We think it’s safe to say that this week is a strange limbo period filled with leftover turkey and ham sandwiches and selection boxes that often leaves us feeling sluggish and lethargic.
Why not leave that feeling behind in the crazy year that was 2020 and kick off the New Year with a big walk at some of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful spots.
Start 2021 on the right foot by blowing off the cobwebs and clearing your head with the crisp January air and welcome what will hopefully be a better year for all.
Here is a list of some of our top picks across each county for a New Year Day walk – just don’t forget your hat, scarf and gloves.
Glenariff Forest Park – Known as ‘The Queen of the Glens’, Glenariff Forest Park covers over 1,000 hectares with planted woodland, lakes and conservation areas. There are several walking trails of different lengths which give spectacular views and glimpses of wildlife and the timber walkway that winds through the glen was first built about 100 years ago.
North Antrim Cliff Path – Set off from Dunseverick Castle and enjoy the beautiful scenic walk that takes you all the way over to the Giants Causeway. The well-maintained walkway follows a key section of the Causeway Coast Way and the Ulster Way which highlights the beauty of one of NI’s most famous rugged coastlines.
Ballypatrick Forest Park – Just outside of Ballycastle and tucked away amongst the Glens of North Antrim, Ballypatrick Forest Park is an expansive woodland with lots to explore. The Loughareema ‘Vanishing Lake’ is a stone’s throw away, while it’s common to see deer and other fauna in the area.
Slieve Croob Transmitter Road Wal k – Slieve Croob is the highest peak in the Dromara Hills, north of the famous Mourne Mountains and the road to the summit passes an ancient burial cairn and several transmitter stations with radio masts. At the top of this hill, you can see all six counties of Northern Ireland and its linear route makes it a lovely walk for all ages.
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Windmill Hill – Situated in Portaferry, Windmill Hill overlooks Strangford Lough which is known as one of Northern Ireland’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is located on the hill south-east of the town below the stump of Portaferry Windmill where can enjoy a breath-taking view of the lough from the mouth to Greyabbey from the viewpoint with the woods of Castleward, Portaferry Demesnes and Strangford village in front of you too.
Castle Archdale – Castle Archdale Forest stretches across 520 hectares and is located on the eastern shores of Lower Lough Erne. The forest is a richly varied and includes ruined Castles, WWII docks & buildings, ancient woodland and views over Lower Lough Erne to White Island and Davy’s Island. It also contains a caravan park and water sports facilities to entertain the family.
Cladagh Glen Walk – This walk is a waymarked linear route through the striking landscape of the Cladagh Glen National Nature Reserve. It follows the course of the river and takes you through a narrow, steep-sided limestone gorge that is thickly covered by an ancient ash woodland and is part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
Lough Fea – Set in the wild mountain scenery of the Sperrins Region, Lough Fea covers 180 acres and supplies the entire area and beyond with fresh water. The 4.15km walkway contains a mix of panoramic scenery and calming waters and makes this spot the ideal place for an idyllic New Year’s Day dander as it also has a children’s play area and toilet facilities on site.
An Creagán – Situated outside Omagh, An Creagán Forest & River Trail a uniquely tranquil and picturesque environment to explore. It is also part of the Highway to Health Scheme and uses pole signs at 1km intervals on the established route so is a perfect start for anyone wanting to improve their fitness in 2021.
Bann Boulevard – This is a linear walk along the River Bann which joins up with the Ulster Way on the south side of Portadown. On this three-mile walk to Knock Bridge, you will be able to spot several attractions such as the Point of Whitecoat where the River Bann, River Cusher and Newry Canal all meet. Make sure to also keep an eye out for any of the native wildlife along the banks such as grey heron, mute swans and kingfishers.
Oxford Island – Oxford Island is a National Nature Reserve site on the southern shores of Lough Neagh in Lurgan. The site covers 282 acres and much of the area is designated as a National Nature Reserve due to its wide variety of natural habitats. With four different walking trails designed for all abilities of mobility, everyone can enjoy the sounds and sights of nature that the island has to offer.
Beech Hill Country House – Enjoy a brisk walk through three miles of circular trails that venture through the mixed woodlands and gardens near the River Faughan. Beech Hill is steeped in history as it was used by US Marines during World War II and their names can still be found etched into some trees in the wood to this day.
Somerset Forest – Located on the southwestern boundary of Coleraine, Somerset Forest has a walk for everyone with routes of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty allowing you to challenge yourself or start off easy after the Christmas period. With a host of wildlife such as herons and squirrels calling this area home, this is the perfect spot for an enjoyable stroll.
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