The brilliant Stormont Park is home to one of our favourite walks in Belfast.
The extensive Stormont Estate is home to a lush woodland park where entry is free, and it’s open to the public year-round.
It’s also home to the Government of Northern Ireland and several historic buildings whose history you can explore while you’re visiting.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from the Stormont opening times and its history to what to do when you arrive.
Some quick need-to-knows about Stormont Park
Although a visit to Stormont Park is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Stormont Estate is located on the Upper Newtownards Road, the A20, approximately 5 miles east of Belfast City Centre. It’s only 15 minutes drive from Titanic Belfast and 20 minutes from Belfast Castle, Cave Hill and Belfast Zoo.
2. Opening hours
Opening hours for Stormont Park vary over the year but it generally opens at 7.30 am Mon-Friday, and 9 am at weekends. Closing times varies from 5 pm to 9 pm, depending on the time of year and daylight hours. The Mo Mowlam Park opens at 9.30 am and closes between 4-8 pm, depending on the season (Note: times may change).
There’s a public car park at the Stormont Estate. Just keep in mind that it can get busy here when the weather is fine.
4. The dog park
Dog owners rejoice! Dogs have their own part of the estate called The Bullfield where they can run and play to the hearts’ delight, and there are plenty of seats and picnic spots for owners.
5. A fine spot for a ramble
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to walks at Stormont Estate. Several trails, including History, Woodland, and Environment tracks, supply educational input as well as recreational enjoyment, while the fitness trail and three orienteering courses are where you can test yourself. There’s a 5km park run every Saturday at 9.30.
About the Stormont Estate
As A holder of the prestigious Green Flag award, the Stormont Estate is recognised as one of the province’s best green spaces.
Where it all began
The current Stormont Estate dates back to the 19th century. It’s said that the estate was built by Reverend John Cleland ‘as the result of an advantageous marriage and reputedly ill-gotten gains’.
The estate was bought by the Northern Ireland Parliament in 1921 and it is home to the Northern Ireland Government (see our guide to the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland if this has you confused).
Stormont Castle is one of the better known castles in Northern Ireland and it’s has been sitting within the estate since its completion in 1830. It was originally owned by the Clealand family and it was designed using a Scottish Baronial Style.
Over the years, the purpose of Stormont Castle changed; from 1921 to 1972 Stormont Castle was home to Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister.
During The Tourbles, the castle was used by the UK’s M15 group. Stormont Castle was extensivelly renovated in 2001 after a hefty £7.5m investment.
Things to do at Stormont in Belfast
One of the beauties of Stormont Park is that it’s home to plenty to see and do, which makes it a great mini day trip from Belfast City.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Stormont Park (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Walking trails
If you want to enjoy all the walks on offer at the estate, give yourself a few hours. There are several walks with lots of interesting features and buildings to stop at and enjoy.
The three interactive walks are great fun for all the family; you can pick up a map that includes a quiz and answer the questions as you walk.
There’s a 4km woodland walk, aptly name Long Woodland Walk – just follow the orange arrows. If you don’t want to or don’t have the time for that walk, you can enjoy the shorter, 2km version or the 1.6km fitness trail.
2. The Mo Mowlam Park
The Mo Mowlam Park was designed so that children of all abilities could play together. The playground is laid out in several themed areas.
There’s Castle area, an inclusive play area that can accommodate wheelchairs, a multi-sensory area, an adventure area and Twin cableway and a five-point swing zone; which makes me dizzy just thinking about it!
If you’re looking for things to do in Belfast with kids, you can’t go wrong with a few hours spent at Mo Mowlam Park.
3. A gym, orienteering course and more
Three orienteering courses are on permanent offer at Stormont Park. Orienteering involves finding your way around a course by visiting locations, aka control sites, in sequence, at your own pace.
You can walk, jog, or race. Before you start, spend a bit of time familiarising yourself with the map symbols. The map’s scale is 1:5,000, so 1 cm on the map is 50 metres on the trail.
The three courses are marked as A, B & C, with A being the easiest and shortest at 1.3km. B is 1.6km and takes about 40 minutes to walk while C is more difficult, is 1.8km and will take you about 50 minutes.
Things to do near Stormont Park
One of the beauties of Stormont 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 Stormont in Belfast (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Botanic Gardens (20-minute drive)
The Botanic Gardens are a vital component of Belfast’s Victorian heritage and a landmark meeting place for visitors and locals alike. The gardens were initially populated with trees and plants from the Southern Hemisphere, and some can still be seen. There’s plenty of great restaurants in Belfast for a post walk pint.
2. Ormeau Park (20-minute drive)
Ormeau Park, one of Belfast’s oldest and largest parks, is popular with sports enthusiasts and festival-goers as it’s an important venue for both. The Park hosts a variety of garden displays, a children’s playground and woodland walks. Bowling greens, tennis courts and soccer pitches are all in the Playing Fields.
3. Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park (20-minute drive)
Located in south Belfast, Lady Dixon Park attracts thousands of visitors to Rose Week festivities, held every July. Spread over 128 acres, it’s an ideal location for exploring Lagan Valley Regional Park. There are various gardens, woodland walks and trails, plentiful parking, and a children’s playground.
4. Titanic Belfast (15-minute drive)
Only a short walk from Belfast City Centre, Titanic Belfast is the story of the infamous cruise liner. I recommend renting a multimedia guide to get the best out of the experience. There’s also the SS Nomadic and the Harland and Wolff cranes nearby. If you fancy a tipple after, visit one of the many traditional pubs in Belfast.
FAQs about Stormont Castle and Park
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from who owns Stormont Estate to what to do when you get 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.
How long is the walk around Stormont in Belfast?
There’s a 4km woodland walk and then a shorter, 2km version. There’s also a 1.6km fitness trail.
What is there to do around Stormont Castle and the estate?
You can try one of the walks in Stormont Park, visit the Parliament Buildings or kick-back with a coffee in the cafe.
Is Stormont open for tours?
According to Discover NI, you can visit Parliament Buildings Mon – Fri 09:00 to 16:00. Free guided tours are also available in July and August (note: times may change).
Norah is a writer and self-publisher of fiction and non-fiction. She adores the excitement of unknown places and together with several locations in Ireland, has, over 21 years, made her home in London, The Hague and New Zealand, returning to Ireland with her Kiwi rescue dog Barney, in tow.