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
Posted on October 26, 2016 @ 4:12 PM in
Away a Wee Walk share with us some secrets about the epic Causeway Coast and why everyone should walk it!
1. There are Hidden Views as Good as the Cliffs of Moher
The Victorians were onto something. Long before the modern visitor facilities at the Causeway, much of the site was more challenging to access. It wasn't uncommon to visit the stones by boat on a tour and many people walked much more of the coastline along a magnificent lower path (now closed due to erosion) and back along the cliff tops. With easier access the cliff top walking route has become somewhat of a secret and is underused. Imagine if more of the 850,000 visitors who go to the Causeway each year were aware that just one hour away on foot, along the cliffs, is a view that rivals the Cliffs of Moher. The site with the best view is known as Hamilton’s' Seat.
Image: Alistair Hamill Photography
2. It Was Once a River
We think that the Causeway is all about the honeycombed shaped 'stones', (which are technically rocks) however the stones are not the exclusive reason the location is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another reason is the geological story, of when America effectively, went to America - the beginning of the separating of Europe and North America and the creation of the North Atlantic Ocean. It all happened around 60 million years ago when the rocks cooled very slowly (not very rapidly, as many mistakenly believe). The area was a huge river valley which acted like a thermos flask causing the lava to cool very slowly. As the lava cooled and contracted it caused the hexagonal columns to form at the main site and along the coast.
3. It Features Secluded Bays with Bothys
Bothy's can be found around the Scottish and Irish coast and in remote mountain locations. They range in size and shape but traditionally were very simple shelter for fishermen and mountain users. There is a renovated bothy at Port Moon, near Dunseverick, which can now be booked by sea kayakers paddling the North Coast Sea Kayak Trail.
4. You can swim in ‘Private' rock pools
Just keep swimming. Dunseverick must be one of the smallest places in Ireland that neither has a pub nor a post office yet it has two lay-bys, a small castle ruin, a harbour and rock pools! The pools are viewable from the road down to the harbour and are regularly used by locals in the know for swimming in ocean water without having to deal with tides and waves. If you clamour over a few more rocks, you'll discover smaller but deeper pools, out of view from the harbour road.
5. It Has an Ancient Royal Past
The castle ruin at Dunseverick might be a disappointment to anyone showing up to see an actual castle. We know very little about Dunseverick today, yet archaeologists are able to inform us that one of the five roads that left Tara, site of the ancient Seat of Ireland's High Kings, ended at this location on the Causeway Coast and proves that the location was once highly strategic in Ireland's past.
The Causeway Coast Way, especially the section from Portballintrae to Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge is among the most scenic coastal walks you can find anywhere. Check out tide times if you want to access White Park Bay the easy way. You roughly have three hours either side of low tide if you want to keep your feet dry!
Away A Wee Walk regularly offer guided 6 mile walking tours along one of the most scenic sections of the Causeway Coast Way from Dunseverick to the Giant’s Causeway. Take in amazing cliff top views whilst hearing plenty of interesting facts from a passionate guide. Cost: £35pp for a half day guided tour.
Posted on September 2, 2016 @ 3:37 PM in
A 47 mile linear route, forming part of the Ulster Way, the Lecale Way in Co. Down extends from the heart of Downpatrick, taking in Strangford Lough and finishing in the seaside resort of Newcastle. Featuring stunning coastal walking, tower houses, castles and ancient monuments the route is full of fascinating stories as well as stunning coastal scenery.
A local guide with a passion for history and folklore we were delighted that Duane from Lecale Pennuisula Tours wanted to share with us some of the hidden history of the route…
An Ancient Pilgrim’s Path
The first section of the Lecale Way is largely the pilgrim’s path to Struell Wells. Following the incline of Scotch Street in Downpatrick it is hard to imagine this was the main route to Ballyhornan. Just as you reach the top of the hill is a quiet, grassy entrance to a large open space. Beguiling as the vista is this was a place of public execution in the 1700s. The town’s gallows were known by the name of the three sisters as they were constructed of three posts. You have to wonder about the fear of the weary pilgrims beholding this sight. Before diverging off on the Ballysallagh Road make sure to take in Struell Wells. Legend has it this spring was created by Saint Patrick. It was famous throughout the medieval era and a place to visit on Midsummer when the wells would overflow. Make sure to look out for Saint Patrick’s chair on the hillside above.
The Druids Ceremonial Ground
Coming over via Ballyalton toward Raholp you are following in the footsteps of Saint Patrick. However, the people long before him also left their mark. Around Lough Money you will find a large concentration of megaliths. This is the highest area of Lecale which makes it easy to relate why it was selected. Just before the clachan at Ballystokes is a carved stone with concentric rings. Atop Slieve-na-Griddle once stood a cromlech with outstanding views over Scrabo, the Isle of Man, and the Mournes. Heading just off the Lecale Way to the east at the head of Lough Money you can find near the roadside, in a field, Lough Money Cromlech and just a little further along the Carrownacaw Longstone. Of course in modern days the largest stone monument in the area is to be found on Slieve Patrick. Carved from Mourne granite in a quarry just outside of Castlewellan is the largest statue of Saint Patrick in the world. Look closer and you will discover that he is wearing a workman’s boot as well as a sandal in honour of the masons who carved him!
Tales of Woe
Walking along the coastal path from Ballyhornan to Ardglass you can be totally unaware of the disaster that befell a ship one night in April 1797. This ship was carrying arms for the United Irishmen when it went down on the rocks of Sheepland. Of all the crew only the steersman survived as he huddled down between two sheep on that bleak snowy night. The locals who heard the disaster would not open their doors as they mistook the cries of the French crew for that of the banshee! Every day the Steersman walked the clifftop looking down upon the wreck site. It is said you can fish lobsters from one of the ship’s cannons.
Continuing along the pathway toward Ardglass is Ardtole Church. Looking from the north east on a clear day the Mournes provide a spectacular backdrop. This church stood when the Vikings were plundering the coast. It was rebuilt in the 1300s but abandoned in the 1400s after a cruel massacre by the local chieftain one Christmas Eve. A row was ongoing between him and is people over the price of cattle. They found him drunk and tied his beard to the briars he lay in. Having to cut his beard off to become free meant that he lost his symbol of standing. To avenge the insult, he set out that fateful night.
Visit WalkNI for route details for the Lecale Way and walk it yourself.
If you found that as fascinating as we did book a tour with Lecale Peninsula Tours and relive the history on a walking tour with Duane in this beautiful landscape with plenty of stories to tell!
Posted on August 19, 2016 @ 12:16 PM in
Whether you want a quick jaunt to clear your head on your lunch hour or fancy a short stroll in the evening to build up your step count there are lots of great parks in Northern Ireland to explore on your doorstep:
Victoria Park, Belfast, Co. Antrim – 1 mile
An oasis of wildlife the historic Victoria Park provides an inner and outer walking loop around the lake (make sure to look out for the swans!) on a mixture of flat surfaced and grass paths. Passing a small rose garden, children’s playground and BMX track, the walks pass under the shadow of one of the most iconic landscapes of Belfast; Samson and Goliath.
Dungannon Park, Co. Tyrone – 1.2 miles
The Park Trail is set amongst the beautiful backdrop of Dungannon Park - a 70 acre oasis. The walk's interesting paths surround the grounds mature woodland, brightly coloured flowerbeds and the magnificent 13 acre freshwater lake. High ground offers the walker splendid viewpoints of surrounding townland and countryside with views of Lough Neagh on a clear day.
Christie Park & Somerset, Coleraine, Co. Derry~Londonderry – 2 miles
This pleasant riverside walk along surfaced footpaths, starts in the centre of Coleraine and finishes opposite the historic Mountsandel Fort. The walk passes through two Council parks, both with different habitats that are managed in entirely different ways. Take time along the route to enjoy the views over the Bann. Having reached the car park there is the option to cross the road and enjoy a variety of walks within Somerset Forest.
Ormeau Park, Belfast, Co. Antrim – 1.3 miles
An historic parkland overlooking the River Lagan, with colourful flowerbeds, an array of trees and an abundance of wildlife, Ormeau Park is a real haven within the city. A walk along well surfaced paths past a Victorian bandstand, flower beds and Victorian House, the park also has an outdoor gym.
Scrabo Country Park, Newtownards, Co. Down – 2.3 miles
The walk takes in the summit of Scrabo Hill and the famous Scrabo Tower built in 1857, one of Ireland's best known landmarks. Soak in stunning views over Strangford Lough and North Down before descending to the disused sandstone quarries which provided building stone since Anglo-Norman times.
Clement Wilson Park, Belfast, Co. Antrim – 1.2 miles
A wide open park, near the Lock Keeper’s Cottage with plenty of green space to roam around. Walk along the main pathway through the park known locally as the Burma Road and across the River Lagan via the footbridge named after the artist John Luke.
Cladagh Glen Walk, Cuilcagh Way, Co. Fermanagh – 1.5 miles linear
Part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, this short section of the Cuilcagh Way will take you through the striking landscape of the Cladagh River gorge thickly covered by an ancient ash woodland. There are many features of interest along the route- steep limestone cliffs, cascading waterfalls, cave springs, a turbulent river and a rich treasury of wild flowers.
Crawfordsburn Country Park, Bangor, Co. Down – 1.5 miles
One of a number of walks within the country park, the glen walk undulates through mature beech wood, closely following the course of the Crawford's Burn. The walk encompasses views of Lanyon’s Viaduct, built in 1863 this fine, five arched sandstone railway viaduct was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, whose most notable designs included Belfast Castle and Queen’s University Belfast.
Annesley Garden Walk, Castlewellan Forest Park, Co. Down – 2.2 miles
The forest park's best-kept secret don't be surprised if you are the only one discovering the many secluded spots in this hauntingly beautiful garden and arboretum. The garden was founded in 1740, with the Annesley family planting the arboretum in the 19th century. Once at the entrance gate, choose between the shorter 1.1 mile walk or the 2.2 mile route which continues uphill, circling the Duck Pond and Mitchell's Lake.
Benburb Valley Park, Co. Tyrone– up to 3.9 miles
Explore and enjoy stunning natural and built heritage within Benburb Valley Park on a network of paths along the Blackwater River. The river has carved out a beautiful gorge through the countryside and is an ideal location for walking passing Benburb Priory and Benburb Castle.
Riverside Park, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim - 4 miles
Riverside Park offers a variety of walks through various landscapes including woodland with the Ballymoney River running through the middle of the park. Look out for kingfishers and ducks on the pond as the riverside path takes you over footbridges and past informal woodland.
Posted on July 21, 2016 @ 8:54 PM in
It’s all about fabulous food and wonderful walks on the Causeway Coast. This 2 day itinerary of awe-inspiring views and deliciousness features the best spots to eat combined with fabulous short walks to work it all off!
Rise and shine, having travelled up from Belfast and stayed the night before it’s time for breakfast on the beach at Harrys Shack. A quirky beach shack with fairground lights slung from the ceiling, wood burning stove and big windows so you don’t miss out on ‘that view’. Situated on Portstewart Strand a walk on the beach will set you up for the day!
Image: North Antrim Cliff Path, Alistair Hamill Photography
Hop in the car for 30 mins and park at the Giant’s Causeway before taking the Translink Causeway Rambler Bus Service (402) to Dunseverick. It’s now time to witness some of the best coastal walk Ireland has to offer on the North Antrim Cliff Path (note this can be walked in either direction). Just under 5 miles in length the route is part of the longer Causeway Coast Way. Leave the trail of visitors behind as you pass by attractively named headlands such as Port na Spaniagh, The King & his nobles, Plaiskin Head, Hamiliton’s Seat, Benbane Head, Bengore Head, Portnabrock and Port Moon Bay to experience one of the Causeway Coast’s best kept secrets. Ending with the best panoramic views of the iconic Giant’s Causeway take time to explore the UNESCO site before heading back to the carpark.
Enroute back to Portrush have a bite of lunch and something sweet at the fabulous Doras Tearoom where the moto is ‘there is always time for tea and room for cake!’ With Mars Bar and Peanut Butter scones on the menu after your clifftop walk there will be no need to feel guilty about indulging!
Image: Alfresco dining at Dora's Tea House
A pit stop on the way back to Whiterocks Beach is a great way to burn off some calories with incredible views. The limestone cliffs of the Blue Flag beach stretch from Curran Strand to Dunluce Castle creating a labyrinth of caves and arches.
After a quick freshen up it’ll be time to head to the renowned Ramore Wine Bar - a vibrant waterfront spot with a relaxed vibe serving a cosmopolitan menu, delicious cocktails and humongous deserts! Finish the day off at the Gin Bar upstairs at the Harbour Bar where they serve every combination of G&T imaginable with a side of live music.
Stay the Night: Atlantic Way, Portrush – a home from home this self-catering accommodation is stocked with everything you could possibly need from freshly cut flowers to fresh orange juice the reviews speak for themselves.
Image: Homely touches at the Atlantic Way
For more accommodation options visit WalkNI or Discover Northern Ireland.
Refreshed and ready to embrace the day head to Bushmills for breakfast at the French Rooms for some French bistro classics like Eggs Benedict and Croque Monsieur or pick up a treat in shop or deli.
Fuelled for the day, walk the Heritage Railway Path in Portballintrae. This short 1.5 mile walk follows the line of the former Giant's Causeway Tramway taking in stunning coastal scenery against the backdrop of the River Bush, Runkerry Strand, the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Heritage Railway.
Image: heritage Railway Path
10 miles along the coast road passing Whitepark Bay enroute you’ll reach the famous Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. Under 2 miles in length, walk along fabulous coastline with turquoise waters and cross the 30 metre high rope bridge to an idyllic island where the seabird colonies will provide a noisy welcome to views of Rathlin Island and the distant Scottish Isles.
Just a 10 minute drive away Ballycastle is the perfect pitstop for lunch and an icecream. Enjoy some tasty fish and chips on the harbour form Mortons or tuck into delicious freshly baked bread at Ursa Minors independent Artisan Bakehouse.
Image: Glenariff Waterfall Walk
Driving back along the causeway coastal route to Belfast take a quick detour to Glenariff Forest Park. Meaning ‘Queen of the Glens’, 19th Century English novelist William Thackeray penned it as “a Switzerland in Miniature”. Explore the striking landscape via 4 circular scenic walks ranging from 0.4 to 5.9 miles (0.6 – 9.5 km). Be sure not to miss out on the impressive double-drop Ess-na-Larach Waterfall one of the many dramatic waterfalls that punctuate the deep sided gorge of the Nature Reserve.
Posted on June 21, 2016 @ 2:49 PM in
Every wondered what the names of the Mourne Mountains actually mean? With the help of some fantastic shots from Peter Lennon Photography we have put together a collection of summits (or Slieves from the Irish word ‘Sliabh’ meaning mountain) and the meanings behind their names.
Slieve Meelmore (682m) meaning mountain of the large (Mor) animals.
Walk routes incorporating Slieve Meelmore
The Mourne Wall climbing up Slieve Meelmore
Looking across at Meelmore in the middle distance (with the wall on it.) from Bearnagh
With two impressive rocky tors and a col lying between them it is easy to see where Slieve Bearnagh (739m) from the Irish “Sliabh Bearna” meaning “Gapped Mountain” gets its name.
Walk routes incorporating Slieve Bearnagh
Looking across at Bearnagh on the right with Ben Crom Reservoir hidden below walkers in the distance.
View from the slopes of Slieve Bearagh looking towards Carlingford with Binnian on the left, Ben Crom reservoir, around to Slieve Loughshannagh
The Tors of Slieve Bearnagh
The name Lamagan (704m) means “by hands and feet!!”giving a hint at how steep this summit is.
Walk routes incorporating Slieve Lamagan
Slieve Lamagan from the footpath which starts at Carricklittle car park, Annalong
View from Slieve Lamagan - taken from the summit looking across a Slieve Binnian (left) and Ben Crom reservoir below with the tip of the Silent Valley reservoir just coming into view.
Slieve Binnian (747m) is named from the Irish Sliabh Binneáin after the rocky tors across it’s summit, also known as the Mountain of the little horns
Slieve Binnian walking route
View of Binnian from Bearnagh
Taken from the Buzzards Roost on Slieve Binnian looking over Ben Crom reservoir at Ben Crom mountain and Slieve Bearnagh to the left
Slieve Donard (850m) is named after Saint Donard, known in Irish as Domhanghairt or Domhanghart. A follower of Saint Patrickand he founded a monastery at Maghera, north of Newcastle. According to tradition he was appointed by Saint Patrick to guard the surrounding countryside from the summit.
Walk routes incorporating Slieve Donard
Slieve Donard framed by the rocks at the top of the Devils Coachroad
View more of Peter Lennon's fantastic photography of hte Mournes and other landscapes on his Facebook or Twitter pages.
Visit WalkNI for more information on walking in the Mourne Mountains.