Many Belfast dwellers think of Minnowburn only as a small car park beside the Lagan by a nice old bridge. However, this walk will show this National Trust property is so much more. In a small area there are spectacular views over Belfast, its hills and its wooded parkland peripheries. There are glimpses of past elegant living – the great houses and their lands. Finally the woods and natural interest here are about as good as it gets – and you are free to walk through and enjoy them.
|TYPE||Circular forest and riverside walk with views and some ascending|
|DISTANCE||1.2 miles / 2 km|
|SURFACES||Mostly well made compacted surfaces with variable slopes. |
One short section descending on concrete steps.
|HEIGHT GAIN /||170 feet climb|
The route starts in the National Trust Car Park (it can be busy at weekends – get there early) by Minnowburn bridge. Cross the road by the end of the bridge and follow the path upstream along the Minnowburn. Kingfishers operate here and the burn is busy with bird life and always changing. After an all too short distance the path leaves the burn, climbing gently through young woods, until it enters an open area by the first of the woodland sculptures – a mole which sometimes doubles as a bird table!
Keep left and follow the path down to a small pond.
Circumnavigate the pond past the willow bower and the composite beast (there is stranger to come)!
Now climb steadily up and away from the pond, skirting the wild-flower meadow which appears on your left, through young deciduous planted woodland. As the path levels by Terrace Hill Garden the views open across the Lagan and back to Belfast.
Take your time to explore the sculptures, the 1920’s brick work and crazy paving (yes it was once the latest thing) in the garden. A little imagination can add a party of smart young things sipping cocktails and looking out over the other grand houses and Demesnes of Barnett’s and Clement Wilson. Once the preserve of the social elite, this landscape is now largely open for all to enjoy.
At the South West corner of the garden you will find a useful information board with the historical background to the site. Here also is your exit point as a short path leads down to the top of a long flight of concrete steps. Descend with care (particularly if wet or icy) about 2/3 of the flight to where a path exits to your left into a glorious section of steeply sloping beech wood.
Follow the undulating path as it contours (approximately) its way through the wood. This old woodland is marked by characteristic bluebells, plants which flower in mid-spring but are visible to the observant most of the year round.
Also watch out for a fine dragon here above the path to the left just before the path drops to exit the wood.
Exit the beech wood through an old hedge where you will find yourself on the edge of another new planted wood – about ten years old and already well over head height and doing very nicely.
Turn right downhill crossing a minor road after 75m and continue straight on, now with a riverside meadow on your left, until you come to the Lagan, at a junction marked by the last of our wood sculptures.
Now turn right downstream and follow the riverside path back to the Minnowburn car park. Watch out for water birdlife on your left and to the right natural forest play areas which form part of the Minnowburn Forest School facilities.