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Cave Hill Belfast: A Guide to The Cave Hill Walk (With Map)

Cave Hill Belfast: A Guide to The Cave Hill Walk (With Map)

The Cave Hill Walk is a tough, 3.3 mile/5.2km looped trail around Cave Hill County Park in Belfast that requires a good level of fitness.

Now, if you are after handier trails, there are three shorter walks at Cavehill that I’ll take you through in this guide.

Below, you’ll find a map of the Cave Hill hike, an overview of the trail along with where to get parking. Enjoy!

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

Cavehill Walk

Photos via Shutterstock


Visible from most areas in Belfast, Cavehill Country Park, with its most prominent point known as ‘Napoleon’s Nose,’ is home to some of the best walks in Belfast.

Before you scroll to the map of the different trails, there are a few need-to-knows about the park that you need to be aware of.

1. Location

You’ll find Cave Hill Park by Belfast Castle, just to the north of the city, 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 are three main trails at the park:

  • The Easy Castle Trail: 2.4 miles/1.3km
  • The Moderately Difficult Estate Trail: 2.4 miles/3.9km
  • The Strenuous Cave Hill Hike: 3.3 miles/5.2km

3. Car park

There are several different Cave Hill car parks. Based on previous experience, I would recommend parking up at Belfast Castle. Just keep in mind that it can get busy here during the tourist season.


An overview of the long Cave Hill walk

a map of the cave hill hike

The main Cave Hill walk in Belfast (one of the best walks in Northern Ireland) is the long, tough route outlined in the map above.

It’s worth taking 20 seconds to have a look over the trail outline, first.


How long it takes

It takes between 1.5 – 2 hours to climb Cave Hill, depending on pace.

This is a 3.3 mile/5.2km looped walk that has some steep sections where you’ll need to scramble.


The Cavehill Walk is challenging and a good level of fitness is needed.

The paths are unsurfaced and very 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 the most impressive 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 mighty 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 Mourne 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

Belfast Castle

Photos via Shutterstock


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.

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 nearby

the best things to do in Belfast Ireland

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.

Here are some suggestions for you:


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 does it take to climb Cave Hill?

The Cavehill Walk (the long, circular route) takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, depending on pace. It is recommended that you allow at least 2 hours to allow time to admire the views.

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 and very steep in places.

Where is the Cavehill car park?

There are several places to park in and around Cavehill Country Park. I would recommend the car park up at Belfast Castle, though, if you are doing the long hike.

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