“World Sauntering Day" is celebrated on either June 19 or August 28 every year. Its purpose is to invite people to stop, slow down and smell the roses instead of rushing about their everyday lives. What better way to do this than with a walk in the Irish countryside.
From the secluded coastal tracks, lush glens and quaint fishing villages of the north coast and Antrim, to the impressive granite tor-capped summits and dramatic views found in the Mourne Mountains there is something for everyone. Northern Ireland is home to a rich variety of quality walks: from sandy shorelines to leafy paths and sprawling hills – there are a whole host of routes just waiting to be discovered.
Below is a selection of our top picks for a summer walk.
Divis Ridge Trail
View the city of Belfast from a different perspective – from above! The recently opened Divis Ridge Trail allows walkers to enjoy fantastic views across the city and further afield including the Antrim Plateau to the north, Scotland to the east and the Mourne Mountains to the south. Identify well known local landmarks such as Titanic Belfast, the famous Harland & Wolff Cranes, City Hall, Victoria Square, the huge RISE piece of public art, the Stormont Parliament Buildings and Scrabo Tower.
The circular route is very accessible due to its relatively flat paths on tarmac, boardwalk and stone pitched gravel, and is one of four trails on Divis and the Black Mountain – a fantastic amenity just a short distance outside the city.
Antrim Hills Way, County Antrim
If you fancy an invigorating hill walk with stunning sea views, why not try part of the 22 mile Antrim Hills Way? The route runs from Glenarm on the coast to the distinctive rounded summit of Slemish Mountain near Ballymena and can be broken into six, more manageable sections.
Views take in the scenic Glens of Antrim, the impressive, natural amphitheater of the Sallagh Braes, Ballygally Head, Islandmagee and across to Aisla Craig and the Scottish coast.
White Park Bay, County Antrim
Situated in the Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this three-mile linear walk will take you along golden sands and rocky shoreline. A spectacular secluded sweep of sandy beach looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, White Park Bay forms a white arc between two headlands on the North Antrim coast and was one of the first settlements of man in Ireland.
Its secluded location means that even on a busy day there is plenty of room for quiet relaxation, so you will have no problem enjoying this leisurely walk, taking in the treasures of one of the most natural coastlines in Northern Ireland. As you step along the sandy shores make sure to take note of the ancient dune system, a declared area of scientific interest, and the chalk grassland carpeted in rare plants, including many orchids. Keep an eye out for willow warblers, linnets and stonechats as well as the ringed plover – a small wader bird that nests at the bay.
Robber's Table, County Tyrone
If you’re looking for something more challenging to wile away the hours of a long summer's day then this excellent nine-mile circular hill walk in the Sperrins is for you! As you traverse the landscape criss-crossed with hedgerows and miles of old stone walls you will be rewarded with superb views of the Bluestack and Derryveagh Mountains of Donegal, the unspoilt plain of Omagh and the magnificent High Sperrin Mountain range.
Many tales are told of highwaymen who rode the post roads across the Sperrins and divided their spoils on the ridge of ‘Robber’s Table.’ The good news is this popular walk is part of the largest mountain range in Ireland so you can explore the spectacular scenery of the Sperrins again and again from different angles!
Slieve Binnian, County Down
No top walking shortlist would be complete without including a walk in the Mourne Mountains. At 2,450 feet, Slieve Binnian is the third highest mountain in the range and its high, tor-capped summit dominates the countryside, overlooking both the Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs. If you are looking for breathtaking views then Slieve Binnian will not disappoint!
This fantastic seven-mile circular walk follows the Mourne Wall to the summit of Slieve Binnian, traversing between the spectacular South and North Tors before descending along a track past the beautiful Blue Lough, Annalong Forest and back to the parking lot. Be prepared for a steep ascent and an even steeper one if you want to reach the summit – which involves using your hands and taking care on the rock. Once you make it to the top, however, you will be rewarded with an exceedingly fine panorama of the surrounding mountains. On a clear day it's possible to see the Isle of Man out to sea and the Wicklow Mountains beyond Dublin. If this is your first time walking this route – it certainly won’t be your last!
North Down Coastal Path, County Down
With 16 glorious miles of coastline to be walked make sure you don’t forget to pack your picnic! Mostly tarmac path, with short rugged sections, the North Down Coastal Path extends from Holywood in the east to Orlock Point in the west.
Beginning at the Esplanade in Holywood this popular route hugs the coastline along to Orlock making sure the sea is never far from view. In fact, if you look closely you may even spot a seal! As if the impressive coastal views aren’t enough there are also a number of spectacles to distract along the way including Crawfordsburn Country Park on the southern shores of Belfast Lough, the glistening sands of Helen's Bay and Bangor Marina – where it’s time to treat yourself to some fish and chips and enjoy them in the company of the bronze sculpture eating his pastie supper – you never know he might take the bad look off you!
If you’re not feeling up to walking the full 16 miles you can choose a section of the coastal path and walk as far as your heart desires… and your feet will take you!
Castle Archdale, County Fermanagh
For a shorter walk – but one steeped in history, head across to Fermanagh where you can choose between a variety of routes encompassing lakeshore and woodland in Castle Archdale Country Park. No matter which one you pick you will be walking on history as the park was once the frontline of the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.
Features within the park include a red deer enclosure, wildfowl ponds, nature trail, butterfly garden and wildflower meadow. To make the most of your visit, be sure not to miss the Archdale Centre, which is in the corner of the main courtyard. Here you can see various exhibitions which will help you to understand the efforts made to conserve this beautiful part of Fermanagh.