Northern Ireland might not be the first place that springs to mind when you consider a European walking holiday but there's a huge variety of great walks and waymarked trails to discover - even for this time of the year!
Nothing beats a walk on a crisp winter’s day and when you throw in some spectacular Northern Irish scenery and a light covering of snow, it’s pretty exhilarating.
The Causeway Coast Way walking route, which wends its way along the rugged coastline of counties Antrim and Londonderry, stretches for 53km from Ballycastle to Portstewart and is considered to be one of the finest coastal walks in Europe.
Serious bushwalkers can stride out along the entire two-day linear route, which passes the iconic Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the evocative ruins of Dunluce Castle and the famous Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But the route can be joined at many spots and includes stretches that traverse golden sands, cling to cliff tops and pass picturesque harbours.
Another popular winter walking area is the Mourne Mountains, the highest and most dramatic mountains in Northern Ireland and all the more stunning come winter time.
For a real leg stretch you can challenge yourself to climbing Slieve Donard (weather permitting), the highest peak and a three-mile hike to the top. It’s a trek through forest, open mountainside and past waterfalls, rewarded by awesome views from the summit.
If a gentler walk is more to your liking there are lots of choices, from the manicured grounds of stately homes and castles to beautiful waymarked trails through forest parks.
Magnificent Montalto Estate in County Down sits on a 160-hectare site, within which a variety of gardens can be explored and trails followed through gorgeous natural woodland.
In County Fermanagh, stately Crom Castle is home to the largest area of oak woodland in Northern Ireland and the oldest yew trees in Ireland. The 800-hectare demesne on the shores of Upper Lough Erne is a tranquil landscape of islands, woodland and historic ruins and a wonderful place to walk whatever the weather.
Also in County Fermanagh is Lough Navar Forest, one of the jewels in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. It extends across 2,600 hectares of bog, heath, lakeland, woodland and coniferous forest. Rich in natural and historical antiquities, the forest boasts a network of walking trails of varying length along mountain trails, lakeshore paths and country lanes, ensuring there is something for every type of walker.
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