Six of the Best: Summer Walks in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is home to a rich variety of walks: from sandy shorelines, to leafy paths and sprawling hills, there are a whole host of routes just waiting to be discovered right on our doorsteps!
Here is a list of six ‘must do’ walks this summer. From leisurely coastal strolls to more strenuous mountain rambles – it's time to get those walking boots on and explore some stunning vistas this summer season!
White Park Bay, County Antrim
Nothing says summer like a walk on the beach! Situated in the Causeway Coast & Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this three-mile linear walk will take you along golden sands and rocky shoreline. A spectacular secluded sweep of sandy beach looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, White Park Bay forms a white arc between two headlands on the North Antrim Coast and is one of the first settlements of man in Ireland.
Its secluded location means that even on a busy day there is plenty of room for quiet relaxation, so you will have no problem enjoying this leisurely walk taking in the treasures of one of the most natural coastlines in Northern Ireland. As you step along the sandy shores make sure to take note of the ancient dune system, a declared area of scientific interest, and the chalk grassland carpeted in rare plants, including many orchids. Keep an eye out for willow warblers, linnets and stonechats as well as the ringed plover – a small wader bird that nests at the bay.
Click here for full route description and detailed maps for White Park Bay.
Robber's Table, County Tyrone
If you’re looking for something more challenging to wile away the hours of a long summer's day then this excellent nine-mile circular hill walk in the Sperrins is for you! As you traverse the landscape criss-crossed with hedgerows and miles of old stone walls you will be rewarded with superb views of the Bluestack and Derryveagh Mountains of Donegal, the unspoilt plain of Omagh and the magnificent High Sperrin Mountain range.
Many tales are told of highwaymen who rode the post roads across the Sperrins and divided their spoils on the ridge of ‘Robber’s Table’. The good news is this popular walk is part of the largest mountain range in Ireland so you can explore the spectacular scenery of the Sperrins again and again from different angles!
Click here for full route description and detailed maps for Robber's Table.
Slieve Binnian, County Down
No top summer walking shortlist would be complete without including a walk in the Mourne Mountains. At 747 metres, Slieve Binnian is the third highest mountain in Northern Ireland and it’s high, tor-capped summit dominates the countryside, overlooking both the Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs. If you are looking for breathtaking views then Slieve Binnian will not disappoint!
This fantastic seven-mile circular walk follows the Mourne Wall to the summit of Slieve Binnian, traversing between the spectacular South and North Tors before descending along a track past the beautiful Blue Lough, Annalong Forest and back to the car park. Be prepared for a steep ascent and an even steeper one if you want to reach the summit – which involves using your hands and taking care on the rock. Once you make it to the top however you will be rewarded with an exceedingly fine panorama of the surrounding mountains. On a clear summer's day it's possible to see the Isle of Man out to sea and the Wicklow Mountains beyond Dublin. If this is your first time walking this route – it certainly won’t be your last!
Click here for full route description and detailed maps for this walk on Slieve Binnian.
North Down Coastal Path, County Down
With 16 glorious miles of coastline to be walked make sure you don’t forget to pack your picnic! Mostly tarmac path, with short rugged sections, the North Down Coastal Path extends from Holywood in the east to Orlock Point in the west.
Beginning at the Esplanade in Holywood this popular route hugs the coastline along to Orlock making sure the sea is never far from view. In fact if you look closely you may even spot a seal! As if the impressive coastal views aren’t enough there are also a number of spectacles to distract along the way including Crawfordsburn Country Park on the southern shores of Belfast Lough, the glistening sands of Helen's Bay and Bangor Marina – where it’s time to treat yourself to some fish and chips and enjoy them in the company of the bronze sculpture eating his pastie supper – you never know he might take the bad look off you!
If you’re not feeling up to walking the full 16 miles you can choose a section of the coastal path and walk as far as your heart desires… and your feet will take you!
Click here for full route decription and detailed maps for the North Down Coastal Path.
Castle Archdale, County Fermanagh
For a shorter walk – but one steeped in history, head across to Fermanagh where you can choose between a variety of routes encompassing loughshore and woodland in Castle Archdale Country Park. No matter which one you pick you will be walking on history as the park was once the frontline of the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.
Features within the Park include a red deer enclosure, wildfowl ponds, nature trail, butterfly garden and wildflower meadow. To make the most of your visit, be sure not to miss the Archdale Centre, which is in the corner of the main courtyard. Here you can see various exhibitions which will help you to understand the efforts made to conserve this beautiful part of Fermanagh.
Click here for full route description and detailed maps for Castle Archdale.
Cave Hill, Belfast
Cave Hill is a familiar sight to many in Belfast, with its visible outline stretching for miles. Often referred to as Napoleon’s Nose – due to its silhouette in the sky resembling a gigantic profile staring upwards, Cave Hill is undeniably impressive to look at from the city. There are few views more striking, that is of course until you are standing on the hill itself looking down on the spectacular panoramic views of Belfast.
Rising to 368 metres above sea level, climbing to the summit of Cave Hill you can experience the wilderness of the mountain, yet look out over the busy but silent city below. Dominating the urban landscape are Samson and Goliath, the mighty cranes of the shipyard, one of Belfast’s most famous landmarks. On a clear day, you can see Strangford Lough, Scrabo Tower, the Mourne Mountains, Slemish, the coast of Scotland and the Isle of Man. A challenging 4.5 mile route, over unsurfaced paths, past the caves (which the hill is named after) to McArt’s Fort, and crossing moorland, heath and meadows you will discover much of what the park has to offer from archaeological sites and wildlife to panoramic views. Late summer is an ideal time to visit with purple heather injecting colour on the hill and meadow pipits and skylarks providing a chorus over the open moorland on warm summer days.
Click here for full route description and detailed maps for Cave Hill.
Walks courtesy of www.walkni.com