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 January 22, 2015 @ 4:58 PM in
After a day in the hills or walking along the coast there is nothing better than kicking off your walking boots and enjoying a well-deserved rest. Somewhere to put your mucky boots, get out of your wet gear and have a hot shower is essential but why stop there? With loads of accommodation situated right beside the walks boasting fantastic views the awe inspiring scenery doesn’t have to stop once your boots are off.
We’ve teamed up with some fantastic accommodation providers all situated close to the best walking areas in Northern Ireland including the Mournes, North Coast, Sperrins, Fermanagh and Strangford to offer walkers fantastic discounts on accommodation. All offers are available from 1st March – 31st May 2015 (T&Cs apply visit WalkNI for more details) all you have to do is contact the accommodation providers directly and quote ‘WalkNI’ to book. We have put together a list of walker friendly accommodation with the best views right on their doorstep:
The highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland, the mountains themselves are criss-crossed by an unrivalled network of paths and tracks, providing enthusiastic walkers with incredible opportunities for exploration. Download your free walkers guide to the Mournes.
Tory Bush Cottages
Tory Bush Cottages, Bryansford, Co. Down – 20% Off
9 traditional self-catering country cottages in extensive mature grounds with spectacular views of the Mourne Mountains. An open fire will welcome you back after exploring on foot. Just 2 miles from Tollymore Forest Park which the Mourne Way runs through and minutes from a whole host of hikes in the Mournes.
Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, Newcastle, Co. Down - 15% Off
Situated at the foot of Slieve Donard (Northern Ireland's highest peak). 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.
View from Slieve Donard
Downshire Manor Apartments, Dundrum, Co. Down - £100 Off
Situated in the quiet village of Dundrum, this fine Georgian Building has been lovingly restored in a classic yet homely style. A particular highlight is the rooftop terrace providing a magnificent view of Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains.
Mountains of Mourne Country Cottages, Kilkeel, Co. Down – 3 nights for the price of 2
Comprising of seven fine old restored heritage cottages this award winning community development provides comfortable self-catering accommodation in historic surroundings, on the banks of the Kilkeel River. The cottages retain many of their old features each with its own unique appearance and outlook over the nearby mountains.
Mountains of Mourne Country Cottages
The North Coast and Antrim area is justifiably famous for the Giant’s Causeway, wonderful coastlines and a unique natural beauty. Download your free walkers guide to the North Coast and Antrim.
View from Ballylinny Cottages
Ballylinny Holiday Cottages, Bushmills, Co. Antrim – 15% Off
5 star self catering accommodation just 1 mile from the village of Bushmills, home to the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery and half a mile from the Giant's Causeway. Staying here you’ll enjoy unrivalled views over the Giants Causeway, the sleepy seaside village of Portballintrae and the sweeping Donegal Coastline beyond.
Marine Hotel, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim – 15% Off
Located on Ballycastle seafront and only 4 minutes walk from the Rathlin Island ferry terminal this hotel is an excellent base to experience the fabulous coastal walks in the area and on the island. The most northerly inhabited island in Ireland, Rathlin boasts just under 20 miles of walking trails with stunning coastal views.
Cul-Erg House, Portstewart, Co. Derry~Londonderry – 10% Off
A 2 minute walk from Portstewart promenade, and a 15 minute walk away from Portstewart Strand; this family run B&B is not short of breath-taking views. With The Giants Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Bushmills and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge all a short drive away the seaside town of Portstewart is a great base for enjoying the many walks in the Causeway Coast.
The Sperrin Mountains, stretching along the border of counties Tyrone and Derry, can best be described as wild, untouched and beautiful.
Bradkeel Cottage, Plumbridge, Co. Tyrone - 3 nights for the price of 2
This 5 star self-catering cottage sits on half-acre of private grounds with excellent views of the surrounding mountains and farmland. Hear the trickle of the stream running off the nearby mountain which borders the property and make the most of the maps and info on the area which you’ll find on arrival.
View from Bradkeel Cottage
Cobblers cottage Sperrins, Omagh, Tyrone - 3 nights for the price of 2
A newly renovated 200 year old traditional Irish cottage in peaceful surroundings, at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains this self catering cottage is a great base for exploring the hills as well as some fantastic walking in nearby Gortin.
Whilst Fermanagh is renowned for its lakelands, the first destination for any keen walker should be Cuilcagh Mountain, the highest summit in the County. This area is part of the UNESCO endorsed Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark due to its unique geology and spectacular landscapes.
Coolbeg Farm, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh – 20% Off
Situated on a private location on Upper Lough Erne this 4 star self-catering property boasts 40 acres of farm land and a private loughshore. A short drive of 10 minutes takes you to the walking highlights of Cuilcagh Mountain, Marble Arch Caves Geo Park or more gentle walks such as National Trust property Florence Court. Alternatively, walk the back roads of Upper Lough Erne to local pubs from the door of the cottage. OS maps available and Walking Guide available by arrangement.
At 150 km² Strangford Lough is the largest sea Lough in the British Isles and is a haven for wildlife. Strangford Lough's shores are also home to some of the finest country estates, parklands and walking trails in Northern Ireland.
Harbour View, Strangford, Co. Down – 15% Off
Originating in Norman Times 'Harbour View' was once a Tower House where merchants watched for sailing boats arriving with their goods at Strangford quay the house has recently been restored to provide comfortable self catering accommodation with wonderful views over Strangford Lough.
View from Harbour View
Check out WalkNI.com for a full list of Walker-Friendly accommodation offers.
Posted on December 17, 2014 @ 4:50 PM in
Winter often has the power to transform our landscapes. From snow-capped mountains, to misty lakes and glittering frost there are many beautiful scenes waiting to be discovered.
Whether you want to take a short dander along the banks of a frozen river or fancy embarking on a more adventurous snow-capped mountain ramble, Northern Ireland’s landscape is full of great walking opportunities that come into their own in the winter months. As proof we’ve put together this photoblog showcasing some of Northern Irelands great walks in the winter season as sent to us by our WalkNI fans - thanks for submitting some great snaps!
Click on the links below for free downloadable route descriptions and maps to head out for your own winter walks.
There were too many fantastic photos for us to include here so make sure to check out the 'Snow Covered Mournes' Album on the WalkNI Facebook page for even more stunning shots from walkers.
If you’re out walking over the festive period don’t forget to use #WalkNI on Twitter and Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your winter walking snaps with us.
Posted on November 17, 2014 @ 8:12 PM in
Part 1: Think compositionally about the landscape
Picture the scene. You’ve come home after work. The kids greet you with howls of “What’s for dinner – I’m starvin’!!” You amble over to the fridge to see what you can rustle up to quieten their relentless cries, only to discover that when you get there, the cupboard is (almost) bare! On occasions like this, I’m very likely to reach for the phone and put in an order for the chippy. But my wife is made of more resilient stuff. And she happens to be a fabulous cook who has this amazing ability to rustle up delightful meals, without the need for any recipe. To my amazement and before my very eyes, she pulls out the very same meagre ingredients I was just surveying and, fifteen minutes later, we’re all sitting down to an wonderful dinner. It’s incredible how two people can look at the same thing – and yet see it entirely differently! One person sees the food and knows there must be a meal in there somewhere – the other has the vision to see potential and has the ability to create something from this potential.
At its heart, this is similar to the essence of landscape photography. To be able to view the landscape in such a way as you begin to see what is hidden there in plain sight. It’s about selecting what elements will work together. And it’s the capacity to arrange and frame those elements pleasingly. But how do you begin to see a landscape bristling with potential like this? The good news is that there are ‘rules’ or - perhaps better - guidelines that can help train your eye to see the landscape, rather than just look at it. And I’m going to share some of these with you below!
1. Use the rule of thirds to help compose your shots
The first photographic rule you will learn in any class or book is the rule of thirds. This rule breaks the composition of a photo up into thirds both horizontally and vertically. This means you have two horizontal lines and two vertical lines to help you compose your elements, so perhaps you would have the horizon running approximately along the upper line. In addition, it gives you four intersection points for you to place features (such as a rock outcrop or the setting sun). It seems that people tend to be drawn to these places when looking at images, and placing your points of interest here is more aesthetically pleasing.
Sunrise over Donard with the ‘Rule of Thirds’ grid superimposed. Look how use is made of the lower horizontal line and the top right intersection.
2. Lead the viewer into and around your photo with curved or diagonal lines
Not all lines in your photos need be horizontal, however. Diagonal lines can work very well to guide people into the shot. You could also use sweeping curved lines formed by features such as paths or rivers to guide the eye. People often start looking at the bottom of an image, so look for ways of guiding them in from there to the rest of your photo.
The blue hour following sunset at the Giant’s Causeway. Which lines does your eye follow in this picture?
3. Look for foreground interest
When you’re standing in a landscape, the sheer scale of the environment can draw your eyes upwards and outwards. But landscape photography is about depth and perspective, and using elements in the foreground as well and the mid-ground and background can help add interest to your photos and again help draw people into the shot, leading them further into the depth and planes of the view you’re capturing. It might be a rock outcrop, a flowering plant, a stream. Look for these and see if you can find pleasing ways of building them into your composition.
The rock and the moving water provide the foreground interest in this winter photo of Dunluce Castle
4. Use the pano function on your phone to capture the sense of horizontal scale
When you stand in the middle of a mountain range like the Mournes, part of the experience is how you seem to become immersed in the landscape. All around you, in every direction, peaks stretch upwards and valleys sweep majestically between them. Your phone will probably have a panoramic function. Use it to capture something of the horizontal sweep. But when doing so, remember the rules of composition. You will have to try to visualise the final shot, more than what can appear in the view finder at once. Think about your rule of thirds, your foreground interest, your leading lines. But the great thing about your phone is that you’ll get immediate feedback – how does the composition work when you’re finished? If things don’t quite line up properly, try it again!
A panoramic from the summit of Doan. Although I stitched this together in Photoshop, your phone will probably allow you to create a vista like this too.
5. Use vertical compositions to emphasise the sense of height in a mountain area or the sense of depth in landscapes
At other times, maybe it’s the vertical scale you want to emphasise. For example, it might be the mountains soaring upwards breaking the line of the horizon that you want to capture. In that case, turn your camera around through 90 degrees and shoot in what’s called portrait mode. Even in less grand landscapes, portrait mode can help you look for ways of building depth into your compositions. Look for something in the foreground that can capture the eye. Look for lines that can lead you in, or bands that can emphasise different planes of depth in the landscape.
Just before sunrise at Donard - the foreground rocks and the tiny person help give a sense of scale to the towering summit in the background
6. Use people to give your photos a sense of scale – and a point of human interest in your photos
When you’re standing in a landscape, the scale is obvious to you. If you’ve just climbed a mountain in the Mournes, you know exactly how high up you are! Sometimes, though, capturing that sense of scale in a photo can be challenging. One great way to do this is to include people in your landscapes. They can be close by or further into the distance, but placing them there can… One thing, though – it’s still a landscape shot, not a portrait. It’s often best to have the person standing with their back to you, facing the view. Or at least looking into the view, inviting the observer to join them in exploring the amazing landscape in front of them.
Sunset from the top of Doan in the Mournes
7. Slow down
The last tip I’ll give here is simply to slow down when taking photos. You will have to pause and look carefully at the landscape, to see what’s actually there in front of you. Notice the elements before you. Think about the best location for you to stand in to arrange them well. Perhaps a few steps to the side will place that foreground element in the sweet spot compositionally. Experiment with a shot and check it out afterwards. Recompose, tweak, try again. As you do, you’ll begin the process of training your eye to see and not just to look. You may still have to phone the chippy when your fridge is nearly empty, but with time and practice, you’ll be able to see the compositional potential right in front of you in the landscape you enjoy walking through.
Posted on October 16, 2014 @ 6:23 PM in
Enjoy the city and retreat to the countryside for some great walking all in the one weekend! Providing breath-taking views across the capital the Belfast Hills bring a unique sense of wilderness and escapism from the hustle and bustle of urban life below. Just a 2 hour drive from Dublin head up the Motorway or start your weekend with a relaxing train journey direct to Belfast, either way it won’t take long to get away from it all for the weekend.
A striking visual boundary, just minutes from the city centre, fantastic views over Belfast and beyond can be easily enjoyed from the Belfast Hills. Divis (the highest of the hills), Black Mountain and Cave Hill all provide great vantage points to spot the iconic landmarks below including; The Samson and Goliath cranes, Titanic Belfast and the Stormont Parliament Buildings to name a few. There are also opportunities to cast your eyes further afield across Belfast Lough and as far away as the Isle of Man and Scotland.
The hills are home to a wide range of wildlife and archaeological sites and have inspired writers and artists for centuries. Johnathan Swift was said to be inspired by the sight of Cave Hill leading him to pen his most famous work “Gulliver’s Travels”. One of Ireland’s most famous poets, Seamus Heaney used the hills as his muse and the area has also more recently been the setting for movies such as Hollywood blockbuster ‘Dracula: Untold’ and Oscar winning short film ‘The Shore’.
Image: Cave Hill, Belfast
Divis and the Black Mountain
At 478 metres (1,568ft) Divis is the highest point in the Belfast Hills. There are four walks to choose from at this National Trust owned site west of Belfast consisting of an expansive 2,000 acre mosaic of upland heath and blanket bog, home to a wealth of archaeological remains and wildlife.
Divis Ridge Trail (4.2 miles/6.8km) & Summit Trail (3 miles /4.5km)
The 4.2 mile circular Divis Ridge trail is located in the Belfast Hills and offers spectacular skyline views over Belfast. Other views from the viewpoint include the Mourne Mountains, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Although situated high in the Belfast Hills the route is on relatively flat paths on tarmac, boardwalk and stone pitched gravel - designed to maintain the condition of the mountain slope. More serious walkers can walk a loop walk combining the Ridge Trail and Summit Trail which includes the summit of Divis and affords views to The Sperrins and North West Ireland. Other possible routes include the Heath Trail, a 4 mile route that traverses blanket bog, taking in the northern end of Divis and the Black Mountain site and the all ability 0.9 mile Lough Trail. Afterwards enjoy a cuppa or a sweet treat in the brand new Divis Coffee Barn.
Image: Divis Ridge Trail with the Mourne Mountains in the distance
Cave Hill Country Park
Just 9 miles from Divis, Cave Hill Country Park in the North of Belfast is home to the 12th Century Belfast Castle as well as fantastic walking trails up to the summit of the Basaltic Cave Hill.
Cave Hill Walk (4.5 miles /7.2km)
Starting in the carpark at Belfast Castle the walk follows a path uphill to McArts Fort, an Iron Age stronghold from which breathtaking views over Belfast can be enjoyed. An at times challenging route, over unsurfaced paths, with some steep sections you wont be disappointed once you reach the top where United Irishmen Theobald Wolfe Tone and Henry Joy McCracken once met in 1795 to take an oath to launch the rebellion of 1798. Afterwards enjoy afternoon tea or something more substantial at The Cellar Restaurant in Belfast Castle where traditional music can be heard most weekends in the adjoining bar.
Explore Belfast City
Less than 9 miles from the city centre there is plenty for walkers to explore once down from the hills. From the world famous Titanic Belfast to the Ulster Museum, Stormont Buildings and Queen’s University as well as countless restaurants, bars and shops. Check out Discover Northern Ireland for great accommodation deals in Belfast as well as information on everything you need to discover the city vibe during your next visit.
The city centre offers some great urban walking too. From fascinating history to ghostly goings on there are lots of informative and interesting walking tours led by guides throughout the city. You can also explore the urban areas at your own pace with one of the many self guided walking tours taking in the history of Belfast, the tale of the Titanic and the hometown of world renowned footballer George Best. More details of these can be found in the WalkNI online Belfast Walking Guide.
Posted on October 16, 2014 @ 9:48 AM in
We’ve put together our favourite walks conveniently located next to bars and restaurants so you can treat yourself to a well deserved pint or some tasty grub after stretching your legs. With open fires, thatched roofs, home brews and award winning food all to be found enroute the scenery won’t be the only thing inspiring you to get out walking! Whether you want to work up an appetite or work off a Sunday lunch, these walks are sure to hit the spot:
Walk: Portrush to Bushmills
Best Place to eat/drink: Bushmills Distillery or Bushmills Inn
This 6.6 mile walk (one way) from Portrush to Bushmills via Portballintrae will definitely help you work up an appetite. Passing beach, cliff and castle there is plenty to admire along this coastal route which will take you along the sandy dunes of Whiterocks, a fabulous viewpoint towards Dunluce Castle and alongside the tracks of the Giant’s Causeway to Bushmill’s railway not to mention the jaw dropping coastal scenery along the way.
Once you’ve reached Bushmills pay a visit to Ireland’s oldest working distillery and take in the sights and smells on a guided tour or simply enjoy the end product at the onsite restaurant and bar. Alternatively less than a mile away step back to a time steeped in charm at the luxurious Bushmills Inn. Roaring peat fires, nooks and crannies and a gas lit bar provide the perfect setting for a drink or two. Don’t miss out on the Traditional Irish music every sat night.
Walk: Lagan Towpath
Best Place to eat/drink: Hilden Brewery
A tranquil riverside route, this continuous flat off-road path links the two cities of Belfast and Lisburn. Starting from Stranmillis, just minutes from Belfast City Centre, the walk follows the river and late 18th century canal system through a variety of wetland, riverside meadows and mixed woodland. Your map readings skills don’t have to be great - just follow the water! Once in Lisburn, simply hop on the train back to Belfast.
After walking the 11 miles from Belfast you will be greeted with the welcome sight of Hilden Brewery. A family run microbrewery take a tour or enjoy one of their many home brewed ales over a relaxed lunch or dinner in the Tap Room restaurant.
Walk: North Antrim Cliff Path to Dunseverick Castle
Best Place to eat/drink: Causeway Hotel
This spectacular cliff walk follows a key section of the longer Causeway Coast Way & Ulster Way.
Nearly 5 miles in length, the walk starts from the famous UNESCO world heritage site – the Giant’s Causeway. Along the way you will be greeted with some of the finest cliff scenery in Europe, with attractively named headlands and bays such as: Port na Spaniagh, The King & his nobles, Plaiskin Head, Hamiliton’s Seat, Benbane Head, Bengore Head, Portnabrock and culminating in the largest bay of Port Moon.
Before you start pay a visit to the Causeway Hotel on the doorstep of the famous landmark. Built in 1836, the Taste of Ulster 2014 award winning hotel has a bar lounge ideal for a drink or light bite. For more substantial local fayre visit the hotel restaurant with stunning views across the bay to the Atlantic Ocean.
Walk: Crawfordsburn Country Park
Best Place to eat/drink: The Old Inn Crawfordsburn
Located on the southern shores of Belfast Lough, with two excellent beaches, spectacular scenery, a stunning waterfall and tranquil walks through wooded glens and along coastal path Crawfordsburn Country Park provides a relaxing natural retreat.
Just a ten minute walk away sink into a comfortable chair by the fire or dine in elegance in the 1614 restaurant at The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn. One of Ireland’s oldest hostelries the Old Inn has played host to many notable visitors under its thatched roof from famous author C S Lewis to former US President George W Bush.
Walk: Murlough National Nature Reserve
Best Place to eat/drink: The Bucks Head Inn
A fragile 6000 year old sand dune system owned by the National Trust and managed as Ireland’s first Nature Reserve since 1967, Murlough Nature Reserve is a fantastic 2.5 mile long walk with stunning views of the Mournes and Dundrum Castle.
A short 5 minute drive away situated in the historic village of Dundrum, The Bucks Head Inn is sure to give you a warm welcome. This 18th century building has a cosy cherry panelled bar with an open fire conducive to casual intimate dining, as well as a new contemporary restaurant.
Walk: Castle Ward Estate
Best Place to eat/drink: The Cuan
Home to a twenty-one mile network of multi-use trails through the stunning 820 acre demesne there are no shortage of walks within Castle Ward. Situated on the shores of Strangford Lough take a stroll along the waters edge or head into the forest and explore the unique 18th century house or exotic sunken garden.
Just 2 miles away in the picturesque village of Strangford the Cuan’s excellent food and drink await for walkers where strong emphasis is placed on using fresh ingredients and sourcing local produce.
Walk: Slieve Donard via Glen River
Best Place to eat/drink: Hugh McCanns
The Slieve Donard via Glen River (approx 6 mile) walk starts in Donard car park and climbs up through the forest to meet the famous Mourne Wall for the final steep ascent to the top. A total climb of 850m, the dramatic views of Newcastle and the sea below definitely make it worth the ascent.
After climbing Northern Ireland’s highest peak the good news is you won’t have to go too far to find the perfect spot to rest your legs and enjoy a cold one. Situated 2 minutes walk from Donard car park Hugh McCanns is a fantastic spot to refuel and reminsence about your conquest.
Walk: Beech Hill Trails
Best Place to eat/drink: Beech Hill Country House Hotel
Just 2 miles from the bustling city of Derry-Londonderry you’ll find Beech Hill Country House Hotel where 3 miles of circular trails twist their way through the mixed woodland and landscaped gardens near the River Faughan, in the Faughan Valley. A nature lovers haven, the trails first appeared on the first edition ordnance survey maps (1830-1844) and in records from the mid 19th century. A hub of history, Beech Hill was used as a World War II camp by the US Marines who carved their names on a tree in the woods which can still be seen today.
The trails start and finish at the front of the hotel where you can enjoy a meal in the Ardmore restaurant where the menu uses only the finest and freshest of ingredients mostly from nearby farms and local fishermen with vegetables and herbs grown in the hotel’s own walled garden. Alternatively relax and unwind whiling away the hours with a drink in the bar area.