Gilford Riverside Park
Enjoy a stroll next to the River Bann in the village of Gilford. The walk is located in a small riverside park next to Gilford Community Centre, off the Stramore Road, Gilford, County Down. The walk may be extended by combining with the Gilford Highway to Health Walks – see downloads. These are mainly on road but both offer 2 short off-road sections along 2 public rights of way. Combined, (and not including Woodlands Park ) giving a walk of just over 2.92 miles.
Distance 0.2 miles
OS Map Craigavon Sheet 20
Terrain Surfaced flat trail.
Nearest Town Gilford
Route Shape Circular
Grid Reference J06456 48342
Route Type Highway to Health, Hill, Parkland & Grassland, Riverside, Urban
Please note that the trail is located on the flood plain of the River Bann and is prone to flooding following periods of extreme rainfall. Start the walk at the lower car park at Gilford Community Centre, off the Stramore Road (there is ample parking here if driving) or at the public car park next to Gilford Bridge, off Bridge Street. If starting at Bridge Street, walk through the car park, and follow the path through the small riverside park to the footbridge over the river which links with the community centre car park.
This short riverside trail, trim trail and pump track were provided by the former Banbridge District Council (now Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council) officially opening in March 2015, with investment from the Down Rural Area Partnership under the NI Rural Development Programme (2007-13).
Currently, work is underway to extend the riverside trail to Woodlands Park to the north. This should be open to the public for walking and cycling in spring 2019. The project is also being supported by funding from the NI Rural Development Programme.
Add extra value to your walk by using the 8 outdoor fitness stations which are located around the circuit which include Pull-Up Bars, Triceps-Dip Bars, Sit-Up and Balance Beams.
Gilford (Magill’s Ford) dates from the middle of the 17th century when the Magill family acquired land in the area. Early maps show the village of Gilford confined to what is now Main Street. It had a tuck mill and a corn mill located in the vicinity of the present Presbyterian Church Hall. Houses were built around the crossing place or ‘ford’ and on Castle Hill which was the main road leading from Lurgan to cross the river and proceed to Loughbrickland. In the 1840s ’s Dunbar McMaster & Co. opened a large 5 storey spinning mill for flax spinning and thread production and constructed the industrial village of Dunbarton grafting it onto the existing village at Gilford. Once, one of the largest mills in Ireland, in 1870 at its peak, the mill employed up to 2000 people producing world renowned linen yarn and thread. The doors closed for the last time around 1987 – it has yet to find an alternative use.
Follow the circular trail next to the Community Centre pausing at the viewing platform over the river which gives great views along the river – including to the big, red brick mill around which village life revolved for generations.
“It was the advantage of the hydro-power created from the fast flowing River Bann that prompted Dunbar McMaster & Co to choose Gilford as it yarn spinning base during the 1830’s.” (Gilford Heritage Trail). Also, the soft water of the river here, untainted by peat, was famed for ‘its bleaching power’. In addition, the Newry Canal, and later the railway, was accessible at Madden Bridge, approx. 1.3 miles to the SW from which coal supplies could be transported to the works and goods shipped out.
The wall along the opposite bank is part of the old millrace which siphoned water from river to power the machinery of the mill.
The Gilford Heritage Trail produced by the Gilford Community Forum provides a great insight into the built heritage of the village. The trail states:
” Despite the closure of the mill, Gilford continues to thrive as a rural village where people can live and work together, and through partnership with local government bodies, statutory agencies and community groups, Gilford has developed enormously in recent years with shop front improvement schemes, as new state of the art community centre, development of the town centre and numerous community activities that offer something for everyone.”
To extend your walk combine with the Gilford Highway to Health Walk(s). Note these walks include (have the option of using) unsurfaced tracks which can be uneven and muddy and include on-road walking.
Both H. to H. walks start and finish in the car park off Bridge Street, next to Gilford Bridge.
Route 1 (yellow) take the pedestrian link from the car park to Mill Street follow to the junction with Castle Hill (marked by the Hugh Dunbar memorial lamp post with 3 lamps representing Faith, Hope and Charity). Take a R into Castle Hill, past the chapel and take L (look out for the wooden finger post) into a rough public right of way known locally as ‘Keady Row Loanin’'(a reminder of the skilled textile workers from Keady, South Armagh who relocated to Gilford in the 19th century to work in the Mill). This path gives a good view of the village and surrounding countryside. On meeting Hill Street – proceed down the hill and take a L to return to the car park via High Street and Dunbarton Street. The total distance is 2.1 Km. with a target time of 20-21 minutes.
To include Woodlands Park in your walk – take R out of Hill Street onto High Street continuing to the pedestrian crossing – using it to cross this busy road. The entrance to the park is beside the crossing and is marked by the north gate lodge of the former Bannvale House estate – once owned by the Uprichard family. Access to the park is via the Woodlands housing estate.
The gate lodge, still in use as an attractive private residence, dates from around 1850 and is built of black basalt with decorative yellow fire-clay brick decoration. Woodlands Park still retains some of the lovely, old trees of the parkland planting of the Bannvale Estate and is worth visiting. When the extension to the riverside trail opens in spring 2019 you will be able to return to the starting point through the park. For now, return to Bridge Street car park via High Street and Dunbarton Street.
Route 2 (green) leave the Bridge Street car park walking towards Gilford Bridge. Take L into Wall Road, continue along the Tandragee Road and turn R into Whinny Hill (there is a stretch of about 300 m with no footpath and walkers are advised to walk single file on the right hand side of the road). Continue along the Whinny Hill and return to the car park by Gilford Bridge. The total distance is 2.6 km/1.61 mile, with a target time of 25-26 minutes. A shorter walk (2.1 Km/1.30 mile) giving an off-road section is by Shannon’s Loanin’ – a public right of way linking the 2 roads. Look out for the wooden footpath finger post at the entrance.
You can combine both walks by simply continuing through the car park on completion of the first route. This gives a distance of 4.7 Km/2.92 mile with a target time of 46 minutes.
The meandering River Bann and great views of the historic Gilford Mill
Commence the walk at Gilford Community Centre, 5 Stramore Road, Gilford, BT63 6HL or the free public car park, off Bridge Street, next to Gilford Bridge.
Translink – journeyplanner.translink.co.uk
Dogs are allowed. Must be under control at all times
Parking, seating, picnic tables, benches, pump track and river viewing platform. Toilets available in Gilford Community Centre. Shops, tearooms and cafes in the village.
Gilford Community Centre facilities include gym, climbing wall and sports hall. Centre opening times below:
Monday: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Tuesday: 09:30 am – 10:00 pm
Wednesday: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Thursday: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Friday: 09:30 am – 10:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am – 06:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am – 06:00 pm
If the Centre is closed you can access the park from the car park off Bridge Street, beside the road bridge.
The Newry Canal Towpath and National Cycle Route is accessible from Madden Bridge approx. 1.3 miles to the SW via the A51 Tandragee Road.