After exploring Belfast, its murals and the Titanic neighborhood, I wanted to get out of the city. On the horizon, I could see the distinct silhouette of Cave Hill and, as usual, the sight of a summit made me want to conquer it. So I headed for Cave Hill Country Park.
Cave Hill, also nicknamed “Napoleon’s Nose” because of its peculiar shape, is a basalt hill whose summit has an elevation of 370 metres. As it is located only a few miles from Belfast city center and is accessible by public transit, it is a popular hike for city dwellers.
The Cave Hill hike begins at the magnificent Belfast Castle, a Scottish-style castle built in the 19th century. From there, the park offers three trail options, but only the Cave Hill Trail (in green) goes to the summit, making a 7.2-kilometre loop.
It was nice in Belfast that day, and as I was there on the weekend, let’s say there were a lot of people in the park (especially in the Belfast Castle garden), but once on the trail, I found it was a bit more peaceful. The first kilometres were on a dirt path in a forested area and the climb was rather moderate.
Then, there were no more trees and I arrived at the foot of the basalt cliffs. The summit and its promontory then appeared very clearly. I could also see one of the caves that give their name to the small mountain. There was a path leading to it, but I decided to stay on the main trail as I wanted to get to the summit.
The view I had at that point was breathtaking. It was my first time really seeing a typical Irish landscape. Bare hill, bright greenery and thorny bushes in bloom (with yellow flowers that smelled of coconut … I swear!). From where I was, I also had a beautiful view of the city of Belfast and the surrounding countryside.
While the landscape almost gave me the impression like I was in the Arizona desert at some point, the climb started to get a bit more intense. First via stairs, then via a small gravel path that followed the crest of the hill.
Physically, it was nothing too difficult, but I admit that under the hot sun, I had to stop a few times to catch my breath. But who can complain about having to take breaks with such a view?
I finally reached the summit less than an hour after starting my hike. There was a lot of people on the promontory (where you can also find the ruins of an old fort), but I sat there for about fifteen minutes to savor the moment. As it was clear, I could see all the way to Scotland!
I eventually had to go down again, this time by the south side of the hill. The scenery was a little less spectacular, but the weather was nice and the people on the trail very friendly. The trail eventually took me back to Belfast Castle. In all, it took me less than two hours to complete the hike.
It is easy to get to Cave Hill Country Park from Belfast city center. Just take any bus 1 from Donegall Square West and disembark at Belfast Castle (you can ask the driver for the name of the bus stop specifically, to avoid doing like me and miss the stop).
Cave Hill :
Altitude : 340m
Trail (loop): 7.2 km
Access : Belfast Castle Parking Lot