Minnowburn Giant's Ring trail
Minnowburn Warden's Office, Ballynahatty Road, Belfast BT8 8LERoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
A green oasis in the heart of the city of Belfast, Minnowburn is full of beautiful trails verging the Lagan or heading through woodland and farmland. It lies in the Lagan Valley Regional Park and is a great place to walk through fields alive with the sounds and smells of nature, or stroll along the banks of the Lagan and Minnowburn. You may spot spawning salmon or sea trout.
- Bus stop
Start: Minnowburn car park, grid ref: J327685
From the car park, follow the Lagan riverbank path upstream. After about 656 feet (200 metres), take the first path you come to on the left-hand side.
The Lagan is the main river that flows through the city. It was used as a canal for more than two centuries, linking Belfast with Lough Neagh until the navigations' closure in 1958. Today the Lagan towpath forms the spine of the Lagan Valley Regional Park and is an important walking and cycling facility for the people of Belfast. This stretch of the river is a wonderful wildlife haven where wetland birds such as little grebe, moorhens and tufted duck can be seen. You might even see one of the seals that commonly make their way up river from the port.
Follow this path, cross the Edenderry Road and continue on with the mature woodland on your left. You'll enter young, broadleaved woodland. Carry on until you reach the Ballynahatty Road. Cross the road and take the path opposite.
The Minnowburn woods are, for the most part, fairly young. Mainly beech, much of it dates from the early 1960s. The more recently planted woods tend to be native broadleaves such as oak, ash and hazel. The most interesting variety amongst these is what we call the Belvoir oak. These were grown from acorns collected from the ancient oak trees of Belvoir forest. Eventually, as these woods mature, visitors will walk through woodland with mighty oaks that can be genetically traced back to the ancient forests of Ireland.
Follow the path which has fields on either side for about half a mile (1 kilometre), until you reach the Giant's Ring. After exploring the Ring, make your way out through the gate at the opposite side from which you arrived. Pass through the car park and carry on down the avenue until you reach the road.
This massive earthwork circle, roughly 590 feet (180 metres) across and 13 feet (4 metres) high, is a beautiful example of a 'henge' monument. It was built around 2700BC, during the Neolithic period. In the middle is a passage tomb made up of five upright stones and a large capstone. The site has always been a popular attraction and has been in some sort of public use since the time it was first built.
Cross the road, taking care to watch out for traffic, and climb over the stile opposite. You're now in the Sandpit Field, a marvellous natural amphitheatre that was carved by retreating glaciers during the last Ice Age. Follow the track around the top of the big pit until you come to a stile beside a road.
In 1969 a free concert was held here in an attempt to unite the youth of Belfast through music. The organisers tried in vain to find a suitable venue in the city, but were turned away. In the end they approached the National Trust, who agreed, despite opposition from some quarters. The event took place on the first weekend of August. At the same time, Belfast saw widespread violence erupt throughout the city, now considered to be the start of the most recent troubles in Northern Ireland. Despite this, about 3000 young people made it; many had to walk, because the trouble had disrupted transport.
Climb over the stile and cross the road. Go through the pedestrian gate opposite, follow the path through a second gate and continue on the old tarmac path up Terrace Hill. This path used to be the main avenue to Terrace Hill house, in spring the bank on the left is filled with daffodils and bluebells. Carry on until you reach the garden. Once you've explored this magical place go back the way you came and take the path on the left, leading downhill through a young woodland.
The garden was built by famous linen merchant Edward (Ned) Robinson in the mid-1930s. This is one of the best viewpoints in the Lagan Valley, but became very overgrown until 2001 when the National Trust began to restore it back to something resembling its former glory. The location of many an after-dinner garden stroll in its heyday between the 1930s to 1950s, this site commands superb views across the Lagan Valley to Malone House and the Belfast hills beyond.
Follow the path until you reach the Minnowburn river; here you'll walk along the banks of the river downstream until you reach Minnowburn Bridge and the car park beyond.
We don't have an accurate date for the bridge yet, but it probably dates to the late 17th or early 18th centuries. It's famous as a romantic spot where courting couples would meet before having a stroll along the river. It's also a favourite for artists and photographers who can often be seen capturing an image of this iconic scene.
End: Minnowburn car park, grid ref: J327685
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 3 miles (3.4km)
- Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- OS Map: OSNI sheet 15
The route includes uneven surfaces, steps and paths composed of dirt, gravel, wooden boardwalk and some paved surfaces. Some areas can be slippery when wet. The walk crosses agricultural land and you may encounter grazing animals. Dogs welcome, but please keep under control when walking through the Sandpit Field, due to cattle grazing nearby.
- How to get here:
On foot: Take the same route as 'By bike'
By bike: From the city centre, take the Lagan towpath from Stramillis, cross the river at Shaw's Bridge, then take the path that runs underneath it. Cycle up river until you reach Minnowburn Bridge. Cross the bridge and you'll find the trail starting point, Minnowburn car park on your right hand side. Part of the journey is on route 9 of the National Cycle Network
By bus: From the Europa Buscentre take Ulsterbus 13D, 13H or 313. Alight Shaw's Bridge and follow the same directions as 'By bike' from there
By road: Minnowburn is just off the A55 outer ring. From the city centre take the Malone road. The property and car park are signposted from Shaw's Bridge
- Telephone: 02890 647787
- Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/minnowburn/