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Walking in Northern Ireland

By Dave Roberts   

on May 10, 2020    No ratings yet.

Walking in Northern Ireland

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About Walking in Northern Ireland

With a coastline stretching for 385 kilometres, several mountainous areas, the largest lake in the United Kingdom, the Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage Site, 7 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), many Game of Thrones locations, several well developed recreational forest areas, and with peace now firmly established, Northern Ireland is emerging as a magnet for those with a love of the outdoors.

The Mourne Mountains of County Down are the best known of the upland areas and are home to the highest peak in the province, Slieve Donard, which, at 850m is one of 30 peaks over 500m in the range along with about 50 smaller hills. Although they cannot compete in height with their Scottish, Welsh and Cumbrian neighbours, the Mournes have many inviting features, not least their compact nature and the easy access afforded by a network of paths, farm lanes and quarry tracks. The 31.4km Mourne Wall, Northern Ireland’s longest listed building, crosses 15 summits, serving as a perfect navigational aid.

The Sperrins are a much more widely scattered range spanning 40 miles along the borders of Counties Derry and Tyrone. The range includes 10 summits over 500m, Sawel Mountain, at 678m, topping the altitude rankings. Access is not as straightforward as in the Mournes, with most of the land in private hands. Ground conditions are generally quite boggy, but walkers will be rewarded by wild, desolate, untouched landscapes and quiet, green valleys. Prehistory is ever present with over 90 stone circles, the best known being the Beaghmore Stone Circles in the south-east of the range.

Counties Antrim, Armagh and Fermanagh all have significant upland areas. 550m Trostan is the highest peak in the Antrim Hills, while County Armagh’s beautiful Ring of Gullion area is topped by 573m Slieve Gullion whose summit incorporates the highest surviving passage tomb in Ireland. County Fermanagh hosts one of the most popular mountain walks in the country in 665m Cuilcagh whose boardwalk, installed to protect the fragile bogland environment, has introduced hillwalking to a wider audience.

Away from the uplands, walkers have a formidable choice of coastal and rural walks. In addition, several long distance ways have been developed including the 53km Causeway Coastal Way and the Mourne Way, a challenging 42km walk between the coastal towns of Newcastle and Rostrevor, mainly on forest tracks and the foothills of the mountains. The 58km Ring of Gullion Way circular route follows off-road trails, quiet country lanes and forest tracks from Newry around the volcanic landscape of the Ring of Gullion AONB, while the Lecale Way entails a 75km walk from Downpatrick to Newcastle taking in the Strangford Lough coastline with its tower houses, castles and ancient monuments. The Antrim Hills Way is a linear 35km trek beginning in Glenarm in the Glens of Antrim and ending on the slopes of Slemish Mountain.

The website www.walkni.com is produced by Outdoor Recreation NI (ORNI) with the aim of providing a definitive guide to walking in Northern Ireland for both tourists and the local community.

Walking in Northern Ireland – All the Routes and Articles