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Quality Walk

Hillsborough Forest - Lake Walk

Walks within the wall enclosed area of Large Park - part of the Hillsborough Demesne previously owned by the Marquis of Downshire




0.5, 1.5 miles

OS Map

Sheet 20

Nearest Town


Route Shape


Route Type

Forest, Woodland


Moderate, steep in places

Grid Reference (Start)


Grid Reference (End)


Point of Interest

The tree fringed lake attracts a wide variety of wildfowl, ancient rath

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Other Area

Route Description

Two red graded forest trails, allow the casual walker access around the lake and to the back of the forest past the Fox Fort rath. The adjacent Hillsborough Fort, managed by NI Environment Agency, is accessible from the lake path. Look out for the many species of resident and over wintering waterfowl, especially swans and several varieties of duck.

These walks are situated in a working forest environment and may be subject to diversion and closure from time to time.

Up to date information is available on the Forest Service web site - link below.

Getting to the Start (by Public Transport)

Translink - journeyplanner.translink.co.uk

Getting to the Start (by Car)

The main A1 Belfast to Dublin road passes close by the village, with access signposted via the roundabout at the north end of the village and easy access over a bridge at the south end. The Forest entrance is located at the end of Park Street and this is signposted from the main road through the village.

Getting to the Start (on Foot)

Access to the forest for pedestrians by, either Park Street or through the grounds of Hillsborough Fort.


Dogs are allowed. All dogs should be kept under proper control. Dogs must not be allowed to foul on footpaths - please clear up and use the dog fould bins provided at the forest car park and at several points en route around the forest trails.


Car parking / picnic facilities / ice cream and confectionery is sold from a mobile van. Several cafes, restaurants and shops are located close by in the village. Public toilets with wheelchair access are available at Hillsborough Fort and in the village beside. The Lake is also a publicly owned fishery (stocked with rainbow trout). Fishing is by permit only, issued by DCAL Inland Fisheries.



Publication Availability


Walk Location
Map of Northern Ireland
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Ratings and Comments

Peter 27 April, 2018 @ 19:59

Its a lovely forest, bursting with colour, woodland paths and trails, open lake and the occasional ice cream van (on the hot summer days). One mayor improvement however, could be to clean the lake, to make it safe to swim in, let the local, and further afield youth able to canoe, kayak and do general water sports in it.

James White 30 November, 2017 @ 11:09

Beautiful area with beautiful wildlife. However it is very sad to see no signs posted saying not to beed the waterbirds bread. Most other coubtries I have been to have finally wised up about this awful, dangerous practice and put in place counter measures to stop the public from feeding these beautiful creatures bread. Overfeesing of bread causes botulism, destruction of water-body health, and kills waterfowl slowly. This can be seen all over the UK and the world. Please consider putting up signs around the lake offering information on alternatives to bread, and hopefully NI can catch up to the rest of the environmentally conscious world in this issue.

LARA 20 March, 2017 @ 12:24

in NI why can't we value our wonderful natural tourist attractions?

Sunny Sunday - absolutely packed and beautiful wildlife and country paths, BUT no room for visitor cars, no amenities other than ice cream van, very poor signage and trail identification, and bread fed to ducks etc lying in water at car park path.

Litter and dog fouling not as bad as other occasions I have been, but for young children or toddlers do be aware many dogs are off lead.

Emile 3 November, 2016 @ 20:26

Walking around the lake this Autumn has been wonderful. The trees and lake are magnificent. The water appears to be ok considering all of the past problems mentioned below. This is a beautiful walk for an afternoon with the family. There is however continual dog mess all over the paths and in the leaves for infants and toddlers to find. I can not express my contempt for such vile, irresponsible people. Perhaps sectioning off the walk around the lake and no longer allowing access to dogs would resolve the issue. Keep dogs and dogs owners in plain sight on the green at all times so they are shamed into picking up the mess they leave behind. Those few will eventually ruin it for the majority of responsible owners.

usat4 6 April, 2016 @ 16:40

The total bulk of all dog walkers clean up after their dogs (even if you bring it home because the bin at the Ballynahinch R9oad Gate no longer exists) if you see someone

ignoring their dog just say "oh gosh are you out of bags ... I know .." and give them one it works !! If people would stop feeding bread to the ducks /swans that would also help.

Admin 6 July, 2015 @ 09:07

NI Direct Update - Fish mortality at Hillsborough Lake

(3 July 2015)

Anglers are advised that there has been fish mortality at Hillsborough Lake which appears to be ongoing. The lake was restocked with 1,000 rainbow trout on 1 July 2015. This was following environmental monitoring of the site which showed that water quality parameters were within acceptable ranges for stocking fish. All fish stocked are sourced from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure’s (DCAL's) fish farm at Movanagher, where both fish welfare and environmental conditions are continuously monitored, and which were confirmed as favourable for the transport and stocking of fish on 1 July. DCAL is accessing the situation and will continue to monitor the site. No pollution source has been identified or associated with the mortality.

Matthew J 5 July, 2015 @ 16:38

H'borough park used to be a great place to go for me as an angler and a dog owner, but I was there today for the 1st time in a few yrs and the change is brutally evident! The state of the lake is a disgrace and and the amount of fish dead on the surface of the water is appalling! My other half and I counted at least 12 dead trout and roach between us and that was inbetween dodging the dog faeces. The grass that was once kept so well looks like it has been cut for silage, as it's just cut and left lying to rot rather than collected and disposed of. The park was very empty for it being such a nice Sunday and I now know why! Until the park/lake has been restored to its former glory I won't be back and would recommend everyone else do the same!!

Brian 1 July, 2015 @ 22:27

i visited Hillsborough park tonight and found a lot of fish dead or dying in the lake is there nothing the ministry can do to save the ones that are left or can they not pump in some oxygen to help the fish to get over this dry spell

richard jay 23 April, 2015 @ 19:56

Visited the lovely lake today, and saw signs put up by anglers complaining about water quality. Sure enough, a group of us saw fish at the far end belly-up in the water. Clearly there are toxins in the lake leaving unpleasant consequences.

Laura 1 February, 2015 @ 14:56

This is a lovely walk. There is so much more to the forest apart from the walk around the lake. Thete are paths off track that take you deep into tbe forest, i walk these paths and rarely are they used. i take my dog and I definitely clean up after it. I would say, for those who do not like dogs this is not the place for you. The dogs don't have to be on a lead they are to be under control which is something different. There will inevitably be a mixture of people, children and animals.

Danny 24 January, 2015 @ 04:23

Dog toilet central, bring your dog and allow it to poop anywhere. No enforcement. Not child friendly or disabled friendly due to dirt of place. Dogs running free all over the place.

Sean 11 January, 2015 @ 19:36

Dog mess everywhere. Disgusting. Also people letting their dogs off lead- one dog attacked my dog today and came back a second time! Owner had absolutely no control. My dog ended up with two wounds to his leg. Disgraceful. Won't be back. Spend more time looking at the path to avoid mess than looking at the scenery.

Hans Baermann 28 August, 2014 @ 15:39

I visited the lake recently for a walk. It was quite pleasant. However I noticed quite a lot of dog mess about. In Germany we would not allow this, it is a health hazard. Also I saw a sign about a problem with the water seems to be polluted.

Geezer 19 July, 2014 @ 18:42

Blue green algae toxin is both a health and environmental problem. The toxin is accumulative, affecting CNS, kidneys etc. Not sure if NI has the facilities to actual measure it in fish and water. Various hand held gadgets are available but it really needs a boffin to don willies and take samples for testing. Tell yer MP/MLA to sort it out. probably its phosphates or slurry run off causing it. Water quality here is the pits.

JP Mahaffy 19 July, 2014 @ 08:50

Dog owners need to clean up after their animals. I observe quantities of faeces on paths often. Dg owners need to keep their animals under control, often they are not on leads. I noticed many dangerous dog breeds as well. These should be banned.

chantal moore 1 October, 2012 @ 20:46

My dog is very ill and may possibly die from drinking the lake water... We seen no signs with warnings... I am disgusted facing a huge vet bill and possible death of my golden retriever... My children and I are devastated

Edna Moneypenny 13 August, 2012 @ 13:23

I am writing to state my anger at the poor notification regarding the condition of the water in Hillsborough Lake. On Friday past I was at the lake with my daughter and my dogs. The dogs always love to fetch sticks in the water, and were happily doing so halfway round, where there was little algae, when a stranger pointed out that the water was dangerous for animals to swim in and that there were signs stating this. We immediately took our dogs out of the water. I have to say that the signs which were mentioned were VERY unnoticeable. We searched on the way back out to the car park for these signs, and only discovered 1 sign, stuck to a post with one pin, which made it fold over, therefore making it unnoticeable. Also the post the said sign was on, was in a most inconspicuous place. Neither my daughter or myself noticed it at all, nor is it in a place where anyone entering the park in a car would notice. I was watching the oncoming cars, rather than looking off the beaten path to read a random poster!!!. VERY UNIMPRESSED WITH THE LACK OF NOTICE CONSIDERING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CONTENT.

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