The Belfast Hills offer beautiful scenery encompassing a variety of nature and wildlife. Take a stroll amongst the trees in Colin Glen Forest Park, enjoy an energetic walk to McArt’s Fort on Cave Hill or admire the view from the rugged landscape of Divis Mountain.
Explore Parliament Buildings and the beautiful surroundings of the Stormont Estate. View the House on the Hill from the majestic lawns and flowerbeds that envelope the main avenues. Explore winding forest paths mapped out for walkers and joggers, and discover ducks in the wetland habitat and red squirrels.
Botanic Gardens was established in 1828 by the Belfast Botanic and Horticultural Society, in response to public interest in horticulture and botany. The site contained exotic tree species and impressive plant collections from the southern hemisphere, many of which can still be seen in the park today. It’s home to the Palm House, the Ulster Museum and The Tropical Ravine which is receiving a 3.8 million restoration, expected to be completed by early 2017, which will house many tropical and native plants in the unique, listed building nestled in the heart of Botanic Gardens.
The beautiful gardens of Mount Stewart provide a wealth of opportunity to enjoy a New Year stroll. The scenic lake is surrounded by picturesque woodland, the formal gardens with their Mediterranean feel, and an extensive variety of plants in the gardens. Enjoy one of the walking trails, take the red squirrel trail or explore the Walled Garden. The gardens, shop and restaurant are open 10am-5pm during the winter months.
Malone House and Barnett Demesne
Malone House and the surrounding Barnett Demesne offers walking, jogging or picnics, free exhibition in the Higgin Gallery and several pieces of public art in the manicured gardens. Surrounded by acres of majestic parkland, and within easy reach of nearby Shaw’s Bridge and the Lagan towpath, you can enjoy a wide range of activities, including canoeing and kayaking. Park features include an arboretum, ecotrail, orienteering routes and children’s playground (near Shaw’s Bridge). Refreshments are available in the Barnett Restaurant in nearby Malone House.
Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen Forest Park
Colin Glen Forest Park is home to the amazing eight foot tall Gruffalo, complete with knobbly knees, turned out toes and a poisonous wart on the end of his nose and his very famous friends. From entering through the Gruffalo Archway, through the forest park to a beautiful Gruffalo themed seating area next to the cascading Colin river, your children will be completely amazed at meeting their favourite Gruffalo characters, whilst getting out in the fresh air.
Antrim Lough Shore Park
The Lough Shore Park is a magnet for those seeking relaxation by the water’s edge, steeped in history and natural beauty. The attractive surroundings make it the ideal spot to spend a few hours enjoying a picnic, feeding the swans or walking along the many pathways.
Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park
One of Belfast’s most popular parks, and home to the City of Belfast International Rose Garden, Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park covers more than 128 acres. With rolling meadows, copses, woodland and gardens, it’s home to a wide range of plants and animals. Pop into the Stables Coffee Shop and warm up with a hot drink or relax in the Japanese style garden.
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens
Hillsborough Castle, the official residence of the Royal Family when they are in Northern Ireland, is set in 96 acres of ornamental grounds. The gardens offer a contrast of woodland, waterways, and formal and informal gardens with trimmed lawns and meadows as well as specimen trees and rare plants. Look out for the Lady Alice Temple, wander along the Yew Tree Walk, and go through the glen and right around the lake. Explore the Jubilee Garden (formerly the Sundial Garden) which was re-designed to celebrate Her Majestys Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Unguided access to the gardens is 3.50, and they are open all year round.
Lagan Valley Regional Park
Lagan Valley Regional Park is a mosaic of countryside, urban parks, heritage sites, nature reserves and riverside trails. The Lagan Towpath offers miles of walking or cycling surrounded by beautiful scenery. A great place to get out and stretch your legs and enjoy the flora and fauna in tranquil surroundings. Begin your journey from the many access points to the River Lagan and the towpath by foot, bicycle and car at Stranmillis, Loughview Road, Shaws Bridge and many more.
Jordanstown Loughshore Park
On the edge of Belfast Lough, Jordanstown Loughshore Park is the first stop along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route. Kick back and enjoy the wildlife and scenery around Belfast Lough, get active in the play park and outdoor gym, explore the cycle path and art trail which goes to Belfast and beyond, or recharge in the onsite cafe.
Enjoy beautiful gardens filled with unique plants from around the world. Take a stroll through the Rock Garden Wood and admire a variety of trees and shrubs, and visit the Walled Garden where you’ll find spectacular displays of herbaceous plants. Wander through the snow drops at this time of year and pick up a Winter Walk map to discover points of interest. Rowallane Garden is ideal for leisurely walks, afternoon tea in the caf or just simply relaxing on a seat in the walled garden.
The Argory’s garden, woodland and riverside walks boast wonderful sweeping views making a stunning winter walk. Don’t miss the scenic walks and fascinating courtyard displays. Pack your binoculars and take a stroll down to the River Blackwater and you might be rewarded with the sight of a kingfisher. You can also visit the second-hand bookshop, adventure playground and Lady Ada’s award-winning tea-room which provide retreats for children and adults alike.
Inside the beautiful 820 acre walled demesne you will find an exotic sunken garden and paths that wind their way through woodland and suddenly open onto the quiet shores of the Lough. Walk or cycle along the Lough Side Walk through sheltered woodlands and spot rabbits, ducks and swans. Take the Shore Trail and you may even see some seals. There are six trails to choose from for walkers, cyclists and riders. The garden and grounds are open 10am-4pm in the winter months
Fancy a change of scenery from parks and gardens? Walk, run or cycle the Maritime Mile – a route steeped in history with fresh sea air, flexible distances, loads of space and amazing views. Stretching from Sailortown to the Titanic Pump House, the waterfront pathway encompasses the City Quays area and Titanic Quarter, with focal points such as the Big Fish, SS Nomadic and Titanic Belfast along the way. Visit maritime-mile.com for ideas on how to extend your walk or cycle to popular nearby routes.