The Cave Hill walk is hands down one of our favourite things to do in Belfast.
It’s perfect for those looking to stretch the legs and for anyone looking to clear the head after a long night spent traipsing around some of the best pubs in Belfast.
Northern Ireland’s landscape is blessed with some stunning scenery yet one of its most dramatic walks takes place within spitting distance of Belfast City!
About Cave Hill Country Park
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. Cave Hill’s city proximity is similar to that of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and with the views from its sculpted ridges just as spectacular.
Visible from almost any street in the capital of Northern Ireland and complete with a slightly absurd name for its most prominent point (‘Napoleons Nose’), the Cave Hill Walk is a great way to spend a morning or an afternoon when the sun’s out.
Also, legend has it that the aforementioned Napoleon’s Nose was the inspiration for the Giant in Jonathan Swift’s Gullivers Travels (Swift thought Cave Hill resembled a sort of sleeping giant protecting Belfast).
Cave Hill Belfast: Some quick need-to-knows about the walk
Before we get into the trail to follow for the Cave Hill walk in Belfast, we’re going to take you through some quick need-to-knows, like walk time and difficulty level.
What we haven’t mentioned below is weather and common-sense – if in doubt, as is the case with many of the best walks in Northern Ireland, leave the Cave Hill walk for another day.
How Long Does the Walk Take?
Depending on your pace and the weather, the Cave Hill Country Park walk should take between 1.5 and 2 hours. The walk is a circular route that is a distance of 4.5 miles.
Is it Hard?
The Cave Hill walk is moderately challenging. The paths are clearly marked but are unsurfaced and can be steep in parts so decent walking boots are advised, especially if it’s a wet day.
Where to park
If you follow the trail below, you can grab parking for the Cave Hill walk at Belfast Castle. The castle also has toilets (in the cafe) and a restauant on site (it’s in the basement).
Things to keep an eye out for
The circular Cave Hill walk is full of interesting stops along the way too, with the route taking in ancient forts, an old railway line, a quarry and, of course, caves. There’s also plenty of gorgeous views to take in if the weather’s playing nicely.
The Cave Hill walk trail
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.
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.
This is a fine example of a ráth or ring fort – a defensive fortification that also happens to be the highest point of the Cave Hill walk.
Some mighty views
On a clear day, you’ll be treated to some magnificent vistas across Belfast and back towards the Morne Mountains.
If you conquer Cave Hill in Belfast on a clear day, you’ll even be able to spot the Isle of Man and the Scottish coast in the far distance.
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 alongside the Milewater Stream further along.
Carry 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.
More things to do near Cave Hill Country Park in Belfast
There’s no end to the number of things to do in Belfast before or after you finish up the Cave Hill walk, from walking tours and museums to pubs and more.
If you fancy a bite to eat, you’ll find loads of great places for lunch or dinner in our guide to the best restaurants in Belfast.