A great walk on the heights above Belfast, surveying the detail of the city below with a birds eye view. Taking in the highest of the Belfast Hills, Divis Mountain, along with Black Mountain and Black Hill.
Starting point is the National Trust carpark with information boards on the walks within the Trust boundaries and extensive information on health and safety. There is plenty of scope to spend a few hours up here and that is what i did on a fantastic clear and cold day in December. This was captured on video and the link is above for anyone wanting more of a feel for walking in the Belfast Hills.
A long length of tarmac heads for Divis Mountain in the distance. The Belfast Hills being above the major city in Northern Ireland make prime space for various transmitter masts. There are 3 television masts which tower up to 750 feet and dominate the skyline at night with thier red warning lights suspended in the sky. The top of Divis was a miltary base until the National Trust bought the land in 2004 and it was made accessible to the public. The military installation has vanished but further smaller communications masts now take stage atop Divis.
The road runs past grazing ponies and the National Trust building at Divis Lodge, which provides information and refreshments in the warmer months. Today ice held sway under cobalt skies. The 2 large BBC masts are reached and a boardwalk heads across boggy ground towards the summit of Black Mountain. This is where views start to really impress and at the trip pillar at 1,275 feet the whole of Belfast is laid bare.
Individual buildings are easily identifiable within the city below - from the cranes at Harland and Woolf to the seat of government at Stormont. Belfast Lough sweeps out to sea and beyond lies the Scottish coast. The Isle of Man rises from nowhere and a sweep of the eye brings the Magnificent Mourne mountains to the south. Definitely a time to take a breath.
Head downhill to follow a fencline heading SW, keeping the city in view below but aiming for Black Hill in the distance. There is a well worn track for much of the way and it is worn and muddy in places. Descend to Windy Gap, passing grazing cattle before a rise to the trig pillar on Black Hill. This gives great views south to the Mournes, which today were capped in cloud. A keen breeze accompanied me as i had lunch with much to savour (more the view rather than the sandwiches!).
Return by the same route or more al fresco across the open hillside as i did, to reach the boardwalk again. The massive BBC transmitters certainly help with bearings. Divis has been visible from the start of the walk and now it is time to take the road to the summit. This is a steady climb and as on most days it was busy with groups and individuals doing a mulitude of things. The views grow and grow with height, bringing the Antrim Hills to the north.
At the top work was taking place to build new trails which should be useful when complete. Views spread out west to the Lough Neagh basin and the Sperrin Mountains and on a day with less cold and wind it would be pleasant to spend some more time.
Drop back down the road and over hillside to reach the Standing Stone Road - a track heading north. This does actually pass an impressive standing stone. A rough track leaves this road and circles to the north and west of Divis Mountain to reach another track (Tipperary Road) which heads south back to the tarmac road. In effect a complete circle of the mountain. This is a much quieter area, away from the busyness of the tarmac.
The Belfast Hills are an amazing resource a short distance from a major city. They give the chance to exercise, explore and experience stunning views over the city and much further afield. They also give the opportunity to find your own space and breathe in something different from the hustle and bustle of modern life!