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short walks in Northern Ireland

Updated on August 11th, 2020

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you will know I love hiking. I’ve hiked all over the world including Albania, Australia, the USA and the European Alps. It is such a great way to travel cheaply and still allows you to see so much. During my month-long road trip around Ireland and Northern Ireland, I was able to complete some fantastic hikes. If you’re short on time or energy these short walks in Northern Ireland are perfect for you.

There are so many hikes to find in Northern Ireland, ranging from short paved paths to multi-day backpacking trips. A valuable resource I came across is the Northern Ireland Walking Guide. You can filter between county, destination and length of the trail to find your perfect hike.

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Some of the 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 off to google I went, and just in time. I was able to find the Tollymore Forest Park hike because of it.

1. Tollymore Forest Park

The Tollymore State Park not only makes my list for the best short walks in Northern Ireland but is up there with one of the most beautiful places I have been.

I drove into Northern Ireland from Dublin and made a stop here on my way to Belfast. It is located an hour from the Republic of Ireland’s eastern border and 1.5 hours south-east of Belfast making it the perfect spot for a break.

As you enter the park you are greeted by an archway from Medieval Days, followed by a lusciously covered avenue of Deodar Cedars, stretching beyond the entryway up to the car park.

Tollymore Forest Park is one of the best places for short walks in Northern Ireland

The River Trail is a 5.2km loop of mostly level terrain following a dirt or gravel path along the Shimna River. This trail can be accessed straight from the car park and although you are 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 Canada and Alaska to ward off the bears, and am yet to stop.

Tollymore State Park

Note: There is a £5 fee for parking.

There is also the option to stay overnight in the campgrounds on site.

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2. Cave Hill

This is a great hike if you are visiting the cities and would like to get out into nature to explore a bit. The hike is located just a short distance from Belfast’s city centre, although it’s probably too far to walk up from the city. You definitely could if you are feeling game, but best to jump on any of the ‘1’ buses heading north from Upper Queen Street. Ask the driver to let you out by the Belfast Castle.

The Cave Hill Trail is a must for you to add to your walks in Northern Ireland bucket list as you get spectacular views over Belfast and out over the coast. When down in the city this is the mountain you can see from almost everywhere.

The view from Cave Hill over Belfast

Once at the bus stop, walk towards the castle, here you will find a placard which gives you all the information you need for the hike. From here the 7.2km Cave Hill Trail loop begins and ends.

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.

If you are driving, you can park at the Belfast Castle or Hazelwood Zoo.

best short walks in Northern Ireland near Belfast

Top tip: Make sure you wear proper footwear as my thongs (flip flops) didn’t quite cut it as I was running down the hill out of a storm. Which as we all know, the weather in Northern Ireland isn’t the most predictable.

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. For those of you who don’t know, as I did not, a glen is also known as a valley.

Glenariff Forest Park is known as ‘The Queen of the Glens’, as it is one of the most stunning. When driving north, from Waterfoot, turn down the A43 for about 10km until you reach the park entrance. There is a fee for parking, although it not working while I was there. This possibly may always be the case. I’d be happy to hear from you if you know?

Glenariff Nature Reserve in Northern Ireland

From the carpark, the trail you want to follow 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.  

The walk is not a strenuous hike, with 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. Plus add the detour below for an additional stop on your road trip.

Glenariff Nature Reserve waterfall walk


Have you seen the incredible avenue of beech trees made famous by Game of Thrones? If you don’t know what I’m talking about take a look at the image below. To reach this avenue known as The Dark Hedges, pop Bregagh Road, Ballymoney into your GPS. This will take you 35 minutes to reach. There are no cars allowed down this road so find parking nearby and walk back to Bregagh Road.

What were your favourite Short hikes in Northern Ireland? Are there any you would recommend? 

Where to stay in Belfast?

My top recommendation is the Global Village Hostel. Click here to find out why I think it is Belfast’s top hostel in this post.

Recommended tours in Northern Ireland

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Hello! My name is Erin, the lady behind Curiously Erin. After more than 10 years of travelling and working abroad, I wanted to create a platform where I could share my stories and travels. My goal is to help you live the life you desire and inspire you to travel more.

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