I’ve grown to love the outdoors whilst living in Belfast, and although there are plenty of amazing hikes my favourite trekking experience so far has been hiking in the Mourne Mountains. However, for those who would like a more straightforward trekking experience, I would definitely recommend Crumlin Glen as it is a great trek if you want a shorter, more casual option.
Only a thirty-minute drive from Belfast, it is an ideal walk for both families and individual walkers. It is also a great option for dog walkers, although I wouldn’t recommend allowing your pet off-leash as there is a lot of wildlife roaming around the area.
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From the car park there are three directions you can head. Firstly, you can go towards the river – this way will lead you past a small wooden play area for kids, and after that to a small platform beside the river. This was a great spot to look for wildlife and I even managed to spot a few squirrels. However, this way does not connect to the trail and you will need to backtrack to the car park (this was worth it for me as the diversion only took a few minutes).
The next option is to go up the main path, however this has been flooded over both times I’ve been there so if it is like that when you visit, you can just go through the other entrance behind the small stone building. Both entrances connect and lead you through the gates of the trail.
Please be aware that this trail is open from 8.00am to 6.00pm in the winter (October – March) and 7.00am to 9.30pm in the summer (April – September). Once you are on the main path you can choose to go left on the Cockle House path or right on the Woodland Walk path. I chose to go left as this way followed the river, and I later looped back up and around the other way.
This wide path is a mixture of gravel and dirt and is on a small decline. It wasn’t too mucky when I was there but be aware that with rainfall the trail could be slippery – most of the path has a wooden railing which would be useful in this situation.
A beautiful aspect of this trail is the greenery. The trees are breath-taking, plentiful enough that they overlap creating a canopy of branches overhead. On a sunny day the light shines through the leaves to create a kaleidoscope of greenery.
Unfortunately, while visiting on the 16th of February 2021, access to a small section of the path was closed off due to a landslide. Thankfully, I have done the trail before and know this section will lead you past a small stone building, the Cockle House, which, according to folklore, was once used by a popular servant of the landlords from the area as it was built as a Muslim temple.
This section unfortunately also includes the waterfall, but if you visit later you will be able to see its true beauty. Usually as you follow the sound of the gushing water, you will see the waterfall swim into view on your left, and you’ll be able to watch as the water cascades over volcanic rock from an eruption sixty million years ago.
Once you are done admiring the beauty of the waterfalls the trail will lead you down to a bridge – thankfully this is where the section of closed trail ended. and if you choose to cross there is a small woodland area on the other side. This is where most of the animals were: I saw at least five squirrels, all of which were happily collecting food from the forest floor.
If you go this way there is an exit which leads to the town, but I looped back, crossing the bridge onto the original path and continued along the trail. I then followed the river until the end of the path and went up the dirt stairs at the end. These are quite steep and may prove more difficult to walk up if there is any rainfall.
The final loop of this trail is called the Woodland Walk and it does not follow the river. Instead, it is raised above the other half of the path and is a nice flat walk through which you can simply take in the beauty of the trees around you. There is also a geocache in this section of the walk (I must have tried to find it for ten minutes and couldn’t!). At this point, you just follow the original path you took from the car park to finish your trek.
This trek was a lovely way to see some of Northern Ireland’s wildlife. Birds such as Herons, Dippers and Grey Wagtail were in abundance, and as you head higher up there were also a lot of squirrels. You might even be lucky enough to spot an Otter (although I wasn’t so lucky).
I also enjoyed this trek for its simplicity and accessibility. It wasn’t as hard as some of the other hikes in the area and that meant it was easier to relax and enjoy the fresh air as well as the calming sound of the river trickling by.
I’ve walked this trek twice, once in June 2020 and in February of 2021, and during both times the weather was perfect, which meant I walked at a very leisurely pace. I was at Crumlin Glen for about forty-five minutes but if you weren’t taking a relaxed pace the trek would probably only take half the time.
I would recommend coming in June if you are looking to see more animals but if you were coming for the waterfall and the river I would instead recommend coming in February. The extra rainfall enhanced the natural beauty of the river and the waterfall itself was flowing a lot faster (which I could almost see from the Woodland Walk as it has a higher vantage point). If you were looking for a picnic destination, I would highly recommend this trail. There are a few benches along the walk as well as some wooden tables in the carpark.
However, if you were wanting to sit on the ground I would only do so if you had a picnic blanket that could endure the moisture in the ground. If so, the woodland area across the bridge would be a perfect spot for a picnic.
My final piece of advice is not specific to this trek, but I truly think it is important and I will be taking my own advice when I move back home to Australia: act like a tourist in your own home. By this I mean explore all the trails and attractions you can because I’ve found that a lot of the adventures I’ve been on, even locals haven’t heard about. And when your home is as beautiful as Northern Ireland, why wouldn’t you want to explore every possible nook and cranny?