There are so many hikes to find in Northern Ireland. Ranging from short paved paths to multi-day backpacking trips. A resource I came across too late is this Northern Ireland Walking Guide. You can filter between county, destination and length of trail to find your perfect hike. Are you a Game of Thrones fan? All that magical scenery is filmed in this part of the world. I had no idea of this until my mum asked if I was going to see some of it. So to google I went, and just in time. I was close to having driven straight past one of the following gems.
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Read on for my three must-do short hikes in Northern Ireland
1. Tollymore Forest Park
The Tollymore state park not only makes my list for the best short hikes in Northern Ireland but is up there with one of the most beautiful places I have been. Located an hour from the Republic of Ireland’s eastern border and 1.5 hours south-east of Belfast. As you enter the park you are greeted by an archway from what I imagine to be the Medieval Days. A lusciously covered avenue of Deodar Cedars stretches beyond the entryway up to the car park.
The River Trail is a 5.2km loop of mostly level terrain following a dirt or gravel path along the Shimna River. Although not far from the road you will feel completely immersed in the forest. The only sounds you hear are birds singing, water flowing and the voices in your head. Or if you’re like me the woods will be full of voices, well one voice. My own. Is that just me or do you talk out loud to yourself when you hike? I started doing this when I was hiking in bear country and have just never stopped.
Note: There is a £5 fee for car parking. There is also the option to stay overnight in the campgrounds on site.
2. Cave Hill
This hike is located within a short distance from Belfast’s city centre. Although you probably don’t want to walk there from the city, you definitely could. Jump on any of the ‘1’ buses heading north from Upper Queen Street and ask the driver to let you out by the Belfast Castle. The Cave Hill Trail will take you up to the mountain you can see from almost everywhere in the city.
From the bus stop walk toward the castle, here you will find a placard common to the National Trust areas. This will point out the 7.2km Cave Hill Trail loop and where to begin. The trail climbs steeply up in parts with scenery ranging from green tree covered paths to open grassland by the summit. Once you reach the peak you will be rewarded with views spanning the length of the city and over the ocean.
Top tip: Wear proper footwear as my thongs (flip flops) didn’t quite cut it as I was running down the hill out of a storm. The ground underfoot is a combination of stepping stones and sharp gravel rocks towards the top.
3. Glenariff Nature Reserve
Between Belfast and The Giants Causeway, you will come across the Glens of Antrim. For 80 miles, rugged cliffs stretch across the coastline broken only by nine Glens. Glenariff Forest Park is known as The Queen of the Glens as one of the most stunning. From Waterfoot, turn down the A43 for about 10km until you reach the park entrance. There is a fee for parking, although not working while I was there. Whether this is always the case or not, I’m not sure.
The trail you want to take is the Waterfall Walk. At just under 5km in length, you pass three waterfalls on a well-maintained path. The park has done well to create easy viewing areas with the path running through a naturally shaded region. Not a strenuous hike, only a small steep decline at the beginning and an incline towards the end. As well as the pretty waterfalls, you are also treated to stunning views of the valley right out to the ocean.
This hike is well worth the short detour to break up your drive to the Giant’s Causeway.
What were your favourite Short hikes in Northern Ireland? Are there any you would recommend?
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