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21/07/2017

The Great Outdoors

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Sunny weather? In Northern Ireland? During Summer? I've seen it all now. But yes, your eyes do not deceive you. That really is the sun in the sky. And it looks like it's here to stay (fingers crossed) for the foreseeable future. Naturally, many of us will head to our local beer gardens to soak up the rays. But here, we've decided to get out and about with a bit of exploring this summer. So, if you fancy trading wine for walking, here's a list of some scenic walking tours to check out in Northern Ireland.

Annalong Coastal Path

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Distance: 1.5 miles Starting off nice and easy, this 1.5 mile long coastal path walk is surrounded by rocky Mourne granite and offers scenic views of the Mourne Mountains. Setting off from the car park at Corn Mill Quay, head towards the Corn Mill and descend to the left beside the clucking millstream to the harbour, built around a natural rocky cove. Follow the shore around to the left and continue past the houses and into the open countryside via the path. If you're a bit of a birdwatcher, be sure to keep an eye out for local redshank and herring gulls, as well as curlews and oystercatchers (along with the seals!).

Carrigan Forest: Lough Formal Walk

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Distance: 7 miles Upping the tempo a bit now, this brisk walk is a chance to fill your lungs with mountain forest air while enjoying the scenic views towards Lough Melvin, Donegal Bay and Cuilcagh Mountain. Following the black route as indicated by the way marked posts, you'll begin west along a short section of minor road, where the route then branches left onto a forest track. Walkers will be taken through corridors of forest, opening up as you near Lough Formal. Proceed along the shores of the lough before making the short climb up Formal More. Then, retrace your steps to the junction in the path where you then turn right. The next section traces the Roogagh River and takes you deep into the forest before re-emerging onto the hill road.

Divis Ridge Trail

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Distance: 4.2 miles. Fancy seeing Belfast from above? Then this gravel path trail is the perfect opportunity to take in the city from a unique perspective. From the Long Barn car park, follow the route towards the Divis transmitter masts and turn right onto a section of boardwalk, shortly before reaching the lower mast. Once the boardwalk ends, take a right onto the gravel path, leading towards the summit of Black Mountain. From here, you can experience spectacular views across the city and even further including the Antrim Plateau to the north, Scotland to the east and the Mourne Mountains to the south.

Central Mournes

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Distance: 9.9 miles. This one is probably for the slightly more experienced walker, but if you love stunning views over the Irish Sea and to the Isle of Man, then we're sure you're definitely up for the challenge. From Carricklittle car park, take the track leading up towards the mountains for 1km and cross the Mourne Wall at the stile/gate. Continue along the path for 1.8km, keeping the Annalong Wood on your right. At the end of the wood, continue along the main path ascending towards the craggy outcrop of Percy Bysshe. With the path forking before the craggy outcrop, take a left passing the Blue Lough. Continue for another 500 metres to reach the col between Slieve Binnian and Slievelamagan and you will see the path coming off Binnian on your left and a path leading up Slievelamagan on your right. Take this path to the right and continue to the col between Slievelamagan and Cove mountain. From here follow the path over Cove Mountain along the top of the crags. Continue along this path northwards to Slieve Beg passing the Devil's Coach Road*. At the col between Slieve Beg and Slieve Commedagh, where the path meets the Brandy Pad, you should continue cross-country in a southerly direction for 250m to pick up the path that follows the Annalong River. Continue down this path for 3.25km, until you reach the wall at the northern end of the Annalong Wood. Follow the wall up to where it meets the main Carricklittle track again and retrace your steps back to the car park. *If it's windy, make sure and take care over this section.

Bangor Town Walk and Cultural Trail

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Not all walks are just green landscapes, wildlife and scenery. If you fancy an urban adventure with a bit of cultural history thrown in, this walk should be up your street. Starting off at the Tower House on Quay Street on Bangor’s seafront, from here cross the road to the old Harbour Masters Office, the Eisenhower Pier, RNLI Lifeboat Station and the Long Hole. Walkers then turn back towards the town centre, heading along the promenade past the Coastguard Station and McKee Clock. Go through the Sunken Gardens passing Bangor Marina to Pickie Park at the far end of the promenade next to the South Pier. At this point you can continue on along the North Down Coastal Path towards Crawfordsburn and returning to the town walk at any time. Some key highlights include Ward Park, where visitors can check out a German submarine UB 19 boat from World War II, Bangor's War Memorial, children's playground and the parks wildlife. All images and information from www.walkni.com

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