Hikes in Northern Ireland

Country in United Kingdom

Situated in the northeast corner of the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland is a visually stunning destination that is shrouded in a rich history, fascinating legends, and picturesque landscapes. Beautifully scenic forests, rugged mountain peaks, dramatic coastlines, and historic castles can be found throughout the country, meaning that an exciting adventure is never too far away.

Whether the aim of your Northern Ireland adventure is to climb the country’s highest peak of Slieve Donard or explore the world famous Giant’s Causeway that is said to have been built by the Irish giant Finn MacCool, you can rest assured that there will be countless opportunities to get outside and experience this magical place.

Featuring a population of just over 1.8 million people, Northern Ireland is a fairly small nation that borders the Republic of Ireland to the south. Created in 1921 after the partition of Ireland, Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom, although culturally it shares similarities with both nations. The most popular tourist attraction in the country is the aforementioned Giant’s Causeway, although the various natural and historical locations have risen dramatically in popularity after being used to film the HBO series Game of Thrones.

The 25 Best Walking Routes In Northern Ireland

Whether you are looking to experience the rich history, culture, and architecture of the city or head out further afield to explore the forests, mountains, and coastlines of this picturesque island nation, there are so many different ways to take in the beauty of Northern Ireland on a fun walking adventure. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned outdoor enthusiast, a beginner walker, or a young family looking to get outside and explore nature with the kids, there are countless routes that can be found here that cater to all skill levels, allowing you to worry less about planning your adventure and focus more on living it. Check out this list of 25 amazing Northern Ireland walking routes that we’ve put together below:

  • Mount Stewart Lake Walk: This quick adventure in County Down is filled with historic architecture and extravagant gardens. The laid back nature of the route and its historical charm make it ideal for a relaxing weekend walk.
  • Glenariff Gorge Circular Walk: A family-friendly route in the Antrim Coast & Glens AONB, the Glenariff Gorge Circular Walk will lead you through an exceptional woodland landscape to take in some stunning views of nearby waterfalls.
  • Glenariff Forest Park Scenic Trail: Another route within the serene expanse of the Glenariff Forest Park, this trail still visits the waterfalls in the area, but takes a longer loop through the forest to better experience the plant and animal life.
  • Comber Greenway Trail: This fantastic trail in Belfast follows along a green corridor through the city in order to take you into the countryside to reach the nearby town of Comber. The route utilizes an old railway line, meaning you won’t encounter any vehicles on your walk.
  • Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail: An iconic walking route in Northern Ireland, this trail will take you on a wooden boardwalk across a UNESCO-designated global geopark in order to reach the top of Cuilcagh Mountain for some stunning views.
  • Castle Ward Shore Trail: The Castle Ward Shore Trail is an awesome walking route in County Down that will let you experience some stunning historical architecture that was featured as a filming location in the HBO series Game of Thrones.
  • Castle Archdale Circular Walk: This family-friendly adventure offers a great mixture of nature and history, allowing you to explore the grounds of a 17th Century castle that was set along the shores of a charming lake.
  • Gosford Forest Park Circular Walk: Another lovely forest walk, the Gosford Forest Park Circular will take you around the grounds of a 19th Century castle to take in views of the architecture, ponds, and well-manicured gardens that can be found along the trail
  • Glenariff Forest Park Rainbow Trail: This is yet another walking route within the beautiful Glenariff Forest Park; however, this short route will take you across the Rainbow Bridge that spans the Glenariff River, allowing you to experience some lovely woodland views.
  • Castle Espie Wildlife Wander: A great family-friendly adventure, the Castle Espie Wildlife Wander will lead you around a wetland area that boasts beautiful views and a variety of wildlife. The paths here are laid back and well-maintained, making the route suitable for all ages.
  • Benone Strand Walk: If you are looking for a fantastic coastal walking route, then the Benone Strand Walk is a great option. Beautiful views across the water and a variety of wildlife, such as porpoises and seals, await on this lovely beach adventure.
  • Fairhead Circular Walk: A rugged coastal adventure along the north edge of Northern Ireland, the Fairhead Circular Walk will see you traverse the terrain along one of the largest rock walls in Northwest Europe.
  • Gosford Forest Park Blue Path: Featuring beautiful views of a 19th Century castle, this walk will lead you around a charming woodland area along well-maintained pathways that are suitable for all ages and skill levels.
  • Portglenone Forest Walk: Another charming adventure in the woodlands of Northern Ireland, the Portglenone Forest Walk will allow you to experience some beautiful scenery along the banks of the River Bann that is surrounded with some ancient trees.
  • Mussenden Temple Walk: A fantastic walking route for those who enjoy history and stunning views, the Mussenden Temple Walk will take you to this striking cliffside building, before looping around the grounds of Downhill House.
  • Silent Valley Reservoir Walk: If you are looking to take in some spectacular mountain views, then you will be sure to enjoy the Silent Valley Reservoir Walk. This trail will expose you to a beautiful stretch of forest, before walking along a reservoir that is surrounded by rugged mountain peaks.
  • Slieve Binnian Summit Tor and North Tor Circular Walk: This amazing trail offers a great chance to get up into the Mourne Mountains for some exceptional views. There is some rough terrain along the way that will provide a bit of a challenge, but the scenery and overall experience are well worth the effort.
  • Castle Ward Hoof Trail: Another great walking adventure around Castle Ward, the Hoof trail will still allow you to take in the amazing historical sites and filming locations for Game of Thrones, albeit on a longer route that will reveal more of the surrounding landscape.
  • Drum Manor Walk: This is a short adventure that will take you through some of the beautiful forest landscapes of County Tyrone and expose you to some historical ruins. The easy-going terrain and picturesque scenery makes this a great adventure for the whole family, and the ruins of Drum Manor are fascinating for anyone with an interest in history.
  • Glenariff Forest Park Waterfall Trail: Featuring stunning views of the Ess-na-Larach and Ess-na-Crub waterfalls, and a beautifully scenic woodland setting, the Glenariff Forest Park Waterfall Trail is a great alternative to some of the other Glenariff routes already on this list.
  • Colin Glen Forest Park Walk: The Colin Glen Forest Park Walk is a lovely adventure in Belfast that is suitable for the entire family thanks to its laid back terrain. Exploring what is often referred to as the ‘green lung’ of the city, this route will take you through charming forests along the winding banks of the Colin River.
  • Dunluce Castle Walk: Another amazing adventure that features ruins of an historic castle, the Dunluce Castle Walk will take you along the stunning coast for views of the sea. Although it is a scenic journey, there is an admission fee to access the site.
  • Slieve Donard Trail: A stunning adventure to the top of Northern Ireland’s highest peak, the Slieve Donard Trail will provide exceptional views and unforgettable memories. This route will require a decent level of fitness, although there is a well-maintained path up to the summit.
  • Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop: This awesome adventure will see you take a ferry from Ballycastle over to Rathlin Island for a beautifully scenic journey along the coast. Once there, you can explore charming villages and make your way to a lighthouse at the southern tip of the island.
  • Blackhead Walk: Another exceptional lighthouse adventure, the Blackhead Walk will lead you along the rugged coast to take in scenic seaside views and visit a beautiful 20th Century lighthouse. While this is an easy adventure, there are some sections of steep terrain that will make it a difficult route for less-mobile walkers.

When is the Best Time to Walk in Northern Ireland?

Being an island nation, the weather patterns in Northern Ireland can be unpredictable due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. With that being said, the weather is fairly temperate year-round and will not see much in terms of extremes. Although the summer months are the most popular and will see larger volumes of tourists, the best time to visit Northern Ireland is in the spring (March-May) and autumn (September-October) seasons. These windows are usually fairly warm and dry, with blossoming plantlife dotting the landscape in the spring and the changing leaves of autumn making for beautiful scenery.

The Best Walking Regions in Northern Ireland

As a country, Northern Ireland is blessed with a variety of terrain types and picturesque landscapes that make it ideal for a fun and engaging outdoor adventure. Among the best regions for walking are the rugged interior of the Sperrins Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the breathtaking Antrim Coast and Glens AONB, the Causeway Coast AONB that features the iconic Giant’s Causeway, and the mountainous southern reaches of the Mourne Mountain Range that is home to the country’s highest peak: Slieve Donard.

Other Outdoor Activities in Northern Ireland

Being an island nation, the weather patterns in Northern Ireland can be unpredictable due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. With that being said, the weather is fairly temperate year-round and will not see much in terms of extremes. Although the summer months are the most popular and will see larger volumes of tourists, the best time to visit Northern Ireland is in the spring (March-May) and autumn (September-October) seasons. These windows are usually fairly warm and dry, with blossoming plantlife dotting the landscape in the spring and the changing leaves of autumn making for beautiful scenery.

The Best Walking Regions in Northern Ireland

As a country, Northern Ireland is blessed with a variety of terrain types and picturesque landscapes that make it ideal for a fun and engaging outdoor adventure. Among the best regions for walking are the rugged interior of the Sperrins Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the breathtaking Antrim Coast and Glens AONB, the Causeway Coast AONB that features the iconic Giant’s Causeway, and the mountainous southern reaches of the Mourne Mountain Range that is home to the country’s highest peak: Slieve Donard.

Other Outdoor Activities in Northern Ireland

While there are countless walking routes that can be explored in Northern Ireland, the country also boasts a wide variety of other outdoor activities that will allow you to take in the natural beauty of the landscape. If you are looking for a memorable way to experience this beautiful place, try rock climbing along the rugged coastal terrain and exploring the beaches while spotting wildlife, or biking along the many trails that showcase the forests and undulating landscape of the interior. Horseback riding is also a great option to make your way around Northern Ireland, as are canoeing and kayaking the country’s many waterways. If you are wanting to complement your walking adventure with some other activities, you can rest assured that there are plenty of options available to do so.

Unforgettable Adventure Tours in Northern Ireland

Planning an amazing walking excursion in Northern Ireland can be a fun and exciting process that allows you to take in the scenery and highlights that you want to experience; however, it can also be a daunting challenge if you aren’t sure where to start. If you would like to experience the rich history and breathtaking natural landscapes of Northern Ireland, but want to leave the logistics and planning to professional outdoors enthusiasts, check out these once in a lifetime Northern Ireland adventure tours.

Frequently Asked Questions About Northern Ireland

Is Ireland or Northern Ireland a part of the United Kingdom?

While Ireland became a republic in 1949, Northern Ireland still remains a part of the United Kingdom.

What food is Northern Ireland famous for?

In addition to the classic Irish breakfast, Northern Ireland is famous for soda bread, Irish stew, oysters, Kearney blue cheese, and of course, whiskey.

What is the most visited place in Northern Ireland?

The Giant’s Causeway is the most visited tourist attraction in Northern Ireland, seeing nearly 1 million visitors per year.

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Best Hikes in Northern Ireland

Open details for Slieve Donard Trail

Slieve Donard Trail

Moderate
9.5 km
833 m
4-5.5h

The Slieve Donard Trail is a breathtaking adventure in Northern Ireland that will take you across varied terrain to reach the summit of the country’s highest mountain. While out on the trail, you will traverse a serene stretch of woodland terrain, before climbing uphill along a stone track for views overlooking the Irish Sea from the summit of Slieve Donard. There may be a well-maintained pathway up to the summit, but don’t underestimate the difficulty of this spectacular route!

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Open details for Colin Glen Forest Park Walk

Colin Glen Forest Park Walk

Easy
4.8 km
154 m
1.5-2h

The Colin Glen Forest Park Walk is an amazing family-friendly adventure in Belfast that will take you through what is often referred to as the ‘green lung’ of the city. While out walking the trail, you will make your way through the forest and visit the charming Mila’s Lake, before taking in the scenic views of the winding Colin River as you make your return along the trail. With well-manicured trails and easy to traverse terrain, this route is perfectly suitable for walkers of all ages and skill levels.

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Open details for Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop

Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop

Moderate
9.5 km
195 m
2-3h

The Rathlin Island: Church Bay Loop is a fantastic walking route that will produce some lovely views of Northern Ireland and the surrounding sea. While out walking the trail, you will pass through the village of Church Bay and skirt around several charming loughs, as you make your way to the southern tip of the island at the Rue Point Lighthouse. Walkers should keep in mind that this trail is only accessible by ferry from Ballycastle and should plan their adventure accordingly.

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Open details for Mount Stewart Lake Walk

Mount Stewart Lake Walk

Easy
2.4 km
45 m
0.5-1h

The Mount Stewart Lake Walk is a quick and easy adventure in County Down that offers an amazing look at the architecture and gardens of a 19th Century house. While out on the trail, you will be in awe of the extravagant buildings that make up Mount Stewart House and feel as though you are in a fairytale as you walk through the well-manicured gardens. Terrain along the route is easy as well, making this walk perfectly suitable for all ages and skill levels.

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Open details for Glenariff Gorge Circular Walk

Glenariff Gorge Circular Walk

Easy
3.1 km
125 m
1-1.5h

The Glenariff Gorge Circular Walk is a lovely family-friendly adventure in the Antrim Coast and Glens AONB that will expose you to beautiful views of waterfalls and the surrounding forest landscape. While out on the trail, you will explore the peaceful woodland terrain within the park and visit a number of equally stunning waterfalls that add to the almost magical atmosphere of the forest. As it takes place largely within the cover of the trees, this is an exceptional walking route no matter the season or weather.

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Open details for Glenariff Forest Park Scenic Trail

Glenariff Forest Park Scenic Trail

Moderate
8.9 km
325 m
2.5-3.5h

Walking the Glenariff Forest Park Scenic Trail is an amazing outdoor experience in Northern Ireland that the entire family can enjoy. While out on the trail, you will explore the magical woodland landscape of the Glenariff Glen while taking in views of wildlife and stunning waterfalls. This is a fantastic route that is suitable for nearly every age and skill level.

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Open details for Blackhead Walk

Blackhead Walk

Easy
4.2 km
96 m
1-1.5h

The Blackhead Walk is a fantastic journey along the coast of Northern Ireland that will produce lovely seaside views and the chance to visit historical sites. While out on the trail, you will traverse the coastal Blackhead Path and take in views of the Belfast Lough, before visiting Blackhead Lighthouse that was built at the turn of the 20th Century. While this is a short and fairly easy route, it features terrain that will make it unsuitable for less-mobile walkers.

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Open details for Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular Walk

Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular Walk

Easy
5.0 km
128 m
1-1.5h

Walking the Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular is a fantastic adventure that will showcase a beautiful woodland setting and historical buildings. While out on the trail, you will pass by Hillsborough Castle - the residence of the British royal family when they visit Northern Ireland - before meandering through a charming forest that features a lake. This is an amazing family-friendly route that will certainly keep everyone entertained for a few hours.

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Open details for Antrim Castle Gardens to Lough Neagh Walk

Antrim Castle Gardens to Lough Neagh Walk

Moderate
6.4 km
126 m
1.5-2h

The Antrim Castle Gardens to Lough Neagh Walk is an exceptional adventure in County Antrim, Northern Ireland that will see you explore the grounds of a 17th Century estate and walk along the scenic shores of a lake. While out on the trail, you will meander along the banks of the Six Mile Water River to reach the shores of Lough Neagh, taking in the scenic views of the large inland lake before exploring the Italian Tower and ruins of Antrim Castle. This is a fantastic walk if you enjoy scenic views and historical sites.

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Open details for Mussenden Temple Walk

Mussenden Temple Walk

Easy
3.2 km
117 m
1h

The Mussenden Temple Walk is a spectacular outdoor excursion that will expose you to stunning coastal views and impressive historical sites. While out on the trail, you will make your way along the scenic coast to visit Mussenden Temple along the edge of a cliff, before looping around to view Downhill House. This is a fantastic walking route for anyone with an interest in scenic views and history.

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