shared lounge.

Castlewellan Forest Park

The Walk:  Castlewellan Forest Park 
From breath-taking views to the Mourne Mountains as well as some of the oldest and rarest existing trees in the British Isles the 7.5 mile network of walk trails in Castlewellan Forest Park will not disappoint.  The Slievenaslat Trail provides a series of stunning viewpoints offering panoramic views of the Mourne Mountains whilst the Annesley Garden Walk takes in a variety of Lakes and Ponds within the forest opening up a treasure trove of plants, trees and secluded spots in this real life ‘secret garden’.  Other walks include a leisurely stroll around Castlewellan Lake as well as the Cypress Pond Walk and Moorish Tower

Place to Stay:  Mourne Haven - 15% Off
With uninterrupted views of the Mourne Mountains and Tollymore Forest just 1.5 miles from Castlewellan this 3 bedroom self catering accommodation provides a brilliant escape to the Mournes for a true taste of country living whilst still located within easy access to both Castlewellan and Newcastle. 

Visit WalkNI.com for even more walker friendly accommodation offers in the Mournes and throughout 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!

Taking on the Mourne Seven Sevens Challenge

Posted on August 12, 2015 @ 11:26 AM in Walking

Organised by the Spartan Red Sox walking club taking place in August each year the Mournes Seven Sevens Challenge sees walkers climb all seven peaks in the Mourne Mountains, Co. Down that are 700m or more above sea level. A distance of 18 miles and 2,495m to climb this is no mean feat!  We caught up with John McKenna who recently completed the challenge to get a first hand account of what it takes to complete such a challenge.  

Mournes Seven Seven

*All heights are taken from the 1990 edition of the OS 1:25000 scale map. Other editions show only 6 peaks of over 700m  

Are you an avid walker?
I've been walking for years now, Mournes, Wicklow, Donegal & Belfast Hills. I've been over to Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scallfell Pike several times as well. The Mournes though are my favourite. If it's a 6 hour hike with several peaks or just a short leisurely walk, it has the lot. It also helps that its a stunning place to be at any time of the year especially winter.

Mournes Seven Sevens

How did you prepare / did you do much training for the event?
To be honest it kind of crept up on me. I knew it was coming up but was distracted by other things. So I hadn't really been putting in the miles to be ready for it. I'd been doing a lot of cycling of late so I figured that would help.

Have you done the Mournes Seven Sevens before? What made you decide to do it?
No, I've never done it before, but this last year I've been looking for different things to try. The Sevens in terms of a walking challenge is definitely a box to be ticked if your a walker.

Mourne Seven Sevens

Did you do it alone or as part of a group?
I did the challenge with my old friend Aidan Connelly from Dublin who comes up for regular Mourne walks. It was great to have company on such a tough walk, someone to spur you on when it got tough. I have to say that everybody we met along the walk were great, all sharing the same tough experience with good craic.

What was the highest and lowest point of the challenge? (figuratively speaking!)
I'm not going to lie, I found the later half of this challenge extremely tough. The long boggy part from Meelbeg to Bencrom really drained the energy out of me. Any energy I had left for Binnian and Lamagan was gone. So from that point on I was digging deep just to complete the challenge. I had to have a few hard words with myself on a several occasions!!! The high point was just the scenery and the amazing weather. When I was exhausted I rested and took in the views, a great lift, and I suppose thats the whole point of being there.

Mourne Mountains

What was in your bag? What food/kit did you bring?
I pack light when walking. A fleece, waterproofs and a peaked hat to keep the rain from my face. Lots of water, a flask of coffee and sandwiches. My secret weapon though are a large packet of jelly beans. Guaranteed to pick you up when the energy levels are ebbing away.

How long did it take?
It took 11 hours and 45 minutes. The longest day I've ever spent walking in the Mournes.


Do you have any advice/tips for those thinking of completing the challenge next year?
Apart from getting your head seen to for doing it in the first place, good advice would be to put in the miles beforehand. LOTS!

Would you do it again?
Maybe in a few years time, but I think I'd need my arm twisted a bit.

Mourne Mountains

Now you’ve completed the Mournes Seven Sevens what’s the next challenge (or was that one enough?!)
My next challenge is a 1.5K swim at Glendalough open water festival, Wicklow in September. Something different, challenging and surrounded by mountains from a different angle, should be good!

What is your favourite summit in the Mournes?
That's a hard one. The views from each are all so different but I love Slieve Binnian, especially in winter with snow. Hot coffee & a bar of chocolate, 360 panoramic views all around, amazing!

John Mckenna

John McKenna (right) with friend and fellow walker Aidan Connelly 

Latest comment posted by Dan Mulholland on August 18, 2015 @ 10:06 AM

Inspires me to get back into the Mournes, but not the seven summits challenge - yet! Read more >

John McKenna
John McKenna  Walker and lover of the outdoors

When not working or running after his kids, John walks hill, swims in the sea and rides his bike out onto the countryside. Every now and again he likes to challenge himself and do something he thinks he’s completely incapable of doing! This year this included a sprint triathlon at age 45, now on his third he is totally addicted! He lives by the motto: "Yeah, why not, what could possibly go wrong..."

Walk in the footsteps of Northern Ireland’s Legends

Posted on July 22, 2015 @ 11:51 AM in Walking

Northern Ireland’s countryside is absolutely bursting with history and legacy.  To highlight some of the many interesting places you can explore on foot we’ve put together a list of wonderful walks with colourful histories.  Get ready to walk in the footsteps of giants, saints, heroes and chieftains:

Robbers Table, Gortin, Co. Tyrone
 Robbers Table

Starting and finishing at Gortin Glen Forest Park approximately 6 miles North of Omagh, this 9 mile circular walk will take you through the heart of some of Ulster's most spectacular countryside so you can enjoy the relaxing pace of life away from the city. An excellent off-road hill walk opening up views of the Bluestack and High Sperrin Mountain ranges.  Robbers Table marks a refuge near the top of Ballynatubbrit Mountain from which a local ‘Rapparee' (bandit) caused havoc along the carriageways a few centuries ago. On clear days the Donegal and high Sperrin mountains can be seen in all their majesty, while the unspoilt plain of Omagh lies to the south

Glenariff Nature Reserve Waterfall Walk, Glenariff Forest Park, Co Antrim


Altnagowna or the Grey Mare's Tail as it is better known is one of the tallest and most spectacular waterfalls in Glenariff.  Legend has it that Ossian, warrior/poet son of the giant Finn McCool was trying to outrun a large band of Vikings who chased him into picturesque Glenariff Forest. As they closed in, Ossian decided to climb down a steep gully. About to plunge to his death, he suddenly grabbed a mysterious grey, rope-like column and climbed to safety. On reaching the top he saw a white horse grazing and realised it was her tail. He thanked the horse and asked for help at which point she turned into a mountain mist, fell to the ground as water, and washed away the pursuing Norsemen. Today you can visit this and other spectacular falls along the waymarked Waterfall Walk within the forest park. 

Roe Valley Country Park, Limavady, Co. Derry~Londonderry

Roe Valley

Roe Valley Country Park runs for approx. 3.5 miles either side of the River Roe offering a variety of riverside and woodland walks.  Found in the park, picturesque Largy Bridge is the very location where the legendary 'leap of the dog' took place, giving Limavady its name which is derived from the Irish meaning “Leim an Mhadaidh” (Leap of the Dog). Originally located on the site of Roe Valley Country Park it was from O’Cahans’ castle where the O’Cahan clan ruled Limavady until the 17th century.  On one occasion, when under siege by their enemies, the O’Donnell clan from Country Donegal, the O’Cahans sent for reinforcements across the River Roe via a faithful wolfhound who leapt across the swirling currents of the river to deliver the message.  The O’Cahans’ stronghold was secured and their influence continued to thrive until the 17th century. 

Hare’s Gap, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down

Hare's Gap

The most dramatic mountain pass in the Mournes, Hare's Gap once marked the exit point for smuggled goods which had crossed the hills from the coast along the Brandy Pad during the 18th and 19th centuries. A track created by the boots of smugglers and the hooves of heavily laden ponies, illicit cargoes of tobacco, wine, spirits, leather, silk and spices would be spirited through the mountains from the east coast to be distributed inland.  Nowadays, the Gap's easily reached central location on the rim of the High Mournes makes it the perfect starting point for routes scaling adjoining peaks, or simply for a walk along the gentle contours of the aptly named Brandy Pad.

Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim

The most northerly inhabited island in Ireland, situated 10km off the North East coast, Rathlin’s wonder lies in the variety of birdlife that grace the shores of this remote and tranquil island.  With 6 different walks providing just under 20 miles of walking on the island there is plenty to explore.  There are many tales of myth and mystery surrounding Rathlin, the most famous tells of Robert the Bruce. In 1306, the Scottish King was driven from Scotland by Edward I of England and took refuge on Rathlin. While he was on Rathlin, it is said that he watched a spider persevering again and again to bridge a gap with its web. Eventually it succeeded. Robert the Bruce took heart from the spider’s efforts, raised fresh forces and returned to Scotland to fight for his kingdom. He too, eventually succeeded and in 1314, regained the crown of Scotland.

Rathlin Island

Slieve Donard via Bloody Bridge, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down

Beginning at the newly renovated Bloody Bridge car park this route follows the Bloody Bridge River to the Mourne Wall and onto the summit of Slieve Donard (853m) the highest mountain in Northern Ireland.  Once you’ve reached the top you’ll be greeted by a small stone tower as well as the remains of two prehistoric burial cairns.  Originally named after the mythical figures Boirche and Slángha it was later associated with, and named after, Saint Donard who made the summit his hermitage.  Up until the 1830s, people would climb the mountain as part of a yearly pilgrimage, which may have originally been a Lughnasadh ritual. 

Slieve Donard

Slemish, Buckna, Co. Antrim

Slemish Mountain rises 1500 feet (437 metres) dramatically above the rural plains to the east of Ballymena. The central core of an extinct volcano, this breathtaking monolith dominates the local landscape however its value as a heritage site is entirely bound up with its association with Saint Patrick.  Legend tells that Saint Patrick was captured and brought to Slemish to work as a shepherd under a man named Miluic for around six years. After his escape, many believe that Patrick planned his now famous journey back to Ireland to convert his old master and one of Patrick’s churches is thought to be at the site of the nearby Skerry Churchyard.  Nowadays, the short walk up Slemish is a popular pilgrimage and offers spectacular panoramic views west to the Bann Valley, north to the Glens of Antrim and east to the distant coast of Scotland.


Avish to Eagles Hill and Gortmore to Hell's Hole, Ballarena, Co. Londonderry

Beginning at Gortmore Viewpoint both walks take place along the cliff top overlooking Benone Beach, Lough Foyle and the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal providing stunning panoramas of the surrounding coastline and countryside.  Be sure to look out for four life-size sculptures, highlighting the myths and legends of the Roe Valley’s rich cultural heritage. 


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!

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).

Latest comment posted by Kingfish West Coast Adventure Tourist on June 9, 2015 @ 4:54 AM

Well, this is a very helpful post. Thanks for the information you provided. It would be great if got more post like this. http://bit.ly/1HY3WUU Read more >

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.

older articles >
Northern Ireland's Outdoor Adventure Blog outdoorni.com walkni.com cycleni.com canoeni.com