Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Walk of the Week: Castlereagh - Highway To Health Walk

This short walk leads through Belvoir Park Forest in the south of Belfast, with views over River Lagan.

Belvoir Park Forest is a working forest within the city. It is ideally placed to offer city dwellers a vibrant forest teeming with wildlife and full of fine tree specimens including Robinson Gold, which is unique to the park itself. All this is available within easy reach of Belfast's outer ring.

The route follows one of many beautiful wooded tracks within Belvoir Park Forest and then continues along a portion of Belvoir Drive, where it passes the Belvoir Activity Centre and Primary School, before turning back into the forest, crossing over a subsidiary of the Lagan and returning to the car park, located at the entrance of Belvoir Park Forest.

Directions

The entrance is located in the car park of Belvoir Park Forest, Belvoir Drive, which is just off the Outer Ring Road (A55) opposite Tesco. Look out for brown signs to Belvoir Park Forest. There is ample car parking provided. By Bus: Metro Service 77 and 78 will take you to Belvoir Drive, leaving from Chichester Street, Belfast city centre.

This walk sets off from the car park at Belvoir Park Forest, Belvoir Drive. As this path is a circular walk, you are able to start at any point on the circuit and walk in either direction. At the car park, signs are located both to your left and right hand side — please note that the following route description leaves from the path on your right hand side of the car park.

The beginning of this path takes you through mature trees within the wooded part of Belvoir Park Forest. As the path arrives at a natural clearing, it veers right, leaving Belvoir Park Forest and heading out towards Belvoir Drive.

The route continues along Belvoir Drive, passing the Belvoir Activity Centre and Primary School. At this point the path turns right and heads back into the forest, where again you are surrounded by lovely mature trees and — in spring — bluebells. The path continues to take you up and around the back of the Forestry Offices, where the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are also located. The walk concludes at the car park.

The route is clearly marked with designated Highway to Health signage both within the forest and on Belvoir Drive.

The Backdrop

Belvoir Forest is home to some of Ireland's oldest oak trees, with some being dated back to 1641 and one or two that are potentially considerably older.

The magnificent three-trunked oak you see as you walk down to the motte was once believed to be the famous Deramore oak, but it is now believed that the remains of the Deramore oak lie nearer to the river. Lord Deramore, one of the owners of the estate, took his name from the tree.

There are a number of historic sites off the Highway to Health walk to be found within the forest, including the Norman motte, which dates back to the 12th century, and a 17th century crypt.

The estate itself was enclosed by the Hills, a plantation family, around the 1740s. They built a house where the car park now lies and the existing buildings, which date from the same era, were farm buildings belonging to the estate.

The Ice House that was built into the side of the motte also dates from this time. The Arboretum is also a legacy of the aristocracy and land owners who once lived in and managed the estate.

Belvoir Park Forest also has strong connections to the Duke of Wellington, who visited the estate as a child and whose mother lived there for a while.

Well-surfaced paths lead through an interesting variety of naturally grown and forest planted trees along the banks of the River Lagan. Beside the car park, the old estate farm buildings have been developed as the Forest Education Centre.

This walk commands panoramic views across the Lagan Valley with its meandering river to the distant hills of Divis and Black Mountain, Lagan Valley and the Mountains of Mourne.

Along the way look out for a fabulous abundance of wildlife — birds such as the great, blue, coal and long-tailed tits, cormorants, robins and thrush are commonly seen on the wooded sections of the trail. The glen is also host to a wonderful collection of woodland wildflowers in the springtime.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.

Countryside Access and Activities Network (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: Castlereagh — Highway To Health Walk.

Area: Belvoir Park Forest, Castlereagh.

Nearest big town: Castlereagh.

Distance: 1.6miles/2.58km, circular.

Time: Approximately 30 minutes.

Terrain: Surfaced and unsurfaced paths with some hills.

Walk Developed By: This walk has been developed with the assistance of Castlereagh Borough Council, Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association (NICHSA) and the Department for Regional Development (DRD) — Roads Service.

Refreshments: There are a number of cafés and amenities in close proximity to Belvoir Park Forest, including the Lock-keeper’s Inn beside the Red Bridge and Tesco Newtownbreda.

Map: Belfast Street Finder, Sheet 15 of Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland, LPSNI Map Shop, Colby House, Stranmillis, Belfast BT9 SBJ (lpsni.gov.uk).

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