Belfast Telegraph

6 stunning castle walks to explore in Northern Ireland

Breathtaking view of the Medieval Dunluce Castle in the North coast of County Antrim. Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Breathtaking view of the Medieval Dunluce Castle in the North coast of County Antrim. Northern Ireland Tourist Board

By Discover Northern Ireland

Dotted along the countryside and coastal landscapes, Northern Ireland’s Castles tell stories of war, siege and expansion throughout the centuries leaving a well-preserved legacy waiting to be explored.

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, Co Down

1.6 miles circular

A modern day castle literally fit for a Queen, Hillsborough Castle, built in the 1770s, is a working royal palace that functions as the official residence of the Royal Family when they are in Northern Ireland.

Explore 96 acres of stunning gardens featuring impressive 150-year-old Lime Trees, a serene Temple water and Pond and a world record breaking Rhododendron.  You can also take in the grandeur and hear about the fascinating history with a guided tour of the Castle.

Best Place for a Bite: The Parson’s Nose located in picturesque Hillsborough village, built in the 1700s, now a charming dining pub.

Crom Estate, Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh

4.2 miles circular

Not one but two castles are nestled in Crom Estate on this 2,000 acre demesne containing ancient woodland, tranquil islands and estate cottages all linked by breathtakingly beautiful landscape designed by W.S. Gilpin in the 19th century.

This gentle walk encapsulates Crom Castle and the historic ruins of the old castle on the shores of Upper Lough Erne.

Best Place for a Bite: Afternoon tea in the National Trust Visitor Centre

Dunseverick & Dunluce Castle, Bushmills, Co Antrim

4.6 miles & 0.5 miles linear

Both Dunseverick and Dunluce Castle can be passed on the fabulous Causeway Coast Way with the North Antrim Cliff path from the Giant’s Causeway to Dunseverick Castle a particular highlight.

Now a scheduled historic monument, Saint Patrick is recorded as having visited the castle in the 5th century CE.

Dunluce Castle, first built on the dramatic coastal cliffs of North Antrim by the MacQuillan family also has many stories to tell (make sure to download the app and visual audio tour).

Best Place for a Bite: The French Rooms, Bushmills – they’re “Ma Cools Shake” ice cream whipped with Bushmills whiskey is a must!

Castle Ward Castle Trail, Strangford, Co Down

2 miles circular

Set within the grounds of the impressive 820 acre demesne there is no shortage of walks within Castle Ward.  Take the Castle Trail to Audley’s Castle, otherwise known as Robb’s Camp in Game of Thrones after being used as a backdrop for filming Season 2 of the popular drama series.

Named after its late 16th-century owners, the Audleys, an Anglo-Norman family who held land in the area in the 13th century, the castle was sold to the Ward family in 1646.

Best Place for a Bite: The Cuan, Strangford Village – delicious local produce served on the harbour.

Antrim Castle Gardens, Co Antrim

Antrim Castle Gardens are a complex living museum containing over four centuries of culture and heritage alongside remnants of the Masereene family dynasty.

Walk into the past as you stroll around this magnificent setting, visiting beautiful features such as the Large Parterre, Her Ladyship’s Pleasure Garden and Yew Tree Pond.

Although the castle itself was destroyed by a fire in 1922 the impressive freestanding Italianate tower dating back to 1887 remains.

Best Place for a Bite: The Garden Coffee Shop within the grounds gives the perfect excuse to stay a little longer!

Benburb Valley Park, Co Tyrone

3.9 miles circular

Featuring Benburb Castle, a plantation bawn built in 1611 by Sir Richard Wingfield, there are a number of trails to explore in Benburb Valley Park where the River Blackwater has carved out a beautiful gorge through the countryside.

Best Place for a Bite: Deli on the Green or Loft at The Linen Green.  Great for a treat after a browse of the boutiques.

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