Get those scarves and woolly hats out of storage, wrap up warm and get walking
It’s not about the weather it’s all about what you are wearing – once you have bundled up, a winter walk can be the most wonderful experience. With this in mind, National Trust has an abundance of walks for all ages and abilities, from gardens to coast, to parks and countryside. So why not fill flasks with steaming tea and frothy hot chocolate and discover the magical beauty of the many special places and spaces looked after by the charity.
Encouraging everyone to bundle up and venture out this winter Heather Thompson, National Trust Director for Northern Ireland said, ‘Winter is a great time of year for walking and exploring National Trust places. You can enjoy Mount Stewart’s stunning gardens in the crisp winter sunshine or wander through Florence Court in the shadow of the imposing Benaughlin Mountain. It’s also a brilliant time to take the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge challenge, which is now open all year round. All over Northern Ireland there are inspiring places to visit whatever the weather from Downhill to Mussenden Temple; The Argory to Castle Ward and Rowallane Garden. Come and enjoy these very special places for yourself.’
Here are a few ideas to get you ready for your big adventure:
Springhill: Sawpit Hill walk
Springhill House is the prettiest house in Ulster and there are a host of interesting walks around the fascinating estate. There are some scenic walks through the woodland along the entrance drive of the house, but perhaps the best overall is the Sawpit Hill walk, 2 miles (3.2km).
The Argory: Circular walk and Blackwater River walk
The Circular walk, 3.1 miles (5km), encompasses all of the paths around The Argory estate and mansion. The trail also crosses the road into the woods and along the edge of The Argory mosses (which are boggy and dangerous). Other shorter walks, such as the River walk, 1.5 miles (2.4km), follows the bank of the Blackwater from Bond’s Bridge up to the meadows and then back to the car park.
Come and explore the truly beautiful 332 hectare (820 acre) walled demesne along multi-purpose trails for walking, cycling and horse-riding. A day spent in the exotic garden and picturesque farmyard will unlock your imagination through family history, leisure pursuits, events and industrial heritage. Trails range from 1.2 miles – 8 miles (2km – 13km) shore, castle, farm, boundary, and hoof trails.
Mount Stewart has beautiful walks, including the Lake walk, 0.6 miles (1km) and the Red Squirrel trail, 1.1 miles (1.7km). The magnificent formal gardens will be open this season so venture over and see Edith, Lady Londonderry’s iconic vision in full.
Situated in the drumlin landscape of Co. Down on the outskirts of Saintfield, the rugged landscape of Rowallane Garden is a plantsman’s dream and is bursting with colourful plant collections. Keen walkers can now enjoy new trails through the demesne. Woodland walk 0.8 mile (1.4km) and Farmland trail 1.7 miles (2.7km).
Portstewart Strand: Sand dune and estuary trail
Many walkers and families enjoy the two miles of magnificent golden sand at Portstewart Strand. Fewer people are aware of the Waymarked trail, 3.6 miles (5.8km), at the top of the sand ladder that meanders through 6,000 year old dunes to the river’s edge at the Bann Estuary
There are four amazing trails at the Giant’s Causeway. Recently upgraded, they are all colour-coded and awash with breathtaking views of jagged cliffs and bays lashed by wind and waves. There’s a trail to suit any ability, from a pram-friendly jaunt to a challenging coastal hike.
Enjoy the spectacle of changing seasons on one of our walks around Minnowburn and the Lagan Valley. Choose from the Giant’s Ring trail 3 miles (4.8km), the Sculpture trail 1.5 miles (2.4km) and the Riverside trail 2.5 miles (4km)
Divis and the Black Mountain
There are walking trails along a variety of terrain – through heath, on stone tracks, along boardwalk and road surface, which includes the start of the 6.2 miles (10km) Divis Mountain to Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park trail. Follow our walking trail loop, 5 miles (8km) and take in the amazing views from the summit of the Black Mountain and the Black Hill as you go.
The Beech Wood trail is a tranquil walk, 0.5 mile (0.8km) through the unspoilt beech wood that forms a backdrop to the mansion. The circular Lake walk, 1.2 miles (1.8km) around Lough Coole, also offers breathtaking views and the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the wildlife that lives on, in and around Lough Coole.
Florence Court: Lady’s Well, Yew Tree and Glen Wood Trail
The Lady’s Well Trail, 1.5 miles (2.4km), is a short, gentle walk, skirting the edge of the parkland in front of the house. For a slightly longer walk, have a go at the Yew Tree trail, 2 miles (3.2km), to see the world-famous Florence Court yew tree. The Glen Wood trail, 5 miles (8km), is a more strenuous walk that takes you deeper into the forest.
The Mournes are visited by many tourists, hill walkers, cyclists and rock climbers. The climb to Slieve Donard summit can be strenuous but is worth the effort for spectacular views of the coast, Newcastle town, Murlough Dunes and, on a clear day, Scrabo Tower to the north and the Isle of Man to the east