Ways

Descriptions with maps, travel details, distances, physical difficulty of walks and other ways to explorer the great outdoors and have yourself a “Grand Day Out”

Marble Arch and the Marlbank Karst

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Route Map (Overview)
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TYPELinear walk – riverside paths, minor road and mountain lanes and paths
DISTANCE7.9 miles / 12.7 km (both ways)
SURFACESMostly well made compacted surfaces. One short section potentially wet open mountain ground
HEIGHT GAIN / LOSS900 feet climb
HAZARDS
  • 1.5 mile walk on a minor public road.

  • Upper section of the walk is in exposed mountainous terrain

  • No Dogs allowed on Gortmaconnell farmland.

Karst is a scientific term for a kind of landscape created by limestone and water where the normal behaviours of rivers, rocks and landforms don’t apply and indeed are turned almost inside-out! Rivers abruptly vanish underground to later re-appear at some apparently arbitrary point. Dry hollows, sink holes, rocky valleys and heights form a strange, sometimes dangerous alien landscape and everywhere is underlain with an ultra complex 3-D maze of wet and dry passages and caverns. There is nothing else quite like it and in the Marble Arch / Marlbank area of the Fermanagh Geopark we have a superb example.

This Karst walk follows a river upstream from deeply wooded Cladagh Glen, past the lower entrances to the Marble Arch cave system, up onto the Marlbank plateau and then along an initially dry mountain valley, past a sinkhole to join the Owenbrean river as it flows from its head waters in the blanket bogs of Cuilcagh Mountain.

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Glenariff Mountain and Glens

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Glenariff Waterfalls walks first opened to the public in 1889 as a railway ‘special attraction’ managed by the Northern Counties Railway and accessed by train from Ballymena to Parkmore and then a ride in a jaunting car. The Ess-na-Larach Tea House opened in 1891 and its successor, Laragh Lodge restaurant, still operates on the same site today.

Tourism from Ireland and Great Britain was fundamental to the business of the Northern Counties Railway, and Glenariff Glen, along with the Giant’s Causeway and the Gobbins path, were its core visitor attractions. In the inter-war period over 30,000 visitors a year made the journey here via the Ballymena – Parkmore railway, terminating at the highest train station in Ireland.

I have called this route ‘Glenariff Mountain and Glens’ as much of it runs above the forest tree line at over 800 feet and affords some of the best high walking views to be had in the Glens of Antrim. It also visits both branches of the upper Glenariff, follows the route of the first narrow gauge railway in Ireland (the mineral railway) and ends by climbing past the spectacular waterfalls, which first brought the Victorian visitors here 130 years ago.

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Divis and the Black Mountain

Divis and the Black Mountain Map
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Belfast is a city surrounded by uplands – the silhouettes of Cave Hill, Divis, The Black Mountain and the Castlereagh and Holywood Hills form its backdrop. Yet these hills for most remain unvisited and unknown. This is partly owing to the usual Northern Ireland problem of general lack of public access, but now, in the case of Divis and the Black Mountain this is no longer a factor. If you haven’t made it there yet this walk should serve as an introduction to this expansive and rewarding area.

The area is owned and maintained by the National Trust who have provided two car parks, a café and a very well designed and maintained series of trails. There is no admission charge so if you can get yourself to the car parks this is a very accessible mountain experience just five miles from the heart of Belfast City.

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The Hills of Mount Stewart

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Before first visiting the great mansion and Gardens of of Mount Stewart it would not be unreasonable to imagine it perched on an elevation with magnificent views over Strangford Lough to the distant Mountains of Mourne. In reality the house shelters in a hollow whose benign microclimate supports lush and verdant gardens which completely shield it from the world beyond.

However, the hills are still there and, thanks to the recent acquisition by the National Trust of land covering the whole of the historic demesne, this walk allows you to visit some of them.

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