Whether you fancy the breath-taking coastal landscapes of the Causeway Coast, the rugged beauty of the torr-capped Mournes or the rolling summits of the Sperrin Mountains, Northern Ireland has it all. With a whole host of riverside paths, mountain rambles and forest walks through shaded glens there are few other countries which offer such a variety of walking all within a two hour drive.
Below we have listed some of the top guided hill walks taking place across Northern Ireland as part of National Trails Day 2012. These walking events are open to everyone and entrance fees to any of the forest parks are free to those taking part in a National Trails Day event meaning there has never been a better time to enjoy some of Northern Ireland’s most treasured trails.
Slieve Binnian Hike with the Northern Ireland Walking Photography Group
At 747 metres, Slieve Binnian is the third highest mountain in Northern Ireland and its high, distinctive summit dominates the countryside, overlooking both the Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs. Hosted by the Northern Ireland Walking Photography Group this National Trails Day hike will provide you with the opportunity to capture simply magnificent views, which on a clear day include the Isle of Man out to sea and the Wicklow Mountains beyond Dublin. Don’t worry if you don’t have a camera as you are still welcome to come along on this ‘not to be missed’ scenic hike.
Lough Shannagh Irish Heritage Walk
Situated in the heart of the Mourne Mountains, this trail will take you on a voyage of discovery to the deep blue waters of Lough Shannagh. Following a winding road uphill to Lough Shannagh you will cross the historic Mourne Wall and the Miner’s Hole River, a name derived from the unsuccessful excavations for metal ores by Cornish miners. Your reward at the top of this walk is Lough Shannagh – one of the most beautiful lakes in the Mournes. This is a fantastic opportunity to soak up the culture of the area as the Irish language is learned and shared, with a few stories told along the way.
Ring of Gullion – Gap ‘o the North Discovery Walk
The Ring of Gullion in South Armagh is all that is left of a massive volcano that collapsed during a violent eruption some 60 million years ago and is the finest example of a ring dyke in Britain and Ireland. Join the Gap o the North Walking Club to enjoy a three hour off road loop walk, summiting the impressive Feede Mountain where you can expect to be treated with views of the Gap of the North, Slieve Gullion, the Cooley Mountains and Dundalk Bay. The summit will provide not only a chance to take in the views but also to be captivated by your guide as your hear the fascinating local knowledge including how geography and landscape can be used to determine history – from ice age tales to bloody battles.
Bessy Bell Guided Hill Walk
To the west of the Strule River, Bessy Bell boasts a welcoming rounded character, similar to those of the Sperrin foothills to the north. The summit is capped with open moorland, with rural pastures and rich farmland on the lower slopes. As part of the National Trails Day celebrations, Strabane District Council are hosting a guided walk with local walking guide Martin Bradley. This is a great opportunity to learn about the history of the area as well as find out about Bessy Bell’s two impressive windfarms which dominated the local landscape.
The Croaghan Way Trail
Enjoy magnificent scenery and refreshing countryside air in stunning surroundings on this 3 mile guided walk. Expect striking views from the very beginning as the start of the walk is located at Altrarichard viewing point on the Orra Scenic Drive between Magherahoney and Cushendall/Cushendun. Nestled within the stunning Antrim Coast & Glens, Croaghan Mountain is part of a recognisable series of hills dominating the Ballymoney skyline. This guided walk will lead you to Croaghan summit from which you will experience spectacular views of Rathlin Island and beyond to the Scottish coastline. As you take in the spectacular surroundings with other like minded walkers you will learn from your guides about the importance of this special area of flora and fauna and its wonderful inhabitants.
These are only a few of the guided hill walks available during National Trails Day on Sunday 7th October. For a full list of guided walks taking place on your local trails, you can visit www.nationaltrailsday.co.uk. Pre-registration is required for some walking events so make sure to book your free place now to avoid disappointment.