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A 'spring' in the step: The best NI walking trails to explore this Easter

With daffodils blooming and longer daylight hours, there's no better time to go for a walk. By Audrey Watson

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The Gortin Glens Forest Park, 16 kilometres (10 miles) north of Omagh is a large forest with many attractions, including a deer enclosure and many areas of natural beauty, including waterfalls, lakes, etc.

The Gortin Glens Forest Park, 16 kilometres (10 miles) north of Omagh is a large forest with many attractions, including a deer enclosure and many areas of natural beauty, including waterfalls, lakes, etc.

Northern Ireland Tourist Board

The Gortin Glens Forest Park, 16 kilometres (10 miles) north of Omagh is a large forest with many attractions, including a deer enclosure and many areas of natural beauty, including waterfalls, lakes, etc.

Now that the birds are nesting in the trees and the ground is carpeted with flowers, we all want to get outside. But with Covid restrictions asking us to stick to local walks within 10 miles from home, it can be hard to find somewhere new to go.

To make things easier WalkNI can help you find walks close to home by using the interactive map on its homepage, www.WalkNI.com

For inspiration here are eight of the best trails in Northern Ireland to experience what the season has to offer.

Barnett Demesne, Co Antrim

One of Northern Ireland's best displays of daffodils can be found just a stone's throw from Belfast city centre in Barnett Demesne.

The park, which is named after William Barnett, the last owner of Malone House, is popular with walkers and joggers due to its proximity to the River Lagan, Shaw's Bridge and nearby Clement Wilson Park.

Features include an arboretum, daffodil garden, ecotrail, orienteering routes and a children's playground near Shaw's Bridge.

The former estate grounds, which comprise marshland, meadows and woodland, once belonged to William Wallace Legge, who inherited the land in 1821. Thanks to Legge's talent for landscaping and strict rules regarding planting, most of the park's elegant character has remained unchanged.

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Barnett Demesne is also home to tree and plant collections with semi-natural features such as woodland and wildflower meadows, many wild animals, including rabbits, badgers and grey and red squirrels, and birds such as jays, rooks and a range of songbirds.

Montalto Estate Lake Walk, Co Down

Nestled in the picturesque Co Down countryside, Montalto is a privately-owned demesne steeped in history dating back to the 1600s.

It has a range of captivating gardens and beautiful walks and trails and is famously the site of the Battle of Ballynahinch, which took place during the Irish rebellion in 1798.

It's also home to an exotic plant collection initially created by the 'Father of Irish Gardening' Sir Arthur Rawdon.

Walkers come in for a real treat as they take a stroll through a magnificent display of beautiful daffodils and azaleas, which are in full bloom during springtime and which form a natural bowl close to the lake.

The walk will also take you past The Boathouse, which has lots of woodland planting and a variety of acers, including Japanese maples.

Drumnaph Woodland Trail, Co Londonderry

At the gateway to the Sperrins, this beautiful ancient woodland is one of the few remaining fragments of a great forest that once covered much of mid-Ulster.

Enjoy flower-rich woods or spotting Irish hares in the rush meadows.

Throughout the year Drumnaph Wood's varied mix of habitats is a joy to explore. In spring the woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells and other flowering plants.

In summer butterflies bring Drumnaph's meadows and woodland edges to life, while brightly-coloured dragonflies patrol the bog cotton grass in wetland areas.

Castle Coole Beech Trail, Co Fermanagh

The first signs of spring at Castle Coole are the snowdrops followed by a host of other spring flowers to enjoy. Discover bright coloured dots of crocuses on the lawn in front of the Grand Yard.

Through the forest, from the Beech Walk to the Gortgonnell path, you might also spot another white flower which denotes the coming of spring - the wood anemone.

These delicate white blooms take hundreds of years to root and spread and are a good indicator of the ancient age of the woodland at Castle Coole.

The wood was planted around 1709 with a mixed group of beech, oak and scots pine. The wood still has oak trees dating back to the early 18th century and contains the oldest trees in the park.

Gortin Lakes, Co Tyrone

The Gortin Lakes are located about one kilometre off the main Omagh to Gortin Road in one of the most beautiful parts of the Sperrins.

This short off-road walk is relatively straightforward. The route around the lakes measures only one kilometre in length and is laid out in a figure of eight formation, giving ramblers a choice of walking in either direction.

On one side they will see the still, deep waters of New Lough and Oak Lough; on the other the wild, natural flora and fauna of the Sperrins landscape.

The gravel path is firm, with gentle undulations, and offers superb views of the magnificent surrounding landscape. Benches have been placed at different points along the route so walkers can pause and appreciate the majestic scenery.

Pollnagollum Cave Walk, Co Fermanagh

Part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, this walk is located in the Boho-Belmore Mountain area, right in the heart of Fermanagh's cave country. Beneath your feet lies an extensive maze which attract cavers and potholers from far and wide to west Fermanagh.

One of the most intriguing mammals found in the Belmore uplands is the Irish hare. Larger than rabbits, adult hares have black tips on their ears and their long back legs giving them a distinctive walk or 'lope'.

Depending on the time of day and year keep a watchful eye out for bats and birds around the cave entrance.

Darkley Forest Walking Trails, Co Armagh

Darkley Forest offers an enchanting experience through a small and peaceful woodland. Discover this unspoilt hidden gem using its two walking routes along with the rich historic landscape of Darkley Village including Tyllynawood Lake and the old Linen Mill.

The Mountain Lodge Trail is an energetic walk taking approximately 1hour 15 mins to complete. The trail follows the forest perimeter, leading walkers through a varied woodland overlooking the Callan River. Take a rest while enjoying the impressive viewpoints and enjoy the carpets of bluebells in springtime. The Aughnagurgan Trail is a moderate walk taking approximately 40 minutes. It initially follows the same route as the Mountain Lodge Trail before leading walkers into the heart of the woodland past the ruins of the original Mountain Lodge and on to a beautiful picnic spot surrounded by beech trees.

Rowallane Gardens, Co Down

Carved from the Co Down landscape, Rowallane Gardens has grown from the 19th century beginnings of the Reverend John Moore and his nephew Hugh Armytage Moore.

Their vision helped create a place where you can leave the outside world behind and immerse yourself in nature's beauty.

The gardens are a mix of formal and informal spaces with many unusual vistas and unique plants from across the world.

The trees, plants and shrubs range in ages, size and colour and create a spectacle throughout the year.

Spring heralds the start of rhododendron season that fills the garden full of colour and scent.

Let your imagination run riot among the unusual plants, colours, sculptures and magical features in one of the most beautiful gardens in Northern Ireland.


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