While a visit to Colin Glen Forest Park is arguably of one of the most popular things to do in Belfast with kids, there’s plenty there for adults, too.
With a wealth of things to do, stunning countryside to gape at and plenty of adventures to embark on, it’s not hard to see why so many people flock here year after year.
The park is home to everything from a Gruffalo Trail and an Alpine Coaster to Ziplining, heritage walks and much, much more.
In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from the different entrances and parking to the various things to do on offer.
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Colin Glen Forest Park
Although a visit to Colin Glen Park is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Colin Glen Forest Park is a mere hop, skip and a jump from Belfast’s other major tourist attractions. It’s about seven miles from Titanic Belfast (a 15-minute drive), five miles or a 10-minute drive from Belfast City Hall and eight miles or 25 minutes driving from Belfast Castle.
2. Three different entrances
There are different entrances to the park, depending on what you want to do, which we will outline below, so you know which one to take – the River Entrance, the Mountain Entrance and the Leisure Entrance.
3. Endless things to do
Pick any outdoor activity and you’ll probably be able to do it at the Colin Glen Park. From rounds of golf for members, to nature and history walks, laser tag, archery and combi adventure packages. Bring yourself and a shed-load of energy and enthusiasm.
There is plenty of onsite parking at Colin Glen Forest Park, regardless of which entrance you take and you can park for free.
About Colin Glen Forest Park
You’ll find Colin Glen Forest Park situated on a stretch of land just outside of the city. The wooded river glen sits on the edge of Belfast and Lisburn and is made up of some 200 acres of scenic woodland, open grassland, the Colin River, waterfalls and wildflowers.
The Colin Glen area was a major player in Belfast’s linen industry, at one point the biggest producer of linen in the world, with the flax and beetling mills along the Colin River established by the McCance family.
You can see the remains of one of the mills at the Weir Bridge. Nowadays, Colin Glen Park is a community trust run by a voluntary board of directors. It is backed by The Prince’s Trust and is dedicated to creating and maintaining natural open spaces that everyone can enjoy.
It offers educational opportunities, state of the art sports facilities and Ireland’s longest zipline for thrill seekers. You’ll also find Ireland’s only official Gruffalo Trail there, a walk always popular with kids.
The best things to do at Colin Glen Forest Park
There’s plenty of things to do at Colin Glen, from kayaking and a driving range to the Gruffalo Trail, an Alpine Coaster and more.
1. The Gruffalo Trail
The Gruffalo Trail is one of the best family walks in Belfast. It plays tribute to the beloved children’s picture book that has sold millions of copies world-wide, and the trail in the Colin Glen Forest Park is Ireland’s only official one, endorsed by the author Julia Donaldson herself. The trail encourages little ones to search for the famous characters, and the price includes a Julia Donaldson and friends book, sticker and certificates.
2. The Black Bull Run
The Black Bull Run is Ireland’s first and only Alpine Coaster. It’s a thrilling adventure ride where you hurtle through the Colin Glen Forest, twisting and turning, going up hills and down them, through tunnels and in and out of the trees.
The speed is controllable, and the ticket price allows for three goes per person. It’s more than 500 metres in length, with 12 twists and two tunnels. The maximum speed is 40 miles per hour. It’s suitable for children over the age of three, but kids aged from three to seven must ride with an adult.
3. The Forest Flyover Zipline
Located at the Mountain Entrance, the Forest Flyover Zipline is an amazing ride through the forest as you soar over the Black Bull Run and the forest below your feet. Don’t do this on a full stomach, as at points you will be travelling at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
The length is 250 metres and anyone taking part must be 1.3 metres or taller, with a minimum weight of 30kg and maximum of 120kg. The sessions last about 45 minutes. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult, and hair should be tied back for maximum safety.
4. Nature, History and Heritage walks
For all those who like their outdoors accompanied by a decent dose of education, the Nature, History and Heritage Walks offered at the Colin Glen Forest are ideal. There are colour-coded walks along the Colin River which will take you past waterfalls and squirrels.
The heritage walk is a circular one that crosses five bridges. Highlights include the chance to discover more about the Colin River’s all-important role in Belfast’s linen industry in the 18th and 19th centuries, and you can find out about Colin Glen and Belfast Hills’ cultural heritage, including the local folklore and myths.
You can also discover the unique geology of the area, which will refer to the specific dinosaurs and fossils that have been discovered in the park.
The different entrances to Colin Glen Forest Park (important!)
Before heading to Colin Glen Park, it’s important to take note of the entrances, as they’re situated near/next to specific attractions.
1. River Entrance
The River Entrance is the one you take for the afore-mentioned Gruffalo Trail, but it is also where the guided nature, heritage and history walks start. The combi adventure package for those who want to cram in as many thrills as they can takes you on a walk through the sky at 16 metres above the ground. There’s a multi-level climbing wall and it finishes with the zip line. You round off the package with some archery. Make like Robin Hood and send those arrows flying.
2. Mountain Entrance
At the Mountain Entrance, you can try the Black Bull Run, sign up for the Mountain Adventure Package or try the Forest Flyover Zipline.
3. Leisure Entrance
Sporty folks, ahoy! As you might expect from the name, the Leisure Entrance is for those who want to play golf (members and visitors), play football under the 3G dome or outdoor five-a-side, or visit the gym where you will find the full range of cardiovascular and weight training machines, spin bikes, cross trainers, treadmills, dumbbells, weight benches and kettle bells, etc.
Things to do near Colin Glen
One of the beauties of Colin Glen Park is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of the best things to do in Belfast.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the park (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Divis and Black Mountain (10-minute drive)
The National Trust-run Divis and the Black Mountain is where walkers head for spectacular viewpoints that offer panoramic views over Belfast and beyond. The Black Mountain Ridge Trail offers the chance to see red grouse, skylarks and peregrine falcons.
2. Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park (10-minute drive)
You’ll find the Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park in south Belfast. The park attracts flower fiends every year as it is home to the City of Belfast International Rose Garden, with its Rose Week celebrations in July every year. The park also has a kid’s playground, barbecue area and picnic tables. The estate was taken over by the Dixons in 1919 and donated by Lady Dixon to the city of Belfast just before she died in 1959.
3. Belfast City
There’s endless things to do in the city, from the Belfast Cathedral Quarter and the Black Cab Tours that take you along the Falls Road and the Shankill Road to see the Belfast Peace Wall, the political murals and more, there’s loads to see and do.
FAQs about Colin Glen Park
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from who owns Colin Glen Forest Park (the Colin Glen Trust) to what there is to do there.
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.
What is there to do at Colin Glen Park for kids?
For kids, there’s everything from laser-tag and the Gruffalo Trail to ziplining, the Alpine Coaster and much more.
What is there to do at Colin Glen Park for adults?
For adults, there’s everything from the Black Bull Run (Ireland’s first Alpine Coaster) and the Forest Flyover to the River Rapid (Ireland’s longest Zipline) and golf.
Is Colin Glen really worth visiting?
Yes! The park is home to a bit of something for everyone, and it’s a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without having to drive too far.
Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.