|Parks and Demesnes|
A charming woodland walk may be followed around the periphery of the municipal golf course. Walkers are asked to avoid the green and to keep dogs under control.
The Barnett Demesne is bounded on the south and west side by a picturesque stretch of the River Lagan. It is a park of open lawns and specimen trees, of woodland and marsh, where the city dweller can enjoy the quiet and tranquillity of the country side. It contains a wealth of natural wildlife and is often used for sports such as cross country running, cycle racing and tobogganing. The demesne came into public ownership as a result of a generous bequest from William Barnett, whose residence, Malone House, now provides a public restaurant, facilities for hire and an education and information centre for Belfast Parks Department.
Belvoir Park Forest
The 180 acres comprising the forest are the remnants of the woodlands formerly belonging to the Deramore estate owned by the Bateson family. They were leased by the Forest Service from the Northern Ireland Housing Trust in 1961 and were subsequently acquired by the Department of Agriculture (N.I.).
The old estate was originally laid out in 1740 by Arthur Hill who also built the Manor House, and was purchased by Thomas Bateson in 1817. Most of the original woodlands were blown down during ‘the big wind’ of 1839 and the remnants suffered badly from neglect and exploition expecially during and immediately after the Second World War. The house unfortunately had to be demolished in 1961 and is now the site of the car park.
Belvoir Forest is a superb environment in an area of urban development. Well- surfaced paths lead through an interesting variety of naturally grown and forest planted trees and along the banks of the River Lagan. The area east of the car park, extending almost to the boundary at the old Breda churchyard, has been developed as an arboretum for education and amenity purposes.
Beside the car park, the old estate farm buildings have been developed as the Forest Education Centre. Here, schools can come to learn about the forest, its history and the environment in general. Education facilities which have been provided include a lecture room and an exhibition. Forest guides are available to give talks and to take schools through the exhibition and forest. Guided walks for the general public are offered at weekends.
The restored farm buildings also houses the Lagan Valley Regional Park Office and the Northern Ireland Headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
From Belvoir, there are panoramic views across the Lagan Valley, with its meandering river, to the distant hills, Divis and Black Mountain.
Clement Wilson Park
This pleasantly landscaped area by Shaw’s Bridge is a popular place for walking and quiet relaxation. The land became the Province’s first ‘factory garden’ when Mr Clement Wilson, chairman of the company which owned the adjoining factory, had the land laid out for the pleasure of the employees and general public. The greater part of the grounds were acquired by the Belfast City Council and opened as a park in 1975.
Accessible from the towpath and from Knightsbridge Park, Stranmillis.
One of the most notable historic features at Lagan Meadows is Lester’s Dam. This was the source of Belfast’s first piped water supply. Built nearly 200 years ago, the dam created a reservoir of one acre capable of holding one million gallons. The reservoir was fed by a spring rising close to the Knightsbridge Park entrance.
Today, the remains of the dam can be seen and the spring still flows – to feed a marsh rich in yellow iris, orchids and attractive willow hybrids. This central marsh area is managed as a nature reserve in conjunction with the Ulster Trust for Nature Conservation. It can best be appreciated form the many pleasant walks on the surrounding higher ground – walks which pass through woodland, hay meadow and grazed pasture.
Of the 120 acres that make up Lagan Meadows, 18½ are accounted for at Moreland’s Meadow. This is a grazed island, dotted with impressive cedar trees. Although periodically cut off when the river level is high, the Meadow is generally accessible in dry weather.
A nature trail, with numbered posts and accompanying leaflet, highlights the natural beauty and attraction of Lagan Meadows.
Named after local sporting hero Jimmy McIlroy.
Mary Peter's Track
A magical area owned and managed by The National Trust. Minnowburn provides endless inspiration for painters and photographers. The area consists of 128 acres of mixed countryside and occupies the lands that lie between Shaw’s Bridge and the Giant’s Ring.
The walks around the property are alive with the sounds and smells of nature, taking the visitor through hay meadows, woodlands, riverbank, farmland and the magnificent viewpoint at Terrace Hill Garden.
The National Trust has developed two walking trails for you to explore. Both are circular trails and start at Minnowburn car park, located beside the Minnowburn Bridge. One walk follows a 2km trail around the property. The other is a 3.2km trail that takes the walker through the Minnowburn and Ballynahatty countryside to the ancient Giant’s Ring Henge monument. The trails are way-marked and there is an array of interesting features to explore:
Both paths are circular and in parts have difficult, narrow trails, uneven surfaces and steep steps. Their walking surfaces comprise dirt, gravel wooden boardwalk and paved areas. Some parts can be slippery when wet.
Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park
This beautiful 128 acre Park on the outskirts of Belfast was given to the then Belfast Corporation in 1959 by Lady Edith Dixon to perpetuate the long association of her husband and herself with the city. It is now the home of the City of Belfast International Rose Trials and International Camellia Trials. Incorporating a rose garden, an attractive walled garden with a Fleuroselect display garden of annual plants, a popular children’s playground and many interesting walks, this park combines both formal and informal gardening within natural parkland and woodland, thus providing something for everyone.
The Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park also contains a walled garden, a Japanese-style garden with water features for quiet contemplation, a very popular children's playground, an orienteering course and many walks. It is an ideal location to explore the Lagan Valley Regional Park.
Rose Week is a popular annual event in July with competitions, music, plant and craft stalls, entertainment and demonstrations in and around the rose garden. Admission free. The International Rose Garden between July and September is a spectacular sight and one not to be missed. See our events section for more information on Rose week.