Cave Hill Belfast: A Quick and Easy Guide to The Cave Hill Walk (Views Galore!)

cave hill walk
Photo left : By Arthur Ward via Tourism Ireland. Photo right : By Maciek Grabowicz on shutterstock.com

The Cavehill / Cave Hill walk is hands down one of the best walks in Belfast.

Although tougher than the nearby Divis and Black Mountain Walk, those that conquer the Cave Hill hike will be treated to unbeatable views out over Belfast City.

Now, there are several different trails to tackle at Cavehill Country Park, with each ranging in difficulty level, but the most popular is a circular route that starts and ends at Belfast Castle.

In the guide below, you’ll find everything you need to know about this hike, from how long it takes to climb Cave Hill in Belfast to where to get parking.

Some quick need-to-knows about Cave Hill in Belfast

cavehill belfast
Photo by Arthur Ward via Tourism Ireland

Visible from almost any street in Belfast and complete with a slightly absurd name for its most prominent point (‘Napoleons Nose’), Cavehill Country Park is a fine spot for a day out.

There are a few need-to-knows about the park, which are worth reading before you dive into the trail info.

1. Location

You’ll find Cave Hill Park just to the north of Belfast, where it rises up to an elevation of 368 m (1,207 ft) above sea level. It’s a 10-minute drive from Belfast Zoo and a 20-minute spin from Crumlin Road Gaol.

2. Different trails

There’s The Castle Trail (2.4 miles/1.3km) which is nice and handy. The Estate Trail (2.4 miles/3.9km) and moderately difficult. And the Cave Hill Walk (4.5 miles/7.2km) and strenuous. Easy to follow info on each below.

3. Car park

There are several different entrances to Cavehill. Based on previous experience, we’d recommend parking up at Belfast Castle. Just keep in mind that it can get busy here during the tourist season.

4. Pick up a map

Although a good chunk of the longer Cavehill route is signposted, there are sections where the trail can be hard to follow. It’s worth grabbing a map from Belfast Castle before you set off. Also, make sure to wear decent walking shoes!

An overview of the long Cave Hill walk

cave hill country park
Photo left: Arthur Ward via Tourism Ireland. Photo right: Maciek Grabowicz on shutterstock.com

The main Cave Hill walk in Belfast (one of the best walks in Northern Ireland) is the long, tough route that’ll treat you to the views you can see above. Here’s some quick info

Length

Depending on your pace and the weather, this walk should take between 1.5 and 2 hours minimum. The walk is a circular route that is a distance of 4.5 miles. Allow at least 2 hours to be safe.

Difficulty

The Cavehill Walk is challenging and a good level of fitness is needed. The paths are unsurfaced and steep in parts so good walking boots are advised, especially if it’s a wet day.

Starting the walk

Start in the shadows of elaborate Belfast Castle (one of many great castles in Northern Ireland) and follow the green marked arrows.

Climb the path from the car park and turn right at the first junction, continuing through the woodland and climbing up to the plateau for some savage views of Belfast city. 

McArt’s Fort

Take the path to the left that flanks the Devil’s Punchbowl (the hollow below the caves) and head up the hill along a grassy path towards McArt’s Fort (the highest point of the Cave Hill walk).

On a clear day, you’ll be treated to some magnificent vistas across Belfast and back towards the Morne Mountains.

The descent

Continue on the main path, following its slow descent down the southern slopes of Cave Hill Country Park. Take a left and look out for Ballyaghagan Rath as you make your way around this section, as well as the prominent ruins of Carrs Glen Mill.

Continue on this path. The cavernous shape of the Limestone Quarry passes by on the left-hand side before you reach the Upper Cavehill Road where you’ll come across a small footpath. Take the path to your left before climbing over a ridge and descending back into the Belfast Castle Estate.

Shorter walks around Cavehill Country Park

cave hill park
Photo by Maciek Grabowicz on shutterstock.com

If you don’t fancy the longer Cave Hill Walk, don’t worry – there are shorter and much easier strolls around the park to try.

Below, you’ll find info on the Castle Trail (easy) and the Estate Walk (moderate) at Cavehill Country Park. Dive on in!

1. The Castle Trail

The Castle Trail at Cavehill Park is nice and handy. It’ll take you around 30 minutes to do and it stretches for just under 1 mile (roughly 1.3km). You simply follow the marked red trail and follow a path that leads you through gorgeous parkland and past the towering Belfast Castle. You’ll also be treated to views out over the city. It’s a circular route and it’s nice and handy.

2. The Estate Walk

The looped Estate Walk is a roughly 2.4 mile/3.9km trail that follow blue arrows. It kicks off near the barrier at Belfast Castle and follows a path downhill before hugging the outer perimeter of the castle. It’s a handy trail to follow and, although steep at times, much more doable than the longer Cave Hill Walk.

Places to visit near Cavehill in Belfast

One of the beauties of Cavehill Country Park is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best places to visit in Belfast.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Cavehill Park (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Post hike food (15-minute drive)

food nearby
Photos via the Lamppost Café on Facebook

There’s some incredible restaurants in Belfast that are perfect for a post Cave Hill Hike feed. With everything from vegan food to brunch in Belfast on offer, there’s plenty to choose from.

2. Divis and Black Mountain (20-minute drive)

black mountain walk
Photos by Arthur Ward via Tourism Ireland’s Content Pool

The Divis and Black Mountain Walk is another brilliant ramble. It’s easier than the Cave Hill Walk, and the views are glorious too. It’s also a handy 20-minute drive from the park, if you feel that you’ve another hike in you.

3. Endless other attractions (15-minute drive)

Grand Opera House Belfast
Photos via Grand Opera House Belfast

One of the beauties of Cave Hill Country Park is its proximity to the city. You can head off on a Black Cab Tour, visit the Cathedral Quarter, take a tour of Belfast’s Murals and much, much more. See our Belfast guide for heaps of things to do.

FAQs about visiting Cave Hill in Belfast

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how long does it take to climb Cave Hill to which is the handiest Cave Hill car park.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

How long is the Cave Hill walk?

The Cavehill Walk (the long, circular route) takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, depending on pace. We’d recommend that you allow at least 2 hours, as the views really are stunning.

Is Cavehill hard to climb?

A good level of fitness is needed for the Cavehill Walk. It’s a long, steep slog to the top and the trail is tricky in places.

Where is the Cavehill car park?

There are several places to park in and around Cavehill Country Park. We’d recommend the car park up at Belfast Castle, though.

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