Wrap up and head out for a walk in the stunning parklands, hills and estates in Belfast and across Northern Ireland. From forest parks full of wildlife to seaside strolls and stately homes’ gardens, discover the beauty of our landscapes in the winter while burning off some festive calories!
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.
Cave Hill Country Park
Visitors to Cave Hill Country Park can enjoy panoramic views across Belfast from vantage points on the hillside. Park features include Cave Hill Adventurous Playground, archaeological sites, Cave Hill Visitor Centre, an ecotrail, gardens, orienteering routes, refreshments in Belfast Castle, scenic views and waymarked walking trails suitable for casual walkers or serious ramblers.
Stormont Estate is a woodland park open to the public and has beautiful gardens, walking and fitness trails and a children’s play park. There are three woodland interactive trails within the public area that seek to connect visitors, including families and young people, with the rich biodiversity of the Stormont woodlands, highlighting what the Estate has to offer and to give a brief insight into the history of the Estate.
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
Wrap up warm and explore Colin Glen Forest Park with the littles ones this winter. This 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 winter air.
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens is the perfect place to enjoy a crisp winters walk. The castle is the official residence of HM The King and the Royal Family an association which began in the 1920’s. Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II as a princess in the 1940s developed a strong affection for the Castle, a sentiment which continues with King Charles III. Hillsborough Castle and Gardens continues to be a focal point for Royal events in Northern Ireland. The Castle is set in 100 acres of breath-taking gardens and offers significant contrasts of woodland, waterways, gardens with trimmed lawns and meadows as well as specimen trees and rare plants.
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, be prepared to be taken away by the beautiful scenery this winter. A great place to get out and stretch your legs and enjoy the tranquil surroundings. Begin your journey from the many access points to the River Lagan and the towpath 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. There is nothing better than going for a walk coast on a crisp winter’s morning. Enjoy the wildlife and scenery around Belfast Lough as you take a luxury stroll before kicking back and recharging in the onsite café.
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. Rowallane Garden is ideal for leisurely walks, afternoon tea in the cafe 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.
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.