Giant's Ring trail at Minnowburn
Take a relaxing walk from the river, rising gently through woodland, farmland and garden to the ancient earth henge of the Giant's Ring.
An easy circular walk through woodlands and rolling meadows
Starting and ending at Minnowburn car park, the walk takes in the area's varied landscape and historic points of interest.
Minnowburn car park, OSNI grid ref: J327685
From the car park, follow the Lagan riverbank path upstream. After about 656 feet (200m), 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.
The Giant's Ring
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.
The Sandpit Field
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, 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.
Terrace Hill garden
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.
Minnowburn car park, OSNI grid ref: J324685
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