“ Address: 6 Forest Road / Garvagh / County Londonderry / BT51 5EF / Northern Ireland „
Unlike me as a teacher, hubby doesn't get too many days off work, so when he does, we like to go away for the day, usually to somewhere we can have a good walk and take a picnic lunch. On a recent day off, we decided we would have to go to place which would provide shelter, should the rain that had been forecast for the day actually arrive. Anyhow, we opted for the beautiful 'Glenariff Forest Park', located not far from Waterfoot, on the Causeway Coast Route (see previous review) in Country Antrim, Northern Ireland. The forest itself is situated amidst the glens of Antrim and Glenariff itself (the Queen of the Glens) is often considered to be the most beautiful of all the nine glens of antrim. The title is a little misleading, suggesting that this forest park is in Garvagh.....well if you were to follow that you would be in the totally wrong county! (This address is actually for contacting the Forestry Service). Glenariff Forest Park covers an area of some 1185 ha, a lot of which are blanketed with trees, but there are also several small lakes and recreation areas. Glenariff is well known for its beautiful waterfalls, which visitors can get very close to by following the 'Waterfall Walk Trail'. This 3km (2 miles) relatively easy path consists of a boardwalk (on stilts) directly beside some of the waterfalls, as well as a stairways and pathways cut into the near vertical sides of the gorge. The path is very well signposted, and you can easily turn at any point a long the way. It would be suitable for most people, however on the day we visited the boardwalk itself did get slightly damp from some rain, as did some of the paths, so good footwear was a must. These waterfalls and gorge that you walk through are part of the Glenariff Nature Reserve, offering a wide variety of plants including mosses, liverworts and ferns. The waterfall walk trail also takes you past 'Laragh Lodge' where you can stop for a bite to eat. Outside seating was available, so we were able to have our picnic lunch at the site, overlooking another huge waterfall. This is, hardly suprisingly, the most popular trail in the park, and thus obviously the busiest, so if you are looking for a more peaceful walk, there are several other trails in the park, some of which (like the one we did) still encompass the waterfalls on route. If you are only in the mood for a short dander, then the best option is probably the 'viewpoint trail' 1 km in length. This short trail literally takes you to a viewpoint on the trail where you have some spectacular views looking down the Glen, and out to the sea. On route you will also pass the ornamental gardens, and the on site cafe (and toilet block!). The other main trail is the 'Scenic Trail' which is almost 9km in length and one only for the pretty fit. This trail leads you down past the Inver River Gorge, close to the Ess-na Crub Waterfall. This area is much much quieter, away from the crowds. It has to be said that this trail does involve some steep gradients, but if you are fit enough, you are rewarded with some beautiful views over the Glen. Do start this trail near the garden, and I think you will fair better, than those stargin at the car park side -we met some people who had started at the car park side, and faced an incredibly steep climb, the worst on the trail, which we only had to come down. The other trail that is marked in the forest is the 'Rainbow Trail' so called because it involves crossing the Rainbow Bridge. Again, this would be an ideal walk if you are looking simply to stretch the legs and it is only 0.6 km in length. On the day we visited, we actually combined some of the trails, by following another route that was given to us by a friend. We were able to see all the best bits of Glenariff, and for the most part in dry conditions. When the rain did come on, we were usually walking through forest trails, which sheltered us from it. As I said before, the crowds do tend to go straight to the waterfalls, and the paths, which are quite narrow at times, do get busy. However, if you opt for the longer walk, you are seeing some of the quieter, more serene sides of Glenariff, but still being offered some beautiful scenery and waterfalls. The forest park is open all year round, from 10 a.m until sunset. This approximate time is usually signposted at the car park entrance. Cars are charged £4 admission to the park, and caravans and camper vans slightly more. Other services provided include: Caravanning and Camping Sites Picnic and Barbecue Areas (not made use of unfortunately on our visit) Horse riding trails Bookable Guided Tours Disabled facilties (availabel by contacting the forestry service) Glenariff forest is a must for any keen walker because of the varying terrains, but even for those who like a scenic stroll past beautiful waterfalls with views down the beautiful glen out to the see. If you are looking for a host of activities to keep children amused, then this is probably not the place to go, but as I said, if you like the outdoors, and seeing nature at its best, then a visit to Glenariff is well worth it.
Three waterfalls provide a rich backdrop for photographers, as do the other forest trails that offer panoramic landscapes and peaceful riverside walks.