Hiking Northern Ireland: Our Top 8 Hiking Trails
Northern Ireland Hikes Not To Be Missed
Fairylike mountains, purple-colored moors, endless coastlines… Northern Ireland has it all! This region of the Irish Isle presents a diverse array of landscapes, each with its own awe-inspiring trails. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore them! Discover details about our eight favorite Northern Irish hiking trails right here!
Any of the day hikes below may be included on a Northern Ireland Self-Drive Tour.
1. Slieve Donard: 3-mile hike in Northern Ireland
One of the most popular hikes in Northern Ireland leads to the summit of Slieve Donard. Towering at more than 2,700 feet, Slieve Donard claims the title of Northern Ireland’s highest peak. Despite the hike’s relatively short distance (approximately 3 miles), it can prove steep in certain sections.
However, if you are up for a challenge, the effort is definitely worth it. The panoramic vista from the peak is nothing short of breathtaking, encompassing the lofty neighboring summits of the Mourne Mountains. Furthermore, if your timing aligns with a clear day, you might even be fortunate enough to glimpse the distant horizons of Scotland and Wales!
Yet another intriguing sight along this trail is the Mourne Wall. This dry stone wall crafted from granite spans an impressive distance of more than 22 miles! Constructed during the early 20th century, its purpose was to safeguard the Silent Valley Reservoir by preventing the entry of farm animals.
2. Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail: 7.5 hike in Northern Ireland
Are you looking for a hill walk in Northern Ireland that is a bit unusual? Then the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail presents an ideal choice!
Dubbed the “Stairway to Heaven,” this boardwalk offers a unique opportunity to traverse an expansive blanket bog without the worry of wet feet or losing a shoe. The Stairway to Heaven leads you to a viewing platform on Cuilcagh Mountain, just shy of 2000 ft. From this vantage point, you’ll be treated to mesmerizing panoramas of the surrounding terrain.
A return trip on the Cuilcagh Boardwalk trail extends to roughly 7.5 miles long and typically requires an average of about 3 hours to complete.
3. Causeway Coast Walk: 14-mile hike in Northern Ireland
In this compilation of hiking trails in Northern Ireland, there’s an additional (extremely renowned) area that deserves our attention: the Giant’s Causeway. Given its immense popularity, you may think you should avoid this tourist hotspot in the Causeway Coast and Glens region. But what if we told you about a beautiful 14-mile-long, less-trodden coastal walk?
Commence this Causeway Coast Walk from the Carrick-a-Rede car park, conveniently located near another renowned highlight of this region: the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. If you’re not easily deterred by larger crowds, it’s certainly worth experiencing this intriguing architectural marvel!
The coastal walk itself enjoys somewhat lesser recognition compared to the Northern Ireland attractions it links. And it offers plenty to see. Allocate enough time to explore the hamlet of Portbradden and the inviting expanse of White Park Bay Beach.
From the Giant’s Causeway, you can take a bus back to the starting point of your hike.
This Northern Ireland hike is included on all of our Self-Guided Antrim Glens and Causeway Coast Hikes tours.
4. Slemish Mountain: 1.2-mile walk in Ireland
Are you in search of more breathtaking vistas and ready to take on a challenge? A Northern Ireland hike to Slemish Mountain could be the perfect destination for you! Slemish Mountain, situated in County Antrim, stands at a modest 1,500 feet, yet commands a dramatic presence over the surrounding lowlands.
This solitary Northern Ireland mountain hike appeals to both history aficionados and geology enthusiasts. It serves as a vestige of an extinct volcano and is believed to have been Saint Patrick’s first home in Ireland.
A round-trip hike to the summit of Slemish Mountain takes around an hour and a half. However, it’s essential to note that this is no easy walk! There are some steep, rocky sections, potentially requiring some scrambling, en route to the peak.
Opting for a dry and sunny day is advisable, as the steep portions of the ascent can become slippery in wet conditions.
5. Tollymore Forest Park: 2.5-mile North Ireland Walk
Do you have a penchant for forests? Check out Tollymore Forest Park, one of Northern Ireland’s many picturesque forest parks.
Within this Northern Ireland park, an extensive array of pathways awaits, some of which even made an appearance in the first season of Game of Thrones. Discover age-old trees, numerous stone bridges, and other delights as you traverse trails of varying lengths and difficulties.
You’ll find Tollymore Forest Park at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, not far from Newcastle.
6. Cave Hill: 3.8 mile North Ireland hike
Wherever you are in Belfast, Cave Hill looms, overlooking you and the city. As such, a quick escape to Northern Irish nature can seamlessly integrate into your urban travel plans. Standing at an elevation of 1,207 feet, Cave Hill derives its name from the five caves scattered across its steep slopes.
While there are several walks available here, the Cave Hill Walk is the longest and most strenuous among them.The Cave Hill Walk leads you past the caves, all the way to the top of the hill. There, you will find the remnants of McArt’s Fort. Standing next to this old ring fort, you can enjoy some astonishing views over the city of Belfast.
This circular route has a length of 3.8 miles. Due to its unsurfaced tracks and steep sections, the Cave Hill Walk is not suitable for beginners. That said, there are many other, easier trails to choose from on Cave Hill.
7. Strangford Lough: 2-mile hike in Northern Ireland
Whether you’re in the mood for an extended walk or a leisurely day stroll, Strangford Lough is an excellent hiking area in Northern Ireland. It holds the distinction of being the largest sea inlet within the British Isles, having an incredibly diverse range of wildlife, from avian species to seals – it’s a haven for them all.
Similar to Tollymore and Cave Hill, Strangford Lough accommodates hikers of all levels. You can enjoy the 2-mile-long Tobar Mhuire Heritage Trail or dedicate a day to the North Down Coastal Path.
If you’re inclined to delve deeper into this area, the Lecale Way is a fitting choice. Covering 47 miles, this moderately challenging long-distance hike is part of the Ulster Way, spanning from Downpatrick to Newcastle.
The Lecale Way follows the coastline and gives you every opportunity to discover Strangford Lough in the first half of the route. You won’t be disappointed!
8. Sallagh Braes: 2-mile walk in Northern Ireland
The last of our featured walks in Northern Ireland is the Sallagh Braes Walk, near Ballygalley. This linear walk is fairly short (just under 2 miles), but the experience is worthwhile nonetheless. Why? Because it guides you along the edge of an exceptionally steep cliff! While walking, you will be surrounded by jaw-dropping landscapes.
The linear version of the Sallagh Braes Walk is part of the Ulster Way, which means the entire walk is well-signposted. However, if you’re up for a longer challenge, you could opt for the 7-mile circular route, which starts at the Feystown Road Car Park.
Hiking Northern Ireland: Options For Everyone
As evident, Northern Ireland caters to a wide range of hikers, with trails suited to various preferences. Regardless of whether you seek an adventurous Northern Ireland hike or a relaxed day outdoors, there’s a route perfectly suited to you. So, venture forth and immerse yourself in the incredible landscapes of Northern Ireland – you’re bound to be thoroughly impressed by the experience!