WITH longer days, brighter nights and summer just around the corner, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is encouraging people to lace up their walking boots and get outdoors to enjoy some of the vast array of walking trails, forest parks, coastal paths, mountains and beaches.
NITB’s PR Officer Marie-Therese O’Neill said: “Northern Ireland boasts some spectacular scenery and walking is one of the best ways to explore the beauty. With recent new additions such as the National Trust run Divis Ridge Trail offering spectacular views over Belfast and beyond, there is a greater variety of scenic places to walk than ever before with something for all levels of walkers”.
“For anyone visiting Northern Ireland or new to walking, joining up with others at a walking festival is an ideal way to get involved, meet people with a similar interest and explore Northern Ireland’s beautiful landscapes, interesting ancient heritage and discover its wildlife.“
Here are some highlights of the 2014 walking calendar in Northern Ireland to look forward to or check out www.discovernorthernireland.com/walking for information on routes, how to book a guide or find a place to stay and plan a walking weekend.
Walk the Glens Festival Fri May 30 – Sun June 1 is based around the stunning Glenariff, Cushendall & Cushendun areas. With vastly experienced and knowledgeable local guides the Walk the Glens festival not only provides walkers with breath-taking routes but also informs and educates on the culture and history of this famous area.
Stranocum Countryside Walks 2014 on June 4 Starting and finishing in Stranocum Village, County Antrim, this three mile circular route takes walkers through the natural beauty of the Bush Valley and Livery Hill. The route includes quiet country lanes and views of idyllic rural countryside with thatched dwelling houses and the historic Stranocum Hall dating back to the 18th century.
The Mourne International Walking Festival on June 27 – 29 June offers routes between 10k and 40k at both high and low level. The festival takes place over three days and this year is based in Newcastle, Co. Down, the ‘gateway to the Mournes’ where there are a variety of self-guided lowland walks, all fully waymarked as well as more strenuous guided mountain walks. The festival also offers walkers entertainment and so makes a great opportunity to stay for the weekend as the bars and restaurants provide a great buzz and with plenty of traditional music in the evenings. The highlight of the weekend is the ‘Blister Ball’ on Saturday Night (28th) a casual event with a hot buffet supper and music by a local band.
Antrim Hills Walking Festival on October 4 caters for all ages and abilities with a fun mixture of guided easy, moderate and challenging walks amid the magnificent scenery of the Antrim Hills. Walks will be led by experienced walk leaders and are designed to be enjoyable and informative.
Walking Routes and Trails
Northern Ireland boasts an extensive list of walking routes and trails boasting stunning landscapes and breathtaking views including the Ulster Way, a 625 mile (1000 km) circular long distance walking route. Follow in the footsteps of Saint Patrick along the Lecale Way, discover the Mourne landscapes that inspired the Tales of Narnia, take in the tranquility of the Fermanagh Lakelands, and enjoy the rolling Sperrin Mountains and awe inspiring Giant’s Causeway.
The revised route is separated into ‘Quality’ and ‘Link’ sections designed to help you maximise the potential of the best walking areas in Northern Ireland whilst minimising the time spent on busy roads helping to provide a truly memorable experience for any long distance walker.
New Walking Trail
The Divis Ridge Trail enables people to view the city of Belfast from a different perspective, from above! The trail allows walkers to enjoy 180 degree views across the city and further afield including the Antrim Plateau to the north, Scotland to the east and the Mourne Mountains to the south. Developed by Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland, the trail gives walkers access to previously inaccessible parts of Divis and the Black Mountain.
Looking forward to Autumn 2014
The Gobbins Coastal Path in Islandmagee is in the process of being restored to its former glory. The restoration, complete with visitor centre, café and playground, will create a unique coastal attraction and further improve the visitor experience in the Causeway Coast and Glens region. Scheduled to open in late 2014, the new path will include reconstructed versions of a tubular bridge and a 25-metre suspension bridge. Professional guided tours that detail local history, heritage and culture will also be on offer. There will be an additional cliff top path and clip top view point to add to the overall visitor experience giving people the chance to enjoy stunning vistas of Belfast Lough and the Causeway Coastal Route.
For further information on walking in Northern Ireland click on www.discovernorthernireland.com/walking