Walking in Glenariff Forest Park – Glens of Antrim

Enjoy sea views, waterfalls and short or long walks

121 Glenariffe Rd, BT44 0QX (Google Maps 55.019116, -6.121401)
Ulsterbus Service  150, Ballymena to Cushendall

Glenariff (from Irish: Gleann Aireamh, meaning “valley of the ploughman/arable valley”) is one of the nine Glens of Antrim, often described as ‘The Queen of the Glens’ and is where you will find the Glenariff Forest Park with its many walks.

Glenariff Visitor Centre Cafe and Picnic Area
Glenariff Visitor Centre Cafe and Picnic Area

Most walks start out from the information centre and café which sit atop a grassy plateau with views towards the sea. This in itself is a pleasant spot even if you go no further. Note that it costs £5 to park at the visitor centre and this explains why you will see cars parked on the roadside outside the entry gates. Entry on foot is free and you can set out on the circular ‘scenic trail’ from the entrance. Touring vehicles can also overnight in the park for a fee. 

Laragh Restaurant In the Glenariff Forest Park

You can also walk and dine, parking at Laragh Lodge Restaurant (120 Glen Road, BT44 0RG) which is situated within the park by the Glenariff River. It was originally built as a Victorian teahouse but now serves hearty meals so you would be advised to walk first and eat after.

Which walk to take?

There are a two main routes you can take within the park and you can mix and match as you wish. It does help to understand the lie of the land. The park covers a deep glen, Glenariff, with the Inver river running from the top of the glen, where you will see the lovely Inver Upper Waterfall, down and out to the sea. Some way down the glen, the Inver is joined by the Glenariff river, which runs down a narrow gulley and is popular for its many waterfalls.

The Routes:

Download the Forest Park trail map

The waterfall walk trail

The waterfall trail with boardwalk paths
The waterfall trail. the Glenariff river, with boardwalk paths

This mile-long circular walk takes you down into the gorge where you can walk along paths and wooden walkways to admire the waterfalls. You can either start at the top of the trail from the visitor centre and save the upward journey for the return, or you can start from The Laragh Lodge restaurant and walk uphill first.

The scenic trail – taking the high road, and the low road

This walk is officially 5.5 miles for the full circuit and as an outline, this circular route takes you:

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  • from the visitor centre out to the park entrance,
  • then back to the top of the glen walking along the edge of a planted forest with views out to the sea,
  • turning at the top of the glen, passing the Upper Inver Waterfall, you walk towards the sea along the far side of the glen with more fantastic views before zig-zagging down to the bottom of the glen
  • then walking down the glen to the waterfall trail
  • before zig zagging back up to the visitor centre
  • or if like us you start out at the road, you will follow the route as described below.

If you fancy a shorter walk, you could head out to the Upper waterfall from the visitor centre, and return back the way you came rather then do the full valley loop.

The scenic trail starting out from the park entrance

Inver River Upper Waterfall at the top of the Glen
Inver River Upper Waterfall at the top of the Glen

Walking from the entrance stay on the right hand side of the road and after about 150m you will come to a zebra crossing and you will see the track going off to the right and gently heading up the hill. Following this path you head up a gentle rise and the path skirts the edge of a large planted forest. You will be rewarded with great views down the valley to the sea and on a clear day you will easily see Scotland, and I think you will be amazed at just how close it is.

Keep following this path until you come to a vehicle track, presumably used for forestry vehicles. When you meet this vehicle track, keep left and follow the single track. By now you should hear and probably see the waterfalls, keep going! You will pass a shelter and then you will come to a fork in the road. If you take the left turn you will eventually come to the Laragh Lodge restaurant/café. Go right and you will then arrive at the three waterfalls at the top of the valley. There is also a wooden bridge across the river which you need to cross to continue your journey. The views are stunning and we suggest you stop for a moment and just take them in, and think what must this have been like a 1,000 years ago.

Glenariff Scenic Trail - the other side of the valley with views towards Scotland
Glenariff Scenic Trail – the other side of the valley with views towards Scotland

From this point you will follow the path which follows the contour heading seawards with the valley dropping below you. As you are facing the sea you can enjoy the views and at a point you will actually pass over the top of a waterfall that you can admire splashing down the valley wall when you later descend into the valley and look back up. Walking on the upper path you may miss the fact that you are crossing the top of the waterfall  as you cross the small river over a bridge.

The forest pathAt the end of the path you will have to follow the zig-zag path down the steep valley side. This path is quite steep with some big steps down so I would recommend a walking stick just to help take the weight and help with balance.

Signpost warns of leprechauns
Beware of the leprechauns

Once down at the bottom of the valley you will again come to a vehicular track. At this point you can cut your hike short by turning left and heading back up a steep but short track which takes you back up to the forest edge track and  then back to the park entrance. Otherwise, turn right and follow the river down the valley until you come to the Laragh Lodge Restaurant. Here you  you can join the waterfall walk and head back up to your car at either the visitor centre or at the park entrance.

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If you like walking / hiking  then this book is for you  – 36 unmissable hikes along the Causeway Coast, around Belfast, in the Mournes and in Fermanagh – including this one. The book includes maps, vertical profile images so you know how much puff you’ll need to put in, and descriptions of the hike together with little notes of interest.

The book is on my bookshelf and has been an inspiration getting us out and about in Northern Ireland so I can recommend it personally!

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