Hidden Gem of the Week: Colin Glen Forest Park (Belfast, Co. Antrim)

It’s easy to focus on the popular attractions, but why not seek out the lesser-known Irish wonders? Read on about Colin Glen Forest Park: our Hidden Gem of the Week.

Hidden Gem of the Week: Colin Glen Forest Park (Belfast, Co. Antrim)

We here at Ireland Before You Die are absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to places to write about, with the standout attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher, Mount Errigal, Croagh Patrick and Skellig Michael all springing to mind in a moments thought.

But that isn’t all Ireland has to offer. Scattered across the Emerald Isle, from corner to corner and province to province, are concealed jewels in the country’s kaleidoscopic crown. And one of those jewels is camped on the outskirts of Belfast city, flirting with the slopes of the domineering Black Mountain.

The place we are talking about is Colin Glen Forest Park, a wooded fortress that starts on the Stewartstown Road in West Belfast and ends in Hannahstown deep in the Belfast Hills. If you are visiting the city and fancy a wander, this is a place to try.

Read all about our Hidden Gem of the Week: Colin Glen Forest Park, in Belfast, County Antrim.

Colin Glen Forest Park – a wooded fortress on the outskirts of the city

Colin Glen Forest Park – a wooded fortress on the outskirts of the city
Credit: Twitter / @JamesLittleJnr

Colin Glen Forest Park has been described as Belfast’s ‘Green Lung’, the city’s natural parkland that sits shoulder to shoulder with its urban townland. The Park spans over 200 acres in total, making it one of the largest in the city.

Colin Glen is designed to include four colour-coded trails of varying difficulty, mixing flat ground with hilled slopes, perfect either for a brisk walk, a lung-busting run or a challenging cycle.

The four walks are the Tom of the Tae End Walk, the Englishtown Walk, the Ballycullo Walk which offers panoramic views of the city and as far as the Mourne Mountains, and lastly the Hannahstown Walk, the longest of the trails and most suited to those accustomed to more difficult terrain.

The park is split by walkways and partitioned by a river that flows profusely through it, while you are overlooked by trees to your left and right. The Tri-Bridge and the Gamekeeper’s Bridge offer your route across divided land, while you can sit and relax at the ponds and lakes that sit silently throughout the park.

More info: HERE

Nature and wildlife – the indigenous Irish woodland

Nature and wildlife – the indigenous Irish woodland
Credit: @colinglenbelfast / Instagram

Colin Glen Forest Park is a ‘Native broadleaved Woodland’, meaning that the majority of the trees there are native to this part of Ireland; the trees have become part of the landscape after thousands of years, a process supplemented by the planting of similar trees by the Colin Glen Trust. 

Elsewhere, wildflowers came to life in the Park in springtime, while the rock formations in the area spring from the Triassic Period (225 million years ago) and the Tertiary Period (65 million years ago). The likes of badgers, rabbits, red squirrels, hedgehogs and bats also call the Colin Glen Forest Park their home.

Activities – more that just a Forest Park

Activities – more that just a Forest Park
Credit: @colinglenbelfast / Instagram

Colin Glen Forest Park is much more than just a park that you can traverse by foot or bike. For example, the SKYTrek centre is “Ireland’s premier ropes activity centre” with ropes course and ziplining through the forest.

Get the gang together and compete in Laser Tag or test your accuracy at Archery. Take the kids on the Gruffalo Trail and fuel your day with a hot meal and fresh coffee in the intimate Mona’s Café which is opened 9am – 4pm Monday to Friday.

If that wasn’t enough, the Park is in the process of building the ‘Colin Glen Coaster’, Ireland’s first alpine coaster that will stretch at around 565 metres, 349 of which will take you downhill, all the while reaching a maximum speed of 40km/hr. Not for the faint hearted …

More info: HERE

Waterfall – a hidden gem with this hidden gem

This waterfall at Colin Glen Forest Park is a hidden gem within a hidden gem.
Credit: @belfastcitysnapped / Instagram

One of the most unique aspects of the Colin Glen Forest Park is that it concludes with a waterfall named the ‘Rumble Hole’ waterfall, whose cascading waters trickle into and supply the rivers that carves up the Park.

The waterfall itself is funded by the Black Mountain’s ‘Big River’, and it is not far from an abandoned quarry that also provides a scenic resting spot on your journey. This truly is itself a hidden gem within our hidden gem of the week.

Opening Times – when can you visit Colin Glen Forest Park

Opening Times – when can you visit Colin Glen Forest Park

The Colin Glen Forest Park opens every day of the week but operates under different timetables at different points of the year, splitting in two between Autumn/Winter and Summer/Spring.

For the former, the Park is open to the public from 9am – 5pm every day from Monday to Sunday, while for the latter the Park is accessible every day from 9am – 6pm, an extra hour to take advantage of the longer sunlight.

Address163 Stewartstown Rd, Dunmurry, Belfast BT17 0HW

If you are in Belfast and want an escape from the city but don’t want to travel too far, then take a trip to the West and find out for yourself why the locals love Colin Glen Forest Park, our Hidden Gem of the Week, so much.

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Dan O'Muirigh is a keen travel writer from Belfast, County Antrim. He is a passionate sports man who plays Gaelic football for Naomh Gall GAC. He recently graduated with a degree in Law but instead wants to pursue a career in writing. He loves Ireland and believes the island offers something for everyone. He has immersed himself into the country by playing Irish sports, taking part in the culture and learning the Irish language.