Top Family Walks in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is full of special places that are rich with wildlife, crammed with stories and command stunning views. From landscaped gardens to golden beaches, and from gentle nature trails to wild parklands, we’ve got some great walks for you all to enjoy. Here are a few of our family-friendly favourites...
Best family walks for spotting wildlife
This trail takes you through the American Garden to the managed woodland. Here you can spot a host of wildlife including fallow deer and our native and endangered red squirrel. The meandering waterways of Upper Lough Erne mean Crom is also a haven for otters who regularly travel around searching for food and patrolling their territories. The freshwater of Lough Erne also attracts some of our most loved wildlife including herons and great crested grebes, as well as pine martens and some of the UK's rarest butterflies and moths.
This buggy-friendly trail is fenced off from the clifftops, so little ones can roam free in plain sight. Cast your eye upwards to see if you can spot skylark, stonechat, linnet or even chough. The chough (pronounced 'chuff') looks like a crow but, unlike other members of the crow family, has a red bill and red legs. It loves nothing more than to circle grazed cliffs hunting for insects in the short vegetation. Look down to the Portcoon Cave where you could see dolphins and porpoises swimming around the little bay.
Cross the industrial age-Bond’s Bridge and join the trail where you will discover a kissing gate, all kinds of greenery and kingfishers if you’re lucky. The famously colourful bird of rivers is surprisingly small, only about 18cm long with a long straight bill. But with their unmistakable bright blue and orange plumage, kingfishers are possibly the most distinctive birds found in Northern Ireland, and the Blackwater is one of the best points in the North to spot them. Search carefully and quietly and you may glimpse one perched on an overhanging branch, or lazily flying over the water ready to swoop down for fish.
Best family walks for little legs
These short walks through woodlands feature wildlife, kick-about parkland and natural play areas to keep your little ones entertained. Our natural play trail is a wonderful way to explore these woods. You can climb, clamber, balance and wobble your way along the route. Or make a secret den among the trees and go wildlife spotting. Look out for the drumming of our newest visitor, the great spotted woodpecker or follow the red squirrel trail to try to spot the much-loved and endangered red squirrel.
Our garden at Rowallane is maintained to encourage wildlife to be happy and flourish, so come and see how many squirrels, birds and insects you can spot.
Pick up a seasonal trail at the entrance hut, or take on the 50 Things challenge and see how many you can tick off during your visit. In spring, go otter-spotting and find some frogspawn in the ponds around the trail. On a warm summer’s day plan your own mini adventure and create a secret trial marked out with sticks. Hunt in the bark of fallen trees to find snails and get together with your friends for the race of the summer. In the autumn take inspiration from the garden and have a go at creating some beautiful wild art using the nature you see around you. Go conker-picking or why not try catching a falling leaf? It’s harder than you think.
The short 20 minute walk guides you through a peaceful belt of woodland surrounding Ardress House. Look out for interesting nature as you go - a crab apple tree hugging an ash, an unusual bent pine tree, and snowberry hedges strung between two wooden bridges. During the final part of the mile take time to marvel at the trees which include some of the oldest ash and oak trees with one oak tree thought to be nearly 400 years old, and the magnificent Irish Yew tree on the lawn in front of the house.
Best family walks for views
At the beginning of this historic walk you will pass the last remaining original beech tree on the avenue which is approximately 300 years old. The walk leads up to the tower built in 1731 and from there you can enjoy splendid views of the Sperrins and Slieve Gallion on a clear day. The beech trees provide stunning colour throughout the year, from vivid green in the spring to rich reds in the autumn.
This bracing clifftop walk offers spectacular views of the Causeway Coast, stunning views of the stones, and on most days views of Scotland and the Inishowen Peninsula too. From the Red Trail you'll be able to join the Blue Trail which leads directly to the world-famous stones. Look out for the Grand Causeway which is the largest of three rock outcrops which make up the Giant's Causeway. Take turns to get family pictures on the Wishing Chair, a natural throne formed from a perfectly arranged set of columns. This impressive trail ends at the bay's most famous feature - the Giant's Boot. Apparently lost by Finn as he fled from the wrath of Scottish giant, Benandonner, the boot is reputed to be a size 93.5!
Best family walks by the water
Many walkers and families enjoy the two mile stretch of magnificent golden sand at Portstewart Strand. Fewer are aware of the Sand dune and estuary trail that meanders through 6,000 year-old dunes to the river edge at the Bann Estuary. Walk through the dunes where wildflowers dance in the breeze, and step into a different world of colourful butterflies and birds. This trail includes beach and some steep sandy paths. The estuary path can be soft underfoot, so is suitable for little legs but not suitable for pushchairs or wheelchair users.
This walk explores the waterside, a ruined castle, woodland and an ornamental lake in this vast special place. Visit in winter for a chance to see a fantastic range of winter wildlife including migrating birds such as redshank and oystercatcher, and spy the resident seals bobbing about in the water. In the summer, hire bikes for all the family and explore this 2.5 mile trail, which starts at the old castle farmyard and goes along the water front before reaching Audley's Wood. Visit the Old Castle farmyard animals, spot the wildflower meadow and enjoy beautiful views across to Portaferry. Just be careful – the trails are gravelled in places with some woodland tracks, and several short sections are steep. If you want to really challenge yourself, the loughside walk can be extended slightly by climbing to Audley's Castle.
Starting and ending at Minnowburn car park, the Giant’s Ring Trail is a wonderful green oasis in the heart of the city of Belfast. It is an energising walk along riverbanks, over stiles and through meadows to discover the impressive ancient earth henge of the famous Giant's Ring. As you follow the Lagan riverbank path, look out for spawning salmon or sea trout. The trail will lead you to Sandpit Field, a marvellous natural amphitheatre that was carved by retreating glaciers during the last Ice Age.