Cave Hill Country Park
The Cave Hill Trail is a challenging route, over unsurfaced paths, past the caves to McArt’s Fort, and crossing moorland, heath and meadows. You will discover much of what the park has to offer from archaeological sites and wildlife to panoramic views.
Distance 3.8 miles
OS Map Sheet 15 + Belfast Street Finder
Terrain Steep climb, unsurfaced paths
Nearest Town Antrim Road, Belfast
Route Shape Circular
Grid Reference J330791
Route Type Mountain, Urban
This is a challenging circular route walked anti-clockwise beginning at Belfast Castle and following the green way marked arrows. It can, however, be joined from Bellevue car park, Upper Hightown Road or Upper Cavehill Road.
Begin at the interpretative panel in the car park just before the entrance to Belfast Castle. Climb up the path on your left until you reach the first junction. Turn right. Follow this path through the woodland, keeping to the left of any of the junctions you come to. This path leads up through the trees, climbing on to an open seating area. Stop here to admire the fabulous views over the city and Belfast Lough.
Continuing on, you come to the Devil’s Punchbowl with the first cave in front of you. Keep on the path to the right of the cave and you will skirt the plateau on a gentle ascent. The path turns left onto the cliff top at the junction with Hazelwood. Continue to ascend the plateau towards McArts Fort. Pause again to take in the magnificent views.
The trail continues on a wide gravel path heading south with views over Lagan Valley. Follow this towards the Upper Hightown Road. Along the way on the left you will pass a path which provides a short cut past the limestone quarry. At the bottom of these steps turn right to join the main castle drive. Continuing on the Cavehill trail turn left at the dog-leg near the waterfall and follow the lane along the perimeter.
The takes you to the Upper Cavehill Road entrance, re-enter the site using the entrance on the left and follow the path into the woodland. At the junction take the path on the right and you will return to the main drive to Belfast Castle. Follow this to back to the walking trailhead.
Getting to McArt’s Fort from other access points
From the Back Drive at Belfast Castle head downhill in the direction of Gray’s Lane. Follow the path on the left. Turn left at the first junction and continue uphill. At the next Junction turn right and follow the Cavehill Trail.
From Gray’s Lane follow the paths on the Estate Trail to a natural spring known as the Volunteers’ Well. Take the paths on the left to join the Cavehill Trail uphill until you reach the main climb to the Devil’s Punchbowl. From here follow the Cavehill Trail.
From Belfast Zoo car park and Hazelwood follow the paths on the right hand side and ascend the hill emerging at the edge of the plateau. Follow the path uphill across the top of the cliff.
From Upper Hightown Road follow the lane to waterfall and at the fork you will join the trail.
From the Horseshoe Bend descend the path in the field below the Origin sculpture and join the paths in Carr’s Glen uphill to the Cavehill Trail.
Belfast Castle, McArts Fort
Car parking at Belfast Castle off Antrim Road, Belfast Zoo (Hazelwood), Upper Cavehill Road and Upper Hightown Road.
Translink – journeyplanner.translink.co.uk
Belfast Castle is open to the public. The Cellar Restaurant offers a variety of menus from morning coffee to full meals. The second floor of the Castle plays host to the Cave Hill Visitor Centre with exciting displays on the history, folklore, wildlife and geology of Cave Hill Country park and the story of Belfast Castle. The following facilities are available for users with limited mobility: – Café (wheelchair accessible) – 12pm – 3pm Mon – Sat – Disabled toilets – Disabled parking.
- There may not be a formalised path, and variable, single file trails are to be expected.
- Gradients and cross slope could be expected to be steep and not limited.
- Obstacles and surface breaks of greater than 75mm measured across the line of the path to be expected.
- Overhanging branches are possible. Passing places and rest areas may not be formalised or provided.
Comments will be reviewed and those that cause offence will be removed. This is at the discretion of WalkNI.
We want everyone to be able to enjoy the walking routes listed on WalkNI safely and easily.
If you have come across any problems whilst walking a route, please let us so we can pass on any issues to the appropriate management body responsible for maintaining the walk.
Cave Hill Country Park
5*walk.But not well kept.
Bitterly disappointed in the state of the place. Overflowing bins. Dog pooh black bags lying around bin area as no space to deposit. Empty disposable coffee cups stuck in hedgerow. The grounds of the castle overgrown except the immediate forefront of the castle. Shame on the grounds keepers.
I know we had lockdown but since the easing of lockdown some effort could have been made to clean it up. If this was your first visit here you would think twice about coming back. Who is responsible for the upkeep of this beautiful area?? If you need help there are plenty of people who would be keen to help clean it up. Our wee country is a beautiful place that we want to show off but not when it looks like that.
Took the cavehill trail on Saturday afternoon; it was a fantastic walk, quite steep at times but well worth it. The only problem we found was the way markings, especially on the way back are next to useless, particularly if its a first time. Luckily i had downloaded a map onto my phone which kept us more or less right. As you get closer to the Castle/carparks there should be something to indicate this. Needs some work. The walk itself deserves a 5 rating but the route marking is more like a 3.
Set off from Upper Hightown Road with the intention of doing the full walk. Had no problem up to the Fort but, having gone on from there, I could not identify clearly the return path. I ended up on the road the lorries use. Had a brilliant walk but it could be better signposted.