Darkley Forest Walking Trails Launched

A £220,000 project to design and create 4.6km of beautiful walking trails in Darkley Forest, Co. Armagh for all of the community to enjoy is now complete and open for everyone to enjoy!

Work began on site earlier this year following extensive consultation with the community who decided that a walking trail was a priority project for the area.

The trails, which start at the new eight space car park at Mountain Lodge Road, accommodates a wide range of users, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of outdoor exercise in a safe environment.

This scheme was delivered thanks to a partnership between Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council,  Outdoor Recreation NI (ORNI) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development (DAERA) – Rural Affairs Division and Forest Service. Funding was provided from DEARA’s Targeting Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) programme and from the National Lottery through Sport Northern Ireland’s ‘Every Body Active: Outdoor Spaces’ programme.

“It was a great honour for me to cut the ribbon and officially declare the brand new walking trails at Darkley open, and what an absolutely beautiful place it is,” commented the Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Julie Flaherty.

“It is wonderful to see something that the community has wanted for so long coming to fruition and I know that these trails will really make a difference to the lives of those living within the Darkley area. This Forest was once inaccessible but now residents have something truly unique to enjoy right here on their doorsteps. So get out, experience and explore this fantastic new facility!”

Forest Service Chief Executive John Joe O’Boyle said: “Our forests are an outstanding and valuable natural resource. The excellent new facilities here at Darkley Forest are a great example of partnership working delivering a living, active landscape valued by all through the social and recreational benefits it creates for local communities”.

His sentiments were echoed by DAERA’s Southern Rural Affairs Manager, Jerome Burns, who said, “The need for safe walking trails in the forest was identified by the local community and I am delighted that DAERA, through the TRPSI Programme was able to help bring this project to fruition, creating an asset which will be enjoyed by the residents of Darkley and beyond.”

Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown added: “Northern Ireland boasts a rich variety of outdoor spaces and Sport NI is delighted to be investing in projects like this which are helping communities to connect to the natural environment through sport and physical activity. Every day, National Lottery players are helping people across Northern Ireland enjoy, engage and excel in sport and we look forward to seeing these new trails help more people in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area get active and get involved.”

“We are delighted to have been involved in the development of two high quality community trails within Darkley Forest,” said Outdoor Recreation NI Executive Director Caro Lynne Ferris. “Expected to improve health and wellbeing, these trails are a fantastic asset to the rural community of Darkley, providing accessible opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of this environment.”

The trail was designed by renowned trail designer Hugh Clixby and built by local Camlough firm Euro Services.


Green Flag Winners Revealed 2019

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful are celebrating a record 76 Green Flag awards this year. 

Click here to download the Green Flag Award 2019 Map

The Winners:

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough council achieved 15 Green Flags.

Parks awarded were;
Antrim Castle Gardens (Heritage)
Antrim/Belmont Cemetery
Ballynure Old Graveyard
Jordanstown Loughshore Park, Hazelbank Park and Gideons Green
Kilbride Cemetery
Lilian Bland Park
Mallusk Cemetery
Mill Race Trail
Newtownabbey Way
Randalstown Riverside Walk
Rashee Cemetery
Sentry Hill Historic House & Visitor Centre (Heritage)
Sixmile Water Park
Valley Park (V36 and Glas-na-braden Glen)
Wallace Park

Ards and North Down Borough Council achieved 5 Green Flags.

Parks awarded were;
Ballymenoch Park
Castle Park
Kiltonga Nature Reserve
Linear Park Bangor
Londonderry Park

Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council achieved 9 Green Flags.

Parks awarded were;
ABC Canal Greenway
Brownstown Park
Edenvilla Park
Gosford Forest Park
Lurgan Public Park
Portadown People’s Park
Solitude Park
Tannaghmore Gardens
The Palace Park

Belfast City Council achieved 20 Green Flags.

Parks awarded were;
Barnett Demesne
Belfast Botanic Gardens (Heritage)
Belmont Park
Cavehill Country Park
Connswater Community Greenway
Drumglass Park
Dunmurry Village
Dunville Park
Falls Park
Grove Park
Half Moon Lake
Knocknagoney Park
Lagan Meadows
Musgrave Park
Ormeau Park
Roselawn Cemetery
Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park
Tullycarnet Park
Waterworks Park
Woodvale Park

Derry City & Strabane District Council for achieved 1 Green Flag.

Park awarded;
Brooke Park (Heritage)

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council achieved 2 Green Flags.

Parks awarded were;
Grange Park

Mid Ulster District Council achieved 3 Green Flags.

Parks awarded were;
Dungannon Park
Maghera Walled Garden
Hill of the O’Neill

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council achieved 4 Green Flags.

Parks awarded were;
Castle Gardens
Moat Park
Moira Demense
Wallace Park

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council achieved 8 Green Flags.

Parks awarded were;
Bashfordsland Wood and Oakfield Glen
Carnfunnock Country Park
Carrickfergus Mill Ponds, Shaftesbury Park & Marine Gardens
Diamond Jubilee Wood
Dixon Park
Ecos Nature Park
Eden Allotment Garden
The People’s Park

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council achieved 3 Green Flags.

Parks awarded were;
Kilbroney Park
Slieve Gullion Forest Park
Warrenpoint Municipal Park

The Department of Finance achieved 1 Green Flag.

Park awarded;
Stormont Estate


Stay local, stay apart, stay safe and leave no trace – this Bank Holiday Weekend.


WalkNI’s parent company Outdoor Recreation NI is encouraging people to carefully consider how they enjoy the outdoors this Bank Holiday weekend.


“We all have a pent-up desire to get outside especially now we can meet in groups of six or less whilst maintaining social distancing. However, we want everybody to have a safe and healthy visit to the outdoors this Bank Holiday Weekend” cautioned Chris Scott, Head of Operations, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland.


“It is important to remember that your favourite places will probably not be at full operating capacity for example many car parks and toilets remain closed.” continued Chris.


Outdoor Recreation NI is advising people to ‘Stay local, stay apart, stay safe and leave no trace.’


Stay Local


  • Respect the wishes of landowners and local communities
  • Expect some changes – the majority of car parks, toilets, on-site visitor facilities, playgrounds and baby changing remain closed
  • Plan your day around your needs and what will be available


Stay Apart


  • Maintain social distancing from those not living in your household – stay at least 2 metres apart
  • Meet in groups of 6 or less – if meeting those from outside your household
  • Avoid peak times and popular honeypot sites – do you really want to be around large groups of people?


Stay Safe


  • Respect our emergency services – now is not the time to end up in hospital
  • Scale back your ambitions – choose activities that are within your skills and capabilities


Leave No Trace

  • Practicing a Leave No trace ethic is very simple – Make it hard for others to see or hear you and LEAVE NO TRACE of your visit.


“The benefits of being outdoors are well recognized and it is pleasing to see many public landowners and land managers undertaking detailed planning with the view to re-opening their offering. Please be patient and do not undertake actions which may slow their progress.” concluded Chris.


Useful Links






DAERA Country & Forest Parks

National Trust

Waterways Ireland

Leave No Trace Ireland

Mountaineering Ireland

Cycling Ireland