By Ben McBrierty
Hi, my name is Ben McBrierty. I’m 22 years old and I live in Antrim, Northern Ireland. In my spare time I love to get outdoors and take photographs of our beautiful country. Places in Northern Ireland I like to photograph include Mount Slemish at night time, the north coast, and the Mourne Mountains. However my favourite place in Northern Ireland to take photographs is Randalstown Forest – let me tell you why.
As a resident of Antrim Town, Randalstown forest is local to me, about a 10-minute drive. My dog Willow and I walk through Randalstown Forest nearly every day, and we’re still not bored of it!
There are many routes to take in Randaltown Forest. My favourite route to take is when you immediately enter the forest and turn left. There are many things to see on this route. Firstly, there is a deer lookout at the start of the route, where you can observe many deer in the enclosure. Make sure to bring carrots or apples if you want to see the deer up close – the colour of the carrots or apples attracts the deer.
Further on down the route from the deer lookout you’ll come across a stream. There is a small muddy path that follows the stream into the trees, where you can sometimes see wild deer drinking from the water. The stream also provides very good photography opportunities. As you continue down the route you’ll come across trees which are covered in algae – this means you are getting closer to Lough Neagh! You’ll come towards a new path, so go left and you’ll see a wooden gate. As you enter through the wooden gate follow the path through the swampy terrain (you may want to wear waterproof boots for this part) and you’ll see a wooden bird hide. The bird hide is a fantastic observation area to observe the many different birds that roam Randalstown Forest and the refuge area of Lough Neagh. Some of the birds you can observe include the great crested crebe, shelduck, swans and many more. There is a chart inside the hide helping you to identify them.
To summarise, Randalstown Forest is my favourite place to trek in Northern Ireland because of the variety of things you can see. I feel that it is very beneficial for my photography hobby and every visit to the forest provides a new photography opportunity.
So if you would like to visit Randalstown Forest, I would advise you to visit when it is dry and sunny. As it is a forest and there are many trees, trees can fall down during storms making it very dangerous for trekkers. I would also advise any visiting the forest to wear suitable trekking boots that are waterproof, and also a rain coat.
The routes in Randalstown Forest are all flat terrain. There is no uphill walking required, unless you want to visit the bird hide, where there is a set of steps.
At a steady pace, you can complete the route in roughly 1.5 hours, however you can do the trek in about 45 minutes if you want to take the shorter route. There is a path that runs straight up the middle of the forest making the trek easier and shorter if needs be.
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