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Co Antrim: one walk, one hike, one run, one swim, one cycle, one park and one outdoor gym

Your essential, outdoor, family-friendly guide to Co Antrim

When the weather is good, there is so much to do outdoors in Ireland – solo, or with family or friends. Here are seven activities - with locations, descriptions, tips and some maps for a general guide.

Below you can read John O'Dwyer's pick for a great walking path, Conor O'Keeffe on a running route, Rozanna Purcell recommends a hiking trail, Mary McCarthy on an outdoor swimming location, Ian O'Riordan picks a cycle trip, Sylvia Thompson on a family-friendly park and Fiona Alston selects a popular outdoor gym.

And remember, whatever you do and wherever you go, please be safe. And enjoy.

Name Cave Hill
Distance 7km
Approximate duration 3 hours
Difficulty Moderate
Starting point Google Maps Belfast Castle (grid reference J 328 790)
Amenities Parking and tearooms
Resembling a sleeping giant, Cave Hill was reputedly the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's fantasy novel Gulliver's Travels. Follow green arrows through natural woodlands, and past brooding cliffs and ancient caves, to gain the high point of McCart's Fort, offering a bird's-eye view over Belfast.


Name: Cavehill Trail
Length: 5.1km
Elevation gain: 271m
Route type: Loop
Footwear: Road or Trail Runners
Dogs: Permitted, but dogs must be kept on a lead.

Route Information: This is a challenging circular route ran anti-clockwise beginning at Belfast Castle and following the green way marked arrows. It can, however, be joined from Bellevue car park, Upper Hightown Road or Upper Cavehill Road. Begin at the interpretative panel in the car park just before the entrance to Belfast Castle. Climb up the path on your left until you reach the first junction. Turn right and follow this path through the woodland, keeping to the left of any of the junctions you come to. This path leads up through the trees, climbing on to an open seating area. If you would like a breather, stop here and admire the fabulous views over the city and Belfast Lough. Continuing on, you will arrive at the Devil's Punchbowl with the first cave facing you. Keep on the path to the right of that cave and you will skirt the plateau on an easy ascent. The path will then left onto the cliff top at the junction with Hazelwood. Continue gently climb the plateau towards McArts Fort. This affords some magnificent views. The trail will continue on a pretty wide gravel path heading southward with views over the beautiful Lagan Valley. Follow this towards the Upper Hightown Road. Along the way on the left you will pass a path which provides a short cut past the limestone quarry in case you are feeling too fatigued and need to shorten the route. At the bottom of these steps turn right and join the main castle drive. Continuing on the Cavehill trail turn left at the dogleg near the waterfall and follow the lane along the perimeter. This will take you to the Upper Cavehill Road entrance, re-enter the site using the entrance on the left and follow the path into the woodland. At the junction take the path on the right and you will return to the main drive to Belfast Castle. Follow this to back to the walking trailhead.

Facilities: Belfast Castle is open to the public. A restaurant in the basement offers a variety of menus from morning coffee to full meals. Pop in and fuel up after your run with plenty of carbs and caffeine! The second floor of the Castle plays host to the Cave Hill Visitor Centre with exciting displays on the history, folklore, wildlife and geology of Cave Hill Country park and the story of Belfast Castle.
The following facilities are available for users with limited mobility:
- Cafe (wheelchair accessible) – 12pm-3pm, Monday-Saturday.
- Disabled toilets
- Disabled parking
Aided by: Trek NI

Hike name Glenariff Trails
Distance 8.9km
Elevation gain 304m
Approximate duration 2-2.5 hours
Difficulty Intermediate
Route type Loop
Starting point See AllTrails Glenariff Scenic Trail Circular

Amenities Car park (fee), toilets, cafe
Dog-friendly? Yes
Tips Walking boots are a must here. There are also lots of other walks at Glenariff if you fancy something shorter.

Name: Arcadia Beach (formerly known as Ladies Beach)
Location: Google Map: Arcadia Beach, Portrush
Brief description:
Small beach in front of Portrush town
Amenities: Toilets, parking (in town)
Lifeguard: No
Water quality: Excellent – Agricultural, Environment and Rural Affairs testing 2020
Tips: Can be wild in winter. When there's a full tide there is no beach. For a 2km swim (this course is the East the Beast race), swim out and then turn right to swim parallel to the larger East Strand, head around the buoys and back.

Name: The Antrim Coast and Glens
Start location: Larne
Route: A rural winding road that hugs the coastline, sea views on one side and rugged steep hillsides on the other, passing through Ballygally, the village of Cushendall, then you across moorland and mountains into Ballycastle.
Distance: 112km (out and back)
Time: 3-5 hours
Highlights: The majestic mix of landscape, seascape and terrain, albeit properly hilly in parts.
Look out for: The spectacular Glendun Viaduct past Ballypatrick Forest and on through Ballyvoy.
Tips: Following much of the Causeway Coastal Route, traffic is heavy during weekends and holidays.

Park name: Stormont Park, Upper Newtownards Road (A20), Belfast
Amenities: An all-inclusive play park for children of all abilities and outdoor gym equipment for older ages, signposted short and long woodland walks
Special features: Barbecue facilities and picnic tables.
Access: Public car parking and bus numbers 4a and 4b from Belfast City. (it is, actually, across the water in Co Down). Google Map "Stormont Park, Belfast".
Dogs: Dogs must be kept on a lead except in the dog park known as "the bullfield" where dogs can run free.
Tip: If it's lashing rain you can take a free tour of Stormont Parliament Buildings between 9am-4pm.

Name: The People's Park, Ballymena
Equipment: Cross trainer, dip bars, leg raise, fitness bike, step up, hand cycle, leg press, bench, pull-up, assisted pull-up, recumbent cycle, shoulder press, lat pull-down.
Location: Google Maps
Walking trails, children's play park and, soon to be opened, a coffee spot called the Hub at People's Park. Plenty of parking.

Get Active Series
- 32 great walking routes in Ireland - one in each county
- 32 great hikes in Ireland
- 32 great running routes
- 32 great outdoor swim locations
- 32 great cycling routes
- 32 great parks
- 32 great outdoor gyms