Cave Hill Country Park walking route
This route climbs up the Cave Hill over unsurfaced paths and gives breath taking views over Belfast.
||4.5 miles, 7.2 km
|Average time to walk
||2 hours 30 minutes - 3 hours
|Access by bus
||Belfast Castle and Hazelwood entrance
Metro services: 1A and 1H (Monday - Saturday), 1C - 1E, 1H (Sunday)
Metro services: 12 and 61
|Access by car
||Car parking at Belfast Castle, Belfast Zoo (Hazelwood), Upper Cavehill Road, and Upper Hightown Road.
This challenging circular route begins at Belfast Castle and follows the green arrows. It can also be joined from Bellevue car park, Upper Hightown road or Upper Cavehill road.
Begin at the interpretive panel in the car park just before the entrance to Belfast Castle. Climb up the path on your left until you reach the first junction. Turn right.
Follow this path through the woodland (1) keeping to the left of any junctions you come to. This path leads up through the trees, climbing on to a plateau, giving excellent views of Belfast and Belfast Lough (2).
Continuing on, take the next path on your left. This skirts round the edge of the Devil’s Punchbowl (3), passes below the largest cave (4) before veering to the right. Follow this path as it climbs steadily up the hill, pausing to take in the surroundings and views on the way.
Continue climbing up the steps to a cattle grid and fence and before reaching the escarpment veer to the left and follow the grass path to the top of the hill and McArt’s Fort (5). Pause again to take in the views before joining the main path on its gradual descent down the south facing slopes of Cave Hill (6).
Continue downhill taking the next lane on your left. This leads down past the tope of Carr’s Glen and carries on for some distance before reaching the upper Cavehill Road.
Go down the footpath a short way and take the path to the left. Climb over the ridge and descend into Belfast Castle Estate. Return to the starting point by means of the footpath up the main driveway.
Things of Interest
- Woodland (1) - Planted towards the end of the nineteenth century, the woodland contains a blend of Elm, Oak, Sycamore, Larch and Pine trees. Dutch Elm disease has decimated the elms, which are gradually being replaced with other trees.
- Views (2) - There are numerous good viewing points along this walk. On a clear day you can see Strangford Lough, Scrabo Tower, the Mourne Mountains away to the south, Slemish to the north and the coast of Scotland across the Irish Sea.
- Devil’s Punchbowl (3) - A local name for this steep-sided depression in the ground.
- Caves (4) - It is not known for sure whether the caves on the hill are natural or man-made. They may have been early iron mines. Only the lowest of five is anyway accessible and even this requires care.
- McArt’s Fort (5) - A former defensive fort built on the promontory at the front of Cave Hill. Little remains today of the original fort, although the moat that once surrounded it can still be distinguished.
- Cave Hill (6) - Cave Hill stands some 368 metres above sea level. Its outline, likened to Napoleon sleeping on the hillside, is one of the City’s most familiar landmarks. From the top to the City looks like a scale model set out before you.
Look out for
- Kestrels, peregrines and buzzards flying overhead.
- Wild orchids on top of the hill
- Some of the animals within Belfast Zoo visible from certain parts of the hill