The Cave Hill is popular with walkers and joggers. There are eight waymarked trails, which range from short easy strolls to challenging 5-mile treks over the summit. There are five access points - Hightown Road, Carrs Glen, Upper Cavehill Road, Belfast Castle and Hazelwood. We will be running a series of guided walks on Cave Hill. These walks generally take place on the third Saturday of each month from April to October, and usually run between 1000 to 1300, though some events will be early morning between 0600 and 0800, or later in the afternoon. The time and dates are listed below.
Most walks will have a theme where an expert will talk about a particular aspect of the Hill. In the absence of a theme, there will be a walk over the top of Cave Hill with a guide who will give a general overview of the historical and cultural aspects of the Hill and will bring participants to some of its most important sites.
On the advice of Belfast City Council, our event Dawn Chorus, on Saturday 8th May
and “Forage on Cave Hill”, which was scheduled to take place on 15 May, were cancelled. BCC regulations have been constantly under review.
We were able to recommence our programme of events starting with "The Birds of Cave Hill" on Saturday 29th May, meeting at 10.00 am at the Castle.
To keep up to date with developments, please visit our pages. here on the web site, or on Facebook and Twitter.
Details of planned events are outlined below in the schedule of Walks and Activities.
Please be prepared for bad weather and bring footwear suitable for rough ground. Some of the walks will be moderately strenuous and some people may find them challenging. Easy walks are grade E and more challenging walks are grade M.
Young people under 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
If you have any worries about fitness or have medical conditions which may affect your ability to walk, please talk to the leader at the start of the walk. If the leader assesses you as not being fit for the walk, you will not be able to take part.
It is very important for your own safety, and of the group, that you obey the instructions of the walk leader or of any of the assistant leaders. It is of particular importance that the group stays together at all times.
All of our activities are free.
You can see photos and images of events that have taken place at the bottom of this page.
Organised Walks and Activities in 2021
Easy Walks are Grade E. Challenging walks are Grade M.
Saturday 17th April
10:00-13:00 The rocks of Cave Hill.
Kirstin Lemon is an enthusiast for her geology profession and she will delight in explaining the geological origins of Cave Hill on this walk over the hill. Meet at the Castle. Grade M
Saturday 8th May
05:00-07:30 Dawn chorus.
John O’Boyle will lead a dander around the Park to hear and identify birds. Specially designed for early risers! Meet at the gates to the Park at the top of Innisfayle Park. Grade E
Saturday 15th May
10:00-13:00 Forage on Cave Hill.
Phil Simpson has a fund of practical knowledge and plant lore. We’ll walk in his company to see what useful plants we can find. Meet at the Castle.
Saturday 29th May
10:00-13:00 The birds of Cave Hill.
Get up close to some of our native birds. Licensed bird ringer Aidan Crean will catch, ring and release them and allow us to see them in beautiful detail. Meet at the Castle.
Saturday 19th June
03:30-06:30 Solstice walk.
Greet the sun at dawn on a summer solstice morning before most of Belfast has stirred. Meet at the Castle. Grade M.
Saturday 17 July
10.00-13.00 The flowers of Cave Hill
Karl Hamilton will introduce us to the flowers growing on Cave Hill. Meet at the car park on the Upper Hightown Road. Grade E.
Saturday 7th August
10.00-13.00 A bug bonanza
Conservation Officer with Buglife, Anna Hart will lead a fossick through the Park looking to find and identify whatever we come across. Meet at the Castle. Grade E.
Friday 3rd September
20:30-22:30 Bats of Cave Hill.
Aidan Crean will introduce us to these enchanting nocturnal animals during an evening dander. Meet at the Castle. Grade E.
Saturday 18th September
10:00-13:00 The Archaeology of Cave Hill.
Local archaeologist Cormac McSparron will lead a trip to the various remains on the hill from the Neolithic period to the early Christian period. Meet at the entrance to the Park at the top of the Hightown Road.
Wednesday 6th October
19.30-22.00 Cave Hill by starlight
A chance to look down on Belfast by night and get a view of the stars and planets. Meet at the Castle. Grade M.
Saturday 16th October
10:00-13:00 Fungal Foray.
Debbie Nelson will lead us in a snuffle through the Cave Hill woods to see what fungi we can find and identify.
Meet at the Castle. Grade E.
Solstice on Cave Hill
Twenty-eight members met near Belfast Castle and walked to the top of Cave Hill to greet the sun at dawn on a summer solstice morning.
Image Nation NI join Cave Hill Community Campaign on a litter pick
We were approached recently by Sanjay Ghosh of the Indian community organisation Imager Nation NI who wanted to do something for the local community and environment. We agreed a litter lift to happen on 26th June. Around 15 members of that community, some members of the Green party and 7 of our directors spent more than 3 hours lifting litter across the hill. The Indian community members were lovely, full of enthusiasm and drive. At the end of the walk, they provided buns and delicious Indian tea (Chai). The youngest person there, Mia, seen below in her father's arms went the whole way over the top without complaint and with a ready smile. An enjoyable and heart-warming day for all!
Baby Mia and her father back at the Castle after the walk.
Organizing the routes before setting out
At McArt's Fort enjoying the rest - and the view.
Flowers of the Cave Hill
Twelve members joined botanist Karl Hamilton on 17 July for a sunny morning walk through Ballyaghagan to the top of Cave Hill. The return route was by the regular route to the Upper Hightown Road. Karl was a fount of knowledge and a very friendly guide to the wealth of flowers in the unimproved meadows beyond the car park. The weather was glorious and we were also treated to a great variety and number of butterflies. A really enjoyable outing.
The flowers in the photos are the common spotted orchid and the sneezewort.
Botanist, Karl Hamilton
The common spotted orchid and the sneezewort.
A bug Bonanza
Twelve members were led by Anna Hart of Buglife on a fascinating stroll around the park today to look at a wide variety of bumblebees, carder bees, sawflies, hoverflies, leaf hoppers, shield bugs, butterflies, moths and mites. An illuminating and informative outing - and there was no rain despite the dire forecast.
Bats of Cave Hill
Friday 7th September
Thirty members, including 6 children, met together at the Castle in the darkening evening and, guided by Aidan Crean, spent two hours looking for pipistrelle and Leisler's bats. I am sorry to report that our detectors picked up only a few pipistrelles and we saw no bats at all. It was a perfect evening, calm and temperate and that failure flags up the drop in bat numbers, probably linked to the widespread catastrophic drop in insect populations. We did however, find a roosting tree creeper (it's a bird!) and we enjoyed a dander in the dark.
Remodelling the Maze
The Maze, which was planted by CCC around the Millenium, is situated on the road up from the Gray's Lane/ Back Clinic entrance. Members are being invited to join in a long-overdue tidy-up; meeting at 10.00 on the second Saturday of each month at the Maze. The first session was on Saturday 11th September, (photos below), when members made a start in trimming the trees. These events are a great opportunity to meet other members, have a bit of craic and share in the work of conservation on the Cave Hill.
The Archaeology of Cave Hill
Twenty-two members met in the morning of 18th September and enjoyed a stroll in Ballyaghagan at the back of Cave Hill. The walk was led by local archaeologist Cormac McSparron. The weather was calm and warm with Belfast beneath us emerging from and disappearing under the rolling mist. Cormac made the whole complex history of the site understandable and he used the various remains to talk about the wider archaeology of Ireland. The morning was an entertaining and informative experience.
Week Two of
Remodelling the Maze
A damp morning did not deter nine of our members who gathered at the maze to continue our work in trimming the beech trees so they might thicken up and create a proper maze. Ten-year-old Alannah was the star of the show. After two sessions now, we are well through the task and another two sessions should complete the trimming. We will then have to repair the fence and plant trees to fill the gaps. We invite anyone who is a member to join us for the next work party on Saturday 13 November at 10. 00 am. Or come aslong and join as a member on the day!
Cave Hill by Starlight
On Wednesday 6th October, ten members went for a starlit walk over Cave Hill. Unfortunately, the stars were hidden above a blanket of wet clouds. But being hardy souls, we went awalking anyway and headed for McArt's Fort. Over the first twenty minutes, the rain eased but the Newtownabbey lights disappeared as we climbed into the cloud. On the way down however, the cloud base lifted a little and the lights of Belfast accompanied us home. I have to say and we all agreed that despite the weather and the lack of stars, there was a magic in being out on Cave Hill at night. All attempts to take photos failed in the mist and darkness.
Thirty-seven members joined Debbie Nelson on a fungus walk in the Park Saturday 16th October morning. Everyone was amazed and enthralled by both the variety of fungi on show and also by Debbie's enthusiasm and comprehensive knowledge. To illustrate the hidden beauty to be found in the fungi world, I have included a photo of the porcelain fungus, so called because when held up to the sunlight, it reveals a colour and patterning reminiscent of the finest porcelain.
That was our last walk of 2021. Our walks programme for 2022 is nearly complete. Look out for it within the next fortnight here on FB and also on our website: www.cavehillconservation.crg