Discover the winter walks of Northern Ireland
Whether it is a short stroll along the banks of a river, a refreshing walk barefoot along the beach, or a challenging trek up a mountain, Northern Ireland has something to suit everyone. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board has put together a list of some of the walks available to give visitors a taste of what is on offer.
An inspiration for CS Lewis, the Minnowburn and Giant’s Ring explores the old Terrace Hill estate lands and remarkable beech trees of this area of south Belfast. Farmland, riverbank, wetlands, woodlands, and a formal garden make up this path. Steeped in history, this 2.1 mile walk is part of the Lagan Valley Regional Park system. Visitors also have the opportunity to pass through the famous Giant’s Ring, a Neolithic earthwork circle set in the middle of beautiful farmland.
Winter creates the perfect backdrop to explore the Glenariff Forest Park. This mature woodland is set along the edges of steep sided river gorges with freezing waterfalls and open, frosted, moorland. The 5.9 mile trail takes walkers down the Inver River gorge to the edge of the Ess-na-Crub waterfall. Once across the river begins a long and winding climb offering views of the glens and the Mull of Kintyre across the sea.
Co Antrim also boasts Croaghan, a 6.5 mile circular stroll, with a variety of hills, forest tracks, and stunning panoramic views over to Rathlin Island, just off the Antrim coast. Once you have completed the walk you can reward yourself with a hot drink in the nearby picturesque port of Cushendun, where you might be lucky enough to catch a traditional Irish music night in one of the local pubs.
The Slieve Gullion walk is 9.5 miles and located within the Ring of Gullion area of outstanding beauty. Rising to 573m, Slieve Gullion is the centrepiece of the volcanic landscape and is a special area of conservation. The Ring of Gullion and Slieve Gullion have rich associations with Irish legends and myths. To this day superstition survives that if you bathe in the lough your hair will turn white.
People preferring a challenging hill walk with some strenuous ascents should head to the Mourne Mountains. This 10.9 mile walk takes in three of the four highest peaks in the Mournes — Slieve Donard at 853m, Slieve Commedagh at 765m, and Slieve Bearnagh at 739m. The walk offers breathtaking views out to the Irish Sea and inward to the heart of the high Mournes.
Castle Archdale Country Park offers a variety of walks with a five mile trail with lots to see as it goes along the shore passing the deer park enclosure, wildfowl ponds, wildflower meadow, and butterfly garden. There are also old flying-docks, ammunition dumps, and slit trenches from World War II. Lough Erne played an important role as the most westerly flying-boat station, from which aircraft protected the allied convoys from the U-boat threat in the North Atlantic. Winter is a great time of the year to explore this unique setting.
Roe Valley Country Park boasts a variety of routes along the River Roe or Red River. This seven mile walking trail circles both banks of the Red River, which originates in the peat bogs of the Sperrins Mountains. The path runs through an enchanted oak forest, combining legend with industrial and natural heritage.
Visitors looking for a great off-road winter hill walk across rolling hills and frosty moorland should go to Robber’s Table in Co Tyrone. The highest point of this route provides superb views of the Bluestack and Derryveagh Mountains of Donegal to the west and the high Sperrins to the northeast. As the nine mile route climbs south over Ballynatubbrit Mountain it passes Robber’s Table, the site where supposed local 17th century highwaymen met up to divide their spoils after raiding the postal carriages that traversed this upland landscape.
Fiona Cunningham, market manager (ROI), Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) believes there is no better time to enjoy a nice, crisp, walk in the great outdoors.
“The New Year is the perfect time to wrap up warm and go out in the brisk, frosty, air to enjoy a walk in the countryside,” she said. “Northern Ireland offers a wonderful selection of walks, with something to suit everyone, from a gentle stroll to a challenging hike. With NITB’s Tourist Information Centre offering great value accommodation offers, visitors to Northern Ireland can make the most of their time to explore.”
People planning a visit to Northern Ireland can take advantage of the exclusive accommodation offers available from the Tourist Information Centre which include a two night break with breakfast and one evening meal from only £115pps at The Europa Hotel, Belfast; £89pps at the Corrs Corner Hotel in Newtownabbey, Armagh City Hotel in Armagh or Radisson Roe Park Resort in Limavady; £150pps at the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle; £89.50 at the Killyhevlin in Fermanagh; or £85pps in Corick Country House in Co Tyrone.
To find out more about Northern Ireland’s events and festivals or for further information on places to stay or things to see and do in Northern Ireland, check out the free booking and advice service on CallSave 1850 230 230, or click on www.discovernorthernireland.com