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LDPs Regional Summary

Northern Ireland

Walking Routes & Trail-miles: 12 main routes / 377 miles - 11 waymarked / 358 miles

Walking Routes & Trail-miles: 11 main routes / 296 miles - 10 waymarked / 315 miles

Areas: The 'Six Counties': Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone

National Parks: None

AONBs: Antrim Coast and Glens, Binevenagh, Causeway Coast, Lagan Valley, Mourne, Ring of Gullion, Sperrin, Strangford & Lecale

World Heritage Sites: Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast

Global Geoparks: Marble Arch Caves

European Long Distance Paths (E-Routes): None

National Walking Trails: Ulster Way

Resident population: 1.86 million (source NISRA 2017)

Reference sources including many regional routes:

Website WalkNI, a comprehensive walking website with a large selection of quality walks of various lengths.

Regional Trails Summary - Northern Ireland

The 'Six Counties' of Northern Ireland, although only about 6% of the UK's land area, offer great variety for the walker, in landscapes forged by fire and ice, on mountains rising to almost 3000ft, and along its lengthy and scenic coastline.

Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland, an umbrella group, has identified and promotes the best short, medium and long distance (over 20 miles) walking routes in the Province. These are called 'Quality Walks' and have detailed listings on the WalkNI website. These walks have been accredited in partnership with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Tourism NI.  To achieve Quality status the path should be at least 50% off-road, include visitor facilities, signage, and have scenic quality.

Ten of the Quality Long Walks are promoted as Waymarked Ways, a series of walking routes geographically spread across Northern Ireland. These are: Antrim Hills Way, Causeway Coast Way, Cuilcagh Way, Lecale Way, Mourne Way, Moyle Way, Newcastle Way, Newry Canal Way, Ring of Gullion Way and Sliabh Beagh Way.

The Province's varied 2 billion-year geological past has created some remarkable landform features that provide the themes for several of its promoted routes. On its journey around the Antrim shores the Causeway Coast Way visits the world-famous Causeway Coast, celebrated as a World Heritage Site. The Ring of Gullion Way takes its theme from the ring of hills that are the relic of a volcanic 'ring dyke', the finest such feature in the British Isles, that extends a little into the Republic. The Sliabh Beagh Way crosses the drumlins of Co. Monaghan.  Drumlins are glacial features, numerous small rounded hills, often called a 'basket-of-eggs' topography.

For peakbaggers, the Moyle Way heading from the Antrim coast, provides a challenge in ascending Slieveanorra and the flanks of boggy Trostan.  The Cuilcagh Way crosses the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain which marks the border between Co. Fermanagh and Co. Cavan (in the Republic) and is the highest point in both counties. The Mourne Way ascends Butter Mountain and in the same area the Mourne Wall Challenge, a tough 19-mile route following the famous Mourne Wall, includes an ascent of Slieve Donard the highest peak in Northern Ireland.

Associations with St Patrick are found on several routes including the Lecale Way and the Antrim Hills Way.  A pilgrimage route, St Patrick's Way, has been developed which leads from Armagh to Downpatrick.

For those looking for industrial heritage and easy towpath walking the Newry Canal Way travels along the UK's first summit-level canal. The Lagan Towpath, part of the Ulster Way, is easily accessed from Belfast.

Several of the Waymarked Ways are used as 'Quality' sections of the Ulster Way, a route encircling Northern Ireland. The sections are connected together by 'link routes' on roads, some of which can be busy, and walkers are actively encouraged to use public transport for these sections.

Access in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has very few public rights of way. In many areas walkers can only enjoy the open countryside, and venture 'off-road', because of the goodwill and tolerance of landowners. There is no presumption of access and no equivalent of 'right to roam' as in, say, England, and there are currently no National Parks that could provide large areas of access. There are different attitudes to access and property rights and, with the large proportion of small owner-occupied farm holdings, many landowners are concerned about their liabilities and legal responsibilities were there public access to their land. There is a framework in place under which new paths may be developed but this involves the creation of new rights of way or the negotiation of new permissive access agreements. This makes it difficult to extend the network of promoted routes where users expect a guarantee of access. For more details about access to countryside see Access to the Countryside – The Legal Position in Northern Ireland.

There are many public country and urban parks and much of Northern Ireland's public land is accessible, eg Northern Ireland Water, and Forest Service land. The National Trust provides access to some 108 miles of coastline and 46 square miles of countryside. The Woodland Trust provides some accessible woodlands.

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