Boasting some of the most awe striking natural beauty on the planet as well as some man made wonders, the walking and biking trails of Northern Ireland are a feast for the eyes. A little more pre planning is needed in the North, as the weather turn much colder than in parts of the south, especially if your heading into the higher altitudes. Usually, thermal undergarments and a good pair of gloves will suffice, along with all your usual hiking and biking gear.
From the famous Causeway Coast to the glens, valleys, and mountains sprinkled through the rest of Northern Ireland, there is a unique walking and hiking experience around every corner.
An accessible six-hour walk showcases Northern Ireland's most celebrated stretch of coastline, hugging the Atlantic shore from the iconic Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge to the world-renowned Giant's causeway 10 miles west. As this is a linear route, two vehicles may be desirable but regular bus services are available throughout the year. This represents the most enjoyable stretch of a two-day Causeway Coast Way which runs from Portstewart to Ballycastle.
Featuring an impressive sequence of cliffs, Binevenagh provides the ideal habitat for a wealth of rare plants and mosses. It is also home to the Finn MacCool's Finger Stone, a standing stone which takes its name from a legendary giant whose mighty feet once stomped across this enchanting landscape. Parking on location makes it very possible to explore the cliffs and be back on the road within two hours or so. Accessed from Leighry Road bewteen Bishop's Road and Duncrun Road.
Stretching northward from the town of Larne, an 80-mile expanse of dramatic sea cliffs is interrupted only by nine deep green glens, each with its own distinctive character and its own appeal for visiting walkers. The unspoilt natural beauty of the glens is showcased perfectly along the 1.5-mile way-marked stretch of the Glenariff Nature Reserve Waterfalls Walk. In addition to the stunning waterfalls, a panoply of rare ferns, mosses and liverworts pepper a trail whose boardwalks and steps temper the steepness of the return journey.
To some, treading the boardwalks of this vast Fermanagh blanket bog may not feel like enough of an 'escape': much of the route is laid out for you in the form of the boardwalk and, for those stretches, the surface underfoot is certainly not as nature provided it. However, those who choose not to venture to Cuilcagh Mountain will be missing out on some spectacular views and fascinating wildlife, both of which are well preserved by conservation efforts in the area.
At 850m, Slieve Donard is the highest peak in the Mourne Mountains. From the summit, a clear day promises views of Wicklow, Donegal, the Isle of Man, Wales and Scotland, as well as the long stretch of Newcastle Beach. Heading from Donard Park towards the mountain, as you follow the Glen River through ancient woodland, you will encounter a rich palette of Scots Pine, Oak and Birch. An out-and-back route will involve a total of six challenging miles with lots of climbing. Bring a flask and a snack to enjoy with the view.
The enchanting destination is home to various marked trails ranging from one mile to six miles in length. The presence of car parking, toilets, picnic areas, a playpark and a cafe will attract many and deter some but the distinctive reservoir will appeal to all. A great place to visit for walkers of all abilities.
Seven miles of mountain terrain make up a circular exploration of Slieve Binnian and its captivating surroundings. The route follows the Mourne Wall to the summit and traverses between the spectacular South and North Tors before making its descent past the Blue Lough and Annalong Forest. Toilets and refreshments are available in nearby Annalong Village.
Whether you're looking to bring the family for a cycle through the countryside, a forest or just to amble through town, Northern Ireland has a variety of designated routes for all your cycle needs.
3km of easy cycling on good paths takes you up one side of the Faughan and Glenrandal Rivers before a return journey on the opposite banks. Paths are well surfaced and terrain is flat, making this an ideal location for young cyclists but do keep in mind that the path follows the water's edge so a degree of confidence and stability on a bicycle are required for the very young.
An excellent, traffic-free circular cycle with mostly good surfaces. 7.2km of cycling is punctuated by picnic tables, benches and bike stands. Cycle hire is available from Iron Donkey Bicycle Touring.
A few stone steps and stiles interrupt a route which is otherwise well surfaced and maintained. With a fair amount of climbing, this might not be the best spot for very young cyclists or those with limited mobility/fitness. For those who do make the trip, the climbs are rewarded with spectacular views not only over Belfast, but also the Mourne Mountains, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
In addition to a pleasant green trail and an equally enjoyable blue, there are three red runs for more experienced and confident riders to explore.
A picturesque forest setting boasting a wealth of flora and fauna. Find 6.5km of signposted, family-friendly cycle trails which are free of all traffic except Forest Service vehicles or timber lorries. This multi-use trail is also popular for horse-riding.
The full cycle trail is 77km in length, but the popular Ulster Canal Greenway stretch is ideal for young families at just 4.2km. This section is almost entirely traffic-free and crosses Monaghan town. Nearby Rossmore Forest Park (pictured) provides an idyllic detour for nature lovers or anyone who enjoys a peaceful picnic.