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

Shining A Light On Northern Ireland's Great Lighthouses

Posted on August 1, 2018 @ 11:08 AM in Walking

Down through the centuries Lighthouses have helped guide ships and sailors safely along the coastline avoiding perilous rocks. Dotted along the stunning coastline on various walking routes, Northern Ireland boasts 5 Great Lighthouses waiting to be explored! 

The Bumblebee Lighthouse

St John's Point Lighthouse courtesy of Malcolm McGettigan

Image: St. John's Point Lighthouse courtesy of Malcolm McGettigan

Overlooking Dundrum Bay in the coastal town of Killough, you can't miss St John's Lighthouse. Located on section 4 of the Lecale Way between Ardglass and Tyrella, St John's is the tallest onshore lighthouse in Ireland, designed by acclaimed designer George Halpin Senior. It's striking tall tower is marked with vibrant bumblebee bands of yellow and black. These vivid colours, which distinguish it from other lighthouses, are known as its daymark. 

The Little Lighthouse

Blackhead Lighthouse courtesy of Malcolm McGettigan

Image: Blackhead Lighthouse courtesy of Malcolm McGettigan

Sitting on the edge of a cliff overlooking Belfast Lough, Blackhead Lighthouse is located only half an hour from Belfast. Built in 1902, the lighthouse has guided many famous vessels to safety during Belfast's golden age of shipping, including RMS Titanic. As well as exploring the inside of the lighthouse, visitors can follow the dramatic coastline by walking the 2.4 mile linear (one way) Blackhead Path which takes you past a series of sea caves and coves towards the Victorian seaside resort of Whitehead.

The Upside Down Lighthouse

Rathlin Island

Image: Rathlin Island West Lighthouse courtesy of Tourism NI

Whether you love wildlife, are a bit of a history buff or simply want to experience life on an island and feel the wind in your face, Rathlin West Lighthouse is the place for you. At just six miles long, one mile wide, the west lighthouse is one of two lights which can be found on the Island. Known as being Ireland's only 'upside down' lighthouse, it can be accessed via the 4 mile linear (one way) Rathlin Trail. Be sure to take a tour of the lighthouse and embrace the views from its cliff-face vantage point to get a real insight into lightkeeping life. The Island is not only home to this unique lighthouse, but also one of the largest seabird colonies in the UK which can be admired from the RSPB Seabird Centre. 

Lighthouse On The Pier

Donaghadee Lighthouse

The character of Donaghadee is intimately joined to its most well known landmark Donaghadee Lighthouse. Since its construction in 1836 this limestone lighthouse has been a symbol of pride to the town's inhabitants. From it's lofty parapet, there's a seagulls eye view of the harbour and town which you can discover by following the 1.5 mile, Donaghadee Town Trail.

The Great Light 

Titanic Light

Image: Titanic Light courtesy of Titanic Foundation

The Great Light in Belfast's Titanic Quarter is one of the largest optics of its kind ever built in the world, and is around 130 years old. Weighing 10 tonnes and measuring 7 metres tall, the optic is a unique maritime heritage object with significance to Belfast's economic, maritime and industrial past. It is totally irreplaceable and is an exceptionally rare maritime artefact. It produced one of the strongest lighthouse beams ever to shine - a truly GREAT LIGHT. You can discover this light for yourself by following the 500 metre Titanic Walkway on Victoria Wharf, which connects the Titanic Slipways to HMS Caroline and the Thompson Dock.

For more coastal walks in Northern Ireland check out WalkNI.com for details.

Latest comment posted by GARY on August 8, 2018 @ 4:25 PM

All Great Lighthouse,s of Northern Ireland, as one of my many interests I can't understand why my nearest Lighthouse, Haulbowline in Carlingford Lough is not included in this package? Read more >

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

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

Top 4 Mountain Climbs For Beginners

Posted on July 23, 2018 @ 12:43 PM in Walking

Sometimes the prospect of climbing to the top of a mountain can be a little intimidating to beginner hikers. The good news is it doesn't have to be - discover some of Northern Ireland's best summits with our guide to the top 4 beginner climbs.

1. Divis & The Black Mountain, Belfast, Co. Antrim

Divis

Located just a stones throw from Belfast City Centre, the trails on Divis are ideal for those looking to experience mountain views without the mountain climb. The highest point in the Belfast Hills, Divis stands at 478 metres (1,562ft) and boasts views across Northern Ireland as well as stunning panoramic views over Belfast.

The Divis Summit Trail, 3 miles circular will take on average between 50 mins & 1 hour 30 mins to complete. We recommend taking a detour from this trail and following the Divis Ridge Trail to experience more of the amazing cityscape views before re-joining the summit trail.

2. Slieve Donard, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down

Slieve Donard

At 850m (2,789 ft) Slieve Donard is the highest of the Mourne Mountains. Boasting spectacular views on a clear day it is no surprise this mountain is a popular challenge for visitors and beginner hikers. We recommend those who take on this summit have a good level of fitness and wear suitable clothing and footwear for a mountain climb. Check out WalkNI: Slieve Donard Summit via the Glen River, 2.9 miles (one way) for a full route description of this trail. 

3. Cuilcagh Boardwalk (Legnabrocky Trail), Co. Fermanagh

Cuilcagh Boardwalk

One of the most popular walks in Northern Ireland, the Cuilcagh Boardwalk (Legnabrocky Trail), 4.6 miles linear (one way) provides a unique journey to the top of Cuilcagh Mountain. Situated in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark the extensive boardwalk is most suited to those with a good level of fitness and some experience of walking in the hills. Installed to help protect the rare blanket bog from erosion this linear route is quite isolated and showcases the scenic wilderness of Cuilcagh Mountain.

The Trail meaders along a quiet farmland track before traversing a wooden boardwalk that consists of a steady climb to the mountain face. Here a stepped boardwalk climbs through steep terrain and boulder fields before reaching the summit plateau.

Please note:

  • No dogs are allowed on this walk.
  • There is no access to the summit Cairn beyond the end of the boardwalk (You will still experience the same amazing views from viewpoint).
  • There is a £5 charge for those wishing to avail of the private car park at the beginning of this walk. Alternatively, walkers can park at Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre nearby.

4. Slemish, Ballymena, Co. Antrim

Slemish

Follow in the footsteps of Saint Patrick to the summit of Slemish (1.2 miles circular). Aside from its natural beauty, in local tradition the mountain was the site of the Saint's slavery, where he spent 6 years herding livestock fro Mulchi, the local chieftain.

This route follows grassy track from the Slemish Car Park to the base of the mountain before following rocky terrain to the summit (some 1437ft above sea level!). This short ascent is reasonably strenuous, however your efforts are more than rewarded with fabulous views that are sure to re-energise any tired legs. For a gentler descent, walk across the grassy summit and hike down the south face of Slemish. You can then traverse back across the south western side of the mountain picking up the route back to the car park.

Despite being only 1.2 miles in length this rocky ramble should take around an hour to complete, leaving plenty of time to take in the jaw-dropping views. 

For more walk ideas check out WalkNI.com

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

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

Take Me To That View

Posted on June 26, 2018 @ 1:06 PM in Walking

Northern Ireland has an abundance of great views, whether you're in search of an epic Instagram photo or looking to explore somewhere new. Here are some of the amazing views we recommend experiencing this year.

Dunluce Castle

View from the Causeway Coast Way over Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle, Co. Antrim
Grid reference to start: C904414
Picture by Chris Ibbotson Photography

Big Dog Forest

View From Big Dog Forest Walk

Big Dog Forest: Big Dog WalkCo. Fermanagh
Grid reference to start: 
H041494
Image courtesy of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

Rathlin Island

View from Rathlin Island to Fairhead

Rathlin Island Roonivoolin WalkCo. Antrim
Grid reference to start: D147510 
Picture by Hibernia Landscapes

Cloughmore Stone

Sunset views from the Cloughmore Stone across Carlingford Lough

Rostrevor - Cloughmore Stone, Co. Down
Grid reference to start: J195174
Picture by Jaime Collins Photography

Slemish

A view of Slemish from Saint Patrick's perspective

Slemish, Co. Antrim
Grid reference to start: D217056
Image courtesy of Tourism NI

Mourne Mountains

Sunset Views from Hare's Gap

Hare's GapMourne Mountains, Co. Down
Grid reference for the start: J311314
Picture by Ryan Simpson Photography

Mussenden Temple

View from Mussenden Temple onto Downhill Beach

Mussenden Temple & Downhill Demesne, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Grid reference to start: C760354
Picture by Derek Heeps Photography

Please note National Trust entrance fees apply to this walk. For details see National Trust: Downhill.

Slans Graveyard

View of Strangford Lough from Slans Graveyard

Slans Graveyard, Co. Down
Grid reference to start: J639550
Image courtesy of Outdoor Recreation NI

Davagh Forest

The enchanting 50 shades of green view of Davagh Forest

Davagh ForestCo. Tyrone
Grid reference to start: H694862
Picture by Simon Nieborak Photography

C.S Lewis Square

View inside the wardrobe of Aslan in C.S Lewis Square

Connswater Community Greenway: C.S Lewis Square, Co. Antrim
Grid Reference to start: J366750
Image courtesy of Bradley Quinn

Doan

Mountain Top Views of Lough Shannagh from Carn Mountain

Lough Shannagh, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down
Grid reference to start: J284214
Picture by Brian McCready Landscapes

Sunset views along the Newry Canal

Newry Canal Way, Co. Armagh
Grid reference to start: J014539
Picture by Mickey Shields Photography

For more incredible walks with spectacular views check out WalkNI.com. Don't forget to share pictures of amazing views you discover with us on social media, using #WalkNI on Instagram or @walkNI on Facebook & Twitter.

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

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

Top Tips For Increasing Your Steps in 2018

Posted on May 3, 2018 @ 3:38 PM in Walking

How many steps do you take each day? For many, sedentary jobs can make it difficult to accomplish the suggested 10,000 steps a day. Below are some of our top tips for motivating yourself to walk more, maximising your lunch break or making the most of time outside of work.


Activity / Fitness Trackers

Fitness trackers are a fantastic way to keep track of your personal progress. Depending on the kind of tracker you have, many offer the ability to track not only steps but calories, heart rate, distance travelled and sleep. How about starting a Step Challenge in your workplace or challenging yourself to meet a weekly target? Check out Cotswold Outdoors for some activity tracker ideas including brands like Fitbit and Garmin.

Make Every Walk A Tresure Hunt (Geocaching)

What if we told you that you could make a walk into a treasure hunt every time you step out the door? Geocaching has become increasingly popular, with more and more people searching for hidden ‘Caches’ both locally and internationally. Simply navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates using a GPS enabled device (this includes most smart phones) and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. Get the app on Google Play or download on the App Store for free.

Walking During Your Lunch Break

Whether you have a 30-minute lunch break or a leisurely 1 hour to fill, keep a pair of trainers or comfortable walking shoes under your desk. Not only will this help you get your steps up, it will also give you that well-earned break from a computer screen and help you start the afternoon refreshed and focused.

Dog Friendly Walks

Walking the dog is a fantastic way to get that step count up. While weekday walks may be kept local, make the weekend your time to experience some new sights, sounds and smells. With lots of fantastic walks to choose from, here are a few of our favourite dog friendly walks across Northern Ireland.

Please note for these walks dogs must be kept on leads.

Family Friendly Walks

There are fantastic family walks across Northern Ireland, perfect for family outings at the weekend or during school holidays. Here are a few of our favourite family walks to inspire you to get out and about with your loved ones.

Check out our blog 'Top Tips For Walking As A Family In Northern Ireland' to help inspire your family to get out walking more.

Discover Trails On Your Doorstep- OutmoreNI.com

Do you know what walking trails are on your doorstep in Northern Ireland? We have recently been developing a website to help you do just that. Discover hundreds of outdoor trails and places across Northern Ireland using OutmoreNI.com.

Walk @ parkrun 

Did you know that parkrun isn't just for runners? Suitable for all ages and abilities, this fun, free and friendly 5km (6,336 steps) walk in the park is ideal for those looking to introduce a regular routine of walking into their week. With a fantastic sense of community, the event is suitable for those walking on their own, with friends, with prams or those walking their dog. Seven parks are currently hosting the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative: 

Registration is free and can be done online via the parkrun website: www.parkrun.org.uk/register/form and selecting #ParkWalk as your club.

Walking Northern Ireland

Walk The Ulster Way

While it may seem like a daunting prospect and you may not have time to walk the 665-mile-long (1,404,480 steps) Ulster Way in one go, how about walking it in achievable sections over the course of a year (or two!)? Check out our Ulster Way Highlights Blogs for some inspiration; The Mourne WayThe Sliabh Beagh WayThe Causeway Coast Way.

Charity Challenge Walks

There are lots of opportunities throughout the year to take part in charity challenge walks. Details of upcoming walking events can be found on the WalkNI Events Calendar. You may also wish to organise your own sponsored walk with family and friends to raise money for a good cause? Many charities offer fundraising packs to help you with arranging this.

Walking Step Blog

Walking Festivals

Walking festivals are the ideal way to explore somewhere new with people who know the area best. Suitable for all ages and abilities, the programmes often include a range of guided family friendly, lowland, intermediate and high-level walks. Full details and dates can be found on the WalkNI Walking Festivals Map

Bucket List Walks

WalkNI recieves lots of messages and comments about the following popular walks. How many have you yet to discover?

With so many health benefits and fantastic walks to discover, there really is no better time to get out for a walk. Check out WalkNI.com for more blogs, events and routes sure to inspire. 

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

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

Top Tips For Walking As A Family In Northern Ireland

Posted on April 9, 2018 @ 5:19 PM in Walking

We are spoilt for choice when it comes to picturesque walking locations in Northern Ireland. In this blog Kelly Hargie, author of 'Every Treasure', shares some of her tops tips for getting your family out exploring.

Family Friendly Walks Northern Ireland

My husband, Trevor, and I, along with our 3 boys aged 7, 9 and 12 go hiking most weekends and enjoy camping during school holidays. We love nothing more than exploring, the rich pickings that Northern Ireland has on offer and never cease to be amazed, by the unspoiled hidden gems and beautiful landscapes we get to savour as the seasons change.

We have been doing this ever since our children were very small, before the youngest could walk he came with us in a baby backpack carrier; and over the years, our out-and-about adventures have become the highlight of our week. With modern life being so busy with the work and school routine, we really look forward to this carved-out family time. There are places that we like to visit time and time again and walks that hold special memories for us.

Some things we have learned along the waybig

Planning an arduous hike up Slieve Bearnagh in the Mourne Mountains mid-winter with toddlers, is always going to be a little bit over-ambitious. It is important to plan-out journeys well in advance, keeping in mind the abilities of everyone in the group. Ultimately, hiking as a family is all about having fun and developing your child's love for walking! Sure, set goals once a bit of experience has been tucked under the belt, but be realistic and make sure everyone has a good time. 

small

While not thinking too big, it's also worth not thinking too small! Kids are way more capable than we sometimes give them credit for. It is our youngest child, or as we like to call him ‘our little mountain goat’ who is always the first to reach the top of a mountain and add his stone to the cairn. Challenges are good, it’s all about being sensible and planning well. 

Money

The joy of walking is that it costs virtually nothing, beyond the price of a pair of walking boots and a small picnic. At the end of a day of hiking in the Mournes, we often talk among ourselves about what a great day out we have had for less than £10. Many family-focused activities can end up costing parents a small fortune. Exploring a nature trail, splashing in muddy puddles and learning about the natural world with kids is satisfying in so many ways and doesn’t require re-mortgaging the house in the process.

Finding The Time

Not all outdoor expeditions need to be time-consuming. There are some quality walks that can be done in just a couple of hours. Again, it often comes down to the planning: put clothes out and prepare a picnic the night before, or go out for a walk in your local area to avoid long travel times. Whatever your time-frame, I guarantee that a journey into the wild is totally achievable!

equipment

As mentioned above, other than a decent pair of walking boots and some waterproof, warm and comfortable clothes, there’s not a whole lot more equipment required to go walking. Most routes around forests and parks are clearly marked out but should you need them maps can be downloaded from the internet too.

ducks

If we only went adventuring during good weather, life would be dull and cabin fever would most certainly ensue. It’s well-known and joked about that Northern Ireland often gets to experience all 4 seasons in a day. It is just as possible to walk in the colder winter months as it is in the bright days of spring and summer. Certainly, the number of daylight hours is fewer, but to be honest, some of the best adventures we have experienced as a family have been in the snow and rain! Is there anything better than arriving home after a strenuous, chilly walk to a warm house and hot chocolate? I think not.

Family Friendly Walks Northern Ireland

The Essentials 

So, you’re ready to get the family out-and-about exploring and savouring some quality time together, the next thing you want to know is what exactly do you need to bring?

Food, and plenty of it! If your kids are anything like mine they like to graze all day long. Bring snack-type foods that can be eaten on the go and that also have a decent amount of nutritional value. We like to bring hard-boiled eggs, lots of fruit and a few treats are usually worth packing for a bit of encouragement when little legs get tired. 

With our erratic weather and the fact that the top of a mountain can be very different from the bottom of a mountain, it is worth wearing layered clothing. Think base-layers, t-shirt, fleece and a waterproof. I would advise popping spare socks in the rucksack and keep a full set of spare clothes in the car. Hats, gloves and snoods are useful to have at hand as the wind can be strong even on a mild day. 

Toilet roll, carrier bags / a small spade are essential when trekking with children too. You know for sure that the moment you are deep in the woods or halfway up a mountain trail someone will need the loo! And usually when kids say they need to go, well, they really need to go! It is possible to discretely toilet in the wild like Bear Grylls.

Family Friendly Walks Northern Ireland

Use Your Imagination!

Hiking with the kids is a whole heap of fun, I love it more than anything. The pace can be slow, but there is so much to explore! Spend an entire day looking for fossils on the coast, studying bugs in the forest or foraging for leaves to use in a craft activity when you get home. Life is busy and learning to slow-down, breathe-deep and enjoy our beautiful countryside can be so beneficial. I’ve learned over the years of walking with my kids that it is in their favourite wild spaces that imagination comes alive. Play a made-up game, go off the beaten track, climb a tree, dance in the rain, jump in the mud. There is so much fun to be had if we allow kids to take the lead and set the tone.

As the good weather arrives, I hope that you are inspired to get out and about exploring the multitude of walks on offer in Northern Ireland. The benefits of a walk in the great outdoors cannot be counted or even at times put into words. Go for it; pull on your walking boots, pack up a few sandwiches and get out there and explore! I promise you will not be disappointed at what you discover!

Feeling inspired? Here are some Family Friendly Walks

Family Friendly Walks Northern Ireland

The Giant's LairSlieve Gullion, Co. Armagh (1 mile walk)
Capture the whole families imagination discovering a land with dragons, giants and fairies. At just over a mile with uphill sections there are lots of fairy houses and art features to explore on this very enjoyable and achievable walk.

Cranny Falls, Carnlough, Co. Antrim (2.4 mile walk)
With a fantastic eco-playpark at the beginning of the trail and a gentle incline to the waterfall it is well-worth a visit.

Hen Mountain, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down (5.9 miles walk)
A great little mountain for those wishing to start hiking in the Mournes. This walk is more suited to those with older children or with younger children in a backpack carrier.

Cave Hill, Belfast, Co. Antrim (4.5 mile walk)
A well-known and well-loved walk in the Belfast hills, it's a fun game trying to identify buildings from the top. Those with younger children or off-road buggies can explore the forest section below.

Gortin Lakes, Omagh, Co. Tyrone (0.6 mile walk)
This short off-road walk leads around Gortin Lakes with superb views of the Sperrins landscape. Just under a mile in length spend a couple of hours exploring and enjoy a picnic in the tranquil surroundings.

Tollymore Forest Park (River Trail), Bryansford, Co. Down (3 mile walk)
Journey into deep woods following the trail alongside the River Shimna before hopping over a set of stepping stones. Families with younger kids can explore shorter sections of this walk and the 'Big Deer' play area.

Castlewellan Forest Park, Castlewellan, Co. Down (Various walks of up to 3 miles)
There are lots of walks to enjoy in Castlewellan Forest Park. Families looking a challenge should explore the Slievenaslat Walk while those with buggies and younger children can explore the Lakeside Walk. Finish the day exploring  'Animal Wood' play area & Peace Maze. 

Whitepark Bay, Ballintoy, Co. Antrim (2.8 mile walk)
With archaeological evidence everywhere this is the ideal location to spend a few hours fossil hunting. This beach is also the ideal spot for a quiet picnic lunch. 

Discover more family friendly walks on WalkNI.com

Family Friendly Walks Northern Ireland

*Remember - take all of your rubbish home with you. Take a million and one pictures and wonderful memories home with you and leave behind nothing but footprints. It is also worth checking route descriptions beforehand if you are planning to take your dog. Some routes go through working farmland where dogs are not permitted.

Kelly Hargie
Kelly Hargie  Blogger (Every Treasure)

Kelly Hargie is a Belfast-based Mum of 3 adventurous boys. Her hobbies are reading, walking and eating good food. She blogs over at Every Treasure about the silver-lining moments to be found in the everyday and is passionate about authentic-living, simplicity and will always leave housework undone to go on an outdoor adventure.

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