Best walks in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's countryside is a walker's paradise. From the drama of the Causeway Coast and County Down's Mourne Mountains to the serenity of Glenariff Forest Park and Belfast Caslte, here are some of the country's greatest walks

Causewy-Coast-2058c06

Northern Ireland contains just 1.8m people – roughly a fifth of London’s population. Indeed, the density of humans is so low that it can often feel as though you have the countryside to yourself; each path your own, save the scuttle of a red squirrel or the chirrup of a songbird.

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Take to the trail and discover the mountains, loughs, forests and coastlines of this magical country with some of our favourite walks.

Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim

Boardwalks lead through the reserve from one waterfall to the next
Boardwalks lead through the reserve from one waterfall to the next ©Getty

The Rivers Glenariff and Inver have cut right through this spectacular steep-sided gorge – the Queen of the Glens. This short circular gorge walk, abound with tumbling rivers and waterfalls, navigates through the lush valley. Map and route.

Distance: 1.8 miles

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Duration: 1 hour

Slieve Bearnagh, County Down

“It made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise its head over the next ridge,” wrote CS Lewis  – the Mountains of Mourne were an important inspiration for the author’s imaginary land, Narnia
“It made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise its head over the next ridge,” wrote CS Lewis  – the Mountains of Mourne were an important inspiration for the author’s imaginary land, Narnia ©Alamy

Take on this tough upland walk, following a 100-year-old wall over peaks and cols through Northern Ireland’s Mountains of Mourne. Map and route.

Distance: 7 miles

Difficulty: Moderate/challenging

Duration: 4 hours

Tollymore Forest Park, County Down

Foleys bridge in Tollymore forest park
Tollymore Forest Park ©Getty

Climb through lush woodland along the Shimna River, past the Hermitage and on to Parnell’s Bridge. Route and map.

Distance: 3 miles

Duration: 1.5 hours

Difficulty: easy

The Causeway Coast, County Antrim

Dunseverick harbour
Dunseverick harbour ©Getty

The undeniably impressive Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction. But step off the beaten track and you’ll be able to marvel at this coast’s geology, myths and breathtaking views in virtual solitude. Map and route.

Distance: 6 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Duration: 4 hours

Belfast Castle Estate, Belfast

Belfast Castle sits 120m above sea level
 Belfast Castle sits 120m above sea level ©Getty

Follow the waymarked Estate Trail through forest and parkland past Belfast Castle. Map and route.

Distance: 2.4 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Duration: 1.5 hours

Carnfunnock Biodiversity Walk, County Antrim

The Biodiversity Walk is just one of many trails in Carnfunnock Biodiversity Walk
The Biodiversity Walk is just one of many trails in Carnfunnock Biodiversity Walk ©Rossographer 

Explore Carnfunnock Country Park in County Antrim with the Biodiversity Walk, one of many trails in the area. The walk includes a giant bird table and outdoor gym equipment, and is suitable for people with limited mobility. Map and route.

Distance: 1.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Duration: 1 hour

Carrick-a-Rede, County Antrim

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a famous rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede.
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge ©Getty

Step across a swinging rope bridge high above the Atlantic and on to a rocky offshore island, once a salmon fishery. In spring and summer, the walk down to the beach offers visitors the chance to see a range of unique flora and fauna – don’t forget your camera! Route and map.

Distance: 1.4 miles

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Duration: 1 hour

Cave Hill Country Park, Belfast

Cave Hill ©Getty
Cave Hill ©Getty

Make your way beneath the overhang of Cave Hill, over moorland, meadows and heath. This challenging route includes archaeological sites, caves, wildlife and spectacular panoramic views. Route and map.

Distance: 4.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate/challenging

Duration: 3 hours

River Blackwater, County Armagh

Full length shot of Kingfisher on small perch looking down.
The River Blackwater is home to kingfishers ©Getty

Cross the industrial ironwork of Bond’s Bridge, then head south-west along the River Blackwater, keeping an eye out for kingfishers and other wildlife. This National Trust walk is perfect for dog walkers, families and geocaching. Route and map.

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Duration: 1 hours

Mount Stewart Demesne Trails, County Down

Northern Ireland Newtownards Mount Stewart House and Italian Garden
The mild climate around Strangford Lough allows gardeners to grow a vast range of plant species ©Getty

Explore the woodland, farms, orchards and walled garden of Mount Stewart Demesne. The area is popular with red squirrels, buzzards and woodpeckers, and in spring the the countryside blooms with wildflowers. Route and map.

Distance: 0.2-1.4 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Duration: 20 minutes to an hour

Portstewart Strand, County Antrim

People At Beach Against Sky During Sunset
The sun sets over Portstewart Strand ©Getty

Stroll out across the board sands of Portstewart Strand and discover wind-sculpted dunes and coastal flowers. Route and map.

Distance: 3.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Duration: 2 hours

Fairhead, Country Antrim

View from Fairhead with Rathlin Island in the background, Northern Ireland
The cliffs at Fairhead are composed of dolerite rock ©Getty

Look out from the clifftops of Fairhead to the town of Ballycastle, Rathlin Island and sandy Murlough Bay. There are a number of walks over the headland, varying from 1.5-3.4 miles. Routes and maps.

Distance: 1.5-3.4 miles

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Duration: 1-3 hours

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