Walk of the Week: Carnmoney Hill.
This walk explores a beautiful green oasis in the urban landscape of Newtownabbey — Carnmoney Hill.
Thanks to lease agreements with Newtownabbey Borough Council and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the Woodland Trust cares for 70 hectares (173 acres) of land at the hill, with grassland, wetland and woodland — both ancient woodland and new planting.
Walkers can explore this natural treasure trove by choosing between a lower woodland walk and a hilltop walk.
Be prepared for some steep inclines, but in return you have the promise of breathtaking views over Belfast Lough and the surrounding countryside.
From the M2, proceed onto the M5. At the end of the M5 you will see a roundabout — follow the sign for Carrickfergus. At the next roundabout take the first left, signed to Glengormley.
Proceed straight ahead to the mini roundabout. Go straight ahead at this roundabout onto the O’Neill Road. Travel uphill and take the first right turn into Knockenagh Avenue. A short distance ahead you will see the entrance to Carnmoney Hill on the left hand side. Park at the lay-by.
Walkers can choose between three walking routes — each clearly signed with red, yellow and blue waymarkers. The red route is the shortest and offers a 15-minute saunter around the foot of this ancient green monument. Eight hundred metres of pathway, suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs, will lead you on your gentle stroll.
The yellow route will lead you on the Lower Woodland Walk, which lasts up to 45 minutes and includes some steep inclines.
For the more energetic walker, there’s the blue route — the Hilltop Walk. Lasting up to two hours, this route will lead you up to and along the very top of the hill. The hilltop walk includes very steep inclines, but you will be rewarded with stunning scenery and views.
A welcome board is in place at the entrance and highlights the choice of walking routes. The routes are also detailed on a leaflet that is available from the Woodland Trust.
Carnmoney Hill is one of the Borough’s ancient, natural monuments. It’s one of a chain of hills — the Belfast Hills — which provide a striking backdrop to the city.
Archaeological gems remain on Carnmoney Hill, giving a flavour of times gone by. For example, two souterrains (man-made underground tunnels) have been found on the hill. These were probably used as escape routes from Vikings and other raiders.
A prehistoric rath or fortified settlement, known as Dunanney, provides evidence of human habitation on the hill some 1,200 years ago. In ancient times, fairs and festivals were held at Dunanney, with its wonderful views over Belfast Lough. Keep a lookout for the restored Victorian well.
Carnmoney Hill consists of a mix of habitats, including grassland, wetland and woodland. The woodland includes fragments of rare ancient woodland — that’s land continuously wooded since at least 1600. The Woodland Trust has planted more than 57,000 young native trees, which link and buffer the fragments of ancient woodland, providing an extended haunt for Carnmoney’s precious wildlife.
Bats, foxes and the Irish hare are just some of the mammals at home on the hill, while birds include breeding buzzards, sparrowhawks and long-eared owls.
The abundant wild flowers include stunning bluebells, purple orchids, wood anemone and wood sorrel, with primroses lining the ancient hedgerows. The hedgerows, mostly hawthorn, form quiet passageways and in the 1800s would have led to isolated farmsteads on the hill.
Carnmoney Hill offers breathtaking views. The best viewpoint is from the top of the hill, where you can drink in views over Belfast Lough, the famous Harland & Wolff cranes, south to the Mournes and north to the Antrim Coast. You’ll also get an excellent view of Cave Hill — Carnmoney’s impressive neighbour.
Information boards are in place throughout the site and offer detailed information on the Hill’s trees, birds and mammals.
For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.
CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.Walk Name: Carnmoney Hill.
Nearest big town to start point: Carnmoney village in Newtownabbey|on the outskirts of Belfast.
Distance: There are a choice of|routes to choose from.
Terrain: Hill walks with some|steep sections.
Access Restrictions: Carnmoney Hill is freely open to visitors all year round.
Publications: The Woodland Trust’s leaflet ‘Carnmoney Hill — a natural wonder of Newtownabbey’ is available by telephoning the Bangor office, tel: 028 9127 5787 or from the Trust’s website treeforall.org.uk/northernireland ‘Belfast Hills Walking Map and Guide’ is available from the Belfast Hills Partnership website belfasthills.org/downloads.php
Walk Developed By: The Woodland Trust.
Map: Sheet 15 of Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland Discoverer Series. Grid reference J342 829.