Useful Info

Northern Ireland has very few public rights of way and therefore in many areas walkers can only enjoy the countryside because of the goodwill and tolerance of landowners. Permission has been obtained from all landowners across whose land the Waymarked Ways and Ulster Way traverse.

Much of Northern Ireland’s public land is also accessible, eg. Water Service and Forest Service land, as is land owned and managed by organisations such as the National Trust and the Woodland Trust.

For further information on access in Northern Ireland, contact Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland on 028 9030 3930 or email info@walkni.com.

Overview

The Accessible Walks Scheme is aimed at informing people with mobility issues. This covers a wide range of users and includes those with physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, learning disabilities and hidden disabilities, but can also include other users such as parents with push chairs or cyclists. People with physical disabilities may require the use of a wheelchair, a mobility scooter, a walking aid or an accompanying carer to provide stability and or physical or emotional support.  People with learning disabilities may also require the use of mobility aids and an accompanying carer, to guide them around their chosen route.

Walks on WalkNI.com have been classified into grades according to the accessibility of features on each route. Each walk will attain grade 1-5, with grade 1 being the most accessible and grade 5 being the least accessible. Examples of features to be taken into consideration are path surface, path gradient and presence of obstacles on the route.

Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland set up a steering group to advise on the development of the scheme. Organisations represented on the steering group were Disability Action, Disability Sports NI, Disabled Ramblers, Local District Councils, Mencap, Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA). A consultee group was also set up for the scheme, bodies on the consultee group included environmental organisations, local government and organisations who deal with people with disabilities.

Walk Accessibility Issues

There are several components that can dictate the accessibility of a route i.e. those features or issues which could severely impact somebody with mobility issues either completing the route or putting their health and safety at risk. These are discussed below:

Features affecting Walk Accessibility

Based on case studies of other grading systems currently in use in the UK as well as a pilot audit conducted by local disability organisations, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland developed a grading system called the Accessible Walks Scheme (the grading system can be found here). The focus of the grading system would be issues with a route or features on a route that, when someone with mobility issues was faced with the route, that it would severely impact their ability to complete the route or be a significant health and safety risk. The issues taken into consideration by the Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland grading system are discussed below.

  • Path surface
    Path surface type is one of the most obvious features to be taken into consideration when assessing walk suitability for people with limited mobility. Path surface fragments or uneven surfaces could present a tripping hazard to those unstable on their feet or prove to be hard work for wheeled vehicles such as wheelchairs or pushchairs. Ideal path surfaces will be compact, stable, non slip and obstacle free. Suitable path surfaces include concrete, tarmac, timber, paving and mown grass. Unsuitable surfaces include sand, loose gravel and stone and woodchip. Wheelchair and walking aid users are most likely to be affected by irregular path surfaces.
  • Path width
    Path width is an important factor to consider with regards to those with limited mobility. The standard width of a wheelchair is 700mm, a double stick user is 950mm, a double buggy 1000mm and an adult supporting another adult 1200mm. When considering path width, the amount of useable surface should be measured, excluding encroaching vegetation. In order for a path to be fully accessible, the minimum width of the path should be 1.2 m. This will allow two people to walk side by side comfortably and support each other if necessary.
  • Path gradient
    Sustained slopes and steep slopes can be a barrier to those with mobility issues. For example, those using a wheelchair may be able to ascend a short steep slope easier than a prolonged length of gentle slope. Other users such as ambulant disabled people may also find steps easier to use rather than ramps. Different users may also be able to cope with differing slopes, such as a wheelchair user with a high level of fitness, compared to wheelchair user with lower upper body strength. Therefore the Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland grading system merely states the gradient as a ratio and a percentage and also provides an indicative symbol to illustrate the angle of the slope. This will allow users to make an informed decision with regards to the walk and their ability. Path gradients greater than 6o or 1:10 could prove to be a barrier to those with limited mobility. 6 degrees was arrived at after considering other grading systems as well as consulting and pilot testing with disability organisations.
  • Cross Slope
    The cross slope of the path is the slope measured perpendicular to the direction of travel. Cross slopes can be a barrier to those with balance and co-ordination problems who rely on a flat stable surface in order to feel comfortable when participating in outdoor recreation. A path falling away to either side of a person with limited mobility, does not provide for an accessible route given the potential for the user to become unsteady on their feet or loose control of a wheel chair, walking aid or pushchair. Cross slope with gradients greater than 6o or 1:10 could prove to be a barrier to those with limited mobility. 6 degrees was arrived at after considering other grading systems as well as consulting and pilot testing with disability organisations.
  • Obstacles
    Obstacles are the most obvious barrier for people with mobility issues wishing to participate in outdoor recreation. They are physical features present on the ground that would mean that a route could be impassable for a person of limited mobility. Some obstacles present more of a barrier to some users than others, for example a parent with a pushchair may be able to negotiate some steps whereas this may be a complete barrier to a wheelchair user. Obstacles taken into consideration with regards the Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland Accessible Walks Scheme include kissing gates, wheelchair accessible kissing gates, mobility vehicle accessible kissing gates, gates wider than 81cm, gates narrower than 80cm, locked gates, steps with a ramp, steps with a handrail, steps with no handrail or ramp, stiles, cattle grids or grates.
  • Surface breaks
    Surface breaks do not pose a definite barrier to a person of limited mobility as an obstacle would. They may prove to be a tripping or sticking hazard for people unsteady on their feet, using a wheeled device or a walking aid.  Examples of path surface breaks would be a cross drain or a gap in a timber board walk. These can cause problems for people using walking sticks, wheelchairs, walking frames or push chairs. A surface break of greater than 12mm could pose a problem to a path user of limited mobility.
  • Clear Head Height
    A clear head height is important for visually impaired people and people who might have problems with bending or manoeuvring. A clear head height should apply at a vertical height of 210cm across the full width of the path. Features such as overhanging vegetation or built structures such as bridges or buildings hedges could mean that a clear head height of 210cm across the entire width.

Please remember to practice the principles of ’Leave No Trace’ when enjoying the outdoors in order to minimise your impact on the environment. For more information, visit www.leavenotraceireland.org

For all walks, but in particular for hill and mountain walking, it is recommended that you take an Ordnance Survey map with you. For Northern Ireland, ordnance survey maps can be purchased at Tourist Information Centres, good bookstores, petrol stations, and from Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland (OSNI):

OSNI Online Map Shop
Land & Property Services
Lanyon Plaza
7 Lanyon Place
Town Parks
Belfast
BT1 3LP

Telephone: 028 9025 5755
Fax: 028 9025 5700
Website: www.maps.osni.gov.uk
You can contact them via their online feedback form

Walkers are recommended to use the OSNI Discoverer series, scale 1: 50 000, which covers all Northern Ireland. In addition, OSNI Activity maps are available at a scale of 1:25 000 for the more popular areas for outdoor pursuits, namely Sperrins; Mournes; Upper Lough Erne, North Coast and and the Glens of Antrim.

For details on the range of OSNI paper maps and to purchase online, visit the OSNI Paper Products section of their website.

Northern Ireland is full of unique accommodation options. From castles and mountain lodges to coastal lighthouses and glamping there is something for everyone.

Check out Discover Northern Ireland for Accommodation.

In 2007, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland set up a Volunteer Ranger Programme.  The aim of the programme is for volunteers to audit the ‘Quality’ walks in Northern Ireland as listed on www.walkni.com  The resulting information is then forwarded to the relevant land managers (through Product Management Groups) in order that they can carry out the necessary remediation work.

To date this has involved auditing of the long distance walks known as the “Waymarked Ways”, with Volunteer Rangers completing audits of these routes twice a year.

In 2009 Outdoor Recreation NI, extended the audit programme to include the short and medium distance walks and also the Canoe Trails and Ecotrails developed by Outdoor Recreation NI over the last 5 years.

There are now over 100 registered volunteers, the majority of which have received training on how to complete an audit.

Being a Volunteer Ranger is a great opportunity to become an active member of the Northern Irish walking community.  It also means that through their work the Volunteer Rangers can play a key role within Outdoor Recreation NI.  Outdoor Recreation NI provide complimentary social and training events for the volunteers, examples of which inlcude a summer walk through the high Sperrins and a training day held at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre to learn mountaineering skills.

Register as a Volunteer Ranger

Please see here for a list of current vacancies within the Volunteer Ranger Programme.

To register as a Volunteer Ranger, please download the appropriate application form and send the completed form to Diane Crookes at the address below.

Application  – Volunteer Ranger – Ulster Way and Quality Walks

Application  – Volunteer Ranger – Canoe trails

Make sure you stay safe whilst walking in the hills and countryside.  Below are a number of free downloadable brochures featuring important safety information as well as details on how to enjoy the great outdoors responsibly.

Walk Safely Leaflet

This walk safely information leaflet has been produced by Mountaineering Ireland and covers how to choose suitable trail walks, planning your walk, appropriate clothing and what to do if you get lost or are in an emergency.  The leaflet also provides information on how we can enjoy the Irish countryside responsibly.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors Responsibly

Produced by Sport Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency the following guides contain information on how to be responsible for yourself, others and the environment whilst enjoying Northern Ireland’s outdoors.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors – A Guide for Responsible Users

A guide to using the great outdoors responsibility

Enjoy the Great Outdoors – A Guide for Responsible Dog Owners

A guide to enjoying the great outdoors responsibly with your dog

CONTACT DETAILS

Slanes Point
38 Ardminnan Road
Portaferry
07763898074
brigid.watson@btinternet.com
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WALKING SERVICES

I offer guided walks in the Ards Peninsula in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and on the Mourne Coastal route.

Most of the walks are at coastal locations rich in maritime and social history. The natural environment has a diverse range of species and is home to rare plants and animals.

The walks are suitable for people of all levels of fitness and are flexible in length and duration. They normally last 1 to 2 hours. Guided bus tours are available for groups who can provide their own transport.

CONTACT DETAILS

C/o Belfast Welcome Centre
+44(0)7837703643
info@awayaweewalk.com
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WALKING SERVICES

Away A Wee Walk is a tour guiding and walking company offering day trips to the Causeway Coast from Belfast. You will be transported from Belfast via bus (departing from Belfast International Youth Hostel at 9.30am) to the Causeway Coast where you will experience a tour along a stunning 5 mile cliff path walk. It is a unique way to visit the world famous coastline and also means that you don’t have to miss out on this spectacular area of Northern Ireland if you are staying in Belfast.

Cavehill Walking tours are also available. A guided walk from the front doors of the Belfast Castle to McArt’s Fort on Cavehill is by far the most unique experience available in Belfast. Witness amazing scenery across Belfast and all its surrounding areas and hear about the fascinating history.

The company also organise private walking tours for small groups to the Causeway Coast and other beautiful walking areas in Northern Ireland.

CONTACT DETAILS

17 New Road
Glenarm
Ballymena
+44(0)28 2884 1087
info@glenarmtourism.org
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WALKING SERVICES

We offer bespoke walking activities tailored to the interests, fitness levels and time available to walkers. These must be booked by prior arrangement but can be available any day mostly before noon and can include a picnic lunch for small groups if requested. Walks ranging from 15 mins village trails to 1 hour coastal, forest or river walks to 2-3 hours hillwalking are on offer as are themed heritage walks on archaeology, industrial heritage, nature and wildlife and exploration of an old friary ruins and church trail. Costs range from £3 – £10, with lunch extra.

CONTACT DETAILS

Glenariff
Ballycastle
Giant’s Causeway
+35391763994
info@hillwalktours.com
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WALKING SERVICES

Tailor-made walking tours to suit all levels of fitness. You decide with whom you wish to walk, where you want to walk and for how many days.

CONTACT DETAILS

4 Victoria Cottages
North Tawton
Devon
01837 880075
paul@letsgowalking.com
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WALKING SERVICES

Let’s go Walking organise tailor-made holidays and tours for groups, clubs, charities and individuals across the UK.

CONTACT DETAILS

Life HQ
The Grange Yard
Castlewellan Forest Park
Castlewellan
+44 (0) 28 437 70714 iwant@onegreatadventure.com
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WALKING SERVICES

TRAIL GUIDING

Take it in your stride! Make the most of what’s available in Mournes and surrounding area to include a few hidden gems. Our guides are local and passionate and offer everything from an intro to our forests and fells, a gentle tour of our upland trails, a mountain adventure or even a mix and match.

TRAIL BLAZERS

Mild to Wild! Join us to blaze our favourite local trails on what we believe to be some of the best trail and hill walking on offer including our Happy Valley Hike, Donard Dander, Mourne Way Challenge and Mourne Wall Experience. All trips range in level and duration to suit a mix of age and ability and are fully staffed by local and passionate Guides, supported by our range of equipment, shuttles etc.

TRAIL TOURS

Tall stories! Explore more of the unique myths and legends of the Mournes in great company including our Men and Mountains, Strugglers and Smugglers and our new CS Lewis Tour. All tours range in level and duration to suit a mix of age and ability and are fully staffed by local and passionate Guides, supported by our range of equipment, shuttles etc.

SKILLS COURSES

New ground! Gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to get you moving towards the next level and mountain proficiency. Offering topics such as basic navigation skills, equipment choice, mountain safety, route planning/journeying and mountain first aid our courses include full Instruction supported by our range of equipment alongside full use of our centre to include changing and shower facilities.

PLOD PACKAGES

If you don’t see something that suits, choose from our range of Guiding, Instruction, Shuttles, Centre and Event Support as you require and we’ll create your bespoke ‘Plod Package’.

Call in, telephone or email us at our centre, 10am – 4pm daily to discuss. All options are subject to terms and availability.

Open Daily Half/Full/Multi-Day Options Info-Point/Showers/Wifi/Coffee Dock/Stove Individuals/Groups/Families Welcome Online Booking/Trail Maps/Shuttles/Accommodation

CONTACT DETAILS

195 South Promenade
Newcastle
+44(0)77 4028 5794
fiona.mullan@hotmail.co.uk
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WALKING SERVICES

Nordic Walking for Health and Fitness tailored courses for small groups, Guided walking and Mountain Skills Courses. AAP for Duke of Edinburgh Award. All provided by qualified and experienced International Mountain Leader and NWUK Nordic Walking Instructor.

CONTACT DETAILS

14 Shimnavale
Newcastle
+44(0)79 7340 8056
loretto@outdoorirelandnorth.co.uk
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CONTACT DETAILS

COLERAINE
0774 5566 924
paul.quinn33@hotmail.co.uk
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WALKING SERVICES

Rathlin Walking Tours offers an interesting and informative day out. If you want we can offer expert advice on island flora and fauna, although many groups are happy to settle for an alll round experience

CONTACT DETAILS

2 Croft Heights
Ballygally
Larne
02828583483
cowper@walkantrimhills.com
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WALKING SERVICES

Guided walking mainly in the Antrim Hills. Instruction in navigation if requested

CONTACT DETAILS

+353 74915 9366
info@walktalkireland.com
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WALKING SERVICES

Guided walking in Glens of Antrim, Causeway Coast and Rathlin Island.

CONTACT DETAILS

9 Crossmore Road
Ardglass
Downpatrick
+44(0)78 3544 1933
lecalepeninsula@live.com
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WALKING SERVICES

Longer walks are under 5 miles in length and include a lunch afterwards. Shorter walks and tours include a coffee stop or unique souvenir. Where possible access is granted to old laneways and historic monuments adding to the bespoke experience. Duane is a trained Hill and Moorland Leader and a member of Tour Guides NI. The walks typically last 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

CONTACT DETAILS

Portstewart
+44(0)77 5976 7218
info@walkingtoursni.com
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WALKING SERVICES

We organise self-guided walking holidays on the Causeway Coastal Way and in other areas of Northern Ireland.

We offer “guest house to guest house” walking with luggage transfers or “single centre” walking with transfers to the start of and from the end of each daily walk.

CONTACT DETAILS

56 Burren Road
Warrenpoint
07974768831
peter@walkthemournes.com
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WALKING SERVICES

Guided walks and tours of the Mourne Mountains and Slieve Gullion for individuals or groups. We also provide navigation courses to suit all abilities.

CONTACT DETAILS

11 a Cloughinny Rd.
Forkhill, Newry
02830570220
info@mountainwaysireland.com

WALKING SERVICES

Mountain Ways Ireland is a local company offering fully guided day hikes and mountain skills training in the historic Irish mountain ranges of Mournes and Gullion.
We also offer multi day self- guided walking holidays.

We want you to experience and immerse fully in the history, culture, legend and everyday life of these wonderful landscapes.

WalkNI is supported by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Newry, Mourne & Down District Council, Belfast City Council, Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, Mid Ulster District Council and North Down & Ards Borough Council.

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