Begin at the grand Belfast Castle, which boasts a great garden itself. Cave Hill is on a tricky circular route that takes you high up to a peak overlooking the city. It has the best views in Belfast. Along the way, explore rocky Devil’s Punchbowl and hilltop McArt’s Fort. There are wildlife and archaeological sites, too, so keep a keen eye. Cave Hill allegedly inspired Jonathan Swift’s novel, Gulliver’s Travels (1726) – it’s that magical. Situated in Newtownabbey, it’s a short car or bus ride out of the city, up Antrim Road.
This lesser-known park is perfect for activities. Just past River Lagan’s waterfront, you’ll find the oldest public park in Belfast. Ormeau Park is big with great views and makes for a lovely stroll. But if you fancy something a little different, try out the recreational facilities here. There’s a football pitch, a BMX track, and basketball, tennis and netball courts. The park is popular with joggers and hosts the Belfast City Marathon, so the vibe is always active.
A special spot of nature, Belvoir Forest Park is the only functioning forest within a city in the UK, making for a peaceful day out within bustling Belfast. Explore the beautiful woodlands and tree-lined lake, and discover hidden gems, such as a pretty old stone bridge. It’s headquarters to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), as there’s so much wildlife. To get there, take a bus to Castleboy Avenue or drive to the entrance at Belvoir estate, which has a car park.
If you love colourful blooms, you’re in luck. This garden favourite has meadows with over 20,000 flowers, stretching as far as the eye can see. It has a beautiful rose garden and a bandstand that looks like it’s straight out of Mary Poppins (1964). The park even has a Japanese-style garden with a lake and a traditional fountain. It can get busy, so it’s more for strolling and appreciating than sitting. Get there by a 15-minute drive or 20 minutes on the bus.
Rising from the grass and flowers of the Botanic Gardens, you’ll find the impressive glass conservatory, Palm House. Built in 1840, it contains a jungle of tropical plants, hanging baskets, seasonal displays and birds of paradise. It really is a sight to behold. The gardens also have a second greenhouse, the Tropical Ravine, and often hold concerts and other events. Find it on Botanic Avenue, near Queen’s University and the River Lagan.
This garden centres around a large, beautiful lake, with trees and flowers peppering the sidelines, where you can wander in the sunshine with lovely views. As you relax, spot planes flying low overhead from nearby George Best Belfast City Airport. There’s a bridge connecting the park to the harbour, so you can explore this area easily, too. It’s a little outside the city, just off Sydenham Bypass. If you don’t have a car, take the train to Sydenham railway station.