Exploring the Ulster Way – Northern Ireland’s most iconic long distance walking trail
When it comes to exploring Northern Ireland there is no better way to explore than by foot following a popular trail and hidden gems that lead to some of the most spectacular viewpoints this country has to offer. Now that the Ulster Way website has received a fresh new look along with the addition of easy to use interactive mapping we feel there is no better time to plan your journey in part or in full of the Ulster Way.
What is the Ulster Way?
The Ulster Way is a 636 mile (1,024km) circular walking route taking in the six counties of Northern Ireland. The trail forms one of the longest waymarked trails in the British Isles and is popular with both local and international walkers alike. The trail is beautifully described by TV presenter and journalist Graham Little, “…it felt as if I’d discovered some Narnia-esque portal to another world. What I’d actually found was part of the Ulster Way.”
The Ulster Way was the brainchild of Wilfrid Capper MBE, who in 1946 had the inspiration to create a circular walking route taking in the six counties of Northern Ireland. With access to the countryside much more restricted in Northern Ireland than mainland Britain, many off-road sections of the trail depend on the goodwill of numerous private landowners and alliances with groups such as local councils and the National Trust. Capper almost single-handedly created what is one of the longest waymarked trails in the British Isles. When his original route of 540 miles was first formally unveiled as the Ulster Way in 1979, he was the first to walk its entire length. He walked it all again more than a decade later at the age of 88.
Unsurprising that the trail was voted ‘Best long-distance walking trail in Northern Ireland’ in the annual WalkNI Awards in 2022. But what do you need to know before you go?
How long will it take to walk the Ulster Way?
There is no way of giving one estimated time for how long it would take to walk the entire Ulster Way as this is dependent on several factors including your ability and speed. Other factors include the weather and whether or not you plan to walk the route in one go or take it in sections. However depending on your fitness level it is anticipated that it would take on average of 3 weeks (based on an average of 20 miles walked per day) to walk its 26 main sections.
What is the weather going to be like?
Northern Ireland isn’t always blessed with the best weather thanks to its oceanic climate. This means quite cold, rainy winters and mild, relatively rainy summers. Spring and autumn are usually milder but can be windy and damp. However, in saying all that this all means the grass and forests are often emerald green, a highlight atmosphere for many walkers to journey through.
Can I wild camp on the Ulster Way?
Camping is only permitted in designated camping spots along the route. We encourage you to plan places you want to stay in advance of your journey and encourage you to stay on the ‘Right Side of Outside’ while here – more information in our blog here.
Local services along the trail
There are lots of fantastic local service providers along the route from places to grab food and drink to local businesses providing a range of walking services along the route including guided walks, luggage transfers and shuttle services.
Travel services available along the route
The new Ulster Way website also provides travel information on getting to and around the Ulster Way. We encourage you to plan before you go as services are limited. A number of local accommodation providers and walking service providers offer shuttle services to customers so worth checking when booking.
Short on time – No problem! Explore some of the best bits of the trail!
The Ulster Way is made up of 26 sections so is ideal for a range of walkers from those looking to complete a ‘thru-hike’ completing the trail in one go to those only wanting to explore sections of the route over a week, multiple days or just one day. Check out our suggested itineraries to help you decide what sections you can explore in the time you have.
Here at WalkNI some of our favourite not to be missed sections are:
- The Causeway Coast Way
- Glenarm to Ballynure passing through the spectacular Antrim Hills
- Lagan Towpath
- The Lecale Way
- Mourne Way
- Ring of Gullion Way
- Cuilcagh Way through Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark
- Bessy Bell to Gortin Lakes
- Moydamlaght Forest – Eagle’s Rock Trail
If you only want to experience a short walk on the Ulster Way we have highlighted a range of shorter circular and linear walks which you can explore in a few hours
The new look website can be viewed online at walkni.com/ulster-way
Be sure to tag us in your Ulster Way journey using #UlsterWay and #WalkNI.