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Atmospheric summits crowned by evocative tors of granite; a sumptuous coastline where patchwork pastureland abuts against spectacular terraced cliffs; magnificent lakes boasting wonderful wildlife: walks in Northern Ireland have all this and so much more.
Containing nine designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), there is a wealth of fantastic trails through a wide variety of landscapes. For hillwalkers, the brooding granite peaks of the Mourne Mountains offer wonderful adventures, whilst the unspoilt beauty of the Sperrins will have you returning time and time again to their tranquil, heather-clad tops.Coastal hikes in Northern Ireland are just as special. Experience the natural wonder of the Giant’s Causeway and discover the rugged drama of the North Antrim coast. Back inland, forest parks and vast loughs allow you to get closer to nature. Seals colonies, torpedoing peregrines, strutting peacocks and shy sika deer are just some of the welcome sights to be seen.
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For upland aficionados, the best hiking trails in Northern Ireland are those that criss-cross the dramatic Mourne Mountains AONB. From the High Mournes in the east to the Low Mournes in the west, there are almost endless permutations for great adventures in this compact, yet complex range. From glorious woodland strolls in Tollymore Forest Park to strenuous peak bagging challenges across the high tops, there’s something for every inclination.
Traversing the mountains for a full twenty miles (32 km), the dry stone Mourne Wall is an intriguingly distinctive feature. It crosses fifteen summits, including national high point Slieve Donard at 2,790 feet (850 m), and the challenge of following its entire length is deservedly popular. Newcastle, with its cafés, restaurants and gear shops, is a great base, or you can set off into the hills with your tent for a wild camp.
For lovers of sea air and spectacular coastal scenery, hikes in Northern Ireland don’t get much better than those found on the Causeway Coast AONB. For many, the main draw is the unique, natural splendour of the Giant’s Causeway. As waves lap against the shore, marvel at the 40,000 interlocked basalt columns, their distinctive geometric shapes the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
Epic vistas of terraced cliffs and shattered headlands; vertigo-inducing rope bridges between strips of land; idyllic fishing villages offering a warm welcome: the whole of the Antrim Coast is a delight. Long linear routes that hug the marvellous shoreline are made possible by the Causeway Rambler bus service. Inland, the verdant Glens of Antrim offer yet more gorgeous hill walks, albeit less strenuous than those found in the Mournes and the Sperrins.
Northern Ireland is home to Lough Neagh, the UK’s largest freshwater lake, and Strangford Lough, its largest coastal inlet. Both offer lovely lakeside walks, perfect for the family and teeming with fascinating wildlife, such as Strangford’s seal colonies.
Some of the finest lakeside walks in Northern Ireland are those found in Fermanagh in the south west. Renowned for the picturesque scenery of island-studded Lough Erne, the region is also famous for the incredible underworld found at Marble Arch Caves, a Global Geopark. County high point Cuilcagh Mountain boasts great hiking trails, superb sandstone cliffs and marvellous flora and fauna.
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