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Northern Ireland’s perfect picnic locations

Create a pamper hamper and get outdoors during the summer

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Slieve Gullion

Slieve Gullion

Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Springhill House and Gardens

Springhill House and Gardens

Kilbroney Forest Park

Kilbroney Forest Park

Gortin Lakes

Gortin Lakes

Northern Ireland Tourist Board

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Slieve Gullion

If you’ve been tempted by Paula McIntyre’s picnic recipes, you’ll be pleased to know there are many ideal backdrops for memorable al fresco meals on your doorstep.

A picturesque setting, world class food and drink offerings, parks, forests and gardens… plenty to whet your appetite before the picnic basket is opened!

With the brighter nights and longer days, at least for the moment, it’s the ideal time for easy outdoor dining, so grab your baskets and blankets and relax in Northern Ireland’s great outdoors.

If you are on a short break away, speak to your accommodation provider as they will also have great local tips and might even help prepare your delicious hamper.

Minnowburn

It’s the perfect paradox: a property set in beautiful countryside and yet just a couple of miles from the city centre. There’s lots to see, including the Terrace Hill Rose Garden, one of the finest viewpoints in South Belfast, with superb views across the valley to the Belfast hills.

Nearby, the Giant’s Ring is an enormous earthwork henge and is thought to be at least 4,000 years old. Imagine scenes of ancient gatherings and rituals at this very special place.

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The old avenue curves down the hill to the Sandpit field where music lovers danced during the Pop for Peace, a 1969 concert endorsed by a certain musician named John Lennon.

As you wander around the area, don’t miss Shaw’s Bridge, an ancient crossing that dates back to the Neolithic period and named after an officer in Cromwell’s army.

A haven on the Lagan, Minnowburn is perfect for a short stroll or the start of a longer walk — and of course, a picnic.

Wander along the burn that gives the area its name, past where generations of children fished for minnows.

I need supplies! Try Sawyers and The Harrison

Gortin Glen Forest Park

Located just six miles from Omagh, at the western gateway to the Sperrin Mountains, Gortin Glen Forest Park is made up of a network of five waymarked trails of varying lengths.

All colour coded and returning you back to the car park, each of the trails give you the opportunity to enjoy the woodland, nestled nicely in the beautiful peaks.

The Forest Park can also be explored via a five-mile scenic drive which has a number of vista parks that vehicles can pull in to enjoy the magnificent scenery (well, that picnic basket may be quite heavy…).

With a dedicated BBQ and picnic area, it is the dream destination for a good walk and a pit stop. Better yet, the views are superb, even on a rainy day.

I need supplies! Try Blessingbourne Country Estate

Springhill

Described as ‘one of the prettiest houses in Ulster’, its welcoming charm reveals a family home with portraits, furniture and decorative arts that bring to life the many generations of Lenox-Conynghams who lived here from 1680.

Beautiful walled gardens and way marked paths through the parkland provide the destination for a dander after filling up on some grub.

I need supplies! Try Bishops Gate Hotel, Legendary Food Network

Kilbroney Park

Like your picnic with a soupçon of history? Us too. Though lesser known, this forest offers wonderful riverside walks and an arboretum.

With a two-mile forest drive to panoramic views over Carlingford Lough, the forest drive leads to a car park from where walkers have the opportunity to climb to Cloughmore or ‘the big stone’, a 30 tonne erratic, which sits at approximately 1000ft above Rostrevor.

Geologists explain its presence here as having been deposited during the ice age. Local folklore claims it was thrown here by Finn Mac Cool during a fight with a Scottish giant. The latter allegedly tore a handful of earth and flung it at Finn, missing and the earth landed in the sea, becoming the Isle of Man. The divot he made filled up with water and became Lough Neagh.

I need supplies! Try Horseshoe Cottage at Traceys Farmhouse Kitchen and Fish & Farm

Slieve Gullion

Armagh’s highest peak is a place steeped in myths and legends. Rising 576m above the surrounding countryside, the broad slopes of Slieve Gullion, dubbed Ireland’s Mountain of Mystery, dominate the landscape of south Armagh.

The mountain itself lies at the centre of a pronounced ring of hills — the Ring of Gullion.

It was believed that along these roads and fields, and over these hills and mountains, that Cúchulainn and the Red Branch Knights, the O’Neills and the O’Hanlons roamed, battled and died.

The Forest Park offers walking trails, a scenic drive, an adventure playpark, Giant’s Lair children’s story trail and some stunning settings to enjoy a picnic.

Anglers are also catered for and can enjoy high quality game and coarse angling at a number of premier locations.

I need supplies! Try Killeavy Castle Estate

Castle Scenic Walk at Caldwell Forest

The Castle Scenic walk is part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark but takes you off the beaten track and provides some great places to enjoy a picnic immersed in nature.

The walk takes in man-made and natural wonders, including a lime-kiln which hints at the association of the Caldwell Estate with the nearby Belleek Pottery, a half-moon limestone bench along the shoreline and the eerie ruins of Castle Caldwell.

Although the castle was abandoned in the 1900s, if you choose to believe the local ghost tales, the ruins remain haunted by Dennis McCabe, a fiddler who drowned after falling off the family’s barge.

I need supplies! Try Killyhevlin Hotel

Remember to care for your environment and your surroundings by bringing your litter home with you or placing in the bins provided.


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