2015 – A Year of New Walks

Posted on December 18, 2015 @ 2:49 PM in Walking

2015 was a big year for walking routes in Northern Ireland with the iconic Gobbins Cliff path being lovingly restored and reopened.  There were also lots of exciting new additions to walking routes across Northern Ireland with giants, animals and the famous Gruffalo making an appearance along some of our favourite trails.  If you haven’t had a chance to visit these walks opened within the last year why not enjoy them over Christmas and the New Year?

Gobbins

The Gobbins, Islandmagee, Larne, Co. Antrim
Opened in late summer 2015 the spectacular Gobbins cliff path on the very edge of the Irish Sea is a re-awakened coastal experience which was first enjoyed in 1902 by the Edwardians. Only accessible via guided tour expect to see the waves crashing into the cliffs, feel the wind in your hair and witness the natural wonder of the coastline up close as you walk the winding cliff path.  Bridges, tunnels, caves, steps, unique rock formations and stunning views will punctuate your path as you walk beside the curious geology. 

Gruffalo Trail, Colin Glen Forest Park, Belfast, Co. Antrim
Opened in Nov 2015 with each character magically recreated by sculptor Andrew McIntyre and set against the backdrop of a stunning forest park this family attraction is perfect for kids and kids at heart! Walkers can follow the Gruffalos footsteps along the 0.6 mile trail to meet the silly old fox, owl and snake on the way to an amazing 8 foot tall Gruffalo.

The Giant’s Lair, Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Co. Down
A magical living storybook is brought to life along this mile lone trail intertwined with fairy houses and arts features creating a childhood land with dragons, giants and fairies.  Follow in the footsteps of Flynn the mischievous fairy, drop in for a cup of dandelion tea, grab a seat at the Giant’s Table and stroll along to the Ladybird House, you are sure to fall in love with this enchanting trail in the beautiful setting of Slieve Gullion Forest Park.


Causeway Coast Way, Co. Antrim
The stunning cliff path along section 5 of the Causeway Coast Way between Portbraddan and Dunseverick was reopened after a landslide had closed the route for a number of years.  The newly upgraded and diverted pathway features stunning views of Bengore Head to the North West and Rathlin Island to the North East along this breath-taking section of the spectacular coastline route.

Lough Foyle Trail, Limavady, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Linking two existing Quality Walks; Ballykelly Bank and Ballymacran Bank to create a new 5.2 mile (one way) linear, off road trail for walkers and cyclists – the Lough Foyle Trail opened earlier this year. A new footbridge was installed across the Burnfoot River near to the village of Ballykelly to create the route exploring the designated Ramsar site which is a bird watchers paradise.

Cuilcagh Way, Co. Fermanagh 
2015 saw access to Cuilcagh Mountain Special Area of Conservation open again with a brand new boardwalk constructed to prevent walkers from damaging the protected blanket bog.  Situated along the 20 mile Cuilcagh Way, the long distance route has been divided up into 5 sections to make it easier for walkers to choose to walk all or part of the route. 

cUILCAGH

  • Cuilcagh Way Clagagh Glen (Section 1)
    1.5 mile linear route through the striking landscape of the Cladagh River gorge.
  • Cuilcagh Way Legnabracky Trail (Section 2)
    A 4.5 mile linear route which will appeal to walkers with some experience walking in the hills showcases the scenic wilderness of Cuilcagh Mountain. The trail meanders along a quiet farmland track before traversing a wooden boardwalk to reach the 666 metre summit featuring an ancient cairn.
  • Cuilcagh Way Hikers Trail (Section 3)
    An alternative vigorous and exposed 5.5 mile linear route to the summit of Cuilcagh involving a steep climb across boggy ground to reach Fermanagh’s highest point. 
  • Cuilcagh Way Legacurragh Valley Trail (Section 4)
    Meander through limestone landscape, blanket bog and deep woodland before reaching Florence Court House Estate on this 4.2 mile linear route.
  • Cuilcagh Way Florence Court Forest Trail (Section 5)
    Weave your way through the Florence Court Forest Park before reaching the rolling Marlbank Hills with their species rich grassland and exposed rocky outcrops of limestone on this 4.5 mile linear route.

2015 also saw two new nature play areas open – a great way to entice the kids out for a walk in our fabulous forest parks!

The Big Deer - Tollymore Forest Park, Tollymore, Co. Down
Featuring a giant timber Fallow Deer, castle turret, folly tower and hollow tree all connected through a series of rope-bridges, tunnels, spider webs, basket swings and slide the ‘Big Deer’ is sure to keep the kids entertained. Parents can sit back, admire the views and enjoy a picnic at the Deer tables before enjoying the four walk trails throughout the forest park.

Tollymore Forest Park

Animal Wood - Castlewellan Forest Park, Castlewellan, Co. Down
Located beside the Peace Maze, ‘Animal Wood’ provides lots of opportunities for playing on wild woodland animals including a badger and its den, a red squirrel and a giant spider.  In addition it boasts a wooden play structure with a tower in the image of The Moorish Tower where children can enjoy the climbing wall, fireman’s pole and rope-bridge over to a hollow tree stump slide and Red Kite nest. The forest park is also home to a 7.5 mile walk trail network featuring breath-taking views to the Mourne Mountains as well as some of the oldest and rarest existing trees in the British Isles. 

Castlewellan

Visit the walks section on WalkNI.com for free downloadable route descriptions and maps of over 270 spectacular walks to inspire you to get outdoors in 2016.

Latest comment posted by Jennifer Cumming on December 29, 2015 @ 11:11 PM

There are also great walks in Kilbroney Forest Park and the Narnia Trail is great fun with the kids 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!

Your Favourite Walks of 2015

Posted on December 16, 2015 @ 11:51 AM in Walking

One thing is for sure we are not short of amazing places to go walking in Northern Ireland.  With so many routes to choose from on WalkNI we thought we’d give you the inside knowledge on some of the best places and hidden gems that fans of WalkNI were raving about in 2015.  See below for some of the best comments left on walking routes this year from lesser known short strolls to long distance waymarked ways hopefully you will be inspired to try somewhere new!

Mourne Mountains

Bunkers Hill Walk Play Trail  - A 1.2 mile circular walking and family cycling trail with panoramic viewpoints and natural play trail in Castlewellan.

“Great walk and play park. Fantastic views of the castle, churches and the mountains.” Shireen, Jan 2015

Castlewellan Forest Park Slievenaslat Walk - A 2.7 mile circular walk trail with a steep climb through the forest park featuring spectacular views of the Mourne Mountains and surrounding drumlin landscape of Co Down.

“This is a lovely walk with fantastic views of the Mourne Mountains.” Yvonne Falls, July 2015

Castlewellan Slievenaslat

Hen, Cock and Pigeon Rock - A 5.9 circular route using open mountain terrain in the western Mournes giving a taster of views that can be experienced in the region.

“…simply breath taking the view from Hen Mountain is as good as that from any of the others. Bring a good camera as you'll get some great pics …” - Roy, April 2015

“I first did this walk over 20 years ago and revisited yesterday on a glorious March day. We only had a few hours to walk so this was ideal. The views were incredible, we could clearly see Bearnagh, Binnian and Donard in all their glory and as far as Cave Hill in Belfast. Sat on the tors on Cock Mountain enjoying the sun on our faces. Wonderful!”Diana, March 2015

Meelmore and Meelbeg - A moderate 5.5 mile circular walk in the High Mournes, summiting two of the seven highest peaks in the region, Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Meelbeg.

“Another beautiful walk in the Mournes, the already stunning scenery that bit more special in the snow. A short distance walk but still challenging, I would recommend a packed lunch and plenty of water to fuel you up the peaks. Take time to enjoy the views, they're well worth it.”  - Claire, Feb 2015

Slieve Binnian   - A 7 mile circular walking route following the Mourne Wall to the summit of Slieve Binnian (747m), traversing between the spectacular South and North Tors before descending along a track past the Blue Loughand Annalong Forest.

SLieve Binnian

“what a fantastic walk and the scenery is something else…if you haven't been up I would highly recommend you go” Caroline Sayle, Oct 2015

“This has just become my favourite of all the major peaks in the Mournes… it was spectacular. Tough going at the start right up to the summit but once there it was time to take the weight off and enjoy the fantastic views all around...from Wee Binnian, Annalong Wood right across to Donard, Commedagh, Bearnagh and Meelmore/Meelbeg! The view over Ben Crom is as good as it gets.”Neil Armstrong, May, 2015

Belfast

Cave Hill Country Park - A challenging 4.5 mile circular route featuring archaeological sites and fantastic panoramic views of Belfast and beyond.

“A must see destination in N.Ireland. What a view you are delighted with once you reach the top ..AWESOME !” – Siddhesh Deodhar, June 2015

Cave Hill

Newtownabbey Way  - 4.3 mile linear walking and cycling route linking Corr’s Corner to the shores of Belfast Lough at Whiteabbey.

“A gem! First time at this lovely place. Train from Bangor and return from Whiteabbey. Can't wait to come back!" – Diane Given, April 2015

North Coast & Antrim

Antrim Hills Way  - Featuring expansive panoramas and challenging climbs, this 22mile walk traverses cliffs, moorland and country tracks before leading to Slemish Mountain.

….the views over Bally Galley, Larne and The Maidens were stunning in the morning sunshine. Even with the dry weather we needed our gaiters. We could see where Game of Thrones had been filming when we looked down from the top of the Sallagh Braes which was a bonus!” Mary D, September 2015

Causeway Coast Way - This 33 mile route, from Portstewart to Ballycastle, passes through the Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a World Heritage Site and several Areas of Special Scientific Interest with some of the best coastal views in Ireland including wide bays, sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs.

“Walked from Giant's Causeway to Ballintoy, by far the best walk in Ireland. Great to see the section between Dunseverick and Portbraddan reopened by a new diverted path over the headland.” - Joshua April 2015

causeway coast wayImage: Old Town Road Trailbreakers

Dungonnell Way  - A 9.5-mile circular walk taking in Dungonnell Dam, Glenariff Forest Park and Skerry East Road, an outstanding opportunity to experience the isolation of the Antrim Hills without getting your feet wet.

“Wonderful views from Skerry East Road and interesting evidence of old iron ore workings. Then a section through forest before emerging onto the Garron Plateau. Magnificent. Lots of frogs and frog-spawn in the pools and puddles so spring has definitely arrived.” Patricia, March 2015

Portballintrae Causeway Loop - A 5.5mile circular walk from Portballintrae to the Giant’s Causeway, taking in stunning views of beach, cliff and rock formations. Runkerry Point.

“A really lovely walk, very breezy, but the views are stunning! Took us just over 3 hours, that included stopping for some pictures at the Giant's Causeway!”Lyn, April 2015

“A beautiful walk which a range of terrain and scenery.” Damien, Jan 2015

Portballintrae

Sperrins

Carntogher Way - Slí an Chairn - This 5.6 mile walk on the hills above the Glenshane Pass gives access to historic Carntogher Mountain with views across Lough Foyle to Errigal and Muckish in Donegal, Sawel and the high Sperrins, and south-east to The Mournes. 

“Lovely, quiet part of the world with great views, flower-filled meadows and interesting antiquities. If you have gaiters, put them on as it's quite wet and boggy in places. The walk is easily completed in three hours. If you set aside four hours, there are a few tracks that near the summit that could be worth exploring.”Dereck Flack, August, 2015

Craignamaddy Circuit  - A particularly scenic part of the Sperrins Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The 12.8 mile circular route offers stunning views of Glenelly and the Owenkillew Valley.

“We did this walk on a blustery day. Great views. Great walk.” Rob, May 2015

Craignamaddy Circuit

Crockbrack Way  - A 7.2 mile circular walk that takes in the summits of Crockmore and Crockbrack in the eastern Sperrins.

“Excellent walk with quiet country roads and panoramic views to delight the senses.”Dereck Flack, July 2015

“Great walk with flowery lanes before you get to the tops and then huge views. Firm paths most of the way. For a visitor to N Ireland this is an excellent route to get a taste of the Sperrins.” – Jane, July 2015

Hudy’s Way  - A 5.8 mile circular route through open countryside and quiet country lanes

“Absolutely beautiful walk with a nice mixture of trail path types and scenery. It's the first time in a long time I have driven home from a walk of less than 10 miles feeling fulfilled. It's a must do!” Gareth McCormick, May 2015

Lough Fea  - A 2.6 mile circular walk around Lough Fea, one of the many delightful lakes dotted throughout the Sperrins Region.

“Wonderful walking around this beautiful lough! Spotted two otters at the Cookstown end!”D&K Wakefiled, August 2015

“…it is, and always will be, magical!”Sharon Kerr, July 2015

“A very special place to me for many reasons. A beautiful walk no matter what the weather sends.” Shaun Shepherd, June 2015

lough fea

Strangford

Castle Ward Boundary Trail  - This 8.1 mile circular is the longest walking trail within Castle Ward with plenty to see including built & natural heritage, Audley's Castle, Castle Ward House as well as Strangford Lough and its wildlife.

“The beauty of the boundary walk is it is so diverse going from open field to dense woodland to shore line. Plenty of wildlife around and we came across some birds of prey probably buzzards…” Peter, May 2015

Castle Ward

Kearney  - This 2.7 mile circular shoreline trail takes in the beauty of the rugged coastline, simple character of the dwellings and unspoilt, timeless character of the 19th century village.

“My favourite place, so peaceful and beautiful and on a good day the views are simply stunning. it has a wild beauty to it and the village is idyllic.” Jeannie, March 2015

Fermanagh

Aghanaglack Walk, Ballintempo Forest  - A 7 mile circular walk through part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

“A wonderful walk with stunning views of Cuilcagh mountain.” – Damien, June 2015

“Did this walk this morning with hubby and two dogs. Lovely views, men collecting turf and so peaceful” Kathryn, August 2015

If you’re out walking in northern Ireland leave your comments on the WalkNI route pages – we’d love to hear them! 

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!

Photo Blog: 2015 #Tag Highlights

Posted on December 15, 2015 @ 4:34 PM in Mountainbiking

A big thank you to everyone who has engaged with our MountainBikeNI.com #tags this year! Here's a selection of our Instagram highlights from 2015!

Foxhunt 2015

@simoandreucetti, Red Bull Foxhunt, Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails

Davagh Forest Trails

@lawnandborder, Boundary Rock, Davagh Forest Trails

Kodak Corner Rostrevor

@send_er_on, Kodak Corner, Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails 

Davagh Forest Trails

@bornandraisedwaffles, The Widowmaker, Davagh Forest Trails

Castlewellan Trails

@steveo825, Mournes Panoramic, Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

Kodak Corner Rostrevor

@thebunter, Kodak Corner, Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails

Castlewellan Trails

@dar_24, Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

Castlewellan Trails

@williamv633, Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

Davagh Forest Trails

@janerney, Davagh Forest Trails, Sperrin Mountains

Davagh Forest Trails

@jasonblackthorn, Davagh Forest Trails

Castlewellan Trails

@jamcall, Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

Rostrevor

@divenator, Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails 

Remember to use the following #tags if you're out on the trails in 2016! 

#DavaghRocks#KodakCorner#Castlewheelin 

Chris Armstrong
Chris Armstrong  Mountain Bike Officer

Chris looks after all things mountain biking in Northern Ireland ...it's a tough job but someone's gotta do it!

Northern Ireland - A Walker's Winter Wonderland

Posted on December 1, 2015 @ 5:49 PM in Walking

‘Winter Wonderland’ - a phrase often used to describe Switzerland or Lapland – but if you open your eyes and get out and about in Northern Ireland this winter, you will very quickly realise that we have our very own winter wonderland right on our doorstep.  Wherever you live in this wee province, you are never much more than an hour’s drive to the mountains or the coast and the winter weather can provide some fantastic walking opportunities, not to mention the stunning subject matter for a landscape photographer like me.

Although the daylight hours are more limited, the dramatic seas or the snow covered mountains, more than make up for the shorter days.  As I have already said, you don’t have to travel far before you can experience the huge waves at Portballintrae or the snowy Mourne Mountains – even some of our tourist landmarks take on a very different appearance in the winter, due to the sun staying low in the sky. The other big advantage of getting out of your armchair and onto the beach or up into the hills, is the natural destressing effect it has on you – a crisp cold day up beside the Mourne Wall will get your blood pumping and your mind cleared – even a mug of hot soup and a cheese sandwich tastes different after you have spent the morning walking and then stop for lunch huddled out of the wind, in the winter sun. So go on - get your boots out, pack your camera and get out and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the world….

Mourne Mountains Snow

Mountain Men – I just love this shot – taken in Feb 2015 on a trek with a fellow photographer, we had laboured up the mountain from Donard Park in Newcastle – a very well-trodden route, but the ascent can be much slower and more difficult in the winter, not so much due to the snow but the ice underfoot.  This shot is just as I approach the Mourne wall and the figures in the image are heading on up to summit Donard.   I copped out of the Donard climb and opted for a slightly more leisurely ‘stroll’ over the wall and along the Brady Pad, an old smuggling route, and down the Trassey Track – fantastic day out – many memories made and some captured for posterity.


Divis Mountain 

Divis Ice Fields – this is not Iceland!! – it was taken on a short walk last winter at Divis and the Black Mountain in Belfast on the path up from the Divis Coffee Barn, on the Summit route – it’s not Everest but in these conditions boots and warm clothing are a must.  If I hadn’t told you where this was, would you believe you are 20 minutes from Templepatrick!

Portballintrae

North Coast Cappuccino – taken just below the car park at Portballintrae – I choose the title as the scene reminded me of frothy coffee & I was in need of one at this point.  I had intended getting a little closer to the action but common sense prevailed and this was my preferred shot of the day at this location on the North Coast.

 

Divis Mountain

Blue Eyed Boy – sometimes it’s not just about the scenery.  Again only 20 minutes from Templepatrick up on Divis Mountain these wild ponies roam free on a snowy winter’s day.  This one caught my attention because of the bright blue eye colour.  Despite their wild nature, they are very approachable, so I avoided the use of a telephoto lens and was able to just walk right up to him to get my shot. 

Icicles

Simply Icicles – landscapes aren’t always about the big panoramic vista – sometimes you need to get in close to capture some of the magic of nature.  This shot was taken beside an old working waterwheel and it was so cold that the mist from the water has frozen around some of the individual blades of grass on the bank – mind you it was sub-zero that day & it isn’t easy working the camera controls with the gloves on!!

Ramore Head

Big Surf – whilst summer on the North Coast can be warm & sunny, nothing really beats a good winter storm to produce waves like this up on Ramore Head, Portrush.

Belfast Castle

Our Wee Castle –  yes, Belfast has its very own castle at the foot of Cave Hill, North of the City Centre.  The castle and grounds take on a fairy-tale look when there is a sprinkling of snow. Parking is adjacent to the castle and you can also walk up to Napoleon’s Nose, Cavehill from here and stop at the coffee shop in the Castle before you get back into the car!!

Mourne Mountains Snow

Mournes Magic  - this was taken on the same day as the ‘Mountain Men’ image and is the view from the Brandy Pad that I referred to. This shot as taken about the half way point of the walk that day & for some reason I was suffering from severe cramp which was making walking very difficult – visions of helicopter rescue images started to flood my mind!  However no such drama prevailed and as the sun set, I set off for the Trassey Track and home…

Enjoy even more photos of Northern Ireland's beautiful ladnscapes at www.peterlennonphotography.co.uk

Latest comment posted by Ashley on December 5, 2015 @ 3:22 PM

Brilliant photographs of our wonderful coast & countryside. Read more >

Peter Lennon
Peter Lennon  Image Capturer

Peter is a keen photographer, focusing on landscapes, urban and pet photography. His landscape work is concentrated on the North Antrim Coast where he spent many childhood years, but is seeing some familiar places with fresh eyes after a new found enthusiasm for digital photography. www.peterlennonphotography.co.uk

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