|TYPE||Linear walk from train station|
|DISTANCE||3.2 miles / 5.1km|
|SURFACES||Mixed – significant muddy and rough sections|
|HEIGHT GAIN / LOSS||Several gentle ascents and descents|
This walk features several short interesting sections interspersed with more mundane walking. The seafront north of Seahill is a highlight with diverse shore habit, rocky coves and small rocky islets close to the shore where cormorants and seals can be often seen. A great spot to sit and watch (or even picnic weather permitting!)
While it is possible to access the coast pretty directly along Rockport Road, the suggestion here is to take a longer option through Seahill which then allows you to visit the foreshore ‘heath’ and the attractive series of small bays which it backs on to.
Exit the station onto Seahill Road and turn right. After 100m turn left into Craigdarragh Park Road. You are now in the heart of Seahill, a large development of 1970s bungalows and split level living. There is much to like about this style of built environment – the plots are generous – usually with real gardens front and back (palms flourish and hints of rockeries abound). Property boundaries are low and inclusive – almost American in style. The houses feature the large windows and varied geometry of a modern forward looking architecture. Yes, the buildings of this period often used indifferent materials and the building technologies were not available to make such homes cosy and energy efficient. However, with updating and TLC this style of housing has much of offer over the squeezed quaint houselets of many of today’s new developments.
As you proceed along Craigdarragh Park a fine sea view opens up ahead and the road bends right. Here you can turn left into Rhanbuoy Park or stay as you are – either way you will return to Seahhill Road where you turn left and walk towards the sea.
Exit Seahill at the rough track with a sign for ‘Seahill Coastal Path’.
On your left you will now see the rough area of bracken and whin bush I have marked on the map as Seahill ‘heath’ – it is not an official name but such a fine habitat needs recognition and a name is a start. Apart from a being a great place for birds, butterflies and other wildlife it creates an effective buffer between the urban Seahill and the wild shore.
Just short of the Seahill Water Treatment works leave the vehicle track and turn left into the heathland along a small path. Bear left at the junction and you will soon find yourself on the shore. The series of small bays here are delightful and a well positioned bench ahead is just the place to sit down and look, listen and smell. You don’t need to be tired – just enjoy it because you can!
Now proceed left along the coast. This section of path is earth only and muddy and could certainly do with a little drainage work and some small infill to improve carrying capacity. Ahead you will see a different solution where a wide uniform tarmac pavement begins and runs for the next 250m or so, This is certainly easy walking for all, but the hard surface takes as well as gives and some of the wildness is lost. It is also a much more expensive option over less intrusive path maintenance methods,
Through the fence on you left you get a good view of the attractive grounds of Rockport School.
The boundary between it and Camphill Community Glencraig (a very interesting organisation with a singular approach to living) is marked by a small path and a stream – should you need it this path will take you back to Seahill Station.
Around the corner is a small headland and an excellent spot to watch wildlife sheltering on the relative safety of the rocky islets just offshore. You often see cormorants, drying their wings or just taking a break from fishing. Half an hour either side of low tide there is also a good chance of seeing seals on offshore rocks enjoying the sun or doing very slow stretches.
The route now changes character as a high wall closes in from the left. After about 200m there is a short climb and you find yourself sandwiched literally between a ‘rock and a hard place’. On your right a wall of large quarried boulders drops to the sea – protecting the vulnerable coast and path. On your left a high concrete wall – this section feels almost like an abandoned quarry! However, better things lie ahead as the concrete boundary changes to a stone built ivy-clad wall and the artificial sea defences are replaced with twisting low basalt sea cliffs and even a miniature sea stack appears as you round the corner into the next bay.
The path now drops down to just above the high tide level and is again subject to flooding in wet weather – certainly not a route for light footwear.
After a long straight section beneath the wall, round a corner and a surprise – you get to see the Royal Belfast Golf Course which you have been walking beside for the last 700m. A high fence protects you from errant golf balls and a new concrete surface path makes walking easy if not particularly attractive,
You now find yourself at the end of a a vehicle track and the beginning of a section of road walking in front of coastal housing alternating with two sections of short coastal footpath. Although slightly elevated these paths are actually quite exposed in windy conditions at high tide.
The third inland road you come to (just short of Cultra Yacht Club) is Shore Road. Turn left here and you will soon be at the junction with Circular Road West and East. I suggest turn left into Circular Road East, but either way will serve. Be aware there is no pavement on this section so proceed with caution.
You are now in an area of large generous houses set in mature extensive grounds, There has been some modern development and infill, but this is most certainly low density urban living at its most leafy and seductive. An interesting range of styles are on view – you can decide which would meet your requirements!
As Circular Road East meets West you will find yourself at the beautifully reinvented Cultra Railway Station. All the red brick buildings are now modern private houses, but there is an adequate station ‘bus shelter’ here for you to await the next train.