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Quality Walk

Cave Hill Country Park

A challenging route, over unsurfaced paths, past the caves to McArt’s Fort, and crossing moorland, heath and meadows. You will discover much of what the park has to offer from archaeological sites and wildlife to panoramic views.




4.5 miles

OS Map

Sheet 15 + Belfast Street Finder

Nearest Town

Antrim Road, Belfast

Route Shape


Route Type

Mountain, Urban


Steep climb, unsurfaced paths

Grid Reference (Start)


Grid Reference (End)


Point of Interest

Belfast Castle, McArts Fort

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Other Area

Route Description

Please note: The path from the zoo entrance, through Hazelwood and into the Cave Hill Country Park at Belfast Castle is closed until further notice. We apologise for any inconvenience.

This is a challenging circular route beginning at Belfast Castle and following the green way marked arrows. It can, however, be joined from Bellevue car park, Upper Hightown Road or Upper Cavehill Road.

Begin at the interpretative 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, keeping to the left of any of the junctions you come to. This path leads up through the trees, climbing on to a plateau. Stop here to admire the fabulous views over the city and Belfast Lough.

Continuing on, take the next path on your left. This skirts round the Devil’s Punchbowl, passes below the largest cave 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, at the top veer to the left and follow the grass path to the top of the hill and McArt’s Fort. Pause again to take in the magnificent views before joining the main path on its gradual descent down the south facing slopes of Cave Hill.

Continue downhill taking the next lane on your left. This leads down past the top 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.

Getting to the Start (by Public Transport)

Translink - journeyplanner.translink.co.uk

Getting to the Start (by Car)

Car parking at Belfast Castle, Zoo (Hazelwood), Upper Cavehill Road and Upper Hightown Road.

Accessibility Grade

Grade 5

Accessible Facilities

The following facilities are available for users with limited mobility:

Café (wheelchair accessible) - 12pm - 3pm Mon - Sat
Disabled toilets
Disabled parking


Belfast Castle is open to the public. The Cellar Restaurant offers a variety of menus from morning coffee to full meals. The second floor of the Castle plays host to the Cave Hill Visitor Centre with exciting displays on the history, folklore, wildlife and geology of Cave Hill Country park and the story of Belfast Castle.


A Walk in the Park, Cave Hill Country Park leaflet.

Publication Availability

Belfast City Council, Parks Department, 02890320202 Ext. 3199. The leaflet is also available to download on this webpage.

Walk Location
Map of Northern Ireland
Image Gallery

Ratings and Comments

Roy 11 October, 2018 @ 09:10

Set off from Upper Hightown Road with the intention of doing the full walk. Had no problem up to the Fort but, having gone on from there, I could not identify clearly the return path. I ended up on the road the lorries use. Had a brilliant walk but it could be better signposted.

Rachel 22 February, 2018 @ 17:13

One of the hardest things is to get the right bus stop for Cave Hill as all bus drivers I have came across do not seem to know! If you take generally any 1 metro bus service for example 1A ask for Strathmore, it is the stop after North Circular from memory, the walk towards the large brown sign ahead and follow it to Belfast Castle!

Noel 21 August, 2017 @ 18:38

Started at the Castle car park and in 30 minutes I was beyond the new set of 50 steps and at the first sign I saw marked "Belfast Hills" - as I had no map I returned the same route, but the views are fantastic. I'd love to do the full walk but with a map perhaps!

Siobhan McKay 10 August, 2016 @ 13:24

Absolutely love this walk! I try to do it a few times a week at least and this week have been up every day. If you are looking for a quick but enjoyable cardio workout walk the route from the Upper Hightown Road car park straight to McArts Fort and back is great. I get up and down in less than 45 minutes, view looks different everyday from the top so its never boring. Free, beautiful and a great workout all in less than an hour :-)

Wayne Donaldson 6 June, 2016 @ 15:14

Without a doubt, my favourite walk in Northern Ireland (and it helps that it's 5 minutes from where I live).

I would do this walk at least once a week. While lots of peple start from Belfast Castle, I prefer beginning at Upper High Town Road carpark.

90 minutes usually gets me round the full loop and there's plenty of steep bits that get the heart rate up.

The views of Belfast from the top are fantastic.

tomkil 21 April, 2016 @ 17:46

Did this walk for the first time today, completed the green trail, got lost in the forest at the bottom a little as i didnt see waymarkers, but otherwise was very happy with the walk. In my opinion, if you are after a nice view of central belfast, complete the walk over Divis Mountain (blue trail) instead of this one, although the cave hill walk will give you better views of the Northeast of belfast all the way to slemish. Highly recommended, gets the heart pumping this one!

Julie P 29 March, 2016 @ 18:50

Completed the Cavehill walk today for the first time in about 25 years. Thoroughly enjoyed it! View is simply stunning! We could see Scotland, Strangford Lough, Mourne Mountains, Slemish etc. We were greeted with sunshine and hailstones - typical Irish weather!

Tom T 15 February, 2016 @ 12:17

Another excellent example of the first class scenery and walks that Ireland has to offer.

Siddhesh Deodhar 13 June, 2015 @ 09:30

A must see destination in N.Ireland. What a view you are delighted with once you reach on top hill...AWSOME !!! Planning to go thr again.

ANGELA 6 November, 2014 @ 15:07

my favourite walk in N Ireland

Del 22 August, 2014 @ 21:02

Took about 1hour 40mins and that included stops to admire the amazing views over Belfast and far beyond. Can be done in any shoes but I strongly recommend sturdy walking footwear. Paths are gravel for most of the way with short stretches of well beaten tracks. You could wear shorts and t shirt but you do climb to about 1200ft and at that height on a coastal hill the weather and temperature can change. Also some of the beaten tracks are bounded by long grass and the occasional nettle and briar. Great walk well within the reach of most people if you walk easy and enjoy the views.

Paul Wylie 6 July, 2013 @ 07:30

A beautiful, scenic route. Cavehill is a nice walk that's not too strenuous for beginners.

pamela mccartney 19 September, 2010 @ 09:11

My 9 yr old daughter and I walk this regularly entering from the Hightown Road entrance. There are 2 quite steep paths but well worth the effort for the spectacular views. Have also walked from the Castle entrance but this takes a bit longer. Great walk and you feel great afterwards!

George Kennedy 19 April, 2010 @ 08:54

Excellent walk with some of the best views of Belfast, the lough & on a good day you can see for miles & miles. Quite a tough walk but well worth it. Took about 1hr 20 mins walking 'quite' fast.

Kirth Ferris 19 April, 2010 @ 08:22

I love this walk, It tough going getting up, but well worth it. Even in the pouring rain I love it. I can usually do this in 2 hours, thats including stopping to take in the scenery

Grace & Geoff Wright 24 March, 2010 @ 21:37

A nice walk for a Sunday afternoon. Nothing too hard and views are excellent. You can finish with a coffee in the Castle

Robert Nesbitt 22 July, 2009 @ 19:57

I have been on this walk on a number of times From the Hightown Road entrance With our Local Rambling club The Lagan Valley Rambling Club but this time I will be Doing something Extra on the 25th July the Belfast Hills partnership will Be opening up one of the Caves to the General Public for one Day the event kicks off at 10.30 till 4pm weather permitting also a walk and talk by one of the Ranger staff heres praying for one good day

Andrew Patrick 12 April, 2009 @ 19:46

its been over 20 years since i last wlked over these hills and its still as beauitful asever well worth a look stunning views i miss it dearly

Bob & Twy Miller 17 February, 2009 @ 15:59

Strenuous workout from Bellevue! Would like a detailed map of archaeological sites that may be visited. And what is 'Nora's Grave'?

Dave Powell 13 August, 2008 @ 14:12

I did this walk with my 8 year old son last Saturday. He managed fine with the distance, but if your kids are a bit younger you might want to try some of the shorter routes closer to the castle.

Being so close to the city this is quite a popular route, not just frequented by walkers but kids on mountain bikes etc. Good boots aren't essential - I even saw one woman with her handbag and healed shoes doing the route which wouldn't be advisable but she managed ok - made me feel a bit over dressed with my boots and walking pole.

The views from the top of Cave Hill are spectacular. On a good day you can see Scrabo Tower and Stranford Lough ahead of you and the Mournes over to your right, as well as being able to pick out famous landmarks around Belfast city centre.

Maps of the route are available from the castle, we found ours on the route which had been dropped by someone along with other bits of rubbish - unfortunate, but to be expected on such a popular walk.

The route is clearly signposted for the first half. The second half, which is a gradual descent, isn't as well signposted but the route is obvious enough - just take the path to the left after going through 2 gates then just remember the castle is on your left and you cant go far wrong.

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