Categories: Seasonal Inspiration

Now to some of you this might sound a little odd, and maybe it’s just us, but around these parts, particularly in autumn and winter, we like nothing more than getting out to smell the sea and feel the breeze on our faces before heading inside to a cosy pub to sit beside a fire and sip on our favourite tipple. Just go straight to the pub, says you. No way, that would be too easy. Anyway, for those who want to give it a try, here’s a few suggestions.

Escape the bustle of Belfast

A tranquil riverside route, the Lagan Towpath links the two cities of Belfast and Lisburn. Starting from Stranmillis, just minutes from Belfast City Centre, the walk follows the river and late 18th century canal system through a variety of wetland, riverside meadows and mixed woodland. Your map reading skills don’t need to be great, just follow water.

Just remember to stop after eleven miles or whenever you see the welcome sight of the Hilden Brewery where you can take a tour or enjoy one of their many home brewed ales over a relaxed lunch or dinner in the Tap Room restaurant.

Located on the southern shores of Belfast Lough, Crawfordsburn Country Park provides a relaxing natural retreat with two excellent beaches, spectacular scenery and a tranquil walk through wooded glens and a long coastal path.

A short stroll from here will take you to quite possibly the most comfortable fireside chair in Northern Ireland at the elegant at The Old Inn. This fine establishment in Crawfordsburn is one of Ireland’s oldest hotels and its old thatched roof has kept the rain off many notable visitors like famous author C. S. Lewis and former U.S. President George W Bush.

Slow down in County Down

In County Down you’ll find Ireland's first nature reserve, Murlough Nature Reserve. This is a fantastic two and a half mile long walk with stunning views of the Mourne Mountains and Dundrum Castle.

A short five minute drive away you will find The Maghera Inn where you are sure of a warm welcome and the very best in seasonal, freshly prepared and locally sourced produce.

The Slieve Donard via Glen River walk climbs up through the forest to meet the famous Mourne Wall for the final steep ascent to the top. By the time you reach the peak, you’ll have put those calves through 850m but the dramatic views of Newcastle and the sea below definitely make it worth the ascent.

The good news is you won’t have to go too far to get to Hugh McCanns for a tasty pint, some juicy crab claws and the chance to relive and maybe even a boast a little about your latest mountain conquest.

If the legs, and of course the head, have recovered sufficiently you take on one of the many trails within Castle Ward. Situated on the shores of Strangford Lough this place is so big it offers a twenty-one mile network of multi-use trails through the stunning grounds. Most of it is pretty flat and you can choose your own path. In the nearby picturesque village of Strangford, The Cuan is a fine and local favourite that offers excellent food and drink with a strong emphasis on fresh ingredients from local people.

Coastal Comforts

Up along the famous Causeway Coastal Route lies a six and a half mile walk from Portrush to Bushmills via Portballintrae. It is long but boy it’s special. You’ll pass beaches, cliffs and castles by the sandy dunes of Whiterocks and some special views of Dunluce Castle before you get to Bushmills and Ireland’s oldest working distillery. You can stop and take the tour here or less than a mile away step back to a time steeped in charm at the luxurious Bushmills Inn Hotel (4*). Roaring peat fires, nooks and crannies and a gas lit bar provide the perfect setting for a drink or two. It also has some rather comfortable beds too.

Before you start your walk along the North Antrim Cliff Path to Dunseverick Castle pay a visit to the Causeway Hotel (3*) on the doorstep of the famous landmark. Built in 1836, the Taste of Ulster 2014 award winning hotel has a bar lounge ideal for a drink or light bite. For more substantial local fayre, visit the hotel restaurant and take in the stunning views across the bay.

The spectacular cliff walk starts at the Giant’s Causeway and follows a five-mile path to the famous castle. Along the way, you’ll see some of the finest cliff scenery in Europe and pass some of the most oddly named headlands and bays including The King & His Nobles and the romantic sounding Port Moon.

Just two miles from the bustling city of Derry-Londonderry, you’ll find Beech Hill Country House Hotel (4*) where three miles of circular trails twist their way through the mixed woodland and landscaped gardens near the River Faughan.

A hub of history, Beech Hill was used as a World War II camp by the US Marines who carved their names on a tree in the woods. They can still be seen today. The trails start and finish at the front of the hotel which makes it the obvious place to enjoy a pint or go all out and eat a fancy feast in the Ardmore restaurant. The menu uses only the finest and freshest ingredients from nearby farms and local fishermen with vegetables and herbs grown in the hotel’s own walled garden.

Stairways to heaven

Veteran hillwalkers will love the chance to trek up Cuilcagh Boardwalk in County Fermanagh. Nicknamed the Stairway to Heaven this exhilarating experience into the wild, across bogland takes you to views of silent beauty across beautifully bleak countryside. Reward yourself after your trek up the boardwalk by enjoying refreshments beside the Marina in The Moorings, Bellanaleck.

An island in the Orchard County

There are a choice of walking trails in Armagh’s Oxford Island Nature Reserve and you can do a spot of bird watching while you’re there too. With woodland, ponds and wildflower meadows, there’ll be plenty to chirp about over dinner at the award-winning Clenaghans Restaurant in nearby Aghalee. That said, once the Blood Orange Parfait, Chocolate Cremeux and Sourdough Crumb dessert arrives you might have difficulty speaking.

Walk it off the next day at Peatlands Park on one of five walks over lakeland or parkland. Alternatively, you could try the second largest public park in Ireland, Lurgan Park, where you’ll come across a massive hand-dug lake and beautifully manicured grounds. Five minutes from here, you’ll also find the Courthouse Bar in Lurgan. Enjoy a drink in the courtroom, gallery, library or al fresco in the beer garden at this former magistrate’s court.