The Belfast Hills form a sturdy barrier, cutting the city off from the rural areas around Lough Neagh, and crowding down onto the outskirts as if to attempt to shove the metropolis into the sea. And none is more brazen than Cave Hill, rearing sharply up from the suburbs of North Belfast to a tortured and arresting rocky skyline which has inspired and intimidated locals and writers for centuries. The mountain is now basically a large municipal park, criss-crossed with excellent paths and the bizarre site for Belfast's zoo. (So, any red pandas you see aren't actually native).
The easiest approach is from the car park on the Hightown Road (see track 3048) but this avoids an exploration of the dramatic eastern side. With that in mind it's best to start from the foot of that face, either from the Belfast Zoo car park, or more logically from the road accessing Belfast Castle.
There's a small car park just before the castle gates, and from here a path winds up into the woods. After a short way take the right turn for the 'Cavehill Trail', and take a slanting course slightly up but mostly left; there's a network of paths but they all tend to end in the same place if you keep that general idea in mind.
'The same place' is a landslipped area directly under the hill's titular caves. The lower and larger of these can be reached up a steep path (and with a final scramble to the entrance) but note the signs warning of falling rocks. From this impressive little amphitheatre the main path takes a somewhat dynamic course across the very steep slopes to the north, absolutely safe but still quite exciting. It soon exits onto the ridge. where a left turn and a short sharp pull brings the pedestrian onto Cave Hill's roof, and a series of very impressive views over the Belfast area.
Follow the cliff edge onwards towards the most prominent feature of these views, the spectacular promontory stronghold of Mcart's Fort, an airy eyrie easily reached up steps on its western side. The highest point of the hill lies on the other side of the path at this point, and is easily reached by a short diversion.
Continue on as the path descends gradually then slants more steeply down the hill's south flank. At the bottom of the steep section turn left down an initially flagstoned path heading south then east and then finally north to reach the outward path just above the car park.
Belfast? We're spoiled by this.